Tuesday, 2 June 2009
Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives Bill 2009; Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives (Medicare Levy Surcharge) Bill 2009; Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives (Medicare Levy Surcharge — Fringe Benefits) Bill 2009
In order to facilitate the business of the House I will be very brief because many other speakers before me have laid out the issues quite cogently. In speaking to the Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives Bill 2009 and cognate bills, I have noticed it is quite Orwellian in calling it a ‘fairer private health insurance’, which is about as relevant as calling someone with red hair ‘blue’.
Kevin Rudd promised he would never touch private health insurance rebates, and here they are on the scrap heap today. So it is a broken promise. This bill is evidence of the Labor government’s preference for spin over substance. This broken promise guarantees and demonstrates that the Labor Party hates private health insurance.
The government’s plans to rip up private health insurance would only make it more expensive for those who can least afford it and stretch out the already lengthy waiting lists in public hospitals. In fact it was the former health minister under Labor, Senator Graham Richardson, who said, ‘Once a certain rate of private health insurance fell below a threshold, it really became an unworkable system.’ It is a pity that after they leave parliament they tell it as it is, and it is a pity the Labor Party would not listen to their previous minister.
I actually want to talk about some of the things in my electorate because they are specific and relevant. I also want to point out that the surcharge levy will essentially make sure that people opt out of the system because it will be an attraction. You can go and get free health, but what you do is force up the rates for everyone else who stays in private health; you take people out of the private health system and put them in the public health system. So you have one under capacity and one will be way over capacity.
There are other things that the government have ripped apart and things they intend to do in other services. I want to point out that they will cap obstetric services, assisted reproductive technology and cataract surgery. In relation to assisted reproduction technology, as the member for Cook pointed out the other day, the Deputy Prime Minister put together a large petition as shadow health minister before the election to tell women of Australia that she was going to help and protect them so that they could get the IVF treatments. What she has done today as Deputy Prime Minister is to tear up that promise. She is disingenuous and in this case she should absolutely hang her head in shame for betraying the faith of all those women who signed that petition.
There are 81,000 residents in the electorate of Canning with private health insurance and they are going to pay a heavy price for the Rudd government’s sustained attack on private health insurance. Those covered by private health insurance in Canning represent 68 per cent of electors. Almost 13,000 singles are insured and 20,000 families are covered, and it is their choice. This is what the system did offer: choice. This choice is going to become more difficult under the Labor Party’s penalisation of the people because the Labor Party hates anyone who earns over $150,000. To put that in context, if two school teachers, two ordinary workers, are earning salaries of $75,000 each—which is well under, I know, as many school teachers earn far more than that—they are going to be knocked out of this system because, combined, they will earn over $150,000, taking away the choice again. The fact is, at a time when families can ill afford it, the government has faced them with an automatic increase. As I have said before, this insurance is not for the rich; it is for the people who want to have that choice, whether it is in health, as in this case, but the Labor Party is doing it in education as well.
Recently the shadow health minister, Peter Dutton, visited the Armadale Kelmscott District Memorial Hospital with me and we had a look at the marvellous facilities there because they actually have a choice. There is a public health system and there is the Galliers private facility. That is a really good mix because it allows people to have choice within the same location. But have a guess what is going to happen to Galliers shortly when it becomes too expensive to exercise their private choice?
In order for Mr Rudd to repay the massive borrowings and return the budget to surplus, massive tax increases and big cuts in government spending are inevitable. In just 18 months the government has racked up debt heading towards $315 billion, in other words one-third of a trillion, and a deficit of $58 billion costing Australians $8 billion in interest a year. What is around the corner to service this debt? This is how he starts to try and claw it back. This is what it is: he has already means tested the baby bonus, he has capped family tax benefit B and he is phasing up the age pension and slashing superannuation contributions. Who knows—he probably has an agenda to up the superannuation preservation age. Meanwhile he is spending millions to get himself a seat at the UN.
The public have every right to be confused. The government does not take the Australian economy seriously. In fact they are out of control. Their control of the Australian finances is shambolic and out of control. Australia will end up paying the price on their private health insurance but they should ask themselves: what is next, Mr Rudd?