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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 975

Health Funding


Senator McLUCAS (Queensland) (14:00): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Health, Senator Nash. I refer the minister to her statement in question time yesterday when she said:

… there are a range of programs across portfolios for which we will be determining whether they are delivering appropriate and efficacious service …

How and by when will this determination be made?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:00): I thank the senator for her question. The senator would well know that the government has indicated that there will be a commission of audit process. That will take a period of time and it will consider a range of programs and funding mechanisms. Senators on the other side are well aware that that is occurring. I did indicate yesterday that across the portfolio there will also be a series of reviews. The Australian people would clearly expect the incoming government to properly assess all of the previous government's arrangements for their efficacy. We saw such a mess from the previous government in the way that they ran this nation that the Australian people expect the new government to do things in an appropriate and careful manner.

For those on the other side to question why we should be reviewing some current arrangements is extraordinary, because it is the very fact that those on the other side, the previous Labor government, left us with a $200 billion net debt. Those on the other side, when in government, might think it was absolutely fine to spend consistently without any thought to appropriateness within the delivery of programs and projects, but this side of the chamber does not. As the new government we make no apologies for properly running the nation and for properly assessing the efficacy of current arrangements.


Senator McLUCAS (Queensland) (14:02): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I note that the question was not answered. Can the minister give a categorical assurance to the Senate that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the Medicare rebate and Medicare Locals will be quarantined from any cuts?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:02): It would seem that those on the other side, perhaps, have not been clearly listening to the government in the indications of what we are going to do into the future. The senator knows very well that the Medicare Locals are under review. We are properly going to assess a range of things across the department for their efficacy and to ensure they are appropriately utilising taxpayers' dollars. It would be inappropriate of me to pre-empt what the outcome of that is going to be. The senator would know that, when we have current assessment arrangements in place, it would be entirely inappropriate of me to indicate to the chamber the outcome of arrangements that are underway.


Senator McLUCAS (Queensland) (14:03): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware of the Prime Minister's pre-election promise that there will be, 'No cuts to health'? Can the minister explain why the government is now walking away from the Prime Minister's pre-election commitment?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:04): I say to the senator that the government are having to assess a range of programs and projects across government because of the situation that you left the nation in at the end of your term in government. When we look at the waste and mismanagement from the other side, who can forget—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! With the level of noise in the chamber I cannot hear the response of the minister. The minister is entitled to be heard in silence. The minister.

Senator NASH: Thank you, Mr President. If it were not for the previous government's economic mismanagement, we would not have to be doing the current assessments. We only have to look at things like the waste of around $60 million for the carbon tax advertising.

Senator Moore: Mr President, I raise a point of order on relevance. The question was about the promise, and we have not heard an answer from the minister.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. The minister is answering the question. The minister will continue with 22 seconds remaining. The minister.

Senator NASH: Thank you, Mr President. Those on the other side might not like the answer, but I am certainly answering the question. The waste and mismanagement that we saw from the previous government has—

Senator Wong: Mr President, I raise a point of order, again on relevance. The question was about the Prime Minister's commitment. How can what is being answered possibly be relevant to that question?

The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no point of order. The minister is addressing the question. The minister still has 14 seconds remaining. The minister.

Senator NASH: Thank you, Mr President. As I said, if it were not for the previous government's mismanagement of this economy, we would not be having to take the steps that we are in this new government.