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Monday, 2 June 2003
Page: 15585

Mr CREAN (2:26 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Isn't it the case that the most recent Medicare figures show that bulk-billing by GPs fell by a further 1.1 percentage points over the March quarter to only 68½ per cent, the lowest rate since 1989—a fall from over 80 per cent when the government came to office? Prime Minister, how will the government's proposal to limit bulk-billing to pensioners and concession card holders help stop the fall in bulk-billing for Australian families, and why does the Prime Minister not simply adopt Labor's plan to save Medicare as the first instalment to restore bulk-billing to 80 per cent?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I first of all say to the Leader of the Opposition that it is not our plan to limit bulk-billing to pensioners and card holders. That is a completely dishonest, reckless and desperate attempt to smear a policy which is designed to give a balanced response to the needs of the Australian health system at the present time. The reality is that neither the government nor the opposition is trying to undermine Medicare. We both support Medicare. But our method of supporting and improving Medicare is not only more affordable but is infinitely preferable to that of the Labor Party.