Senate debates

Monday, 29 July 2019


Health Insurance Amendment (Bonded Medical Programs Reform) Bill 2019; Second Reading

9:09 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | Hansard source

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I rise to applaud and support the Health Insurance Amendment (Bonded Medical Programs Reform) Bill 2019. The health of bush and rural communities is important; their sense of community is so strong and appealing. I can recall being in Charleville just a couple of years ago. I had suffered an injury and was made to feel very welcome by all the staff in that small hospital. I noticed a nurse there who had lived all her life in Brisbane, in the big city, and she loved being out at Charleville. The Charleville Parade—I was there for the 150th anniversary parade, with kids running around at night, free, unhindered, and very, very safe. The townspeople, properties—very friendly, get along well together. The same can be said of Longreach and Camooweal and many other towns in rural Queensland.

After suitable consultation the government has tabled a bill that creates one single system for bonded education. That fixes a mess that Labor concocted. The provision of an increased number of places—850 annually—with a three-year service obligation, to be completed within 18 years, is a very good outcome. The longer period allows specialists to train and skill before going bush. In turn, rural and regional Queensland, and Australia, will benefit from medical professionals who have completed the long professional development that is so necessary for many specialties. Now, at first it seemed to us that three years wasn't adequate, but then we found out in our research that six years had been tried and failed—with six years, people just didn't apply, and with one year, too many applied. So, it looks like three years is a handy compromise. And 18 years seems a long time to fulfil one's bond, but when one realises that it can be very arduous to fulfil a special training area, then we were happy with that 18 years.

There were measures at first, then, that seemed to be impractical. Yet this bill covers for the many varied circumstances across our diverse and large nation. We know that governments have tried, as I said, five-year service, and that deterred doctors, and one year caused a flood. Three years seems a handy compromise. One of our concerns is that medical colleges are aiming to maintain high fees for specialists, and that minimises enrolments. They choke down the number of specialists that can emerge—for example, four to six dermatologists each year. That's why we have an 18-year bottleneck. It's needed to get specialists through. Yet for real support of regions we need more-ambitious changes to address these bottlenecks.

I note that another initiative that One Nation supported—the National Rural Health Commissioner—has been successful in introducing 'rural generalist' as a career path. We look forward to the commissioner progressing next into nursing and midwifery. We like the practical changes. They're necessary. As I alluded to in my opening comments, the bush—the rural areas—are inherently a great place for raising families. Ask the owner-managers of the Chinchilla McDonald's, who moved here from Western Australia and love it in Chinchilla. The people of many regional towns and centres echo the same.

With regional centres being such wonderful communities, people may wonder why the regions are declining. the answer is easy: their livelihood is being gutted. Their productive capacity is being gutted. And what's doing that? Liberal and Labor federal and state governments are doing that. They're killing the productive capacity of our rural and regional areas—indeed, our nation. Economic mismanagement is taking many forms—for example, electricity prices hindering the Charleville abattoir, which is a wonderful innovation in killing small animals, such as goat and sheep. In Mackay we notice people suffering from high electricity prices. And it's not just families, not just individuals; it's businesses, it's clubs in North Queensland, paying huge amounts for electricity, and stores and restaurants that have freezers are really doing it tough, going out of business. Farmers in a severe drought are not planting fodder crops. That's insane.

And we've got tax policies that allow multinationals to not pay their fair share of the burden while farmers, small business, employers, families and individuals pay enormous amounts of tax. Tax, in fact, is the most destructive system in this country. I recall reading figures around the start of this century that a person on an average income, around $80,000 per year now, typically pays 68 per cent of their income to government. That's taxes, rates, fees, levies, charges, special fees, and on and on. People thought that housing was the most expensive purchase in their lives; it's not. Government is our most expensive purchase. And are we getting value? No.

Look at water policies right now, with the productive capacity of our country being eroded and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan leading to charging exorbitant prices for water. Then we've got capricious federal government acts that hinder the rural sector. These are all driving people away from making a productive lifestyle in these areas. They're under pressure, under stress. Under the Labor and Liberal governments over the last couple of decades we've had the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, horrendous, really hurting the bush; the live cattle ban under Julia Gillard's government, hurting the bush not just in the north but throughout this country; and property rights stolen by the Howard government, of all people—the Howard government. I already discussed that earlier today, but the Howard government is responsible through its agreement, first, with Rob Borbidge as National Party Premier of Queensland in 1996, following the UN Kyoto protocol; then Peter Beattie signing a deal with John Howard in 1998; then Bligh, and Palaszczuk-Trad; and also Bob Carr mirroring this in New South Wales.

Centralised bureaucratic control is another problem, with little accountability in this country. The federal government, as it gobbles up more and more of states' rights and states' duties and responsibilities, has no competition, and that means no accountability. We need to restore competitive federalism. I quote from Rebuilding the Federation, written by Richard Court, a former Liberal Premier of Western Australia, in 1994. He says: 'The driving of Commonwealth-state financial relations is the states' heavy reliance on Commonwealth funding to supplement their own source revenue. Currently, the states receive approximately 50 per cent of their total revenue from the Commonwealth.' That proportion has since increased.

In fact, I was at Balonne Shire Council in early 2017 and asked a simple question: 'What percentage of your annual revenue at the Balonne Shire Council comes from the federal government?' I was told it was 73 per cent, almost three-quarters of their revenue, and every cent comes with strings attached, with conditions. So who is really running the councils? It's the federal government. Who is running the states? It's the federal government.

The Murray-Darling Basin itself covers an area that is about 80 per cent of New South Wales. The government is allocating resources, controlling vital expenses in water and controlling property rights—indeed, separating property rights from water rights, under the 2007 Howard government act. And then we look further. As Richard Court said, 'The Commonwealth is using the external affairs power to govern Australian citizens, often rushing to sign international covenants which trample on their existing rights.' They trample on our existing rights. He said: 'These international agreements are made primarily by people outside Australia. The terms and conditions are set by officials from other countries. While Australia takes part in the negotiations, it does not exercise a dominant influence. The foreign countries do.' 'The foreign agencies do', I would suggest, is more accurate. Richard Court goes on: 'We never see them, we never meet them and we cannot question them. Yet international covenants dictate to our Commonwealth government and the High Court and the state governments and the people what passes for governance and sovereignty in this country.'

As Marty Bella, a Central Queensland councillor and cane grower—very active now he's realised what is happening—said, and he echoed what Senator Hanson has been saying for 23 years and what I have said since learning of it around eight years ago, there is 'an ideological assault on rural Australia'. This is the result of federal agreements with UN treaties, protocols and declarations—agreements such as the Lima Declaration, signed in 1975 by Gough Whitlam, the Labor Prime Minister, and ratified the following year by his supposed archenemy, Malcolm Fraser, as Prime Minister. Then in 1992 we had the UN's Rio declaration for 21st century global governance, signed by Paul Keating's government. I will quote from the UN Agenda 21 document in a minute. Then we had the 1996 UN Kyoto agreement, under which John Howard, as Liberal Prime Minister—


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