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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 904


Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (18:41): I rise tonight to speak on the Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives Bill 2011. It is a rather Orwellian name, for it is certainly not fairer and it certainly has nothing to do with incentives. If there was one single reason that this bill should be opposed it is the issue of credibility and trust. Even the learned member for Lyne has recently and openly stated that our current Prime Minister, and therefore our government, has a credibility problem.

Let us just have a look at what this Prime Minister and members of this government have said in the past on the issue of private health insurance. Exhibit No. 1 is a press release from Julia Gillard, shadow minister for health, transcript of doorstop interview, state parliament Melbourne, 22 August 2004:

Reporter: Can the Labor Party make a commitment to do with private insurance if they were to be elected?

Ms Gillard: Labor has committed to keeping the 30% private health insurance rebate.

I seek leave to table the Prime Minister's broken promise on keeping the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate contained in the press release dated 22 August 2004.

Leave not granted.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: Exhibit No. 2 is the transcript of an interview on the Sunday program on 29 August 2004 between Laurie Oakes and the then shadow health minister and current Prime Minister:

Laurie Oakes: What about the 30 per cent health insurance subsidy?

Julia Gillard: We've said that we will keep the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate. That is out there now in the community. It's a payment that's been factored into family budgets, into people who are working and struggling with the bills and the mortgage and the payments for the kids, and also into the family budgets of older Australians who have private health insurance.

It went on:

We will leave the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate undisturbed because we understand it's factored into family incomes.

I seek leave to table the Prime Minister's broken promise of 29 August 2004 in the interview with Laurie Oakes on the Sunday program.

Leave not granted.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: Exhibit No. 3 is a transcript of an interview between Tony Jones and Julia Gillard on ABC's Lateline on 12 September 2006. It says:

Tony Jones: … Are you going to look again at the private health care rebate. Is that sacrosanct?

Julia Gillard: No, the private health insurance rebate will be staying under Labor. We committed to that at the last election. Indeed, we committed to it at the election before. From time to time the Howard Government runs out with a scare campaign here but the private health insurance rebate will stay.

I seek leave to table the Prime Minister's broken promise on keeping the 30 per cent health insurance rebate contained in the transcript of the interview between Tony Jones and Julia Gillard on ABC's Lateline.

Leave not granted.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: Exhibit No. 4 is a media statement dated 26 September 2007 entitled 'Liberal scare campaign on private health insurance rebates—Federal Labor to retain rebates'. It says:

Federal Labor rejects the Liberal scare campaign around the Private Health Insurance rebates.

… … …

On many occasions for many months, Federal Labor has made it crystal clear that we are committed to retaining all of the existing Private Health Insurance rebates, including the 30 per cent general rebate and the 35 and 40 per cent rebates for older Australians.

… … …

The Liberals continue to try to scare people into thinking Labor will take away the rebates.

This is absolutely untrue.

I seek leave to table the Labor government's broken promises on keeping the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate contained in a media release dated 26 September 2007.

Leave not granted.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: Exhibit No. 5 is a letter from the then federal Labor leader, the member for Griffith, to Dr Michael Armitage, CEO of the Health Insurance Association. It reads:

Dear Dr Armitage,

Thank you for your letter of 29 October 2007 seeking clarification on Federal Labor’s policy regarding private health insurance.

Both my Shadow Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, and I have made clear on many occasions this year that Federal Labor is committed to retaining the existing private health insurance rebates, including the 30 per cent general rebate and the 35 and 40 per rebates for older Australians.

…   …   …

I trust this allays your concerns.

I seek leave to table the letter from the then federal Labor leader to the Australian Health Insurance Association containing the broken promise on keeping the 30 per cent health insurance rebate.

Leave not granted.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: Exhibit No. 6 is from the Hobart Mercury and is a letter of 2 September 2004 from the current Prime Minister, and then shadow minister for health. It states: 'Tasmanian Liberal deputy leader told two lies in the Mercury when he said that a Labor government would scrap the private health insurance rebate. I grow tired of saying this: Labor is committed to the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate.'

I seek leave to table the letter in the Hobart Mercury of the current Prime Minister, and then shadow minister for health, dated 2 September 2004, containing this further broken promise that Labor was committed to maintaining the health insurance rebate.

Leave not granted.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: What a surprise; they simply do not want to know. Does anyone see a pattern here with the infamous broken promise on the carbon tax? Not only do we have Labor misleading the public on important policy issues but they take the misrepresentation further by accusing those dastardly Liberals of a scare campaign by daring to suggest that Labor cannot be trusted.

It is not just broken promises on the health insurance rebate and the carbon tax. We have seen this government mislead the member for Denison and leave him hanging out to dry. We have seen them mislead the public on the issue of gay marriage. But I think the most appalling example of this government's misleading conduct is their statement in regard to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. For the Prime Minister to get up in front of a room full of disabled people and their carers at last year's national disability awards and claim that the NDIS will be the defining achievement of this government, when they have not committed one brass razoo and not one single cent to funding for the NDIS was absolutely shameful.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): I remind the member for Hughes that we are debating the Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives Bill 2011 and to remain within the parameters of that bill.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: This pattern of repeated misleading conduct not only has destroyed the Prime Minister's credibility but is weakening our entire democracy. What person is ever going to believe another word that this Labor government says. If they told you it was raining outside, you would need to go outside and check for yourself. If this bill is passed, as we go into the next election—based on this government's track record—any commitment, any promise, is not going to be worth the paper it is written on.

I say to the Independents: there is a heavy responsibility upon you when it comes to voting for this legislation. In years past, the Independents have justified their place in this parliament by sitting here under the motto of 'keeping the bastards honest'. But if the Independents vote with Labor on this bill, they will have simply aided and abetted this government's dishonesty.

This bill has nothing to do with attempting to improve health insurance. It has nothing to do with creating more hospital beds. It has nothing to do with improving health services. It is all about a short-term revenue grab—a desperate attempt to cook the books to show a wafer-thin surplus in the next financial year. This is despite having run up the four largest budget deficits in Australian history—a combined total of $167 billion. The so-called saving from this bill of $2.8 billion is a further cooking of the books for it does not take into account the $3.8 billion in additional costs that will be generated down the line and generated on state budgets. Make no mistake, this government's inability to manage a budget is the only reason we are debating this bill here today, and today, as every day, they are showing how little they care for the challenging costs of living faced by people in Sydney and the rest of our other major cities and country areas.

If this bill passes parliament, it will start off a vicious circle which will ultimately punish working families. Firstly, with so many cost-of-living pressures being inflicted by this government—electricity prices, childcare costs and the spectre of the carbon tax predicted to fall on the economy like a sledgehammer—removing this rebate will simply see people either downgrade their existing private health insurance or drop it altogether, thereby pushing more people into the public health system. A Deloitte analysis has shown that in the first year 175,000 people would withdraw from private health insurance cover and a further 583,000 people would downgrade their coverage. The answer is obvious to reasonable Australians: by driving people away from private health insurance, the cost of premiums for those that remain in the system will be forced up. The Deloitte analysis predicts a 10 per cent rise in premiums above what they would otherwise be. With fewer people paying for private health insurance, existing premiums will continue to increase, thereby setting off another round of people either downgrading their private health insurance or dropping it altogether—again, pushing another lot of people away from the private system and into the public health system.

The report goes on to estimate that, over five years, 1.6 million Australians will drop their cover and a further 4.3 million will downgrade it. Ultimately, the people who will be most hurt by this bill are the Australians earning less than $50,000 that make up 50 per cent of Australians with health insurance. It will lengthen hospital queues. It will cause pain, suffering and hardship. Millions of Australian families that are doing their bit for the economy, even though they are already struggling with cost of living pressures, will be hurt by this bill. No wonder there are no government members left on the other side to defend this broken promise which will penalise Australian families at the time when they can least afford it.

In my seat of Hughes there are 91,000 people that rely on their private health insurance cover, and many of these 91,000 people will be forced to fork out an additional $935 a year. That has been made clear by the recent Deloitte report. This bill—the so-called Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives Bill—and its associated bills will rip support from families doing the right thing by our public health system. The millions of Australian families that will be hurt by this bill are doing their bit for the country, even though they are already struggling with cost-of-living pressures—and this will only be made worse by the carbon tax. We are again seeing Labor driving the dagger of cost of living into the heart of middle-class working families. Shame on this government for introducing this bill, and shame on every Labor member who votes for it. I call on the Independents to live up to the motto 'keep the bastards honest' and vote against this bill.