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Tuesday, 18 September 2007
Page: 1


Mr RUDD (Leader of the Opposition) (2:01 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister’s axing of the Commonwealth Dental Health Program in 1996, which has resulted in 650,000 Australians now waiting for public dental care. I also refer to Labor’s $290 million plan announced today to fund up to—

Government members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.


Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. That question is misleading the House. Paul Keating had a four-year—


The SPEAKER —The member for O’Connor will resume his seat.


Mr Tuckey interjecting


The SPEAKER —The member for O’Connor will resume his seat or I will deal with him. The Leader of the Opposition has the call. He will begin his question again.


Mr RUDD —Thanks, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister’s axing of the Commonwealth Dental Health Program in 1996, which has resulted in 650,000 Australians now waiting for public dental—

Government members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! Members on my right! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. Members on my right will allow a question to be asked without the background. I call the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr RUDD —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister’s axing of the Commonwealth Dental Health Program in 1996, which has resulted—

Government members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.


Miss Jackie Kelly —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member is misleading the House. It is a point of parliamentary record—


The SPEAKER —The member will resume her seat. That is a frivolous point of order, and I warn the member for Lindsay. The Leader of the Opposition has the call, and all members will allow that course to proceed without all this interruption.


Mr Haase —Tell the truth!


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Kalgoorlie is warned!


Mr RUDD —I refer to the Prime Minister’s axing of the Commonwealth dental health care program in 1996, which has resulted in 650,000 Australians—

Government members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.


Mr Abbott —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition is not entitled to mislead the House by way of a question. There was no axing of a scheme. It was a time limited scheme and it expired.


The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition has barely begun to ask his question. He will be given the opportunity to ask his question and then I will consider it. I call the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr RUDD —I refer again to the Prime Minister’s axing of the Commonwealth dental health care program in 1996, which has resulted in 650,000 Australians now waiting for public dental care. I also refer to Labor’s $290 million plan announced today to fund up to one million dental consultations for Australian working families. Why, after 11 years in office, does the Prime Minister continue to preside over a dental crisis which sees 650,000 Australians on waiting lists? Will he now support Labor’s plan to fix it?

Government members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The last part of that question is in order. I call the Prime Minister.


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —Mr Speaker, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, I refute, reject and repudiate his claim about the axing. I also deny absolutely that the long waiting lists are the fault of my government. They are the fault of state governments. Ever since the Leader of the Opposition—

Honourable members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. The Prime Minister has the call and the Prime Minister will be heard.


Mr HOWARD —Ever since the member for Griffith assumed his current position, he has been talking about ending the blame game. His definition of the blame game is that it is okay to blame the Commonwealth but never the states, because they are all Labor. So when he talks about ending the blame game, what he is really saying is: ‘Never attack a Labor government, but it is perfectly okay to attack a federal Liberal government.’ If he imagines that by using that kind of invocation I am going to be restrained from legitimately pointing out the failures of eight state and territory Labor administrations around this country, he has got another think coming. Public dental health has from time immemorial been a responsibility of the states. The 600,000 people on the waiting lists are the fault of the state governments.

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! Members on my left!


Mr HOWARD —The Leader of the Opposition asked me whether we will pick up Labor’s plan. The answer is no because we have a better plan than Labor has, and that is the plan that was announced in the budget. Of course, what the Leader of the Opposition did not acknowledge in his question is that his plan will cost $290 million and that he will fund it through the abolition of a coalition plan worth $384 million. In other words, he is going to rip $100 million out of dental care. What a phoney!