Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 4 May 1987
Page: 2217

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Why is health care clearly the fastest rising item in what appears to have been a disastrous 9.3 per cent inflation rate indicated last week by the strike-affected official cost of living figures? What is the composition of and justification for the apparent 18.5 per cent rise in health costs over the 12 months to March indicated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which has lifted it to approximately double the appalling national inflation rate, which itself is four times higher than those of our trading partners? What does the Government intend to do to halt this incredible and damaging rise in health care costs, which is in addition to the recent 25 per cent rise in the Medicare levy that is not included in the cost of living statistics, under a Medicare system that is depriving so many low income groups of access to public hospital beds because of the 100,000-long waiting list resulting largely from the Government's failed health policy?

Senator TATE —The latest figures available to me from the Australian Bureau of Statistics are those released for the March quarter of 1987 for the consumer price index. As Senator Baume will know, the CPI figure is incomplete because Sydney data is missing. But for other cities the health component has increased. The major reason for the increase was increased private insurance contribution rates which reflected changes in private hospital charges. That seems to be the major component. The ABS also noted increases in the prices of toiletries and personal care products in the quarter in all cities. As Senator Baume should know, these products are included in the health and personal care group. However, I am advised that the CPI figure for health is in line with that of all other CPI groups. What Senator Baume is trying to do in his blustering way is to divert people's memories from the Fraser years in which from 1981 to December 1983 the CPI figure for the health and personal care groups increased by 68 per cent. Between 1981 and 1983, the CPI for health and personal care groups increased by 68 per cent.

Senator Button —Could you say that again, as I did not hear?

Senator TATE —I do not want to repeat the figures, because that would be boring--

Senator Button —Please do, I did not hear you.

Senator TATE —I will. Between 1981 and 1983, under the former Government, the CPI for health and personal care groups increased by 68 per cent. Health care under Opposition policies represented the fastest growing cost to the community-more than housing, more than food and more than clothing. That, of course, could be expected to occur were the Opposition unfortunately ever voted into office.