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Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Page: 782


Mr DUTTON (DicksonMinister for Health and Minister for Sport) (15:25): We need to first understand why the opposition has brought forward this MPI today. It is very important to understand that it has nothing at all to do with preventive health. This is all about a distraction mechanism away from the issue of the day, which is the protection racket that Bill Shorten has been running to protect Craig Thomson and those officials within the HSU that sought to divert money away from people who work hard in public hospitals across the health system to put money into the pockets of these crooks.

Ms Macklin: Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I draw the minister's attention to the matter of public importance, which is about preventive health.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): I note the point of order. The minister is aware of the matter before the chamber. I call the minister.

Mr DUTTON: It is important to realise that the motivation behind this MPI is not about preventive health. It is not about some allegation that the Labor Party has trotted out to try to impugn the reputation of Minister Nash, who I think is doing an outstanding job in her portfolio. There is no allegation against Senator Nash which goes to inappropriate behaviour. The opposition has put forward nothing other than to say that a website was pulled down off the internet. No further allegation has been made against Senator Nash and yet this matter has continued on for a week. Why? Because the opposition want to distract attention away from the issues relating to Craig Thomson. There is no more motivation than that, and that is a shameful reflection on the shadow health minister and on those opposite. Let me tell members opposite: this government is determined to improve the health system. We are absolutely determined to clean up the mess that we inherited from the Labor Party, and there is a mess—not just in the area of preventive health but right across the portfolio and right across government.

Let me tell you some of the priorities that the Labor Party had in this particular area when they were in government. They contributed $463,000 to a study. It was a study on a fat tax. I said at the time that if the coalition were elected to government we would not under any circumstances implement a fat tax. I asked the then health minister, Minister Plibersek, to say whether or not the Labor Party would introduce a fat tax if re-elected. If it was her desire to have the matter properly examined for consideration after the election, then she should have been up-front about it and provided that assurance so that there was some guarantee that this study was going to some purpose. The former minister was not able to provide that guarantee. She was not able to provide the guarantee; so, regardless of the election outcome, this tax was never going to proceed. But did that stop the former government from saving this $463 million? No, it did not. They went ahead because they have absolute disregard for taxpayers' money. That is the reason we find ourselves with $123 billion of cumulative deficits. It is why we face a deficit, which will continue to rise, and an overall debt position of $667 billion. Yet we come into this place and hear from those opposite that we should be spending money here, there and everywhere else. I say to those members opposite: the waste under Labor did not stop there.

There was a fake smokescreen music festival. They decided to spend $236,000, not on patients in hospitals that wanted elective surgery, not on pensioners that needed to get to the emergency department or to see a specialist more quickly but on a fake music festival designed to use fake musical festival posters and a Facebook page to deliver their message. In true Labor fashion, they trumpeted this as a great success. There were 244 'likes' across the country on Facebook. My maths is not too bad, but I will give you round figures of $1,000 a like. If Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd could have paid $1,000 for a friend, they would have taken that option in the leadership ballot before the election campaign. But they did not.

What else did Labor spend money on? They are so pious, as they come in here to talk to us about the preventative health space. They spent almost $50,000 on the Summernats burnouts. Somehow that was going to provide an improvement to our health system. But not having learnt their lesson for wasting $50,000, they spent $80,000 in 2014—$130,000 on burning rubber over two years. But when you compare that to the $650 million that they wasted in the so-called superclinics program then, I suppose, it is not a bad investment by Labor's standards.

This is a very serious issue because not only do we have to clean up Labor's mess but we also have to provide for the future. We have to recognise the fact that Alzheimer's numbers have increased by 170 per cent over the last 10 years, so I do not want to be wasting money in the health portfolio. I want to be putting it into medical research. I want to help us find a cure for dementia. I want us to put money into research for type I diabetes. I do not want to spend it on websites and 'likes' costing $1,000 a hit. I want to spend the money on patients and I want to spend it in areas that are productive in the health system. I say to members opposite that this clean-up has only just commenced. I want to make sure that we are getting efficiency for taxpayers' money that we spend in this portfolio.

We now spend over $60 billion a year in health. It is a very important spend which has continued to grow under both Liberal and Labor but it must grow at a sustainable rate. We cannot afford the waste that Labor presided over. We cannot afford to spend money on frivolous pursuits. I want to make sure that we can spend money on GPs so that people can get in to see a GP, can have a meaningful relationship with that GP or can get in to see a specialist and get off a waiting list as quickly as possible. I want to make sure we can address the diabetes rates. I want to make sure that, when we look at the statistics of two in three Australians now obese or overweight, we can help those people into the future. But we cannot do that if we are presiding over tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars of waste as Labor would have us do. I want to make sure that we can afford to pay for the medical services into the future. Ten years ago we spent just over $8 billion on MBS items—the doctors, pathology, diagnostic services otherwise. Today we are spending $18 billion. It is continuing to grow and grow.

If we want to deliver those health services into the future we have to clean up Labor's wasted mess. That is the theme of this government. We were elected to clean up the mess that Labor left behind in the economy. We will clean up the mess that they left in the area of health and preventive health. We will make sure that we can deliver good value to taxpayers and deliver better health outcomes to all Australians.

If the Labor Party is so interested in what we are specifically doing in the area of preventative health, apart from providing extra support to GPs and rebuilding the primary healthcare network across the country, we promised additional money for bowel screening, which is an incredibly important investment for us to make because bowel cancer kills over 4,000 Australians each year. The reason we want to make it easier to get in to see a GP—we do not want people waiting weeks—is that early detection can make the difference between life and death. If we can get those people to see their GP, to be screened, to talk about the risks, to make sure they can look at their health needs, then we have to make tough decisions. We have made tough decisions because we have taken money away from Labor's waste in health and put it into productive areas like bowel screening.

We have put money into diabetes, as I say, not just in type 1 diabetes research but into the national diabetes strategy. We promised $200 million of research into dementia at the last election. We said, despite the fact that we have been left over $100 billion of accumulated deficits and $667 billion of debt from the Labor Party, that we would quarantine cuts from medical research in this country and that is absolutely vital to the way in which we address all of these health needs going forward.

I want to make sure that we can continue the investment that we make into water safety programs, an incredibly important area of prevention in this portfolio. There is an additional $15 million in water safety programs that we committed to as a federal government. We are putting record amounts of money into mental health, into headspace sites, into the comprehensive e-mental health platform, into dementia research and much more that I have not got time to address today. But, be assured, we will clean up Labor's mess and we will get the health system back on track.