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Tuesday, 2 December 2003
Page: 23422

Mr NEVILLE (2:22 PM) —My question is also addressed to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Would the minister advise the House why the government is committed to the private health insurance rebate? How does the private health insurance rebate assist struggling Australian families? Could the minister inform the House if he is aware of any alternative policies?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I want to make it very clear to the member for Hinkler that this government strongly support private health insurance. In our support for private health insurance, our view is very similar to the view of the member for Brand, Mr Kim Beazley, who, of private health insurance, said:

In fact, we see it as complementing the core services funded through Medicare.

In this, as in so many other things, the member for Brand has been a voice of decency, commonsense and moderation, which perhaps explains why he has just been rejected by the Labor caucus. Thanks to this government's policies, nearly nine million Australians have access to the choice and the security that private health insurance brings, including one million Australians whose incomes are less than $20,000 a year. I have also been asked about alternative policies, and I have come across a statement from none other than the member for Werriwa. The member for Werriwa, of private health insurance, said:

This is a first-rate absurdity.

Private health insurance is held by 40 per cent of the electors of Werriwa, and the member for Werriwa calls it a `first-rate absurdity'! He also said:

This is the maddest piece of public policy that one will ever see out of the Commonwealth parliament.

That is the problem with the member for Werriwa: on any one day you never know whether he is going to be Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde, and he was plainly Mr Hyde on the day he said that. The Labor Party has had the member for Werriwa as a senior frontbencher in this parliament for two years. I say to the member for Werriwa, the new Leader of the Opposition: state your case, declare your hand; say where you stand on the private health insurance rebate so that the decent working folk of Western Sydney, the aspirational class of Australia, know where they stand with Labor.