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Thursday, 18 September 2008
Page: 7945

Mr HOCKEY (2:32 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. Will the minister advise the House how much money Medibank Private has lost on its investment portfolio over the last six months and how this will affect the premiums for almost three million members over the next six months?

Mr TANNER (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —The opposition is on a very slippery slope here. There are thousands of Australian businesses and families out there which depend on the confidence in the financial institutions and other institutions in this country to ensure that their economic circumstances are in reasonable shape.

Mr Hockey —Answer the question.

Mr TANNER —Don’t worry, I’ll get to the question.

Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order going to relevance. When is this parliament going to get answers to such important questions—

The SPEAKER —The member for O’Connor will resume his seat. I am not sure whether or not he wants the early flight; that is the problem. He will behave. I will be listening very carefully to the minister’s answer, but the minister is addressing the question.

Mr TANNER —I did mention this in passing in an answer to a question yesterday, but it is something that the opposition needs to think very carefully about—that is, we face very difficult circumstances in this economy as a result of the financial situation in the United States. That has a significant potential impact on a range of things in Australia, but we are very well placed—

Mr Hockey —The Medicare levy surcharge—

Mr TANNER —I will get to the specific point if you will just hold off for a moment. We are very well placed in this country to ride out these very difficult circumstances. But one of the critical factors in this is confidence in our institutions and in our major organisations, and the opposition is getting onto a very slippery slope by deliberately seeking to undermine confidence in the—

Mr Hockey interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for North Sydney! Minister, resume your seat. A very serious question has been asked. The minister is addressing the question.

Mr TANNER —Thank you, Mr Speaker. As the shareholder minister for Medibank Private I have had recent direct contact with Medibank Private in the ordinary course of events with respect to their corporate plan and financial circumstances. At the time that occurred, which was very recent—I cannot give you a specific date—their finances were in entirely robust shape. I cannot give a specific answer to the question that the shadow minister asked about the six-month period. I am happy to go back to Medibank Private and examine the situation again. But I can assure you that at the most recent time, which was within the last couple of weeks, Medibank Private were in perfectly respectable shape financially. I would also suggest to you that you and your colleagues think very carefully about where you are heading with this line of questioning.

Mr Dutton interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Dickson will withdraw.

Mr Dutton —Mr Speaker, I withdraw.

Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is normal practice in the circumstances just mentioned that the minister promises to bring the answer back to the House at the first possible opportunity. Mr Speaker, could you ask him to give that promise to the House.

The SPEAKER —I think the minister indicated that he will be getting back to the questioner and I am happy to allow that to transpire.