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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 352

Mr PORTER —My question is to the Minister for Health. I ask: Is it a fact that, prior to Medicare, the net weekly cost of medical and private hospital cover for a family on average weekly earnings was $9.66 and that the cost at the end of 1986 for the same cover was $14.30, an increase of almost 50 per cent in three years? Is it also a fact that, in the last calendar year alone, costs incurred by Australians for health care rose by over 26 per cent? What is the Minister's excuse for these appalling attacks on the incomes of Australian families caused by the Hawke Government's health policies?

Dr BLEWETT —The proposals that have been floated as regards alternative health schemes by the Monash group will lead to a basic health rate of $27 a week for families. Those are the kinds of alternatives that the Opposition would offer the Australian people. As to the specific point about the increase in the consumer price index, if the honourable member had bothered to do his homework and looked at the effect of Medicare on the CPI, he would find that, in the three years from the middle of 1983 to the end of 1986, the Medicare effect was a negative effect; that is, there has been an 8.5 per cent decline in the impact of health costs on the CPI.

Opposition members interjecting-

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Barker will not constantly interject. I point out to the honourable member for Barker and the honourable member for North Sydney that the Standing Orders of this House apply to them as well as everybody else. They may not interject at will, whoever is speaking.

Dr BLEWETT —It is true that over the past year there has been a disappointing rise in health costs. However, if we compare the three years of the Medicare period, we will see that Medicare has had a negative impact on the CPI. In the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Gittins pointed out quite clearly to the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Barker that, when one cuts Medicare by $2 billion, all one does is ask the consumer to pay a further $2 billion in an unfair and inequitable way. That would have a far greater impact on the CPI than any of the Medicare effects.