Monday, 22 February 2010
Questions without Notice
Private Health Insurance
I thank the member for Lyons for his question because I know the member for Lyons and the member for Braddon and many members on this side of the House, and I suspect also the member for Maranoa and perhaps the member for Gippsland, the member for Lyne and the member for New England, would all understand that their constituents on low and middle incomes rely very heavily on the private health insurance rebate and want it to be sustainable for the future. It is important for those low- and middle-income earners in electorates that are not like the North Shore electorates represented by the Leader of the Opposition or the shadow Treasurer that have large numbers of high-income earners who are being subsidised by those on low and middle incomes who indeed need government assistance to ensure that they can keep their private health insurance.
The changes that are being debated in the Senate today are designed to make the private health insurance rebate sustainable to ensure that those low- and middle-income Australians are able to continue to have the support that they deserve from the government. But before those opposite get too agitated let me read a statement by the new President of the Business Council of Australia, Mr Graham Bradley. I do not think the Business Council of Australia can be accused of being Labor patsies, but it appears that even the new Business Council of Australia president supports the government’s approach. Recently he called on the government ‘to secure the future affordability of our health care system’ and said that bringing the budget back into surplus would require ‘tightening eligibility requirements and means testing’—in other words, exactly the type of measure that is being voted on in the Senate today, tomorrow or whenever the opposition finally decide that they are prepared to let there be a vote.
There is another chance for the opposition to show that not only do they support low- and middle-income earners but also they support the views of the Business Council. It is no longer just a question of whether or not they can play the politics of this. Ultimately, millions of low- and middle-income earners across the country want this support, need this support and deserve to be able to have the rebate system sustainable into the future. So it is a question of not just the fiscal credibility that the Treasurer dealt with earlier but also their credibility in the community, telling low- and middle-income earners in electorates across the country that their support is under threat when they will not support these sensible measures that even the Business Council of Australia thinks should be supported.