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Tuesday, 24 November 1998
Page: 479


Ms MACKLIN —My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. Is the minister aware that about $675 million of annual private health insurance premiums are paid for insurance coverage for dental services? Under the proposed 30 per cent rebate that means dental costs will attract a subsidy of about $200 million a year to holders of ancillary insurance policies. How can this be justified after the government abolished the Commonwealth Dental Health Scheme for low income earners in the 1996 budget at a cost of half this amount?


Dr WOOLDRIDGE (Health and Aged Care) —Unlike the opposition, we have actually worked out what is a Commonwealth responsibility and what is a state responsibility.

Opposition members interjecting


Dr WOOLDRIDGE —I have to say I get no pleasure whatsoever in abolishing the Commonwealth dental scheme. If we had not been left a $10 billion deficit by an incompetent finance minister, maybe we could have kept it.

Opposition members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The minister can scarcely be heard above the nonsense that is emanating from the benches on my left. I call the minister and call for silence.


Dr WOOLDRIDGE —It is just the Leader of the Opposition talking to himself again, Mr Speaker.


Mr SPEAKER —The minister will go straight to the answer.


Dr WOOLDRIDGE —The simple point about our assistance to ancillary cover is that extras are a risk-graded product. They help all Australians. They help low income earners and high income earners. They relate to the private sector. They are our direct responsibility. Unlike you who did nothing about it, we are doing something about it.