Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Bills

Treasury Laws Amendment (Medicare Levy and Medicare Levy Surcharge) Bill 2019; Second Reading

4:27 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | Hansard source

Labor supports the Treasury Laws Amendment (Medicare Levy and Medicare Levy Surcharge) Bill 2019, which will amend the Medicare Levy Act 1986 and the A New Tax System (Medicare Levy Surcharge—Fringe Benefits) Act 1999 to increase the Medicare levy low-income thresholds for individuals and families, along with the dependent child-student component of the family threshold, in line with movements in the CPI; the Medicare levy low-income thresholds for individuals and families eligible for the seniors and pensioners tax offset, along with the dependent child-student component of the family threshold, in line with movements in the CPI; and the Medicare levy surcharge low-income threshold, in line with movements in the CPI. The measure applies to the 2018-19 income year and later income years. This follows the practice of dealing with this annually, as per the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (Medicare Levy and Medicare Levy Surcharge) Bill 2018. This is a regular process that ensures that the most vulnerable Australians are not disadvantaged while maintaining their access to Medicare, our world-class universal health system.

I want to make a few brief points, reflecting upon what my colleagues in the other place said this morning. The shadow minister for health and Medicare, Catherine King, noted this morning that the 2019-20 budget has locked in the Prime Minister's cuts to public hospitals in a too little, too late health budget full of reheated announcements that don't make up for six years of Liberal chaos. As Treasurer, Scott Morrison cut hospitals in every budget he wrote, and as Prime Minister he has now locked the cuts in. For six years, the Liberals have prioritised an $80 billion tax handout for the top end of town, and they've done that over prioritising Medicare, schools and hospitals. This is a Prime Minister who is completely out of touch and only cares about the top end of town.

Prime Minister Morrison has refused to restore the $715 million he cut from hospitals under the current funding period and he's persisting with his plans to rip billions more out of our hospitals over the next six years. Patients will suffer because of these cuts, as they are confronted with longer emergency department and elective surgery waiting times or are forced to travel far from home for treatment. Bill Shorten and Labor will deliver a fair go for Australia by reversing these cuts and making massive new investments with our $2.8 billion better hospitals fund.

While Labor will always welcome new investments in general practice, this budget doesn't come close to making up for the five-year rebate freeze that has ripped $3 billion out of Medicare. This is a freeze the Liberals first imposed in 2014. Now they're promising to lift it, matching Labor's long-held commitment, and they're doing this just six weeks out from an election. In the other place this morning the shadow Assistant Treasurer said that the Australian people are far too smart to fall for this spin. They know that the cost of going to the doctor has risen, and that's why so many of them have been delaying going to the doctor. Last year, Labor noted that the official Bureau of Statistics figures showed that one million Australians delay or avoid seeing their GP each year. They do that because of the cost. With another 1.7 million Australians skipping specialist appointments, this means that the health of Australians is not being properly dealt with under this government. Yet the Liberals make the laughable claim that Medicare has never been stronger and that their commitment is rock solid. Remember all of Tony Abbott's promises before he became Prime Minister? Well, this is certainly a similar position, from this government.

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