House debates

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016; Second Reading

10:02 am

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Health) Share this | Hansard source

I too rise to join my colleagues in supporting the now amended Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016. At the outset, I particularly want to acknowledge the strong leadership on our side of the Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Treasurer, the shadow finance minister and my colleagues in the areas of family payments and environment, who have all worked very hard to ensure that we do support budget repair that is necessary and that we do so in a way that is fair.

We have always said that this exercise should not come at the expense of cutting payments for some of the most vulnerable families in this country. I am particularly pleased that Labor was able to fight so hard to have the axing of the Child Dental Benefits Schedule and the National Partnership Agreement on Adult Public Dental Services removed. The government will have a significant fight on its hands if it attempts to abolish the Child Dental Benefits Schedule. It is a schedule that has assisted one million children already and it is providing dental services every two years, with a very strong focus on prevention. The government's own Department of Health has said that this is a very successful program, with the only failing being the government's failure to actually promote it to parents.

We also very strongly believe that the National Partnership Agreement on Adult Public Dental Services—the initiative that Labor in fact put in place—has also been important in treating an extra 400,000 adults through the public dental scheme. The government's proposal to scrap both of these schemes and replace it with a scheme which, frankly, would see five million children added to the already long public dental waiting list is an absolute farce and not something that anyone in the sector supports.

The National Oral Health Alliance has basically said that, if the government has its way with its scheme, people will be getting one treatment every 17 years, or it would be $40 per patient, according to the government's own rhetoric about how many people are now to be eligible under the scheme—$40 per year for their care—which is an absolute joke. The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association have, arguably, also said that it will add significantly to public dental waiting lists.

I am very proud that Labor have fought hard to protect a scheme that we established—a scheme that was put in place to ensure that we would have good oral health into the future. We already have over 42 per cent of children under the age of five experiencing decay in their baby teeth and some 62 per cent of nine-year-olds experiencing decay in their baby teeth. We know that 20,000 children are hospitalised each year because of tooth decay that is avoidable. This scheme is working. It is a scheme that is important, and it is one that Labor is very proud to have stood up to this government on in this bill.


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