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Monday, 21 June 2004
Page: 30901

Ms GILLARD (2:54 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Can the minister confirm that the national bulk-billing rate has declined from 80 per cent in 1996 to just 68 per cent today? Why is the Howard government wasting $110 million on cynical political advertising when this money could have paid for more than four million bulk-billed consultations?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I can inform the member for Lalor that the bulk-billing rate has gone up as a result of the MedicarePlus package, which members opposite opposed tooth and nail. I can also inform the member for Lalor that any advertising that this government does is providing legitimate information to the Australian people, such as the information currently being provided to the Australian people about the brand-new MedicarePlus safety net—a safety net that members opposite are pledged to rip away from people, thereby exposing people with the highest health costs to more suffering and more hardship. Any advertising that the government spends money on is about federal government programs and federal government benefits for people, unlike members opposite. When members opposite were in government, they spent $5.5 million just before the 1993 election on—you know what?—advertising public hospital entitlements. Public hospital entitlements are entirely provided by the state governments.

Ms Macklin —Because they were under threat from John Hewson.

The SPEAKER —Order! Member for Jagajaga!

The SPEAKER —The member for Jagajaga is defying the chair.

The SPEAKER —Member for Braddon!