Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Cash, the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Can the minister advise the Senate how a strong economy enables the Morrison government to provide the certainty and stability of a world-class health system? Is the minister aware of any recent milestones that support these successes?
I thank Senator Smith for the question. I'm pleased to report that the Morrison government continues to translate our strong economic management into delivering record outcomes for Australians when it comes to the Australian health system. Australia has, without a doubt, one of the best health systems in the world, and key to ensuring the success of this system is of course Medicare.
I'm proud to inform the Senate that last week Australia reached a record high bulk-billing rate of 86.2 per cent in the 2018-19 year. This is the fourth consecutive quarter to reach a record high. In the last year, patients made 136.5 million bulk-billed GP visits. That is an increase of over three million from the previous year. Across the whole health system, Australians accessed 335.8 million bulk-billed services, including GP, specialist, pathology and diagnostic imaging services. That's an increase of over 8.9 million on the previous record set last year. These figures show that Medicare under the Morrison government is supporting the health and wellbeing of Australians more than ever.
This is just the beginning of the Morrison government's support for our health system. On 1 July this year the government increased the patient rebate for further GP items on the Medicare Benefits Schedule. The Medicare Benefits Schedule review will ensure Medicare services are effective and appropriate for patients now and into the future. This investment in our health system is only possible because the Morrison government understands the importance of a strong economy and the dividends that a strong economy can give to the Australian people.
Yes, indeed it does. In fact, I believe that this is one of the proudest achievements of the Morrison government. Again, it is an achievement that is only made possible by ensuring a strong economy. This is one of the greatest dividends that you can give to the Australian people—listing a drug on the PBS. In the month of August, the Morrison government invested a further $40 million for two new listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, commencing on 1 September. For example, we've listed Buvidal, a medicine that allows patients who are receiving medical, social and psychological support to manage the withdrawal symptoms and cravings that arise from opiate dependency. Over 110,000 Australians are struggling with this, and there were 1,119 deaths in 2016. Life-saving medicines can only be listed, like we're doing, because of the strong economy.
Senator Watt is right—this is not a proud achievement of your government, Senator Watt. This is not a proud achievement of the former Labor government. Why? Because, Senator Watt, you stopped listing life-saving drugs on the PBS. You stopped, as a government, listing life-saving drugs on the PBS because you did not, as a political party, understand the benefits of a strong economy. In 2011 the party that you belong to, when it was in government, had to put in black and white in the 2011 budget papers that the listing of some medicines would be deferred until fiscal circumstances permit. And guess what, colleagues: fiscal circumstances under the coalition government have permitted the listing of life-saving drugs on the PBS. We will always understand the benefits of a strong economy, in particular when it comes to listing life-saving drugs— (Time expired)