Senate debates

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Questions without Notice

Health Care

2:49 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader (Tasmania)) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator McKenzie. Reports indicate that the Minister for Health voted for Peter Dutton in the leadership ballot against Prime Minister Turnbull. Can the minister confirm that, as health minister, Peter Dutton oversaw $50 billion in cuts to hospitals? Does the Minister for Health support a return to Mr Dutton's policies?

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Minister for Regional Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Polley, I can assure you that our government is absolutely committed to continuing to deliver record health funding across every state and territory every year over the forward estimates, as far as the eye can see. If I think about the $130.2 billion in public hospitals, we've increased that by $30 billion—as I said, record funding in each and every state and territory each and every single year. Australian government funding for public hospital activity will increase from $100 billion in 2015-16 to over $130 billion in 2020-21. This will fund more services, more operations, more doctors and more nurses in each and every public hospital in each and every state and territory. Importantly, that—on top of our $550 million investment in the stronger rural workforce strategy—means Australians, no matter where they live in this country, will have access to high-quality, domestically trained doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. We don't make an apology for standing up for better service provision—essential services that Australians need and deserve when it comes to health.

On 1 July 2017, the National Health Reform Agreement addendum commenced. It was signed and agreed by all state and territory premiers and health ministers, and it continues to be based on hospital service activity, with Commonwealth funding capped at 6.5 per cent annual funding growth and 45 per cent of the efficient price of hospital services.

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Minister for Regional Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I hear this chant, this noise from the left, ranting and raving and misunderstanding completely how the $130 billion of hospital funding being given to state governments is to be disbursed. It's their decision. (Time expired)

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

When I call senators to order, can I ask them to be silent for at least a short period. Senator Polley.

2:52 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader (Tasmania)) Share this | | Hansard source

This may be an easier question for the minister: can the minister confirm that, as health minister, Peter Dutton proposed a $7 GP co-payment? Does the Minister for Health support a return to Mr Dutton's policies?

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Minister for Regional Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

We have a strong policy of decreasing the costs to Australian families, singles and pensioners when it comes to accessing high-quality health care across this country. It is why we've instigated the MBS review scheme, which is looking at out-of-pocket costs across a range—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order, Senator McKenzie! Senator Polley, on a point of order?

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader (Tasmania)) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, it's a matter of relevance. I asked a very simple question about Peter Dutton supporting the $7 co-payment for GPs. She's failed to address any of the questions that I've put thus far.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Polley, you've reminded the minister of your supplementary question. I note two things. The minister has 40 seconds remaining to answer but, listening carefully, I did consider the minister to be directly relevant to the issue you raised. I can't instruct the minister how to answer a question, as long as the answer is directly relevant.

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Minister for Regional Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm really happy to go to the Labor Party's policy to drive up out-of-pocket costs any time when it comes to health provision in this country.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Wong on a point of order?

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Direct relevance. The question was whether or not the Minister for Health supports a return to Mr Dutton's policies, including the $7 GP co-payment. I don't know what the Labor Party's policy has to do—

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Minister for Regional Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm outlining our policy.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

No, I won't debate across the chamber, but I'll take the interjection.

Government senators interjecting

I'll take the interjection.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

On my right! Can we not take interjections on points of order.

Government senators interjecting

Order on my right!

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister chose to interject, and I'll take the interjection and make the point that I don't think the Labor Party's policy has anything to do with Mr Dutton's GP tax.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

On the previous point of order, I considered the minister to be directly relevant. I ask the minister to return to the question.

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Minister for Regional Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm sorry. I got so excited about outlining our health policy. I'm happy to say we are not returning to a co-payment in this government. We are driving down costs for Australians' health provision across the board. As I go to the Labor Party's policy and how that will impact out-of-pocket costs, your policy on private health insurance will drive up costs for Australians by 16 per cent.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Polley, a final supplementary question?

Opposition senators interjecting

Senators on my left! Senator Polley is on her feet.

2:54 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader (Tasmania)) Share this | | Hansard source

I refer to the Australian Doctor magazine which, in 2015, rated Peter Dutton as the worst health minister in nearly four decades. Why does the Minister for Health think the worst health minister in four decades would make a good Prime Minister?

Honourable Senators:

Honourable senators interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! I remind senators of my statement at the beginning of question time.

2:55 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Minister for Regional Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I absolutely reject the premise of your question. It's absolutely false.

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting