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Thursday, 26 March 1998
Page: 1705

Mr ALLAN MORRIS (1:56 PM) —I wish to protest as strongly as I possibly can about the fact that we were not able to debate this Health Legislation Amendment (Health Care Agreements) Bill 1998 . This is important legislation, and we have been gagged. I now have three minutes when we would normally have at least a quarter of an hour on the primary debate.

We have been pushed into this because this government, as always, mismanage not just the country but the parliament. They bring forward legislation gutting and changing things, and we get two or three minutes. It is absolutely farcical. And it is about time they actually admitted why they do not want to talk about it. Why don't they want a debate?

We are back on the Medicare merry-go-round. The first vote in this parliament of the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) was against Medibank. His current vote is to take the `Medicare' out of Medicare. This legislation is removing the `Medicare' out of the agreements. Whilst in the previous coalition government they kept `Medibank' as a term and took away all of its capacity, in this one they are taking out the word as well. So they are taking the `Medicare' out of the health care agreements.

Why would they do that? We now know why, because the member for O'Connor (Mr Tuckey) gave it away. He is arguing now against universality. He is arguing against universal access to health. He is now suggesting that the hidden agenda of the conservatives is to restrict access to universality. Australians are no longer equal. In the terms of the member for O'Connor, Australians now should be accessing health, depending on their means. Under the previous conservative government, over one million people were not insured—publicly or privately—and it can be seen that the day is coming when that will be the case again.

We have just had a farcical contribution from the member for Paterson (Mr Bob Baldwin), who, incidentally, tells the people in the south of Newcastle at Belmont, where they are closing a Medicare office, to go to Charlestown. He is telling the Belmont business people that their customers should shop in Charlestown.

Mr Bob Baldwin —Why not?

Mr ALLAN MORRIS —What a disgrace. `Why not?' he says. The fact is that people in Belmont would like to shop in Belmont and would like to use the Belmont Medicare office, which the government are closing. The savings they may make will be more than offset by what they are going to have to pay for the rest of the contract, because the contract for the office has another 3½ years to run. And the Commonwealth will still be paying for an office which they are not using. The savings they make on that office will be more than offset by the damages. But the biggest insult is the business community of Belmont being told that their customers should go somewhere else.

Last week we saw the farce of Liberal premiers Borbidge and Kennett out there bagging this government and saying that this Prime Minister cannot lead; the federation does not federate. On health care, on housing, on disabilities, on a range of issues, this government is not leading the country; it is tearing it apart. When Premier Borbidge threatens to campaign against the conservatives at the next federal election on a range of issues, then Australians should be a little bit concerned about what this Prime Minister is doing.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 p.m., the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 101A. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.