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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 813


Mr SWAN (Lilley) (10:49): For 33 years Australians have come to regard Medicare as a national icon. Governments have come and gone, but Medicare has survived, despite the fact that particular conservative governments have sought to tear it down. There is a very good reason that Medicare has survived. It is because it brings our families the essential health security they need. It has survived because it is affordable, and it is also recognised around the world as one of the most efficient health-care delivery services on the planet.

As I said before, governments have come and gone, and they have tried to take it away, but they have failed every time. The sad thing is that the attacks on Medicare are now stronger than they have ever been. That is what I am hearing from locals in the northern suburbs of Brisbane. I am not just hearing about the freeze on doctors and pathology rebates; I am hearing about the constant stream of issues that are now coming through Centrelink. The fact is that the payment system in Medicare is being deliberately white-anted by the government. They are intent on destroying the Medicare payment system.

The community is suffering massive increases in waiting times for claims they lodged personally. Whether it is when they are told to put it in the drop box at the Centrelink office or when they apply through the smart phone app, those times have blown out to around six weeks for services which used to take three to five days. People can phone up and sit on the phone for hours and hours, and they are none the wiser.

What I say to the public is, do not blame Medicare; blame the government. Do not blame the Centrelink staff; blame the government. They are trying to do through the back door what they tried to do through the front door prior to the last election. You cannot cut 5,000 staff from Centrelink and expect that there will not be consequences. This is a deliberate attempt to white-ant the very foundations of Medicare. Of course they try to plug the holes. They bring in a few casual workers. But these people cannot possibly cope with the volume and the magnitude of delays that are going on.

People are simply not getting the service they need and desire. This is a government which is intent on destroying the social safety net. It is also intent on turning our tax system upside down: tax cuts for the wealthy, service cuts for average Australians.

Last week in parliament, the Prime Minister talked about parasites. Well, there are parasites in this country. They are the ones who deliberately evade their taxation responsibilities. They are the ones who have their money cooling in the shade of the palms on the Cayman Islands. They are the parasites. The parasites in this country are those who seek to destroy the social safety net and attack the 'fair go' for all Australians.