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Tuesday, 7 October 2003
Page: 20626

Ms GILLARD (2:44 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. I refer to the regular reports prepared by staff of his department on the calls received to the government's own Medicare information hotline. Is the minister aware that these reports reveal that callers felt that `low-income families without concessional status were being hard done'? Given that the government's Medicare hotline confirms Labor's claim that the government is destroying Medicare, will the minister now adopt Labor's plan to get doctors bulk-billing again by lifting the Medicare rebate to 100 per cent of the scheduled fee and providing targeted incentive payments? Will the minister guarantee that changes he will make to the government's Medicare package will provide incentives to doctors to bulk-bill all Australians and not just concessional card holders?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) —The member for Lalor has no credibility, and she will never have credibility until she has her colleagues withdraw the dodgy brochures and the push petitions which her staff have admitted are wrong and are based on a lie.

The SPEAKER —The member for Gellibrand!

The SPEAKER —Is the member for Gellibrand hard of hearing?

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The question was about the government's own hotline; it was not about the Labor Party's petitions. We are simply Australians for honest politics.

The SPEAKER —I was listening closely to the minister's response and I presumed that that was a preamble to his answer.

Mr Bevis —How is the worst day in office?

Mr ABBOTT —Welcome to the club. This government's position on bulk-billing is exactly the same as that of Neal Blewett, who was the architect of Medicare. We think bulk-billing should be available but should not be compulsory. Let me quote what Dr Blewett said:

What we have mostly in this country is ... compassionate doctors using the bulk billing facility to treat pensioners, the disadvantaged and others who are not well off or who are in great need of medical services, which was always the intention.

That is what Neal Blewett said and that is the position of this government. If members opposite are serious about our health care system and about extending and strengthening Medicare, they would take a much more constructive attitude to the A Fairer Medicare package now in the Senate.

The SPEAKER —The member for Lalor has asked her question.