House debates

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

Second Reading

7:25 pm

Photo of Luke SimpkinsLuke Simpkins (Cowan, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Tonight, I would like to speak on these bills, the Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives Bill 2009, the Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives (Medicare Levy Surcharge) Bill 2009 and the Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives (Medicare Levy Surcharge—Fringe Benefits) Bill 2009. This legislation reduces government support for private health insurance. Therefore, it discourages self-reliance. Not only that but the Australian Health Insurance Association have said:

The Rudd Government’s decision to dismantle the private health insurance rebate will place increased pressure on the public hospital system and force up premiums for those Australians who take responsibility for their own healthcare by taking out private health cover.

They also say that, as a result of these changes, private health insurance will cost more for every person in Australia with private health insurance. As premiums rise as a result of these changes by the Rudd government, more people will join the queues of the public hospitals. How, then, is any of this fair or even good for health outcomes? That leads me to my next point. I always find it interesting that there always has to be a word in these bill titles that suggests the validity of the bill. It seems that none of these bills can stand alone, and by that I mean that this bill could have just been called the ‘Private Health Insurance Incentive Bill 2009’. But the government has chosen to make an assertion as the precursor to this title and in the two other bills. I say ‘assertion’, as with all this government’s work just because they say so does not mean that it is actually the truth. The issue of whether these bills make anything fairer is not only questionable but downright false.

These bills are not about being fair, but they exist for two completely different reasons. These bills are about saving a few dollars, but primarily they are about an ingrained ideological hatred of private health by the Labor Party. By ‘ideological’, that is just another attack consistent with the socialist ideology that guides those opposite. This is up there with the Labor belief that anyone who is successful in business has achieved that success by oppressing workers. This is about the assumption that anyone who has been a success or has made sacrifices to adopt some choices for self-reliance should be discriminated against and should pay more tax than they already do. It is a very old and warped view of the world. It has failed in its communist form, in its socialist form—in collectivism in all respects—and it continues to fail this Rudd Labor government as it continues to pursue its ideologically based economic plans. The government’s approach is a clear and present danger to this nation’s success, and with each passing day it becomes more obvious. But I will leave that point for now, because I need to move on to the pre-election statements by the now Prime Minister.

Everybody now knows that this is clearly a broken promise by the Prime Minister. Everyone knows that the Prime Minister guaranteed before the election that there would be no changes to the private health insurance rebate. As sanctimonious as the current Prime Minister is on such issues, clearly the buck does not stop anywhere near him. It is a point worth making that in 1996 the finances taken over by the coalition government were far different from those taken over in 2007 by the now Prime Minister. In 2007, the surplus was going to be around $21 billion. All the government debt was paid off and money was in the bank for the future funded infrastructure funds. It was all there and all clear in black and white. The ledger was truthful and allowed both sides of politics in that election campaign to assess priorities and speak of spending.

Contrast that with 1996. I believe it was Kim Beazley who said that the budget was in surplus, and provided figures, or rather statements, upon which decisions and promises of the coalition were made. The only trouble with what happened in 1996 was that the Labor government was not telling the truth; it was a big cover-up. In fact the last Labor budget was $10 billion in deficit and they left an unexpected $96 billion in debt. It was from that time and in those circumstances that the hard decisions of the early years of the coalition government were made. The country could not afford the promises made because the ALP’s departing government lied in the 1996 election campaign.

It is therefore obvious that while there were reasons in 1996 why the coalition government could not deliver on some of its election promises, that same justification has not been available to the Rudd Labor government. The reality is that the current economic challenges are a convenient excuse to further the ideological attack on private health insurance and those on higher incomes, being those who earn more than $150,000 per year, which Labor suggests are the rich. It is not considered how many hours you work to earn that money; it is just the fact that you get paid that much which makes you their enemy. Clearly, the socialist view is that anyone on $150,000 or more just does not pay enough tax and certainly does not deserve it. I will leave that there.

In a similar vein, while I attribute these bills and these changes to an ideological attack, for those who think it will go no further, just think carefully. When the former coalition government introduced the private health insurance rebate, who voted against them? It was of course the Labor Party, and it is now the government of this country. Clearly it has always been opposed to these rebates. The Australian people should keep this in mind. The Labor Party said one thing before the election; after the election it says something different. This change is just another step towards the dismantling of government support of those with private health insurance, a system it sees as something the government should not be supporting. The message is very clear for those 62,000-plus voters who have private health insurance in Cowan: the Rudd Labor government thinks you should be on your own with private health. It wants you to pay with no government support. It broke its pre-election promise on this matter. That is a fact. It voted against the rebate support provided by the coalition. That is a fact. The Labor attack on private health continues. That is clearly a fact. This will not be the end of making Australians pay more for choosing to have private health insurance. The Rudd Labor government will continue to make it harder for Australians to keep out of public hospitals. That is a fact.

No doubt the government will find support for this legislation in this building. The Greens will be right there in supporting this legislation, no doubt about it, although they will want to go further. They will want the government to cut all support for private health. That is of course the government’s plan. The only difference is the time frame. The Greens want to skip to the endgame while the Labor Party wants to progressively kill all the support. Today’s Labor target, also known as a justification for killing support of private health, is those nasty rich people. Who will be the rich people of tomorrow? Perhaps those earning over $125,000 or maybe over $100,000 a year. Time will tell.

Of course any discussion of private health cannot be undertaken without speaking of the hospital system. The state hospitals all the way around the country are struggling. I believe that the health system in Australia is still world-class. Australians who have travelled the world would realise that. I say that if you are in need of emergency health care, then there is no place on earth you would rather be than in an Australian hospital. I certainly have confidence in Joondalup Health Campus, the Royal Perth Hospital and the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children. Although I have such faith, the reality is that the elective surgery waiting lists are very long and the delays are substantial. This is the big difference: emergency care is very good and elective surgery is characterised by delay and frustration. Fundamental reform is required in this area. With regard to elective surgery, I want to know how the Rudd Labor government’s attack on private health insurance, driving people onto the elective surgery waiting lists, is going to do anything but lengthen those lists.

Before concluding, I want to let the parliament know that while the Rudd Labor government may believe that private health insurance is a rich person’s indulgence, the opposite is in fact true. A majority of people in my electorate have private health insurance and they are not rich. I would also remind the government that there are no expanses of million-dollar homes or typical leafy green suburbs in Cowan. No-one has views of the sea or rivers either. These suburbs in Cowan are typical of the authentic suburbs of this country. I speak on this matter today to ensure that the people of Cowan know that one side of politics, our side as the coalition, supports choice, and in particular the choice of constituents to have private health insurance and not be attacked by the Rudd government for making that choice. Although too numerous to mention by name, I will now read a letter from one of my constituents. John of Ballajura sums up the sentiments of the people of Cowan, and I think of most of Western Australia, when he writes:

I am writing to you as one of Western Australia’s 800,000 HBF members and someone seriously concerned at reports that the Federal Government is considering making changes to the Private Health Insurance Rebate in the forthcoming budget.

The current contribution by the Federal Government towards health insurance premiums is absolutely vital in keeping private health cover affordable for people like me.

Any change to the Private Health Insurance Rebate, which makes health insurance more expensive, will encourage people to drop their cover, place additional pressure on our public hospitals and lead to higher premiums for those who keep their cover.

Many of us make significant personal sacrifices in order to pay for our health cover. We believe that we are doing ‘the right thing’ by taking responsibility for our health instead of depending on an already stretched public system.

As my Member of Parliament I implore you to speak up for me, and the thousands of other Western Australians with health insurance, to ensure that the Federal Government honours its pledge to retain the Private Health Insurance Rebate in its current form.

I am unashamedly in support of private health insurance and in support of free choice in this country. The coalition has always been in support of the health system in this country, and the best possible health outcomes. That is why we support the retention of the private health insurance rebate and support its retention with an effective health measure being the increase in the excise on tobacco. This of course is yet another example of the multifaceted approach the coalition adopts with health. We can get to a better health outcome by having a strong private health option. We can get better outcomes by increasing the excise on tobacco and still achieve these things in a financially responsible manner. If the government adopted our position then the Prime Minister’s pre-election promises and assertions about not changing the private health rebate system could be maintained—that is, of course, if he ever intended to keep his word on this matter. The actions of the government will now be on display for all to see. Back this amendment and keep faith with the Australian people in at least one area, or oppose this amendment and have Rudd Labor seen as the enemy of private health, the enemy of free choice, the enemy of aspirational people and those who make sacrifices to afford private health cover all over Australia.


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