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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2085


Senator SHERRY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy) (4.34 p.m.) —The government will not be supporting the amendments of Senator Coulter. As Senator Watson has pointed out, it would be an open-ended cost. The government is implementing a program that has been welcomed by everyone. Unfortunately, some people are saying, `It is not enough. It should be open-ended. Not even $2 million a year is sufficient'. Senator Coulter's proposals are difficult to cost, as Senator Watson has pointed out, but they would cost maybe $10 million or $20 million a year.

  I am a lover of all buildings. I recall my old family home in Richmond, Tasmania. It is a very old town which contains the oldest Catholic church, the oldest bridge, and the second oldest Anglican church in Australia, and a range of very old historic buildings. I used to live in one of them. During my youth my parents spent quite a lot of time and money doing up that old building. Later on when my parents moved to the north-west coast of Tasmania to the small township of Latrobe they had what would be regarded as an historic cottage and they spent some money and effort doing it up. I have been doing up an old terrace house, which is over 100 years old, in my new residence in Burnie. It was moved to there from a mining community on the west coast. I do enjoy and have a great love for our heritage, but there are limits to the extent to which we can fund these sorts of initiatives.

  I do not accept Senator Coulter's analogy of no limits on rebates in the health area. Certain cost areas that affect our lives should not have a cap on the rebate, and medical costs are one. It is not possible to say to a person facing a leg operation, `You can have half the operation', whereas, when renovating a building, it is quite possible to say, `You can renovate a part of the building but you cannot renovate the whole of the building'. The former example would be a calamity for the patient; the latter would not be a calamity for the building.

  Then there is Senator Coulter's comparison of the total costs. The government has a variety of measures to keep the lid on total medical costs—I will not go into them here—so it is not correct to say that there is no cap on expenditure in those areas. For those reasons, and for the reasons advanced by Senator Watson, we cannot accept the removal of the cap. I note that if the cap is not removed—it is apparent that that will not happen—Senator Coulter does not intend to press his other amendments which go to the inclusion of natural areas of significance, so I do not intend to go into detail on those matters today.