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Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Page: 1489


Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (16:58): I too rise to speak in relation to this matter of public importance with respect to the government's alleged 'refusal to heed the lessons from the election and stand up for Medicare'. In politics, if you tell a lie often enough and you tell it loudly enough, eventually it will be believed—particularly when it is designed to evoke fear in the most vulnerable of our society. Senator Gallagher in this chamber today stated that the Turnbull government has made Medicare inaccessible and unaffordable—a big fat demonstrable lie designed to scare and mislead.

In WA on 20 June this year, Bill Shorten stated, 'If you want to protect Medicare, you vote for Labor in this election'—a big fat lie told often enough and loud enough to eventually be believed by Australia's most vulnerable. These are two big fat lies, but they are actually more than that. Instead of campaigning, and still keeping the lie going forward, on their own 'positive policies' for this nation, Labor continue to rely on scaring and misleading the Australian public and scaring the most vulnerable in our society. Mr Shorten's Medicare lie was simply that; but it was a lie so big, and told so frequently to the most vulnerable, that it ended up being believed.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Back ): Senator Reynolds, please resume your seat. Senator Marshall.

Senator Marshall: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Reynolds knows that she cannot say that about the Leader of the Opposition. She needs to withdraw it.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I invite you to withdraw, Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS: I withdraw.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Please continue, Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS: These comments were clearly untrue. This message from the Labor Party about Medicare was so untrue and told so frequently to the most vulnerable people—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Reynolds, please resume your seat. Senator Marshall.

Senator Marshall: Mr Acting Deputy President, on the same point of order: Senator Reynolds cannot simply repackage the same message and pretend she is not saying the same unparliamentary words. She must withdraw.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Marshall, you have made your point. Senator Reynolds, would you please desist, and continue with your remarks.

Senator REYNOLDS: I will. Thank you very much.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Reynolds, please resume your seat. Senator Gallacher.

Senator Gallacher: Mr Acting Deputy President, on a point of order: I draw your attention to standing order 187 with respect to speeches not being read.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Gallacher, you will resume your seat. Senator Reynolds, I invite you to continue—without interruption.

Senator Smith interjecting

Senator REYNOLDS: Yes, they might not like to hear what I have to say, but I have plenty of facts. Those opposite have spent the last half an hour or so making egregious allegations about those on my side and about our policies. One thing we did not hear from those opposite were the facts. Senator Lambie asked: 'What has this government actually done?' Listening to you speak, I was reminded of Monty Python's Life of Brian—'What have the Romans ever done for us?' in health, education and everything else.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator REYNOLDS: You have not provided any facts and figures. Let me provide the facts and figures that you have steadfastly refused to provide to this chamber.

Opposition senators interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Through the chair, thank you, Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS: Through the chair, let me provide some of the facts and figures for you. The Turnbull government will increase Medicare funding by a further $2 billion this financial year alone—from $21 billion this year to $26 billion in four years. This is more funding in real terms than the previous Labor government ever provided. That is a fact. Let those opposite come back into this chamber and deny that is a fact. We talked about GP clinic visits in Tasmania. Well, let me tell you that, under this government, bulk-billing rates are the highest they have ever been in this nation. GP bulk-billing is now at 85 per cent, compared to an average of 79 per cent under Labor. This means that now, across Australia, more people than ever are not paying anything to go to see their GP. In fact, there are 17 million more bulk-billed services than there were under Labor. We were asked what it was in Tasmania. In Tasmania alone there are now 150,000 more bulk-billed services under this government than there were under those opposite.

This year, we are investing more than $22 billion in Medicare, which is $1 billion more than last year. More than that, we are the only party that is also increasing the PBS. Under this government, over 1,000 new medicines have been approved for subsidisation for all Australians, including those in Tasmania, Senator Lambie—through you, Chair. That compares to the 333 new drugs placed on the PBS under the entire six years of the previous Labor government. We are providing more of the newer drugs not only for average Australians but also for those with serious and chronic health conditions. We have also announced revolutionary reforms on how we deliver Medicare in the community. Our Health Care Homes policy gives GPs and their teams the flexibility to coordinate, manage and support patients with chronic illness with the aim of keeping them healthier at home and with the doctor of their choice.

I challenge those opposite that they have not used any figures to challenge their assertion that we are spending less and doing less. The big difference is that we on this side know that, to spend it, we have to earn it. We are the only ones with the economic plan to actually deliver the expanded health services that we are delivering today. Those opposite should hang their heads in shame for propagating big fat lies about Medicare not only in the campaign but also in here.

Medicare is a government service that is here to stay. We on this side have never suggested that Medicare would go. In fact, the facts show that we have done everything we can to strengthen it. During the campaign, in the eastern suburbs of Perth, rather than hearing the Labor Party' positive policies for the election I had old ladies in nursing homes scared out of their wits from phone call after phone call from 'Medicare' and other people telling them that they were going to lose their Medicare and be kicked out of their aged-care facilities. If you are proud of your record of propagating these big fat lies and scaring the bejeebers out of the most vulnerable in this society, you should hang your heads in shame. After scaring the most vulnerable in our society with this, as Senator Smith said, you got your lowest primary vote ever. If that does not give you pause to come out with positive policies to inspire the electorate and not scare them, I do not know what will.

Senator Bilyk: What is the majority you have?

Senator REYNOLDS: You want priorities? Senator Bilyk, would you like me to go through some more of the statistics, the actual facts?

Senator Bilyk: You have a majority of one.

Senator REYNOLDS: On 1 October this year more than 2,000 medicine brands, treating common conditions, dropped in price for all Australians. That is 2,000 different medicine brands dropped in price for all Australians.

Senator Bilyk interjecting

Senator REYNOLDS: You want examples? I have plenty of examples for you. What else have we got? We have listed new medicines for melanoma, cancer and cystic fibrosis, and a cure for hepatitis C.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Bilyk, a point of order?

Senator Bilyk: Mr President, I have been misrepresented by the senator.

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order.

Senator Bilyk: I said 'majority', not 'priority'.

The PRESIDENT: That is a debating point. There is no point of order. I remind senators to address their comments to the chair.

Senator REYNOLDS: This government has listed new medicines for melanoma, cancer and cystic fibrosis, and a cure for hepatitis C. Many of these medicines would have cost people tens of thousands of dollars and would only have been available to the most well off, but we have been able to list them so that they only cost around $38, or just over $6 for a concessional script. This government is spending more on health in real terms than ever before. No matter how much those opposite keep bringing out and peddling this big fat lie, it is simply not true. Given all of the statistics, facts and figures from me and those on my side, I challenge anybody on that side to actually tell us where our numbers are incorrect. We have not been spending more? We have not increased the PBS? We have not put more money into health, into hospitals, into GP services? If those opposite can come back and actually tell us where we are cutting Medicare or where we are cutting spending in real terms, in total terms, let them come back and challenge any of the figures we have provided. They have not so far in this debate because they simply cannot.

In relation to the Medicare payments system, which has been the subject of so much discussion and so much misinformation by those opposite, the government is looking at ways to take the health and aged-care payment system into the 21st century, making it better for both patients and clinicians. That is not scrapping Medicare; that is bringing it into the 21st century so we do not waste money on old, outdated systems which do not serve patients or the doctors. It is bringing it into the 21st century and saving taxpayer money so more money is available to put into the forefront of health services.

In conclusion, the Prime Minister and all on this side have stated time after time that every single aspect of Medicare which is currently operated by government, including the process of Medicare rebates, will continue to be operated by government. Medicare is and always will be a core government service. I think those opposite should hang their heads in shame at resorting to scaring the Australian public that somehow this side of the chamber will be getting rid of Medicare. You should be ashamed of scaring the most vulnerable in our society, because they were scared, and there is no excuse for doing that. I think Australians everywhere deserve much better than that.