Wednesday, 4 May 2016
Order for the Production of Documents
I table documents relating to the orders for production of documents concerning regional hospitals funding, diagnostic imaging and pathology services and the 2015-16 additional estimates unanswered questions on notice.
I seek leave to make a statement of no more than five minutes.
I thank the Senate for allowing me to make some comments in relation to the order for production of documents.
Yesterday, the Senate agreed that the government should table the legislative instruments that will implement the government's cuts to pathology and diagnostic imaging. We understand these regulations have been drafted and approved by the executive council, yet the government has not yet registered them. Today, the government refused to provide the regulations referred to in the order for production of documents, instead sending a letter that they have now tabled.
Unfortunately, for Australians, we know that the government is trying to hide their latest attack on Medicare. From 1 July 2016, the government will cut Medicare payments for pathology and diagnostic imaging services to the tune of $650 million. Reducing bulk-billing incentives for vital tests and scans can only force the bulk-billing rates down and co-payments up. For example, the Australian Diagnostic Imaging Association estimates that pregnant women may have to pay almost $200 up-front for an ultrasound. Of course, the cuts will hit hardest those Australians who have cancer and other serious chronic health conditions and who need multiple tests and scans. For example, the up-front costs of the scans needed to diagnose and treat melanoma could be as much as $1,500.
Of course, Malcolm Turnbull has stood by Tony Abbott's attack on Medicare, but these cuts are all of the Prime Minister's own making. They were announced in the MYEFO in December and confirmed again in last night's budget. Australians have made very clear what they think of these cuts, with already over half a million Australians signing Pathology Australia's petition against the cuts. It is no wonder that the government are trying to hide these cuts. They know that if they tabled these instruments they would be rejected. They are deliberately avoiding the scrutiny of the Australian people and their elected representatives by failing to register them and therefore activate the timetable for tabling and disallowance as set out in the Legislation Act 2003. But Australians will not be fooled. These cuts are set to take effect on 1 July, as the minister's letter makes clear, and all Australians will be able to tell the government what they think of them at the federal election the next day.
Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. Firstly, just following up from Senator Gallagher—the refusal of the government to allow the Senate to actually disallow this move to cut the ability for patients to have properly bulk-billed pathology tests is a disgrace. You either are prepared to stand by your policy and put it to the test in this chamber or you are not. The fact that you have been to cowardly to do that tonight speaks volumes. Australians, rightly, have rejected this and will so now, I imagine, at the ballot box.
The second issue I wanted to touch on is the absolutely shocking admission by Sophie Mirabella, the former member for Indi in Victoria, who announced that Wangaratta hospital did not get $10 million because, at the last election, voters voted for somebody other than the Liberals. It seems under this government that unless you do what they say the bunny gets it. (Time expired)