House debates

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Statements by Members

Dental Health

9:42 am

Photo of Tony WindsorTony Windsor (New England, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to talk about a very important issue to all of us in Australia—that is, dental care, the arrangements that are currently in place and the changes that should take place. Given the air within the federal government at the moment of moving into areas that they traditionally blamed others for, I urge the Commonwealth to look very closely at this issue. It is an issue that they need to have a much closer look at not only in terms of the Medicare arrangements for dental care but also in terms of some of the training arrangements. I know there is some movement in terms of training, but there is a bottleneck with the delivery of dental care—there are some 600,000 Australians on the waiting list now. There is a need for a degree of federal intervention in relation to this. There was a program some years ago with which the Commonwealth government did assist.

For the life of me I cannot understand why dental health is considered to be different to the rest of our bodily health when it comes to Medicare arrangements. A constituent of mine from the little town of Bendemeer, Mrs Ruth Mathews, has been working on a petition to the parliament. I think some 3,000 petitions have been presented, urging the federal government to make some moves in the dental care area. The 3,000 people who have signed the petition—and I am sure many other Australians would too if we asked them—are prepared to pay more in their Medicare levy for dental care to be included.

This issue has been raised on a number of occasions by a number of members, and it is an issue that we should be addressing when we have surplus budgets. I congratulate the government on its economic activity in terms of surplus budgets. But, rather than giving $2, a milkshake or half a sandwich back to people in terms of tax cuts, we should address this issue. If there is surplus money, we should transfer some of that money into Medicare so that people with dental problems can avail themselves of the same provisions that they can if they have a problem with their foot, their hand or their heart. There is a very real need for this issue to be part of the election platform of all the major parties. Hopefully, it will be one that the Prime Minister, given his recent attitude, will mention. (Time expired)