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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31528

Mrs DRAPER (2:51 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Would the minister outline to the House the government's continued commitment to the three pillars of Medicare? How might alternative proposals damage the essential foundations of the Medicare system? What is the government response to this threat?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I thank the member for Makin for her question. There are some threats to the Medicare system and I want to make it very clear that as far as this government is concerned we have one motto: `Don't mess with Medicare'. We say to members opposite, `Don't mess with Medicare.' This government fully supports the three pillars of Medicare: the Medicare benefits schedule, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the Australian health care agreements. We support them without question or qualification. We certainly do not support the establishment of a national health reform commission that would put bureaucrats, not patients, in the driver's seat of the MBS and the PBS.

Let me remind the member for Lalor that she has made three major speeches in the last three months calling for the abolition of existing health programs and the pooling of this money in something reminiscent of the UK National Health Service at its worst. Three times this week she has stood up and made personal explanations to the effect of, `I said it but I didn't mean it.' It is the `Please don't take me seriously' defence from the member for Lalor.

So you can imagine my surprise when I got up this morning and I saw an article on the front page of the Daily Telegraph `Labor plans Medicare smart card for all', an exclusive by Sue Dunlevy. It says the `ALP health policy unveiled yesterday' includes:

A CONTROVERSIAL overhaul of health funding that would see federal and state funding for hospitals, aged care, rehabilitation and community care pooled and handed over to a regional health authority.

Who do you think leaked that exclusively to Sue Dunlevy? It was not me; it was in fact the member for Lalor. I again say to the member for Lalor, `Come clean about your plans.' She might support the Medicare card, but she certainly does not support the Medicare system. In all of this, she is just faithfully echoing her master's voice. There was a proposal a while back from a Professor Dick Scotton to pool all health funding. None other than the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Werriwa, said of the Scotton proposal:

This has the great benefit of pooling funding around the federal government ...

... ... ...

This is guiding stuff. This is the best way to approach health policy. ... This plan has so many advantages that it needs to be further developed. ... I think it gives the best guide as to how we can now modernise Medicare and spread its success throughout the Australian health sector.

That was the Leader of the Opposition in this parliament. This government does not want to modernise Medicare out of existence. This government supports Medicare. The only thing that members opposite like about Medicare is the name. I say to members opposite again and again, `Don't mess with Medicare.' This government will not mess with Medicare, but I say to the Australian people, `You can't trust Labor with your health.'