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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31622


Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) (10:38 AM) —I do not wish to long detain the House on the Latham-Gillard-McMullan bill, the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits—Budget Measures) Bill 2002 [No. 2], which we are now debating, but it seems that we now have a third position on it from the ALP. Their first position was that they opposed these copayment increases tooth and nail and would never support them—`Not now, not ever,' in the immortal, deathless words of the member for Fraser, the shadow minister for finance. Then we had the mother of all backflips earlier this week when, desperate for money—and didn't their tune change when they suddenly needed some money themselves—they said, `Yes, these increases are necessary and this is responsible, and we are going to support the bill; in fact we begged the government to put it into the Senate.' Now—the sheer effrontery and gall of it—they come in and say the increases are not necessary.

So this is plainly an opposition that do not know where they are going. It is an opposition which was marked for 25 months by procrastination and hypocrisy. They had one blinding flash of insight and of realisation that this was actually the right thing to do, and now they are slinking back into their holes. As one frontbencher said to the AM program earlier this week, `We're going to pretend it never happened; we're going to pretend that we never did it.' They did it. These copayments are going through. They are going through courtesy of the federal opposition, and I say again to the House that the Latham-Gillard-McMullan bill should be supported.