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Opposition comments on polls which indicate community feelings about new Medicare package.

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Wednesday, 7 May 2003



LINDA MOTTRAM: If opinion polling out today is any indication, the Howard government will need all of the millions of dollars it has earmarked to help sell its proposed changes to Medicare. In one poll in Fairfax newspapers, four out of every 10 people asked thought that the Medicare revamp would make the system worse. On the personal level, more than a third of those polled thought that they would be worse off under the changes, while a separate Newspoll finds that only 10 per cent think they’ll be better off.


So are the challenges for the government a chance for Labor? Ross Solly reports from Canberra.


ROSS SOLLY: Most doctors don’t like it, welfare groups don’t like it, the states don’t like it and it seems the public don’t like it either. The government’s Medicare package hasn’t been embraced by the people, according to an AC Neilsen poll of 1,400 Australians taken for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age newspapers over the weekend. Forty-one per cent of those surveyed thought the changes would make Australia’s health system worse, while only 14 per cent thought it would be an improvement. Almost 40 per cent think they’ll personally be worse off under the Howard government’s package, while just 12 per cent felt they’d be better off.


Labor’s health spokesman, Stephen Smith, says the poll reflects the feedback he’s been getting.


STEPHEN SMITH: What the community is saying clearly is they don’t trust John Howard on anything he says about Medicare or bulk billing. The more they find out about his so-called package the less they like it. The majority of people think that Medicare and bulk billing will be in a worse state as a result of his package and very many people think they’ll be worse off personally as a consequence. And that certainly reinforces the sort of feedback that we’ve been getting since his proposals to effectively destroy Medicare and end bulk billing for Australian families were released.


ROSS SOLLY: Importantly for the Labor Party, 28 per cent of coalition voters surveyed felt they’d suffer under the government’s Medicare package; 16 per cent thought it would make their lives better. The opposition’s plans for Medicare will be a centrepiece of Simon Crean’s budget reply next week, and Stephen Smith knows it’s his party’s best chance yet to claw back ground.


STEPHEN SMITH: We don’t want to be doing anything to add to the burden of Australian families, so in the first instance you have the Commonwealth spending $30 billion a year on health care. We think from within the existing resources we can show, by way of a first instalment, Labor’s absolute commitment to restoring bulk billing, to rescuing Medicare, and you can’t fix in one go what John Howard’s essentially been running down and destroying by stealth over the last seven years. But what you’ll find from Labor is the absolute commitment to Medicare and bulk billing and an array of public policy measures to show essentially a first instalment as to how we would turn that round. But we’re not going to be able to do it in one night or in one go.


LINDA MOTTRAM: Labor’s health spokesman, Stephen Smith; Ross Solly reporting.