House debates

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Questions without Notice

Eden-Monaro Electorate: Health

2:29 pm

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the minister for regional health: According to the most recent public data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in eight people in the Eden-Monaro area skip Medicare services because they can't afford them. Can the minister provide the House with any more recent data? And won't cutting bulk-billing incentives in Queanbeyan make the situation even worse?

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the shadow minister for his question. There's been no cut to bulk-billing services in Queanbeyan. I get frustrated that the member opposite wants to come in here and scare the people of Eden-Monaro. I had a bit of a look at the Riverside Medical Centre this afternoon. If the minister wanted to see a doctor in Queanbeyan, he might get the 2.40, the 2.50, the 3.20 or the 3.40. The people of Queanbeyan get the bulk-billing incentive like everyone else in Australia does. He might be interested to know that in other parts of Eden-Monaro they actually get the rural bulk billing.

There's a scare campaign coming up. I can tell you that there have been some changes to the geographic eligibility for the Modified Monash Model. The Labor Party was so incensed about these changes in October last year that they supported them. The changes didn't get rushed through in the middle of the night. These changes to the rural bulk-billing eligibility program were laid on the table for 15 days. This side of the House has a rural program worth $550 million, and the Labor Party was so incensed when it was introduced in May 2018 that the then shadow minister, the member for Ballarat, said:

… there are many measures in the Budget that Labor has welcomed. These include:

• a new Rural Health Strategy

That was on 15 May 2018.

This side of the House is not indulging in scare campaigns. We have a program in place to train doctors to have a broader range of skills—that is, GPs with obstetrics skills, GPs with emergency training and GPs with psychological training for places like Yass. In Yass, I might add, the Labor government in New South Wales removed maternity services in 2004. The program is to have staff training junior doctors to have a broader range of skills so they are suitable to go and work in regional areas.

We are trying to change the dynamic and the message so that rural Australia is a place to go and have a meaningful career in medicine. Those opposite continue to scare people right across Australia. They were doing it here about a month ago, talking about cuts to bulk-billing that did not happen. As a matter of fact, during COVID-19 we doubled the bulk-billing incentive rate. We introduced telehealth in a very short time so that people in regional Australia could be in touch with their doctors. On this side of the House, we support— (Time expired)