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Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Page: 4449

Dr NELSON (2:35 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister confirm the statement of fact by Treasury that, as a result of the Medicare levy surcharge, almost one million Australian men, women and children will be leaving private health insurance to queue up in Australian public hospitals?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —The government stands by Treasury’s modelling and has no basis to question the Treasury modelling upon which the government’s decision has been based. We notice that that modelling has been challenged both by the Australian Health Insurance Association and the AMA. Again, it is no passing coincidence that those opposite always rely upon organisations like those who represent the big supermarkets, the big oil companies and the private health insurance companies to underpin their argument. As I said before, we stand by the modelling which Treasury has provided us in framing our policy on this.

The second point I would make on it is that those opposite are still of the view that a $50,000 salary is a high income, because that is the threshold at which they introduced the surcharge on families way back when and they have refused to adjust it since. And each time the member for Higgins, when he was Treasurer, was challenged on this, he said, ‘No, no, not now, not yet.’ Now, $50,000 may have been the calculation of the Liberal government back then as representing those on a high income; I would say, as a further indication that those opposite have lost touch with working families and those under financial pressure in the community, that $50,000 is no longer a high income. Therefore, they are standing in the road of providing savings of up to $20 per week per individual and $30 per week for families and couples. I would suggest that those opposite get themselves back in touch with those Australians who are struggling deeply with the challenges to their family budget. This is one measure—together with the education tax refunds, together with the childcare tax rebate, together with our initiatives in the housing portfolio, together with $44 billion worth of tax cuts to families and individuals under financial pressure—to take pressure off the overall family budget. I would suggest that is the productive way forward in dealing with this and, secondly, with a radical program of investment in the nation’s hospital and health services—a system from which those opposite extracted $1 billion during their time in office.

Mr Hockey —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table a copy of the Hansard from the Senate where the Treasury’s own modelling says that they only covered adults and forgot about the children, therefore taking the figure up to nearly one million Australians dropping out of private health insurance.

Leave not granted.