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Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Page: 228

Medicare


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:48): My question is to the Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications, representing the Minister for Health, Senator Nash. Can the minister update the Senate on how the coalition government is delivering better health services?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:48): I thank Senator McKenzie for her question and for all her hard work in improving the health and wellbeing of people right across the country. I am pleased to advise the Senate that this coalition government is delivering record levels of Medicare bulk-billing. In addition, we are investing a record amount in new life-saving medicines, and, through Medicare, we are rolling out a comprehensive chronic disease package through our Health Care Homes program.

When it comes to Medicare, no government has invested as much or has lifted bulk-billing rates as high as this government has. Under the coalition, an extra 17 million GP services were bulk-billed last year compared with Labor's last year in office. Under the coalition, bulk-billing rates hit a record high of 85.1 per cent, up from 84.3 per cent in 2014-15. Under the coalition, last year we invested a record $7.1 billion in general practice via Medicare.

In addition to our record investment in Medicare, we have also made a record investment when it comes to the listing of new life-saving medicines. The coalition has listed $4.5 billion worth of new medicines in three years since coming to office. This includes nearly 1,000 medicines listings on the PBS, which is triple the number Labor listed in their final three years. The coalition has also recently announced $70 million worth of new drugs for diabetes and cervical cancer, making access to medicines easier and cheaper, which is on top of a $1 billion investment to cure hepatitis C.

Our record, when it comes to medicine, stands in stark contrast to those opposite, who not only ripped $6 billion out of Medicare and medicines but also delayed new listings simply because they could not afford them.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McKenzie, a supplementary question.



Senator McKENZIE ( Victoria ) ( 14:51 ): Can the minister advise the Senate on how bulk-billing levels under this government show that all Australians are getting access to quality primary health care?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:51): As I referred to previously, we are seeing record levels of bulk-billing under this coalition government. We are a government that is actually delivering for health, which could not be further than the fear and smear campaign we have seen from Labor, sitting on the other side, particularly during the recent election campaign. Last year, a record 123 million out of 145 million GP services were fully funded at no cost to patients.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator NASH: You might like to listen, Senator Cameron—at no cost to patients, through Medicare. Under the coalition, the number of Australians accessing Medicare-funded GP services increased by nearly half a million to 20.9 million last year, which just shows that what we saw from those opposite in the Labor Party during the election campaign around health was nothing more than a scare campaign designed to put fear into the Australian people.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McKenzie, final supplementary question.




Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:52): Can the minister update the Senate on any recent government initiatives that will further improve health services, particularly for those living in regional Australia?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:52): I am very proud of the record of the coalition government when it comes to delivering health services out into regional areas. I recently announced, when I had responsibility in this area, Australia's first national Rural Health Commissioner, which is going to work to advocate for rural health issues, putting that spotlight fairly and squarely on those regional health issues so important to people out in the bush. It is also going to have, as its first task, putting in place a National Rural Generalist Pathway, which is going to ensure that we get GPs with those higher levels of skills that we need out into the regions, something that this coalition government has done—nothing that was ever even thought of by those opposite. Under the coalition government, we have seen an extra $11 million to the royal flying doctors and $25 million for a cancer centre in western New South Wales. I am so pleased to see that the Rural Doctors Association said: 'Coalition win is a win for rural health.'