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Wednesday, 9 December 1998
Page: 1718

Mr CAMERON THOMPSON —I address my question to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. Given concern about and support for private health care in the electorate of Blair, I ask: is the minister aware of comments to the effect that private health insurance premiums would have to be reduced by 30 per cent to attract new members? Would the minister advise the House of the nature of these comments, and what is the minister's response to them?

Dr WOOLDRIDGE (Health and Aged Care) —I thank the honourable member for his question. There has been support for the government's proposals from some funny quarters, ranging from Bob Carr to Peter Beattie to Graham Richardson. But I have to say probably the strangest support for what the government is doing was recently drawn to my attention. I have a press release here that states:

Health economists have proved that, to attract new members, premiums would have to be reduced by 30 per cent.

That press release dated February 1996 came from the then Minister for Human Services and Health, Dr Carmen Lawrence.

Government members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Order! Members on my right. The minister has the call.

Dr WOOLDRIDGE —Clearly, when they were in government they understood what needed to be done to help private health insurance, but now they are in opposition they are prepared to say something totally different.

Government members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Members on my right are not helping the minister.

Dr WOOLDRIDGE —This just highlights the fact that what is happening with the Labor Party is that they are being carping, negative and opportunistic. They do not understand health and, if you do not understand health, you can't fix it.