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Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23295

Mr RIPOLL (2:17 PM) —My question without notice is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Is the minister aware that the bulk-billing rate in the electorate of his colleague the member for Dickson has collapsed from 78 per cent to less than 48 per cent in just the last three years? Given this decline of nearly 40 per cent in bulk-billing, why does the Howard government believe that nearly 72,000 Australians living in the Pine Rivers area of Brisbane are not worthy of an additional $5 incentive to be bulk-billed?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I am aware that bulk-billing rates have declined over the last few years, particularly in Queensland. Let me make three points in response to the member for Oxley. The first point is that no government can guarantee universal bulk-billing. The former government could not guarantee it, and this government will not guarantee it. The second point is that every bulk-billing general practitioner will have his or her income improved by measures in the MedicarePlus package. This is the first time any government has specifically targeted the bulk-billing rate. The third point I would make is that I have in front of me a survey which appeared in the Australian Doctor magazine on 28 November 2003, which said that 33 per cent of doctors would increase their bulk-billing rate as a result of the MedicarePlus package. So there is every reason to think that bulk-billing should increase under MedicarePlus.