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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 992


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services) (15:07): What hypocrisy from those opposite. It is hypocritical of Senator McLucas to dare to criticise the coalition after Labor's appalling record when in government. I would like to remind the Senate of Labor's record in government. Let us look at it: $1.6 billion ripped out of public hospitals, $4 billion ripped out of private health insurance, $1 billion ripped out of dental health through the closure of the Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme.

There was the promise of 16 early psychosis prevention and intervention centres, the EPPICs, supposedly in partnership with the state governments. When the agreements were about to be signed with some of those states, Minister Butler suddenly changed his mind, ripped up the agreements and changed his tack on those centres. All we had was a one-page press release which told us absolutely nothing. Then there was, as Senator Abetz correctly said, the absolute debacle of the GP super clinics, which to this day remain one of the financial disasters amongst the many in the Health portfolio that those opposite oversaw.

Then there are Medicare Locals. Why is there a need for a review of Medicare Locals? From a coalition perspective, we support the role of coordination of primary health services. However, it was very clear to us that in the establishment of Medicare Locals there was a considerable lack of detail and conflicting information regarding the objectives of Medicare Locals. I too trawled through estimates and had to extricate—like hens' teeth—the objectives of Medicare Locals. In particular I noticed a lack of detail on allied health professionals, patients and how funding was being administered. A lot of money was channelled through Medicare Locals, but there were legitimate questions about how those moneys would be administered. In effect, was the Commonwealth getting value for money as far as Medicare Locals were concerned?

During the dying days of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments there was legislation showing what those Medicare Locals were about. The government could not use the word 'Medicare', because it was not legal to do so. They had to retrospectively pass legislation to enable them to use the word 'Medicare'. Why did they use that word? Because they were trying to dupe the Australian public into thinking that Medicare Locals were providing services. When you go into a Medicare local—I invite those opposite to go into a Medicare local—can you get a Medicare rebate? Can you get your forms processed? No, you cannot. There were 3,000 new bureaucrats as part of the Medicare local network, and what precisely did we get? When I first heard the name 'Medicare Locals' I thought they were places to get a refund and a beer, quite frankly, but it is very clear that that is not exactly what they are.

What was the legacy of those opposite in relation to so-called health reform? Remember the photoshoots from Prime Minister Rudd and Minister Roxon travelling around the country. Often we did not know which hospital they were going to turn up at for the photo opportunity. Goodness knows, given what Minister Roxon told us about her poisonous relationship with Prime Minister Rudd, what they found to talk about on those many hospital visits, but all those visits were about was Dr Rudd and Nurse Roxon tracking around the countryside for photoshoots. That is their legacy in health reform.