Thursday, 2 October 2014
On behalf of the people of Hotham, I present these petitions to the parliament, subject to their approval by the Standing Committee on Petitions. I present these petitions as the voice of almost 6,000 people in my community. These petitions are an expression of anger, of disappointment and of fear at the government's proposed changes to our system of universal health care. They say to the Abbott government loud and clear: 'Hands off our Medicare.'
Deputy Speaker, you would be aware that Medicare was introduced by Labor in 1973 to provide equitable and efficient means of health insurance for all Australians. It is one of Labor's and one of this country's proudest policy achievements. It was a policy that brought equity to Australian health care, a policy that replaced an ailing, inefficient medical system that privileged those who could afford to pay. Over the next decade, Medicare continued to be attacked by conservatives, but Labor has continued to fight for it, and is it in that tradition that I stand in front of you in the House today and say: hands off our Medicare.
Medicare shares incredibly wide support—you can see that from the petitions in front of me—not just across Hotham but right across Australia. As well as being popular, the policy has been extraordinarily successful not just at protecting Australians who fall ill but at keeping down our healthcare costs. Australia spends less on health care than the OECD average and much less than its counterparts in the US. And, in return for this efficient system, we are amongst a handful of countries that have the best health outcomes of any countries in the world.
Despite this success, widely recognised by people right around Australia, Medicare is again under attack. Today the government will continue its battle to put a sick tax, a $7 charge, on every Australian who wants to go to the doctor or get a pathology test, and to increase charges for our pharmaceuticals. This is going to be bad for community health because people may not go to the doctor when they need to. It is pretty basic. But, importantly, this policy is so profoundly regressive. The poorest and the sickest, the elderly and those with chronic disease, will pay the most.
The people of Hotham, my electorate, those people that I have the great privilege to represent, have raised their voices. They are angry. They are disappointed that the government has betrayed them despite making a promise—whatever that is worth today—at the election that there would be no cuts to health and no changes to health policy. But, even more than that, there are people in my community who are frightened. Constituents have said that this will mean making real choices about whether to buy food or get the health care that they need. Others have said they will stop going to the doctor and stop getting tests when they are asked. And then there are the families. What about the families who may have to pay $50 or $60 when a family gets sick together?
My constituents have spoken today in these petitions I present to you. I commit to them, with Labor, that we will continue to fight to protect Medicare.