Wednesday, 25 June 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Nash. I refer to the government's decision to cut bulk-billing incentives for medical imaging services and impose a new $7 GP tax. Is the minister aware of the statement by the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association that:
Many people will simply be unable to afford it under the measures announced in this Budget—especially if they have to pay the full cost up front—and many conditions will therefore go undiagnosed.
Minister, is the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association correct?
I am not aware of that specific comment. I am aware that there have been a range of views, since the budget was brought down, on the budget and the measures contained in that budget. The government has been extremely clear that we have to implement measures to ensure the sustainability of the health system into the future. We have been overtly clear that the measures that we are taking in the budget are to achieve that end. We have inherited an economic mess from the previous Labor government that has to be fixed. As the finance minister just said, if we do not make the decisions now and take the action now that needs to be taken, then we are going to be in a disastrous situation down the track, because it is absolutely vital—and people understand—that we have a sustainable health system into the future.
Mr President, I rise on a point of order on direct relevance. The question referred to a specific quote about the ability to afford the measures announced in the budget. We have now got 54 seconds left in this answer, Mr President, and I would ask you to draw the question to the minister's attention.
If the Manager of Opposition Business had been listening, she would be aware that I addressed the question. There is no doubt that we have to ensure that the health system is sustainable. The previous government was not prepared to take the tough decisions to do it and we are.
Mr President, I rise on a point of order on direct relevance after listening carefully to the minister's answer. The question was specifically about the ability of people to afford the measures contained in the budget.
Mr President, I have a supplementary question for Minister Nash. Can the minister confirm that, under the government's proposed health cuts and imposition of a $7 GP tax, patients could face increased out-of-pocket expenses, including up to $500 for an MRI?
As the government has been very clear to say, it is up to practitioners whether or not they will charge the co-payment. If those opposite want to talk about cuts, perhaps we should talk about the $1.6 billion that Labor cut from hospitals in 2012. If they want to talk about cuts—
Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Again, it is on direct relevance. There were two questions asked of the minister: one about the impact of increased costs and one about the vulnerability of patients in being able to afford these services. Those have not been addressed by the minister in her response so far.
I did address the question at the outset of my answer. It was those opposite who raised the issue of cuts. Those opposite wanted to cut $400 million out of medical research funding. If we want to address the issue of cuts, there were a litany from those opposite when it came to health. This government is absolutely committed to ensuring a sustainable health system into the future and, unlike those opposite, as I said previously, this government will take the tough decisions to ensure that we achieve that.
The measures in the government's budget will ensure a more sustainable health system into the future. It was under the previous government that policies were in place that were going to lead to an unsustainable health system. Unlike those opposite, this government will have in our budget efficient and effective measures that taxpayers can afford. Unlike those opposite, we will make sure that we have improved health outcomes and, at the same time, ensure that we have a health system into the future that is sustainable for the nation.