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Wednesday, 22 June 1994
Page: 1884

Senator HERRON (3.21 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley), to a question without notice asked by Senator Herron this day, relating to health insurance.

It is with a certain degree of sadness that I rise because I feel sorry for Senator Crowley. It is not often that I feel sorry for anybody on the other side of the chamber, but she was not present at Senate estimates last night.

Senator Gareth Evans —Don't be so patronising! Are you like this at the bedside?

Senator HERRON —No, it is out of character for me to feel sorry, but I do feel sorry for her because she is trying to defend the indefensible through the strength of her own ignorance. I think that makes her proposal very difficult for us. She has done this on three occasions before and I thought the cock had crowed three times and at last she would recant, but she did not get my slight allusion to that. I think she will have to come in and apologise to the Senate for misleading it.

  The reality is that last night at the estimates committee I asked the department, through the minister responsible at the time, the question that I asked Senator Crowley today. I apologise to her for that because she was not present, but she has no right to come in and reiterate a misleading statement to the Senate. The table given to me clearly shows that there are only two divisions available to the government, which is under 65 and over 65. I seek leave to incorporate the table in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

  The table read as follows

Total Persons Covered by Type of Membership by State and Age

As at December 1993


Basic only

Under 65 255,012 86,160 93,848 21,699 18,758 5,751 481,228

Over 65 27,592 14,891 14,798 2,060 1,990 1,112 62,443

Total 282,604 101,051 108,646 23,759 20,748 6,863 543,671


Under 65 2,044,818 1,402,493 811,488 477,134 586,407 165,346 5,487,686

Over 65 268,608 236,691 118,108 80,193 61,137 18,096 782,833

Total 2,313,426 1,639,184 929,596 557,327 647,544 183,442 6,270,519

Total Hospital

Under 65 2,299,830 1,488,653 905,336 498,833 605,165 171,097 5,968,914

Over 65 296,200 251,582 132,906 82,253 63,127 19,208 845,276

Total 2,596,030 1,740,235 1,038,242 581,086 668,292 190,305 6,814,190

Ancillary 308,228 187,519 129,427 171,772 156,533 27,300 980,779


Total 2,376,024 1,307,123 924,677 679,475 794,181 197,605 6,279,085


Total 2,904,258 1,927,754 1,167,669 752,858 824,825 217,605 7,794,969


Change from Previous Year

Basic Only

Under 65 -14.6% -23.6% -10.8% -23.8% -17.9% -29.9% -16.5%

Over 65 -8.3% -14.9% -6.0% -14.5% -7.6% 168.0% -8.6%

Total -14.1% -22.5% -10.2% -23.1% -17.0% -20.4% -15.7%


Under 65 -4.0% -6.9% 4.9% -5.7% -1.7% -5.2% -3.5%

Over 65 1.3% 0.7% 7.1% 1.4% 4.7% -1.1% 2.2%

Total -3.4% -5.9% 5.2% -4.7% -1.1% -4.8% -2.8%

Total Hospital

Under 65 -5.3% -8.1% 3.0% -6.6% -2.3% -6.3% -4.7%

Over 65 0.3% -0.4% 5.5% 0.9% 4.3% 2.7% 1.3%

Total -4.7% -7.0% 3.3% -5.6% -1.7% -5.5% -4.0%

Ancillary 7.2% 4.8% 2.0% 2.2% 1.6% 3.5% 4.1%


Total -4.0% -5.6% 3.1% -4.4% -1.0% -4.8% -3.0%


Total -3.6% -6.0% 3.2% -4.0% -1.1% -4.4% -3.0%


Senator HERRON —I think all of us would be very pleased with Senator Crowley because by her definition anybody under the age of 65 is young. I thank her for that on behalf of all senators. The reality is that there are no figures available. She has reiterated on four occasions now that young people are leaving private health insurance and that, therefore, there is no crisis. There is a crisis not because it is an ideological crisis, but because every one per cent of people who drop out of private health insurance costs the taxpayers $100 million.

Senator Chris Evans —What about the Access report?

Senator HERRON —That is in the Access report. If Senator Evans reads his own ACTU caucus working party documents he would see that it is there too. That might give it a sort of certain cachet, almost an imprimatur seeing it comes from the government's ACTU caucus working party. That is beside the point.

  Perhaps I will educate those on the other side a little further. I think if they can grasp that one fact and take it away with them—it is very difficult, I know, for members on the other side to grasp one fact—then they will understand that I am talking about. If one per cent drops out it costs the taxpayers $100 million. The total cost of health care is $34 billion; $15 billion of that is put in by the federal government—$2.4 billion of that from the Medicare levy, which is an inconsequential amount. Senator Evans will be pleased to know that that again comes from the ACTU caucus working party.

  So $15 billion comes from federal revenue, $11 billion comes from people's pockets and $8 billion comes from state revenue. I repeat: $15 billion comes from federal government sources, $11 billion from private sources—people insuring themselves for out-of-pocket expenses—and $8 billion from the states. That is the total take. That is what it cost in 1992-93, for which the latest figures are available.

  Senator Crowley does not seem to understand that if one takes that money out of the private sector it has to come from the public sector. There is no magic pudding. There is no wonderful money tree that we can pluck that will pay for health care. It has to come from the taxpayer or voluntarily out of people's pockets. She and the government—and I see it again in the ACTU-caucus working party—have ideological blinkers. The only answer I can think of that might appeal to the government is that we borrow the money from overseas. That is what we have been doing. That is how we got our present $203 billion gross foreign debt.

  The money is not going to come from the taxpayer by way of taxation. If the money is not going to come out of people's pockets then we have to borrow it. That is the only answer that I can see. I seek leave to table information relating to basic and supplementary hospital insurance coverage.

  Leave granted.

Senator HERRON —The tragedy is that we have a great health system which can be improved—(Time expired)

  Question resolved in the affirmative.