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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2007

Senator KNOWLES(5.01) —I believe I have only about four minutes, so I just wish to cap off some of the things that have been said this afternoon. It is a very sad day for Australia in that this afternoon we have had to listen to three Labor Government senators talk about the wonderful health system that we have. There is no wonderful health system in this country. Families get a very raw deal from this Government. Senator Crowley, in her typical patronising and arrogant way, put forward her usual hyperbole, saying that all our claims are rhetoric. If she had spoken to the real people out there in the community she would know that the claims about waiting lists, the claims about people dying while waiting for surgery, are not rhetoric; they are fact. She claimed that in previous years two million people had to remain ill. That is absolutely and utterly absurd. If they could not afford to be looked after, they were looked after anyway.

Families are being squeezed by this Government's economic performance, to say nothing of its health problems. Because of our rate of inflation, our rate of interest and our rate of unemployment all of those people are suffering. As a result of all of those problems many families cannot afford private health insurance as well as paying for Medicare, which is the only way they can be assured of getting health services when they need them. They cannot get into private hospitals because they are not privately insured, and they cannot get into public hospitals because there are 100,000 people on the waiting list. Families who are responsible for caring for their own aged are also penalised because they cannot get their aged into public hospitals when they need to. Therefore, when they have to take them to private hospitals they have to pay out of their own pockets. Many young families simply cannot afford to pay that money for their aged, but they will do so in preference to burying them.

The fact that costs under the health system have increased by 26 per cent over the last year speaks for itself. Families simply cannot afford to pay 26 per cent more in one year, or pay twice a la the levy and private insurance. We are proposing a return to the freedom of choice that this country so rightly deserves. People do not have to pay both; they need to pay only one or the other. Sadly, many of the public hospitals in this country are at risk of losing their accreditation as teaching hospitals because there is an insufficient mix of patients coming through. They are literally battling to survive.

Senator Powell has just walked back into the chamber. She put forward the usual two bob each way bit from the Australian Democrats. She said that the people have to pay out of their own pockets under our proposal. What are they paying now? I would suggest they are not paying out of their own pockets-they are paying through the nose. That is the difference. We are saying people should pay for themselves and look after themselves, but that they do not have to pay twice. As a result we would not have 100,000 people on the waiting list and we would not have 4,500 public hospital beds being closed since the introduction of Medicare. The health system in Australia needs to be tidied up. A Liberal government will tidy it up and look after families in the future.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The time for consideration of the matter of public importance has expired.