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Wednesday, 25 November 1998
Page: 610

Mr BROUGH (1:16 PM) —Over the last few days, we have heard numerous maiden speeches from the new members of this place. Many of these speeches have contained references to the members' intentions to represent the views and aspirations of those who elected them, as we all should do. I took the time to extract a few of the remarks made in this place by some of the newly elected members. The member for Oxley in Queensland said:

Through listening to the people of Oxley, I feel I am then able to speak—and speak not to the people but for the people of Oxley.

The Labor member for Griffith made a similar remark:

I am in this place, first and foremost, as a representative of my local community . . .

The member for Lilley said:

My commitment to them

referring to his electors—

is to work hard, to listen to their views and to strongly represent their interests in this place.

Back in 1990, when the then Senator Kernot gave her maiden speech—of course, as a Democrat in those days; she has since changed her spots—she said:

The honour of being elected by the people of Queensland to represent them in this chamber is immense and goes without question.

No doubt their electors would have been reassured by these words. But, in fact, in the first division that we had today—the very first division in this 39th parliament—every member of the opposition neglected to represent the views of the people they represent and voted with their feet and tried to defeat a worthy representation of a measure that will go a long way to helping hundreds of thousands of Australians.

Currently, 980,000 Queenslanders have private health insurance. Not one Queensland member of the Labor Party in this chamber got to their feet to utter one word in defence of their reasons for voting against this meas ure—not one member. That is a disgrace and a blight upon the electorates they have now been elected to represent.

Mr Griffin interjecting

Mr BROUGH —Not one Queensland member of this opposition had the guts to stand in their place—

Opposition members interjecting

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The member for Longman has the call.

Mr Griffin —He is wrong!

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —I call the parliamentary secretary at the table to order. The member for Longman has the call.

Mr BROUGH —Not one Queensland member had the guts to stand in this place and defend their decision to oppose this measure. Not one Queensland member wants to explain to their constituents why they deserted them on this issue.

I would normally restrict my remarks to looking after the electorate of Longman, where there are 23,223 who currently hold private health insurance, but there is a bigger issue: there are 980-odd thousand Queenslanders who need to have a voice in this place, people who are already being seen by the first division in this place as having been neglected by those opposite. They are the 29,704 people who have private health insurance in the electorate of Bowman; the 28,273 people who hold it in the seat of Brisbane; the 38,230 people—or 48 per cent of the population—in Capricornia; some 30,275 electors—or 39 per cent of the population—in Dickson, my neighbouring electorate; some 33,394 people in Lilley; 20,836 in Oxley; and a further 21,439 people in the seat of Rankin.

There can be no good reason for the deafening silence of the members opposite other than to support their beleaguered leader who was painted into a corner on this issue. The ALP is again divided on ideological lines. This is not the first time they have been divided on such lines—

Ms Macklin interjecting

Mr BROUGH —on the basis of the decisions of the member for Jagajaga who interjects. The fact is that the ALP policy on this issue is being run by an ideologue, a true socialist, in the member for Jagajaga, who proves time and time again on social issues how Left she can possibly be. This is the woman who, having just cost the ALP an election with her capital gains tax proposal, is readying herself to apply the next loss to the ALP through this stand.

The fact is that the member for Jagajaga wants to tax people's holiday homes. She wants to tax people's silver—the grandparents. These are the stands that she has taken in the past and the stands that she will take in the future. Of course, that decision, supported blindly by those opposite during the last campaign—and many of them will tell you in the hallways in this place that it cost them dearly at the last election—has now been rejected. So how long will it be before the policy that they come in here to denounce today will also be rejected by those opposite? I hope for their sake it is only the two to three weeks that it took them in the past to recognise the folly of their ways.

The member for Jagajaga and the Leader of the Opposition are condemning many of those who sit opposite to be `oncers'. Let me assure these members that we will be pointing out to their constituents time and time again over the next three years what their local Labor member of parliament has done and how they have been represented in this place.

Whatever the faults of the Australian Labor Party, they have proven themselves to be pragmatists on occasions. Who can forget Graham Richardson's ethos, `Whatever it takes'? He was the man who represented them as the minister for health in this place and who was denounced by those opposite in the chamber here today. Mr Richardson is one of the many critics of the ALP's ideological position on this particular proposal. If I were one of the Labor backbenchers sitting on a small or medium margin, I would be very nervous that Labor's policies on an important issue like health are being hijacked by the `loony Left'.

Unfortunately for them and for all of Australia, the consequences go much further than to just those people who hold private health insurance. The refusal of those opposite to support this measure has profound consequences that go way beyond the immediate impact. It will mean, on average, a loss of $8.9 million of additional household expenditure per electorate. That will result in school shoes for children that might otherwise have been purchased not being purchased. It will mean that state schools like Narangba and Strathpine in the seat of the member for Dickson not being replaced. It may result in parents purchasing less fruit and vegetables for their children, or perhaps not allowing their children to participate in a sporting activity, which of course also has a profound impact on children's health—all because Labor is locked into an unsustainable, ideological position by the member for Jagajaga.

It will not be just those who will miss out on this rebate who will be the losers; it will be the shopkeepers, the bakers, the butchers, the small business community, who add to the wealth and the health of their communities by providing jobs.

The Labor Party is also denying the wider community the benefits that this rebate will deliver. I realise the member for Dickson has not lived for very long in the area that she now represents. However, surely she is aware that neither the Caboolture nor the Redcliffe hospitals would cope even if a small percentage of those currently contributing to their own health needs were to opt out and rely on these two hospitals.

There are in excess of 84,000 people currently covered by private health insurance in the electorates of Longman, Petrie and Dickson alone. Does the member for Dickson seriously believe that any public hospital system could cope if, as Labor would have it, these people took Labor's ideological approach and said, `No more, the state can look after me'?

And the argument that the government should spend more on public hospitals simply does not stack up. Australians currently contribute $4.5 billion per year via private hospital insurance to the health system. Given that the percentage of the population having private hospital insurance halved under Labor administration, then it is logical to conclude that in today's terms that represents a loss of approximately $4.5 billion in voluntary health contributions.

It is no wonder that this government has had to increase health spending via the Medicare agreement by 19 per cent, or $7.2 billion, over the next five years to make up for this gap. Of course, if nothing is done to redress the decreasing numbers paying private health insurance then this money will not build on the current hospital system and improve it but simply be used to prop up the overstretched current system.

The thing that really highlights the opposition's hypocrisy on this issue was their constant condemnation of the existing incentive scheme throughout the last parliament. Their then spokesman constantly came to the dispatch box telling all and sundry that this was a failed scheme and should be abandoned. But what did they do during the election? The fact is that they supported the very scheme that they as an opposition had condemned for 2½ years. They said it did not work, yet they want to continue it. If that is not hypocrisy, I do not know what is.

The facts are that Labor, over 13 years, systematically destroyed private health insurance. That was one of the major factors behind the deterioration of the national health system whilst they were in government. They took private health insurance to all time lows. They removed the rebates that were there. They removed the bed day subsidies that were there. Why? Because the member for Jagajaga was also advising on these issues in opposition and her ideology was being driven through these policy decisions.

Now we have a situation where not one of the eight Queensland Labor members in this chamber will stand up for their constituents. Why were they not prepared to stand here and defend the stance that they took on the floor of the chamber on the first division of this 39th Parliament? This is not the time to go missing in action. This is the time to say no to the ideologically driven member for Jagajaga, who seems to be getting her way more and more in the Labor Party of 1998. But there is something that the members opposite can do and, more importantly, there is something that the electors in the seats of Bowman, Lilley, Brisbane, Oxley, Capricornia, Rankin, Griffith and Dickson can do. They can petition their senators. They can petition their Labor senators and say, `Enough is enough. You've made your point. We don't like your point. We rejected it at the last election. We want you now to stand up in the Senate and support the government's legislation. We want you to support the fact that this government has increased Medicare funding to the states by 17½ per cent. We want you to support the government's stance so that we can retain the hard-won money that we put into our own private health insurance. It is a choice that we make for a better quality of life for us, but it has a spin-off for all of the community.'

If the 980,000 Queenslanders who currently take out private health insurance were to reject it tomorrow, our hospital system would collapse. There is no doubt about that. That is why we are in the strife we are today, because they were the policies that Labor followed for 13 years. I encourage all Queenslanders to speak loudly to all Queensland Labor senators. Send them a clear message that the time has come for them to support this piece of legislation and do an about-turn, as they so often do, after the member for Jagajaga's ideologically driven leftist approach is seen to have been defeating both the Labor Party and good governance.