House debates

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Constituency Statements

Medicare Locals

9:42 am

Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Attorney General) Share this | | Hansard source

I stand to condemn the government on its abject failure to keep its pre-election promise to maintain and support Medicare Locals as a deliverer of primary healthcare services across Australia. I also condemn the government for its failure to provide staff of Medicare Locals with sufficient guidance or information about the future of Australia's primary healthcare services sector and about the employment prospects in the primary healthcare sector once the government closes the 61 Medicare Locals next year.

Earlier this month I met with Anne Peek, the CEO of the South Eastern Melbourne Medicare Local, to discuss the future of primary healthcare services in my electorate. Anne and her staff, like so many Medicare Local staff around the country, have been hung out to dry by this government. Just before last year's election, Tony Abbott said in a televised leaders' debate, 'We are not shutting any Medicare Locals.' Unfortunately for Anne Peek, her staff and the many Australians who rely on programs run by Medicare Locals, this promise, like the government's many promises not to make cuts to education, health care and the ABC, has been broken.

The South Eastern Melbourne Medicare Local has, in just a few short years, become a key part of healthcare delivery in Melbourne's south-east. It provides a variety of services and programs in the region, including offering programs targeted to improve the health outcomes of refugees, Indigenous Australians, diabetics and elderly residents. The South Eastern Melbourne Medicare Local only has funding until June 2015. Beyond that time, what primary healthcare services will be offered to my electorate is unclear.

The government's treatment of Medicare Local staff and clients has been atrocious. It has cut the jobs of good staff and has failed to articulate a plan about what primary health services will be provided from July 2015. You would think that, for a government to cut a primary healthcare service provider like Medicare Locals, it would have a plan to replace them, but it is clear that this government's plans for primary healthcare in Australia are first to cut and then to work out the rest later. The services this government is cutting from South Eastern Melbourne Medicare Local will worsen health outcomes in my electorate and ultimately hurt residents of Melbourne's south-east. I call on the government to offer security to the staff and clients of Medicare Locals around Australia and reveal its plans, if it has any, for primary health services in my electorate and across Australia.