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Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Page: 9238


Senator WATT (Queensland) (15:57): I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i) figures released by the Department of Health this week show that people living in regional Australia are less likely to be bulk-billed for a GP visit, compared with those living in metropolitan cities,

(ii) people living in regional Australia pay more to access a GP, and that their out-of-pocket costs have increased since the 2016 election,

(iii) people living in regional Australia are around 20 per cent more likely to skip or delay seeing a GP because of the cost,

(iv) electorates held by The Nationals have some of the lowest bulk-billing rates in the country, including the electorates of Page ranked 104th, Flynn ranked 111th, Capricornia ranked 112th, and Dawson ranked 115th,

(v) more than 550 000 Australians living in electorates held by The Nationals will pay more tax under The Nationals' plan to unfairly increase the Medicare levy on low-income earners,

(vi) the Government is yet to lift any part of their Medicare freeze - rebates for GPs, specialists and allied health services all remain frozen, and

(vii) the Government's freeze is doing $2.2 billion in damage to Medicare - a cut to the pockets of patients every time they visit a GP, every time they visit a specialist, and every time they receive a Medicare allied health service;

(b) calls on the Government to guarantee:

(i) immediate and annual indexation of Medicare rebates that have been frozen by this Government,

(ii) proper Commonwealth investment in public hospitals, so that all Australians can access acute care without financial or other barriers, and

(iii) that savings from the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review and agreements with stakeholders will be reinvested in Medicare, and not used as an excuse for further cuts; and

(c) condemns the Government for neglecting vital Medicare services in rural and regional Australia.