House debates

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Questions without Notice

Minister for Health

2:19 pm

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

My question is to the Minister for Health. I refer to the principle of cabinet solidarity outlined in the Cabinet Handbook, which applies to all ministers. Does the minister retain enough confidence in the Prime Minister, his government and its policies to remain minister?

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, I do. I also believe deeply and strongly in the record of this government. Going straight to one of the differences between what this government does and what the opposition would do in government, and what they did last time, we will list every medicine that the PBAC recommends. Let me repeat that: we will list every medicine. Do you know why? It's because (a) we believe in it and (b) we run an economy which means that we can pay for essential services. That is what this government has done.

Let me remind the House of what Labor did when they were in government. I quote their own budget papers: … given the current fiscal environment, the listing of some medicines would be deferred until fiscal circumstances permit.

I've also done a little bit more reading. There was a Senate inquiry into Labor's policy when they were in government. What the Senate inquiry found is that this decision of the then Labor government 'constitutes a major unnecessary and unwelcome change in government policy' and that, 'This profound and ill-considered change in policy puts at risk affordable access to medicines—

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

I have two points of order, Mr Speaker. The first is in terms of direct relevance. The question is about the Prime Minister, and the Minister for Health hasn't mentioned him. Secondly, it's difficult to hear him over the cheers of the government backbench while he's talking.

Mr Hunt interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The Minister for Health will allow me to rule on the points of order, if that's okay. There's some tolerance given to the Manager of Opposition Business and the Leader of the House. That second point of order exhausts that for today. On the first point of order, the question also mentioned public policy, so the minister is completely in order.

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I do support the Prime Minister. Let me be absolutely clear. I support what we have done with record funding for health, record bulk-billing, record funding for hospitals and record funding for mental health. Above all else, the fact is that on Labor's watch they deliberately deferred new medicines. They did it in their own budget statement. They did it for medicines right across the board, including for schizophrenia, IVF, endometriosis, deep vein thrombosis, severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

If you want to understand the difference between these two sides, what you can see is that those opposite cannot manage the economy and, therefore, they cannot guarantee essential services. We can manage the economy, we have created a million jobs and we have been able to guarantee essential services. That is the difference, and it's fundamental. What they would also do is slash the rebate from the private health insurance system, leading to higher out-of-pocket costs and a 16 per cent increase in the cost of private health insurance. They are healthcare vandals through and through. What we have done in guaranteeing the PBS is give patients certainty and give patients earlier access to the medicines they deserve.