Tuesday, 9 February 2010
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Shortland for her question. She has always taken a strong interest in the health reform debate, including hosting forums with health professionals in her own area. This government came to office aware of the challenges facing the health system. It is why we increased hospital funding by 50 per cent, it is why we initiated a root-and-branch reform of the health system and it is why we increased GP training places by 35 per cent. Unlike the previous government, we are upfront about the challenges faced by the system.
Of course, when it comes to not being upfront, the Leader of the Opposition has form. This was the man who attacked cancer sufferer Bernie Banton and who harshly capped GP training places when more than 70 per cent of the country had a shortage of GPs. This is the man who strangled hospital funding. This was the man who was so incompetent and disloyal he was even fired by John Hewson. But he also told bald-face porkies to the public. So let us just turn the clock back to July 2004, a very different time to now in this parliament. There were leadership problems within the Liberal Party. The Liberals were in denial about climate change, the Liberals were running fear campaigns about interest rates.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I am wondering how this personal embittered slag-off of the Leader of the Opposition is within the minister’s responsibilities on health and ageing. How can she explain that?
When it comes to not being upfront with the public, the real rolled-gold winning performance was from the Leader of the Opposition when he was health minister, when he was asked on Four Corners about whether the Liberal Party would change the Medicare safety net.
Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I wish to draw your attention to the rulings and precedent established as far back as Speaker Snedden on the issue of the relevance of a question that called upon a minister responsible for their department to give a commentary to the House on the activities of their then opposition. I also draw your attention to the fact that Speaker Snedden and other Speakers ruled that it is not within the competence of a minister, irrespective of the question, to give commentary on the activities of an opposition. It has become so prevalent here that we hear nothing about the activities of this government from their own ministers.
As I said in response to the Manager of Opposition Business’s point of order, the question was in order, and I have asked the minister to make her response relevant to that question. She appeared to be taking some of that advice before the member for O’Connor’s point of order. I will listen carefully to the response of the minister.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am always keen to take your advice and it is the reason that I am comparing and contrasting the performance of the Rudd government in delivering reforms in health and the performance of the Leader of the Opposition when he was the health minister. He was asked on Four Corners whether or not the Liberal Party would change the Medicare safety net. He said that the Liberal Party had a ‘cast-iron commitment, an absolutely rock solid ironclad commitment’, not to make any changes.
I got to thinking: he made a cast-iron promise, he made an ironclad guarantee. I wonder whether really Tony just has a problem with irons. There is no doubt about it, he just has a problem with irons. It was dishonest from the start. He knew that the expenses for the Medicare safety net were going through the roof. He knew it at the time of the election. He told an outright fib to the public and only seven months after they were elected he increased the threshold by a whopping 66 per cent. We know that this is a fateful warning bell for Australians who may or may not be considering voting for this man as Prime Minister of the country. He is just too big a risk to do that.