House debates

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Questions without Notice


2:19 pm

Photo of Sam LimSam Lim (Tangney, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. How is the Albanese Labor government undoing previous attacks on Medicare and making it easier for Australians to see a doctor?

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Tangney for his question. He knows that, after nine years of cuts and neglect of Medicare, it has never been harder than it is today to see a doctor. He also knows the pressure on bulk-billing rates in WA, because they are some of the most severe anywhere in the country. That's why he campaigned so hard on our promise to strengthen Medicare. Our budget two weeks ago delivered on that promise, with $6 billion in new investments to strengthen Medicare, including the centrepiece—an initiative to triple the bulk-billing incentive, which is what we in Labor describe as the beating heart of Medicare. I was delighted to have the opportunity last week to meet with the member for Tangney and a number of doctors in Willetton in his electorate and talk about the difference that that initiative would make to the 74,000 people who live in his electorate who are eligible for the bulk-billing incentive.

The member for Tangney also knows that the challenge in finding a doctor is often most acute when someone in your family needs urgent care—when your kid falls off a skateboard and breaks their arm or when there's a deep laceration that needs urgent stitching. These non-life-threatening emergencies could quite adequately be dealt with out in the community in a primary care setting. Instead, we know that every year in Australia there are more than four million presentations to emergency departments classified as non-urgent or semi-urgent, many of which could be dealt with in a primary care setting. This means more pressure on hospital emergency departments and it means patients waiting for hours and hours to get treatment that they should be able to get in the community.

That is why Labor committed to funding 50 urgent care clinics across Australia, including one around Murdoch in the member for Tangney's electorate. It will be open seven days a week for extended hours, from 8 am to 10 pm. It will be open for walk-in patients and, most importantly, it will be fully bulk-billed. All you will have to take is your Medicare card.

Last week I visited the first site in Perth with the Minister for Early Childhood Education and the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister. Over coming weeks more sites will be announced. All 58 clinics will be up and delivering services over the course of this year, which we promised in the election. We have received huge support from states and territories, who are now driving many of the expression-of-interest processes. There is huge interest by general practices who want to take their practice to the next level. They are submitting tenders under this process.

Our network of fully bulk-billed urgent care clinics is going to make it easier to get out in the community the care you need when you need it. They're going to take pressure off hospital emergency departments across Australia. It's all part of Labor's plan to strengthen Medicare.