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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4889


Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (12:04): I am pleased to speak to this matter after the member for Solomon, who articulated this program by the name of 'Tony's scheme'. I understand that 'Tony's scheme' was actually introduced by a letter from the then minister for health letting the profession know exactly what the requirements were. Indeed, I understand that there have been some 40 communications to people who are usually highly educated to engage in the profession of being a dentist, people who have to fill out BAS forms, small businesspeople who have to read information from the government in all its forms. This small group of people who have rorted the system are now saying, 'Look, I am sorry, I did not read the letter correctly.'

Just this weekend I was reminded of a fantastic young man in my electorate who is on a disability pension. He religiously seeks out work and every time he goes to report correctly how much work he has done to make sure that he gets correct payment and no more assistance than he deserves. He takes great pride in following the requirements, taking advantage of the offer of support from the government but not exploiting it.

What we have here is a group of people who have not only found out everything about the paperwork that suits their business model and selectively ignored any elements of the paperwork that provide care and protection to the public. We have got people who have set up a business model, who have gone into dementia units and have not had a treatment plan drawn up with an allied health professional or a GP, people who have gone in and trawled dementia units, gone ahead and done work on people without their permission, and left behind them a trail of smiles and unnecessarily expensive dental work done at the cost of all Australians who do need good dental care. This unhealthy and exploitative business model cannot be overlooked, and simply saying, 'I forgot to do that bit of the paperwork,' is an inexcusable comment by people from the profession, who should be ashamed to be standing up making these claims, let alone thinking that they have a case to be given the benefit of the doubt that they did not understand.

'Tony's scheme', as it was articulated by the member for Solomon, is in fact an opportunity for people who wanted to exploit the system to go ahead and do that. That is why this government, in making sure we are looking after benefits to Australians, is determined to provide a much healthier model of response to people who need to get access to basic things like fillings—and people would be quite happy with an amalgam one instead of a porcelain one to solve their dental issues. The reality is that in our budget we have committed to absolutely crunching down on those public health waiting lists to make sure that people are able to get the support they need and get access to basic health when they need it.

When this system was set up, Medicare made it very, very clear that there were two essential elements of any organisation of a treatment plan. There was a quote to be provided to the person who was seeking assistance, and a treatment plan to be communicated to the GP. These are not onerous requirements. In fact if you were to go to any dental professional that is the kind of thing that you would generally expect. The fact that dentists were taking this money from the federal government should have alerted them even more so, in addition to normal standard professional practice, that they were required to keep adequate records. It just does not wash that people who have been brought to our attention because of excessive servicing, people who have been brought to the attention of the authorities because of complaints about the quality of their professionalism and the quality of the work that they are doing, are being supported by those in the opposition saying that they should get money back.

The reality is that this scheme was always a problem. Tony's scheme, as the member for Solomon described it, was a problem waiting to happen. He did not provide adequate information for people early on—that is what they are claiming. That absolutely causes a problem for those people within the profession and it needs to be completely removed to allow us to get on fixing up a proper dental scheme.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.