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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6382


Mr CHEESEMAN (7:25 PM) —I commend the member for Shortland’s assassination of the argument put forward by the member for Dickson and his continuing undermining of the public health system. I take the opportunity today to talk about the Private Health Insurance (National Joint Replacement Register Levy) Bill 2009 and to make some comments about our health system generally. This bill is another example of the strength of Australia’s healthcare system. I will speak about the technical side of this bill in detail in a moment, but I would first like to set the context. As we know, due to the foresight and wisdom of previous Labor governments dating back to the Whitlam era, Australia has a health system that is the envy of the world. Representatives from countries around the world are regularly visiting Australia and asking us questions as to what is our secret, how we deliver such a quality health system and at such a cost.

The answer, I believe, is twofold. First of all, we have a guarantee to a universal standard of health care through the Medicare system. This great principle was achieved by successive Labor governments and is now so popular amongst the Australian public that it can only be undermined by stealth from those on the other side of the House. The second part of the secret of the success of Australia’s healthcare system is our vigilance on costs and the constant refinement of the system to ensure it is always delivering good value to the Australian consumer. That is, of course, what we are doing here today. The refinements we are putting in place through this bill are all about keeping costs down and improving our research and evidence base for care and the products we use to deliver that care.

Whilst universal health care is the major principle of our healthcare system, we do of course have a mixed and balanced system. An important part of our healthcare system is the private health insurance component. This is what we are looking at today. This is another example at how Labor are running a very tight and controlled ship in relation to the Australian healthcare system. Unlike the opposition, we do not believe in just letting the market rip. We do not want an out-of-control market in our health system like the one that has brought the international global economy to its knees. We do not want a healthcare market that has been allowed to operate unfettered and with a focus only on profits rather than the efficiency and effectiveness of the healthcare system. So we are doing a bit of intervention in the market. We are intervening in the healthcare market to ensure Australia has a good healthcare system and good value for our healthcare dollar.

The National Joint Replacement Register—or the NJRR, as we call it—collects information about joint replacement surgeries such as hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, wrist and spinal disc replacement procedures. It reports on the safety and quality of these surgeries and the devices used in those surgeries to ensure patients get the best healthcare outcomes. This is about intervening to ensure that evidence based healthcare decisions and a transparency of the healthcare system are maintained.

What will this bill do? It will, of course, impose a levy on sponsors for joint replacement prostheses to recover the costs. A sponsor is defined as a person who has a joint replacement prostheses listed in the Private Health Insurance (Prostheses) Rules or the person was the sponsor of that prosthesis immediately before the commencement of the National Health Act 1953 or is listed in the Private Health Insurance (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 2007.

Debate interrupted.