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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22709


Ms GILLARD (2:28 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. I again ask the minister to clarify the confusion about the eligibility for the government's new bandaid safety net. Can the minister confirm that, in order for the expenses of a family to be jointly counted towards the so-called $1,000 safety net, the family structure and any changes to the family structure will need to be reported to government officials?


Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Opposition members interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! I am less than amused by the fact that, every time a point of order is raised on my left, people expect that they will be heard, but when one is raised on my right it is presumably a matter for amusement.



The SPEAKER —Points of order are something that everyone has the right to raise, and the Speaker has an obligation to hear them. The member for Werriwa is more aware of that than most members in the House.


Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to standing order 144, which very simply states that questions should not contain hypothetical matter and that questions should not ask ministers for an expression of opinion. I also refer you to page 527 of House of Representatives Practice, which says that questions should not be used as vehicles for the discussion of issues. This is clearly what the member opposite is doing, and I ask you to rule it out of order.


The SPEAKER —If I were to rule out of order the question currently being asked by the member for Lalor, I suspect that very few questions in this parliament would stand.

Government members interjecting


The SPEAKER —I also suspect that, if those so full of advice on my right care to check the Hansard records for the last 20 years that I have been in the parliament, they will find that a great number of questions over that 20 years would not have survived either. The member for Lalor has the call.


Ms GILLARD —My question is: can the minister confirm that, in order for the expenses of a family to be jointly counted towards the so-called $1,000 safety net, the family structure and any changes to the family structure will need to be reported to government officials? Minister, doesn't this mean that, every time a couple marries, separates or divorces, or when new dependants enter a family, or children who were dependants become independent, Australians will now have to report this to the Health Insurance Commission? Minister, how bureaucratic is the so-called safety net?



The SPEAKER —Order! The question was addressed not to the member for Braddon but to the Minister for Health and Ageing and Leader of the House, and I recognise him.


Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I regret to inform the member for Lalor that there are very many government benefits which require the notification of that kind of information. That is the way the system works. The MBS safety net will work in exactly the same way that the PBS safety net works. People who wish to claim the MBS safety net will have to notify their family structure to the Health Insurance Commission in exactly the same way that they have always had to notify their family structure to the Health Insurance Commission for the purpose of accessing the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme safety net.



The SPEAKER —The member for Lalor has asked her question.


Mr ABBOTT —This is exactly the same way that it has always been done.