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Tuesday, 8 December 1998
Page: 1648


Ms HALL (10:35 PM) —During the debate on the private health incentive scheme, I expressed my concern at the government's failure to reintroduce the Commonwealth Dental Program. This is a program that has helped thousands of Australians. It was a program that achieved its objectives and was cost effective. The pro gram cost a measly $100 million a year, and the government axed it. It axed a program that was effective, a program that worked. It is now committed to paying $200 million to those people who could afford to have private health insurance, ancillary insurance, at the expense of the people that were reliant on the government's Commonwealth Dental Program.

So, on the one hand, we have a government that is refusing to provide essential dental services to pensioners, war veterans, the unemployed and those people in greatest need in the community. On the other hand, it is subsidising those people that can afford health insurance. It is a government that is condemning people who cannot afford dental health care to a life of misery, pain and illness.

Recently a number of constituents have spoken to me about problems they are having in getting their teeth fixed. One man has been told that there is an 18-month wait to have his teeth examined and assessed. This man has just moved from Tamworth. He is suffering extreme discomfort and extreme pain.

Mr Pyne interjecting


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl) —The member for Sturt! You are not assisting.


Ms HALL —He has been most reluctant to get emergency dental work at the local dental service because he feels that he would be disadvantaging someone else. Can anyone in this House understand how much pain this man is in?

Mr Pyne interjecting


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I hope the member for Sturt is not expecting the call.


Ms HALL —The members on the other side are showing their total lack of compassion. They are supporting a scheme that will give medical insurance to people who can afford it at the expense of those people in our community who cannot afford it.

Another man lost his dentures when he was on a ferry. He contacted a dental clinic and was told, `You have to wait seven years between your dentures,' and in this man's case it means waiting three years. The only way he is able to get new dentures is to make an agreement with his local dentist or go to Centrelink and get a loan. That is not good enough. These problems could easily be resolved if the Commonwealth dental program were in place.


Mr Lloyd —By the state government.


Ms HALL —The member for Robertson should be most concerned about this, because the Central Coast Area Health Service services people in the Robertson electorate. He should be in there fighting to have the Commonwealth dental health scheme reinstated because it will benefit the people of Robertson. But instead, he wants to make sure that those people who can afford health insurance get treatment, not those people who are in dire need.

The Hunter and Central Coast have long waiting periods. People who require dentures have to sit on a waiting list with 3,000 people. As I have already said, this can be remedied very easily. All it takes is the reintroduction of the Commonwealth dental scheme. If you find you are in need of emergency treatment, you have to wait. If you find that you are in need of dentures, you have to wait. And this has all eventuated since the Commonwealth Dental Program was axed.

When I was a state member of parliament before the program was axed, we had no problems. The day that program was axed problems about the dental program started appearing in my office and in other state members' offices. The list goes on and on. Nothing could be more basic than dental care. It is one of the most important ways of enabling a person to enjoy a decent quality of life. The axing of the program is another example of how the mean, miserable policy of the Howard government and of the people on the other side of this House is affecting the lives of everyday Australians. How could any government withdraw a program that supports the provision of basic services? I urge the government to reconsider its actions, to look at the effect that the axing of this program has had on so many people. The Expenditure Review Committee of cabinet should think again. They should reinstate the Commonwealth Dental Program. (Time expired)