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Tuesday, 24 March 1987
Page: 1191


Senator KNOWLES —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Treasurer on Prices. Is it a fact that the net weekly cost of medical and private hospital cover for a family on average weekly earnings has increased, averaged across Australia, from $9.66 before Medicare to $14.30 today? Is it also a fact that the waiting lists for public hospital beds have exploded and that in the Minister's home State of Victoria alone the queue has increased from 10,000 in pre-Medicare days to 34,000 now? Why has the Hawke Government so greatly increased the cost of health care and reduced its availability for Australian families?


Senator BUTTON —I do not pretend to be an expert on international health care statistics.


Senator Chaney —What about national charges?


Senator BUTTON —Just a minute. Do not get excited, Senator. The fact is that the growth in health care charges here is not out of line with the growth in many other countries and that has been the case for a long time.


Senator Chaney —Ha!


Senator BUTTON —Senator Chaney laughs, but the fact is that had this Government not been elected two million Australians would have been without the benefit of support when they required health care from the insurance system. As I understand it, the Opposition's policies would be so again if an alternative government were elected here. With regard to the issue of hospital beds, I will direct that part of the question to the Minister for Health and find an answer for the honourable senator.