House debates

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Matters of Public Importance


3:45 pm

Photo of Nick ChampionNick Champion (Wakefield, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

If this government is the best friend that Medicare has ever had—because that is what the member for Boothby is asserting—it certainly does not need enemies! This is a budget of broken promises. It is a budget of regressive cuts—$80 billion in cuts; $50 billion out of hospitals alone. It is a budget of increased taxes on working families. And it is a budget that contains a visceral hatred of Medicare. It is a budget that jacks up the cost of medicines. It is a budget that slugs you $7 every time you enter a GP's waiting room, every time you get a blood test, every time you get a scan—it is a cascading, all-encompassing, multiplying, $7 hit on the family budget. And it just does not stop. It continues on and on and on; it is not $7—it is multiples of seven.

Those who are on the pension, who have a chronic illness, who have asthma, who have pneumonia, who have diabetes—they are all the people who are going to suffer: the sickest, the most frail, the most vulnerable. We know that one million visits to the GP will be denied every year, and $5 billion in increased costs and increased taxes will be passed on to families over four years. This is a full-scale assault on Medicare. It is a full-scale assault on fairness. It is a full-scale assault on the Australian way.

It is not about sustainability as the minister said; it has not been about sustainability for the last 40 years. This is about instituting regressive changes to health care in this country which the coalition have championed since the 1970s, and championed in the 1980s and 1990s. And do not take my word for it. On 14 February 1986, John Howard said that if the Hawke government:

… had not been elected to office the Commonwealth Budget would not contain the absurd and bloated expenditures on Medicare that honourable members opposite have added.

On 21 August 1986 he said that, if elected, they would:

… put choice back into Medicare by a number of steps. Firstly, we will allow individual Australians to opt out of Medicare; that is, not pay the levy provided they take out private insurance. Secondly, bulk billing will be abolished except for such people as pensioners who really need it.

So that is what John Howard said in the 1980s. We know, of course, what they said in the 1990s. In the 1990s it was Fightback! I pulled Fightback! out of the Parliamentary Library just to see what it said. Some members in the chamber would remember Fightback! of course. On page 7 in the executive summary it says: 'Bulk-billing will be retained for over four million pensioners, healthcare card holders and the disabled but will no longer be available to other Australians, and the government monopoly on medical insurance will be abolished and there will be provision for gap insurance and medical bills.' That is on page 7 of Fightback! Then on page 52 of this document it says—and this will ring a bell for those opposite: 'The best way to contain costs is to introduce a price signal for health services. Bulk-billing will be abolished with the exception of the four million pensioners, healthcare card holders and the disabled.' So this is Fightback!in 1992 or 1993. It brought me to the Labor Party. It brought in the member for Hindmarsh, who said, in August 2013, that it made him join the Liberal Party. He was so excited about ending Medicare and stopping bulk-billing he decided to join the Liberal Party. And here he is in parliament today.

The member for Boothby talked about former health minister and now Prime Minister Tony Abbott and what a great record he had, but we know that he broke promises in 2004, and we remember his commitment on Four Corners when Ticky Fullerton asked him:

Will this Government commit to keeping the Medicare-plus-safety-net as it is now in place after the election?


TICKY FULLERTON: That's a cast-iron commitment?

TONY ABBOTT: Cast-iron commitment. Absolutely.

Of course, we know what he did with that 'cast-iron commitment'. He broke it, just like he has broken his promise to the Australian people last election of 'no cuts to health'. And what do we find? A $7 cascading co-payment, on every GP visit, on every blood test, on every scan. And those opposite are silent because they know that this is political poison—particularly those in the bush; particularly those in the outer suburbs. This is poison. It is poison for those working families and it is electoral poison. And if I were you, I would be marching down to the Prime Minister's office and telling him to change his strategy a bit. (Time expired)


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