Tuesday, 13 February 2018
That the Senate—
(a) notes the success of the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) which has provided Medicare-funded dental care to children aged between 2 and 17, since the Greens negotiated it when in balance of power government with the Gillard Labor Government;
(b) recognises that cost is a major barrier to access to dental care across the community, and that the lower a person's income, the more likely they are to have chronic oral health problems;
(c) notes that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, those living in rural and regional Australia, and low income earners have more than twice the rate of untreated dental decay as high income earners;
(d) acknowledges that untreated dental disease can have very serious health consequences, such as leading to low birth weight and premature babies, increased risk of heart disease and potentially life-threatening infections – poor dental health can also lead to social isolation, poor diet and depression; and
(e) calls on the Government to expand Denticare access to other vulnerable groups, including aged pension recipients and full benefit income support recipients, and holders of the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and all other concession cards.
The government does not support this motion, as the states and territories have primary responsibility for the funding and provision of public dental services, including determining what services they provide. The coalition government is supporting the states and territories to do this, contributing $242 million from 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2019 for the delivery of additional public dental services to adults through a national partnership agreement. All states, with the exception of Queensland, have signed on to the agreement.
When it comes to funding for dental care, the Commonwealth does play a significant role through the Child Dental Benefits Schedule, and that's Medicare funded. It is an agreement that was struck with the Labor Party back in 2010 as a result of the power-sharing agreement we had with Labor. I know it very well because I was involved in the formulation of that policy. It is Medicare funded policy. It is a thousand dollars—
Senator Sterle interjecting—
Well, you might say that—I'll take Senator Sterle's intervention. You don't want children to have a thousand dollars worth of Medicare funded dental care, Senator Sterle? You tell that to the people of Batman. You tell the people of Batman you don't want them to have a thousand dollars worth of Medicare funded dental care. Shame on you!
Senator Sterle interjecting—
Don't walk away from it, Senator Sterle. The people of Batman want Medicare funded dental care. It should be expanded to people on low incomes and pensioners, and it should be a universal entitlement. Let's see if you move, Senator Sterle. Let's see which side of the chamber you go to.
Order, Senator Di Natale! I remind those seeking leave to make statements that the provision to make statements, particularly by party representatives, is actually the prerogative of every individual senator. The question is that motion No. 704, moved by Senator Di Natale, be agreed to.