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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Page: 687

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (18:14): The National Health Funding Body report for 2013-14 is a very important report in the context of what is happening in health in this country. As a member of the Select Committee on Health, looking at the issues that are affecting ordinary Australians'—and some of the poorest Australians'—access to health, this is a very important issue. And what we have seen and what we have been hearing in relation to funding for health is that unless there is a change to the funding models proposed by this incompetent government then the medical profession's business model will no longer be sustainable. We hear so much from the other side about the sustainability of small business. Yet one of the areas they do not have a clue about is how doctors maintain their small business—because they are a small business, as they keep telling the inquiry. And they say that the imposition of a $7 co-payment, or the imposition of a $5 co-payment, or the imposition of a further extension of the freeze on indexation to their payments, means that their business model is unsustainable. This is a government that claims to understand small business, yet they do not understand the key issues for one of the most important small businesses in the country—the small businesses that keep this population healthy.

Senator O'Sullivan: What would you know about—

Senator CAMERON: They either do not know about it or they do not understand. And we have Senator O'Sullivan interjecting again. Well, that gives me the opportunity to bring into play what is happening in regional and rural Australia with health and what the GPs in regional and rural Australia are telling the committee. They are basically saying that they are having huge financial problems, that many doctors will leave because of the government's policies; they will just close up shop and go away and retire. If they are getting towards their later years, they are just going to retire. In Tamworth, which I know very well, as I have been to Tamworth many, many times, the biggest single GP practice, with 15 GPs, is run by Dr Kamerman—not Cameron, but Kamerman, with a K. Dr Kamerman said that they have done the analysis of the effects of this government's policies on their business practice, on their health practice in Tamworth. And what they are saying is that they will have to charge non-concession-cardholders $100 every time they visit the doctor, and they will have to charge concession cardholders $65 each time they visit the doctor, and they will stop bulk-billing.

When you look at national health funding in this country, national health funding has been about encouraging bulk-billing to encourage people who cannot afford to access the doctor to access the doctor. At $100 to go and see a doctor, if Mr and Mrs Smith are crook, and their two kids are crook, they will have to go and get a loan to go and see a doctor in Tamworth. And what have the National Party done?

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, a point of order: I do not want to interrupt any legitimate debate here, but, again, I point out that this is a report on the National Health Funding Body, and I would like Senator Cameron to indicate which page of the report he is talking about that has any relevance at all to the subject off his debate.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order.

Senator CAMERON: I will not even reflect on what has been said there. So, the National Party, again, has been absolutely silent—

Senator O'Sullivan: The doormat.

Senator CAMERON: Senator O'Sullivan, you said it: the doormat. (Time expired)