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Thursday, 2 April 1998
Page: 2390

Mr LEE —My question is addressed to the caring, compassionate and civilised Prime Minister.

Government members —Hear, hear!

Mr SPEAKER —The members of the government will resume their silence.

Mr LEE —Is the caring, compassionate and civilised Prime Minister aware that, as a direct result of his decision to abolish the Commonwealth dental health program, there has been a dramatic increase in waiting lists of people who are in desperate need? Is the Prime Minister aware of the case of a woman who has been informed that all of her teeth need to be extracted and, despite living in constant pain, it will be 18 months before she can be treated, and even then she will have to wait for each individual tooth to cause her pain before she will be entitled to have that tooth extracted? Prime Minister, what more evidence do you need that your $400 million reduction in federal funding for dental care is causing real pain?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I just say again to the member for Dobell that you know as well as I know and everybody in this House knows that, if you had won the last election, you would have got rid of that program. You also know that, historically, this has been a program which has been the responsibility of the states. You made no reference in the 1996 election campaign to a continuation of the program. You did not. You made no commitment to continue it over the four-year period, and you are being quite duplicitous and very hypocritical in continuing to ask these questions.