House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Questions without Notice


2:17 pm

Photo of Wayne SwanWayne Swan (Lilley, Australian Labor Party, Treasurer) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the member for Hindmarsh for his very important question. It is important that we put the health budget on a sustainable footing. The Australia 2050 report highlighted the impact of rapidly rising health costs on the future of the Australian economy. Health costs are projected to increase from 15 per cent of all Commonwealth spending now to something like 26 per cent by 2050. This is an increase in 2049-50 of something like $200 billion from today’s spending. This makes health the biggest pressure on our budget, contributing around two-thirds of the total increase in public spending over this time. This reflects ageing pressures, increasing demand for health services and new and more expensive drugs and technologies. The Australia 2050 report identifies the critical need to address the rising cost of our health system.

This side of the House is committed to safeguarding the long-term sustainability of the health budget but also making sure that taxpayers’ dollars are distributed fairly. Spending on the private health insurance rebate has grown from $2.1 billion in 2000-01 to $4.2 billion last financial year. Real spending per person is projected to increase by more than 50 per cent from 2012-13 to the equivalent of $319 per person in 2022-23. That is the primary reason why the government has announced fair and responsible changes to the private health insurance rebate to better target that rebate to those who need it most. Our changes are designed to have a minimal impact on participation with 99.7 per cent of people expected to maintain their hospital cover according to Treasury analysis.

Unfortunately, the opposition shows no sign at all of doing the right thing with this change to the private health insurance rebate. They want a health system where working families subsidise the healthcare costs of the well to do. That is simply unacceptable in the circumstances that I have outlined. We hear all sorts of extreme statements from the shadow Treasurer and from the Leader of the Opposition about how they stand for fiscal responsibility, but they are in there knocking off a saving of $2 billion over four years and $9 billion to 2019-20. Every day the shadow Treasurer huffs and puffs about how responsible he is and says that the opposition stand for responsible economic measures, but the opposition in the Senate just show that he is full of hot air, because there is no fiscal responsibility on that side of the House. If they were interested in providing affordable health care to average Australians and if they were responsible economic managers, they would be backing this very important bill in the Senate, but what they are doing is demonstrating yet again what a risk they are to the Commonwealth budget and the Australian economy. We on this side of the House will get on with the hard work of supporting hardworking Australian families and giving them a fair go.


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