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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21480


Mr DUTTON (2:36 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Would the minister inform the House of the importance of private health insurance to Australian families? How would a decline in the level of private health insurance damage the public hospital system and impose additional costs on Australian families?


Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I can inform the member for Dickson that Labor's secret plan to rip the guts out of the private health insurance system would be very bad news indeed for millions of Australian families. Labor's plan to impose a means test on the private health insurance rebate, to take the private health insurance rebate away from families earning over $50,000 a year, will penalise 4.3 million Australians. The families of 4.3 million Australians will be slugged an extra $750 a year if Labor's plans ever come to fruition. Without the private health insurance rebate, these families will face a 42 per cent increase in their private health insurance premiums. That will mean plummeting rates of private health insurance and more pressure on public hospital waiting lists, and that will hurt the most vulnerable people in our society.

The 8.6 million Australians who do have private health insurance deserve to know where their local members stand on the issue of the private health insurance rebate. I can inform people living in the electorate of Werriwa that their local member thinks that the private health insurance rebate is bad economics, a first-rate absurdity and the maddest piece of public policy you will ever see in this place. In the electorate of Werriwa, 40 per cent of the electorate, or 34,000 voters, have private health insurance. If we look at the electorate of Fremantle, held by the future president of the Australian Labor Party, we find that the member for Fremantle says that the private health insurance rebate is `poorly conceived, recycled and partisan'.

In Fremantle, 61 per cent of the electorate, or 50,000 voters, have private health insurance. The member for Canberra said that the private health insurance rebate was `throwing good money after bad'. In Canberra, 54 per cent of the electorate, or 59,000 voters, have private health insurance. The member for Sydney described the rebate as `shocking—hardly money well spent'. Well, 63 per cent of her electorate, or 55,000 voters, have private health insurance. Then there is the member for Jagajaga. She said the private health insurance rebate was `an incredible amount of taxpayers' money pouring into the same black hole'. Fifty-eight per cent of her electorate—51,000 voters—have private health insurance.

By contrast with members opposite, I can say to the member for Dickson that the 50 per cent of voters in his electorate can be confident that he supports their continued access to private health insurance. I call on members opposite to hear what their own voters are saying; drop their ideological opposition to private health insurance; accept that millions of Australians want and need private health insurance; and stop trying to rip the guts out of a system which is doing great things for Australians' health.


Ms Gillard —You ought to brush your hair tomorrow.


The SPEAKER —The member for Lalor has been granted a good deal of latitude in this question time. I would advise her to cease while she is ahead.