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Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Page: 1774

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (17:19): It is a pleasure to continue my contribution to this important debate on behalf of all Australians. Before I was interrupted earlier, I was talking about the reliance of the government on the figures put forward and I was questioning how the Australian people can rely in any way, shape or form on the figures provided by the government when we know that historically the information they have provided in relation to a number of other policies has simply been untrue. They have gilded the lily—I think that is the kindest way it can be described without drawing further inferences on the character of those who make the assumptions. So I would suggest to the Australian people and to the Senate that they should rely more on the private industry figures and the concerns of private industry, because they are the people who are at the coalface and whose livelihoods are going to be directly affected.

An analysis by Deloitte, an independent group, shows that in the first year 175,000 people could be expected to withdraw from private hospital cover and a further 583,000 people could be expected to downgrade their cover. Over five years, it is expected that 1.6 million people will drop their cover. That is the equivalent of the entire population of my home state of South Australia; 4.3 million people are expected to downgrade their cover over the next five years, and that is close to the entire population of Queensland. The government owned insurer, Medibank Private, has forecast that 47,000 of their members alone will drop their cover and 92,500 of them will downgrade. This is considerably more than the 27,000 the minister has claimed will drop their cover throughout the entire sector. So let's not pretend that we can rely on the figures that this government has put forward. We have had similar figures put forward and advanced in any number of policy areas and we know that the government has always come up short; they continue to say what they want to say rather than detail the facts that are on the table. We also know that the contributions by the government senators in this debate have largely centred around Mr Abbott. It says to me that the government is so lacking in confidence in their own policy agenda that they seem reduced to attacking the Leader of the Opposition, who is without doubt the most effective leader of an opposition that we have seen in this country for a very, very long time, if at all.

In summary, the impact of these changes to private health insurance will not just be felt by those on higher incomes, who the Labor Party seem intent on beating up on all the time and who will suffer up to a 43 per cent increase in their premiums; it will be felt by all Australians with private health insurance and those who do not have private health insurance and rely on the public hospital sector. We know that private health insurance premiums are going to rise. We know that the burden on public health care will increase as more people withdraw. We know that Australians will all pay for Labor's ideological bent with longer waiting lists and higher costs. There will be $3.8 billion in additional recurrent costs for the public hospital system, and it is expected that the cost of dealing with the increased demand in public hospitals will outweigh the savings to government from the means testing of the rebate. As I mentioned earlier, $1 in savings is going to result in an expected $2 in additional costs for the public hospital system.

This is not economics. This is not rational; it is an irrational money grab by the government for a short-term benefit but it is also undermining the integrity, scalability and affordability of not only private health insurance but health care generally in this country. This is not considered economic management from the government and it is clear once again that the Labor Party is blinded by its misguided ideology, which is committed to class warfare, increasing the divide between Australians and discouraging Australians from not being reliant on the government. The change will have an impact on other services in the health field, with 2.8 million people with general treatment cover expected to withdraw and 5.7 million to downgrade over five years. The blind ideology of this government is damaging all Australians, our infrastructure, our general wellbeing and our welfare. I will be voting against the bill.