Monday, 22 May 2023
Questions without Notice
I want to thank the member for Hunter for his question. He was so clear, in his promise to his community at the last election, on his commitment to deliver better health care for his community in the Hunter Valley. He promised to reinstate funding that was cut by the Liberal Party to the Hunter after-hours GP service, a nation-leading after-hours service, and he delivered on that promise along with his colleagues the member Patterson, the member for Newcastle the member for Shortland. He promised to reinstate the right of general practices in his community to recruit overseas trained doctors and he delivered on that promise as well. After nine long years of cuts and neglect to Medicare that have made it harder than ever and more expensive to see a doctor, he promised to strengthen Medicare.
In this month's budget, we delivered on that promise as well, with a $6 billion package of new initiatives to strengthen Medicare along with the largest increase across the board to Medicare rebates in more than 30 years, a $1½ billion boost to indexation that next year, in one year, will deliver a bigger increase to Medicare rebates than the former government delivered in their first seven years of government.
But the centrepiece of this month's budget are our strengthening Medicare package is $3½ billion dollars to triple the bulk-billing incentive, because, for the Labour Party, bulk-billing is the beating heart of the Medicare system. This will make a huge change to general practice, for in the cities a standard bulk-billed consult will see an increase to GPs of more than a third. The total fee paid to GPs will rise by more than a third. That increase will be even higher in regions like the Hunter Valley. A standard bulk-billed consult in Cessnock, for example, in the Hunter Valley, in the member for Hunter's electorate, will rise by 50 per cent, from $50 to $75. This covers, as the Prime Minister said, more than 11 million Australians, accounting for more than 60 per cent of all activity in general practice, including 88,000 in the member for Hunter's electorate. That's why the College of General Practitioners described this budget as a game changer—particularly the bulk-billing. It will be a game changer for millions of mums and dads, who want the confidence that, when their kid gets sick, they can go to a bulk-bill doctor. It will be a game changer for millions of pensioners, self-funded retirees and concession card holders, who need the confidence of bulk-billing. Importantly, it will be a game changer for tens of thousands of practitioners, who after nine years finally see a government in Canberra that values their important work.