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Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Page: 2798


Mr RUDD —I think what everyone watching this will conclude is as follows: that the Liberal-National parties are so sensitive about ripping $1 billion out of the public hospital system that they closed the parliament down.


Ms Julie Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order under standing order 89. I find these words offensive. The Prime Minister is misleading the parliament.


The SPEAKER —Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I think, would understand that it is a real stretch to apply unparliamentary language to the contribution so far. The Prime Minister has the call.


Mr RUDD —You know that when the member for Curtin takes control of the tactics things are going real bad.

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The House will come to order.


Mr RUDD —I say one more time: the Liberal and National parties are so sensitive about ripping a billion dollars out of Australia’s public hospital system that they chose to try and close down the Australian parliament.


Ms Julie Bishop interjecting


The SPEAKER —The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been warned already.


Mr RUDD —On the question of the $1 billion gouge out of the public hospital system, the Leader of the Opposition is obviously saying that the budget papers of the Howard government lie. I would not suggest that the Leader of the Opposition would make that accusation directly against his mentor, the former Prime Minister, Mr Howard, but if you go to the budget papers of 2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07 and what was going to happen in the subsequent forward estimates for the following year, 2007-08, you do not just have a billion dollars ripped out; you have more than that. What does that equal? It equals refusing the system 1,025 hospital beds. Tony, how could you deny funding for 1,025 hospital beds? Or, if you were translating it into—


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask you to ask the Prime Minister to sit down under the standing order on irrelevance and tedious repetition.


Mr Hockey interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! You are all comedians, but I do not know whether the public out there really think it is all that funny. Yet again, the member for Sturt thinks he can speak whenever he likes. He should really look at the standing orders, which say that members cannot interrupt. I was about to be very charitable to him, because I could consider that this was simply a point of order that was designed to interrupt, given that previously in this parliament—as best I can do in monosyllables, which may be difficult—I explained to him that that standing order does not apply to question time. The Prime Minister is responding to the question.


Mr RUDD —The equivalent of this billion-dollar gouge out of the public hospital system is either 1,025 beds or 760 GP training places. This is not your average drive-by gouge—this was a megagouge. This took a lot of money out of the system. This does not just go to the Leader of the Opposition’s record as health minister on allocations to the hospitals; it goes to how he describes his record.


Mr Dutton —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under standing order 89, I find these lies misleading and offensive, and I ask you to ask the Prime Minister to withdraw them.


The SPEAKER —There is no point of order and the member for Dickson will withdraw.


Mr Dutton —I withdraw.


Mr RUDD —As I said, it is not just the act of pulling a billion dollars out of the system; it is then how you seek to cover it up.


Mr Haase interjecting


The SPEAKER —The member for Kalgoorlie will leave the chamber for one hour under standing order 94A.

The member for Kalgoorlie then left the chamber.


Mr RUDD —What we had from the Leader of the Opposition just recently in a radio interview was his statement that:

I did not rip a billion dollars out of health … What happened was that in 1996, long before I was health minister, the forward estimates were reduced by $1 billion.

This actually goes to the truthfulness of the Leader of the Opposition and his attempt to defend his action in taking that money out of the system, because if you go to—


Ms Julie Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under standing order 90, the Prime Minister is imputing an improper motive against the Leader of the Opposition, and I ask that he be sat down, because we are sick of hearing these untruths.


The SPEAKER —There is no point of order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume her seat.


Mr RUDD —As the Leader of the Opposition knows full well, what was untrue was what he said on the Alan Jones program about when this change occurred. In the 1996-97 budget papers there was not a billion-dollar removal from the health program. There was a removal of about $300 million—that is true. What he was seeking to do on that occasion was simply to cover up what he had done and was responsible for, and he was subsequently found out for it.

It is not just that those opposite are so sensitive on health policy and so sensitive on the question of how you deal with a record which has a billion dollars being ripped out of the system; it goes to the credibility of those opposite on the question of policy in general. What we have seen so far from those opposite is every degree of sensitivity about any policy concerning health. We have seen where that went in recent days on paid parental leave—that great policy announcement which emerged from nowhere about a week or so ago. It rose as this great, bright shining beacon of new policy from those opposite and then it disappeared without a trace.


Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, on a point of order, I refer you to the Practice, particularly page 554. In relation to the length of answers, you have the discretion to sit the member down when the answer has gone inordinately long, which this answer clearly has done. I invite you to ask him to sit down.


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Mackellar will resume her seat. The Prime Minister has the call.


Mr RUDD —It goes to one question, which is: does the Leader of the Opposition have any interest in policy at all? We know that he has a big interest in politics and we know that he has a big interest in one-liners, but on health policy there has not been a question all week. His great new policy innovation, which is paid parental leave, rose one day and then disappeared without trace. Beyond that, we have the third party endorsements of his policy which have been so richly delivered by none other than Peter Costello today. He said today:

For Liberals, that alarm should have sounded like an air-raid siren once Bob Brown and the Greens lauded the scheme …


Mr Hawke interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Mitchell will resume his seat. The Prime Minister will relate his material to the question.


Mr RUDD —So, whether it is health policy, economic policy or tax policy, we have a Leader of the Opposition who is not interested in policy at all. On health and hospitals we have waited for a question on this all day from the Leader of the Opposition. You would think that, looking at the concern which the Australian people have about the future of their hospital beds, the future of doctors and the future of nurses, just one question would come forth from those opposite on health and hospitals, but there was not one. What has their response been? To try to shut the parliament down.

We understand why, however, on health and hospitals, because we have a Leader of the Opposition here who, when he was health minister, said, ‘There’s one thing for the Commonwealth to do and that’s to take the system over.’ He had five years to act on that and did not have the courage to act at all. Instead, when he was health minister, he ripped $1 billion out of the public hospital system and then put a cap on GP places. He was part of a government which abolished the Commonwealth dental scheme. And then what did he give? He gave that rock-solid, ironclad guarantee that nothing would ever happen with the Medicare safety net. But it all got summed up yesterday when, on the future of the health and hospital system he said, ‘We were gunna do it on the eve of the last election.’ Well, the Leader of the Opposition had better do a bit more ‘gunna-ing’ between now and the next election on health and hospitals, because his record is appalling and his plans are non-existent. I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.