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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 1927


Senator RONALDSON (Victoria) (17:52): I am deeply indebted to my colleague for giving me the chance to speak on this legislation. What we are seeing today is the Australian Labor Party dropping Australian families for a grubby deal with their fellow class-warfare combatants the Australian Greens. The losers from this will be the Australian people.

I know colleagues have referred to the Deloitte report, as I do to put my comments in context. Deloitte says 175,000 people would be expected to withdraw from private hospital cover in the first year and a further 580,000 would be expected to downgrade. Over five years 1.6 million would drop cover and 4.3 million would downgrade. Also private health insurance premiums would rise 10 per cent above what they would otherwise be. Deloitte says there would be an additional $3.8 billion in recurrent costs for the public hospital system, 2.8 million people with general treatment cover would withdraw and 5.7 million would downgrade. The government says Deloitte is wrong, but the government has not had Treasury do its own modelling in relation to this matter. We have Deloitte saying one thing, while the government and the Australian Greens refuse to do anything about it. I will go with Deloitte. I also refer to a company called GMHBA, proudly based in Geelong and Colac. GMHBA are actively involved in the Colac community. Last year they had a healthy breakfast program where they got together with a whole lot of other bodies to assist the kids in Colac.

Some members in the other place—the members for Bendigo, Ballarat, Corio and Corangamite—who have been remarkably quiet in relation to this debate. Remarkably, between them they represent a quarter of a million Australians who are covered by health insurance, yet there was hardly a peep from these people. In fact, the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and member for Ballarat, Catherine King, has said nothing, which is remarkable. I will go through the figures: in the member for Corangamite's case, 84,442 people in his electorate are covered by private health insurance. The member for Corio represents 69,946 people with private health insurance. The members of Ballarat and Bendigo represent 64,203 and 56,375 people respectively with private health insurance. More than 100,000 people with private health insurance are not being properly represented.

The member for Corangamite has been remarkably quiet since his very foolish intervention in the leadership battle. He claimed:

In my community in Geelong people do not believe that it is appropriate for people earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to get middle class welfare from the Commonwealth to help support them in having private health insurance.

We are not talking about people earning hundreds of thousands of dollars. We are potentially talking about mums and dads, a schoolteacher and a police officer raising three kids in Ocean Grove, in Mount Helen, in Golden Point or in Belmont—that is who we are talking about. Mr Cheeseman, the member for Corangamite, had clearly just picked up some notes and had not bothered to look at the Deloitte report when he said:

They are reforms that will make our healthcare system more sustainable, recognising that as we live longer our health needs become greater and we need additional money in the system to support people.

Deloitte says it is the exact opposite of that. He also told the House of Representatives:

… these bills are fair. They are appropriate. It has been a consistent position that we have held for a long time.

Let us talk about the consistent position of the Labor Party as told to us by the man who was supported by the member for Corangamite—the failed member for Corangamite—in relation to the leadership battle and everything else he touches. Before the 2007 election, what did former Labor leader Kevin Rudd tell the Australian Health Insurance Association? The shadow health minister, who is sitting beside me, knows that he said:

Both my Shadow Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, and I have made clear on many occasions this year that Federal Labor is committed to retaining the existing private health insurance rebates, including the 30 per cent general rebate and the 35 and 40 per cent rebates for older Australians.

Nicola Roxon is now Attorney-General. I wonder why she was moved out as this was coming up. We will never know, will we? She said on 24 February:

The Government is firmly committed to retaining the existing private health insurance rebates.

Mr Cheeseman was clearly wrong with when he said, 'It's been a consistent position that we've held for a long time.' That is simply not right. That is simply incorrect. That is another example of a broken promise. We have the Prime Minister's great political lie that 'there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead'. We now have broken promises in relation to private health insurance. We have the members for Bendigo, Ballarat, Corio and Corangamite refusing to say anything about this matter. The only one who did say anything got it absolutely wrong when he said that the Labor Party's position in relation to this matter has been consistent. It has not been consistent with the ironclad guarantees given by Mr Rudd before the 2007 election.

A lot of Australians have voted on the back of their understanding of the Australian Labor Party's policy in relation to this matter. A lot of people have gone to ballot boxes on the basis that the Labor Party would never ever interfere with these private health insurance rebates. They have been absolutely let down by a government which refuses to keep its promises, and we will come in here day after day after day and demand that the Australian Labor Party keeps its election promises. They have failed to do so at the moment, they have failed to do so in the past and we will make absolutely sure that they do so in the future.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Mark Bishop ): The time allotted for consideration of these bills has now expired. The question is that these bills be now read a second time.

Bills read a second time.