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Thursday, 28 May 1998
Page: 4067


Mr WARWICK SMITH (Minister for Family Services) (9:45 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill delivers on the government's commitment to pay in full the offer made to the states in relation to health funding at the Premiers Conference in March this year. This legislation allows the Commonwealth to continue funding to all states and territories based on the fair and reasonable Premiers Conference offer. The government is not prepared to delay any longer in ensuring the continuation of funding for hospitals.

We are introducing this bill today to provide certainty for the people of Australia, who can rest assured that Commonwealth funding for their hospitals will not be stopped. Already Queensland and the ACT have given in-principle commitment to enter into Australian health care agreements. Although the other states have yet to accept the government's very generous offer, we will not be denying the people of those states access to the services they require. The Commonwealth will continue to provide those states with funding for their hospitals.

To receive funding under this bill, the states will be required to adhere to principles ensuring universal access to health and emergency services free of charge on the basis of clinical need and within clinically appropriate periods regardless of the patient's location. These principles are based on those applying under the existing Medicare agreements. This bill reaffirms the government's firm commitment to Medicare and provides for fair and reasonable funding to the states. I have pleasure in commending the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Melham) adjourned.