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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31623

Ms GILLARD (10:39 AM) —It is not my wish either to detain the House after what has been a very long week. Having said that, can I make the following observations about the things the minister has just said. He appears to have forgotten who is in government. I might choose to remind him about that: he is going to get confused otherwise and start wandering around the House looking for a miscellaneous seat because he does not know which side of the House to sit on. The reality that the minister seems to have forgotten—and it is a sad reality for Australia, and we would all like to forget it from time to time, so I forgive him for his forgetfulness—is that the coalition is actually the government. Just so he is absolutely clear, let me remind him that the Prime Minister is actually John Howard and the Minister for Health and Ageing, although I know it is a constant surprise to him, is actually the member sitting there—he wakes up every morning wondering what his portfolio is, but he is actually the minister for health—and the bill before the House is a government bill. The bill is here because it is the policy of the government and, if the government is re-elected, PBS copayments will go up by 30 per cent on 1 January.

The position of the opposition is that, with the resources of government, we will endeavour to make all the necessary savings through better and smarter ways of saving on the PBS—ways that we have raised with the government but that they have not in any way cooperated with us on. They have not developed them or crystallised the savings associated with them. Once we have made those savings then we believe either no increase in copayments will be required or only a very modest increase will be required—and certainly not in the order of 30 per cent.

Can I also say to the minister opposite that, if he wants to talk about the mother of all backflips in Australian politics, it was performed by the minister for health on parliamentary superannuation. He was sent out one day by the Prime Minister to defend parliamentary superannuation, and the Prime Minister, without telling him, then backflipped—in the mother of all Australian backflips—leaving the minister for health stranded out there as the only person who was still arguing in favour of parliamentary superannuation. What did he do after that experience? Did he stand up to the Prime Minister and say, `Why did you do that to me? You made me look extremely foolish'? No. He came into the public domain and said, `I have never admired the Prime Minister more than I do today.'

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Lalor is aware that she has been granted a good deal of licence.

Ms GILLARD —That was the mother of all backflips in Australian politics.