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Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Page: 794

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (16:11): The Labor Party have the arrogance and the absolute gall to come into this chamber and attack the government for our handling of the health portfolio. Well, we should take a look at their record. Labor have a track record for generating huge funding uncertainty in health by making gung-ho decisions and breaking promises.

The Labor health minister slashed $1.6 billion from public hospital services without notice and without consultation. She tore funding from health retrospectively for services that had already been provided, forcing hospitals to cancel surgeries and close beds. Shameful behaviour! The previous health minister consistently proved to be a traitor to the medical profession and the Australian people when it came to health funding. My constituents are outraged by Labor pulling $4 billion out of private health insurance rebates, despite promising never to do so. This decision is still forcing up premiums for Australians struggling to pay their cover and putting more pressure on Australia's public hospitals.

For another example of Labor's waste we need look no further than the GP superclinics program. It was heralded as one of the great Labor programs under the previous health minister, where now, instead of promised GP superclinics, we have taxpayer funded—debt funded—vacant paddocks. Of the 64 clinics that were promised since 2007, 26 are still not open. The previous health minister triumphed this as one of Labor's great successes. It seems as though the previous health minister thought it was April Fools' Day when announcing this $650 million program as a success—$650 million which was borrowed by the Labor government to set up 12 new bureaucracies and put money into superclinics, none of which makes any difference to actual patients. As the member for Lyons said before: $7 million and still a construction site in his electorate. Obviously, Labor think having actual GPs in GP superclinics is not as important as a newspaper headline, no matter the cost.

While the Labor government may not have known much, they sure knew how to waste money. Labor beat their chest, claiming that they created more jobs in health, and yet thousands of these 'new jobs' were for backroom administrative staff. Obviously the previous Labor government were more interested in jobs for bureaucrats than front-line staff, doctors and nurses for sick patients. Throughout the previous six years, Labor trawled through the budget with Jack the Ripper style ambitions. Labor's butchering of the health portfolio pales into insignificance in comparison to the fiscal holocaust left in their wake. What kind of incompetence runs through the veins of the Labor Party to turn $50 billion in the bank into a projected net debt well over $200 billion? Labor arrogantly hold the record of the fastest deterioration in debt, in dollar terms and as a share of GDP, in modern Australian history. Yet, they are still content to stand on the opposition benches, grinning like children who stole all the cookies from the cookie jar. Even after the Australian people threw Labor out, the legacy of Labor's debt remains, the debt which they so proudly claim saved jobs. We have seen jobless queues grow under Labor, but they still seem to have selective hearing when it comes to the facts. Even when the jobless queues grow, even when their policies—born in debt—failed, they still hold their heads high and are proud of this monumental mountain of debt.

This debt is costing the Australian people $10 billion a year in interest. That is five new hospitals a year, or two million hospital beds a year. It is thousands of new doctors and medical staff in rural and regional areas. Ten billion dollars a year is free prostate cancer preventative screening treatment for every Australian man. Ten billion dollars a year is Medicare rebates for constant glucose monitoring sensors for every sufferer of diabetes in this country. Ten billion dollars a year is billions of dollars for innovation in medical and scientific research. It has all gone.

It has gone as a result of Labor's constant and unadulterated abuse of the nation's finances. It has gone as a result of members opposite treating Australia's hard-earned money as their own plaything, acting time after time with no responsibility and no respect. The fact that Labor has the audacity to stand in this place today and accuse the government of any failure at all shows their complete excommunication from reality.

The SPEAKER: The discussion has concluded.