Monday, 21 November 2022
Questions without Notice
Rural And Regional Health Services
I'm very pleased to have another opportunity to talk about what this government is doing to address the crisis in general practice. This morning, a number of members from across the parliament met with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners—some of whom join us here in the chamber today—to address what I think is the worst crisis in general practice in the almost 40-year history of Medicare. It's not just a crisis in rural and regional Australia, although the crisis there is certainly more extreme than in the cities. It is a crisis in the cities as well. For members of the former government, albeit not with the Leader of the Opposition here, given what he did to the Medicare system in his short time as the health minister, to get up here and, in a holier-than-thou way, seek to lecture others—
Yes, on relevance, Mr Speaker. It was a very tight question about the number of rural towns that have lost a GP because of the change in policy around the distribution priorities—very specific.
I'll tell you what the college of general practice and other groups in the health sector tell all of us, including over on that side of parliament, and that is that six years of a freeze to the Medicare rebate, ripping away the ability to recruit overseas-trained doctors from 140 different general practice regions in 2018—which is what this question is about—
has created a crisis in access to general practice, not just in rural towns but also in metropolitan communities across Australia. He knows that. The Leader of the National Party knows quite clearly that the crisis in general practice that they created—
has made it harder for Australian patients across the country to see a doctor than it ever has been, and not only harder but also more expensive than it ever has been. And I tell you what, it sits very, very badly in the mouths of those opposite, to get up here and seek to lecture us about a crisis that was of their creation. There is no higher priority for this government than to rebuild general practice after the vandalism of the last 10 years. We put strengthening Medicare right at the centre of our election platform—
We are sitting down with them every month—the college of rural medicine among them, the rural health commissioner among them—to talk about ways in which we can improve access to general practice across the community: in the cities, in rural towns, in remote communities. Also in the October budget we put in place a rural general practice package to make sure that innovative models of care are being trialled across rural general practice and that there are more training placements under the John Flynn program. We have a priority of rebuilding general practice. All the others have is cheap politics.