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
They are numerous, as the member for Cowper rightly points out. They went out of their way to assure every Australian—whatever their concern, whatever their level of private health insurance—that in office they would not change the private health insurance rebate system. They gave that guarantee deliberately. They gave it so that all Australians in voting for them would feel comfortable that nothing would happen to the private health insurance rebate system. Yet, here we are tonight. In my view it is part of the Robin Hood rhetoric that we have heard constantly from the government—taking from the rich and giving to the poor.
However, they seem to forget something. They forget something that is completely and utterly significant in this debate. I want to record it on behalf of the one million Australians who live in households where the annual income is less than $26,000 and who have private health insurance. I want to state that one more time. There are one million Australians who live in households where the annual income is less than $26,000 and who hold private health insurance. So the contention that private health insurance is somehow something for the rich, something that is the purview of people living in the land of plenty, is completely false. The Robin Hood rhetoric and narrative that has been developed by the government is also false. It is a smokescreen for the fact that they are breaking promises to pay for the debt they have racked up on behalf of all Australians. Indeed, that debt has been racked up.
When you look at the hypocrisy we have seen in these measures, it is important to note that there are some 11 million Australians with private health insurance. This is not something for us to be alarmed about. This is not something about which for us to think, ‘Well, how do we encourage people back into the public health system?’ If you were seeking to destroy private health and force people back into the public health system, the measure before us tonight would be a good start on that road. It would be a way to make an incremental change. That is why I am happy and comfortable tonight in opposing the legislation before the House. We ought not take steps down the path towards dismantling the private health system. Where people choose to invest their capital in their own health care we ought to encourage and reward them for doing so. Their health is important.
It is not right for us to have committee after committee. I saw last night the health and ageing committee report on obesity in this country. There is an easier way than having government reports and government committees looking into obesity—that is, to encourage a system where more Australians take more care for their own health. Indeed, that is what a private health system does. Eleven million Australians think it is valuable for them to invest part of their capital in looking after their own health. What could be wrong with that? In fact, there is nothing wrong with that. We ought to encourage and reward that in this place. It gives me nothing but pleasure to support the 76 per cent of my electorate who have chosen private health insurance and who continue to value a system where we have a strong private health sector and a strong public health sector. I have no hesitation in opposing this legislation.