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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10447


Mr JOHN COBB (Calare) (19:10): I rise to speak about the latest failure of this Labor government: its disastrous plans for a new dental health scheme at some stage in the future. This announcement is essentially about scrapping a perfectly good system that works—introduced by the previous, coalition government—and replacing it with one that has no proof of succeeding and, incredibly, with no evidence of how it will be funded.

This dysfunctional government has a bizarre obsession with changing coalition policies and systems—policies and systems that worked and worked well—and replacing them with policies and systems that do not work. You would have thought that those opposite would have learnt from their disasters with their asylum seeker policies not to change systems that work. The previous coalition government implemented offshore processing and temporary protection visas to prevent people paying enormous sums of money to criminal people smugglers and getting on leaky boats to get to Australia. And the boats stopped. Labor came into power, scrapped temporary protection visas and shut down offshore processing. Five years later, 1,000 people have perished at sea, while thousands more sit in crowded detention centres while their asylum bids are being processed.

This week I received a phone call from a very concerned pensioner in my electorate. Ted, from the Bathurst area, had been chatting with his neighbours about Labor's dental scheme. Notably, they were all outraged by this government's plans. Ted decided to make their voices known and give me a call. Ted has recently had some expensive dental work done, which he says cost him more than $2,000. That is a lot of money for anyone—particularly a pensioner. But, according to Ted, it was not so bad, because he got money back from Medicare; namely, the Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme, which we introduced. It is a very successful scheme, introduced by the coalition when the Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Health, which has provided more than $4,000 in Medicare dental benefits over two years for eligible patients, like Ted, with a chronic dental health condition.

Over 17 million services have been provided to approximately one million patients since 2007. It has been an incredibly successful scheme which actually delivered results for Australians needing dental health care, and Calare has always been totally behind it. Ted's biggest concern, quite rightly, is how he would pay for his expensive and essential dental work if he were to have that work done after 30 November this year, when Labor will scrap the Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme. Australians like Ted are in the dark about how the government will help them with vitally important dental care from 1 December. They are in the dark because there will not be a scheme then. That is because Labor's plan is not due to commence until 2014, and there has been no clear or genuine explanation as to what patients are to do in the meantime. But there is a silver lining in all this. We are talking about an incompetent and dysfunctional government that backflips on promises with great regularity. We have seen plenty of them and we are about to see another one. Hopefully this is one disastrous decision they do abolish.

There is going to be a huge gap between 1 December this year and sometime in 2014 when the government will introduce a scheme they are not clear about and that is certainly not funded. Our scheme allowed procedures for chronic dental diseases to be carried out. I remember some years ago that those opposite wanted to abolish this scheme, before the Labor Independents did a backflip on it when they could not get it through the House. At that stage they wanted to give the money to the states to do nothing but inspections. Is that what we are going to get again, just inspections, rather than procedures that people are actually able to have done and paid for because you could get $4,000 over two years? The people of Calare certainly expect better. They expect a better explanation and they would like to know how this scheme is going to be funded and exactly what it is going to be.