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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5037

Mr RIPOLL (OxleyParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (16:54): It is a pleasure to be also speaking on the Tax Laws Amendment (Medicare Levy and Medicare Levy Surcharge) Bill 2012. As we heard from the member for Casey, this is a bill that comes to the House every year after the budget. It is a procedural bill in the sense that it just moves the low-income thresholds for the calculation of the Medicare levy surcharge for low-income earners in line with movements of the consumer price index. Of course it needs to be done every year to adjust those thresholds to ensure that people are not unfairly charged a higher levy in the case where their incomes would just creep over that threshold bracket. So in line with those movements we are adjusting those, and data on this has been adjusted every year since 1996.

It does receive bipartisan support. It is good to see in this House, particularly in this area, that bipartisan support is given. Some financial impacts are carried with the bill, but they are ones which are obviously good in terms of adjusting people's costs of living, making sure that we do not contribute to people's extra costs of living through any surcharge that they might receive.

The Medicare system and the Medicare levy surcharge have operated very well in this country for a very long time, and they are based on the ability of people to pay. It is a fair and equitable system reflecting that people contribute either directly through the Medicare levy or through the Medicare levy surcharge if they are high-income earners. We also take into consideration household incomes. People who have the ability to pay also contribute privately through the private health insurance system. There is a very generous rebate for people who fall in those categories. It is part of a broader scope of work that this Labor government has done in the area of health, which as a particular portfolio area covers a wide scope of things, whether it is ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, whether it is the long-term sustainability of the Medicare system, whether it is the long-term sustainability of our hospital systems or whether it is—also very important to note in this opportunity provided by this bill—the long-term sustainability of the private health insurance system. So all of those systems combine to make sure that we actually have and maintain in this country a health system that is first-class, employs best practice and is best in the world by any measure—a health system that is all-encompassing and really does give people here in Australia access to a standard of health care that is the envy of every other economy.

I think it fits in well with all of the debates that we are having in this place at this particular time, when there is global turbulence around global economic matters and when there are pressure points being applied in so many different economies. You will see those pressure points being reflected back onto the health system, back on people's capacity to pay and back on the levies and surcharges that they might pay in other countries and other jurisdictions. But the good news here is that at home, locally, for people's budgets when they sit around the kitchen table, we have made sure—and we are thankful that we have the support of the opposition—that there is no bracket creep in this area and that people pay only the levies that they rightfully ought in terms of making sure they are covered for their medical expenses. I commend the bill to the House and commend the minister for the work that he has done.