Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Medibank Private Sale Bill 2006

In Committee

Consideration resumed from 4 December.

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (Queensland, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that Senator Nettle’s amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 5161 be agreed to.

12:31 pm

Photo of Kerry NettleKerry Nettle (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

These two amendments abolish the private health insurance rebate. For some time now, the position of the Australian Greens has been that this over $3 billion of public funds which the government uses each year to support private health insurance should be redirected and instead spent on our public healthcare system. It is a position that the Greens have taken because of our strong commitment to social justice. When we were debating this bill last night, we heard from each of the parties represented here and I note that we heard no support for the idea of redirecting these public funds, and making sure that that money that taxpayers contribute to the government to ensure that there is a quality healthcare system that can be accessed by all Australians is invested in the public health system. Instead we continue to see both of the major parties supporting the redirection of wealth from taxpayers into the pockets of those people who have private health insurance.

In this chamber I have been through many times before the Greens’ analysis of which people in the community do have private health insurance: predominantly they can be found in the wealthier, Liberal-held electorates. It is the constituents of the poorer electorates—predominantly Labor held, and indeed in National Party electorates, where we see some of the lowest levels of income and also the very lowest levels of private health insurance—who are subsidising those in Liberal Party electorates such as that of health minister Tony Abbott, whose electorate has the highest level of private health insurance.

So this money, this over $3 billion of public funds, is available for people who live in the wealthy suburbs of Sydney or the wealthy suburbs of Melbourne, but those other Australians, particularly in regional areas, do not get access to these public funds. And they do not have private health insurance. Why would you? There is no private hospital or private hospital services. So, effectively, what we see are people living in National Party electorates and people living in Labor electorates subsidising the private health insurance of people who live in Liberal Party electorates. For all of the areas that the Greens’ analysis is based on—I have looked at Sydney, I have looked at Melbourne and I have looked nationally—the pattern is the same. The pattern is the same across the board: it is Australians in poorer parts and regional parts of this country who subsidise the private health insurance of people who live in wealthy Liberal suburbs like those in the health minister’s electorate.

What the Greens are saying is that we want some social justice injected into the system. We want to ensure that that over $3 billion of public funds is spent on the healthcare system that delivers the most efficient outcomes, on the healthcare system that is available to all Australians, regardless of their capacity to pay—and that is the public health system. The Greens support the public health system and we want to see this money going into ensuring there is a quality system that all Australians can access regardless of their capacity to pay. So I commend these amendments to the Senate because they inject social justice into the way in which health care is funded in this country.

Question put:

That the amendments (Senator Nettle’s) be agreed to.