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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13201


Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (18:15): My only reason for speaking on this legislation tonight is to raise the issue around the name 'Medicare Locals'. I strongly support the aims, the funding and the work of these new bodies—the new Medicare Locals—but it is my view that the name is a stinker. There should be no relation at all with the ongoing work of what is widely known as the Medicare brand.

I think—as do those who work in my Medicare Local, many members of the medical profession locally and many members of the general community on the mid-north and North Coast—that the role of these Medicare Locals is one of primary health, preventative health and the non-hospital-based services in health care in the community. They are not a payment house for Medicare as it is traditionally known. I have heard a fair bit of confusion from residents in my electorate who have not realised that Medicare Locals are intended for the purpose of primary health services. I think there is a real question about the Medicare brand and whether it should or should not extend to these services that are for preventative and primary health care within communities.

That is not to say that their aims and responsibilities are wrong. I disagree with the Liberal-National Party position in regard to removing Medicare Locals from communities such as the mid-north and North Coast of New South Wales. But I also disagree with the government's view in this legislation on expanding the number of people who can use the term 'Medicare', which I think will really add to the confusion at a community level.

I had proposed an amendment today. I am pleased that, through negotiation, we now look to have a process where the pros and cons of this name at a local level will be considered and there will be a review done of the Medicare Locals name. In that regard, I am comfortable not pursuing that amendment. There is a cost to changing the branding just as they have been established, but I hope that many people who have expressed their concerns to me about the Medicare Locals brand participate in this process of review—I include other members of parliament in that—and that we can then find a more appropriate name for what are valuable primary healthcare bodies in regions such as mine.

I strongly endorse the process and the point that that these Medicare Locals are trying to achieve, but I reiterate as a personal view based on feedback from many that I think that branding is confusing. I think it is a stinker. I am pleased that we now have a process where that can be reviewed. Hopefully a much better name can be put forward in the future.