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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2079

Mr TICEHURST (3:02 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Would the minister provide the House with further examples of families being helped through the new Medicare safety net? Are there any alternative policies?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I thank the member for Dobell for his question, and I congratulate him on the way he is representing the people of Dobell. As the member for Dobell well knows, and as all members on this side of the House well know, the Howard government's brand new safety net is the biggest single structural improvement to our Medicare system in the 20 years that it has been operating. Thanks to the Howard government's safety net more than half a million Australians are now enjoying higher Medicare rebates. Half a million Australians who are older and sicker, who are facing higher costs, are enjoying higher Medicare rebates thanks to the Howard government. That is more than 3,000 people per electorate who are enjoying higher Medicare rebates thanks to the Howard government's safety net—a safety net which members opposite want to take away from them. These are real people with real problems who are receiving real benefits thanks to the government.

For instance, there is a patient with lung cancer. This patient has received an additional $1,080 thanks to the Howard government's safety net. Members opposite like to parade their compassion credentials. I ask the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Lalor: what is compassionate about taking $1,000 from someone with lung cancer? There is an elderly woman suffering from incontinence. She is receiving an additional $415 thanks to the Howard government's safety net. What is compassionate about the Labor Party wanting to take $400 from an old woman suffering health problems? An elderly man with septic ulcers has received an additional $240 thanks to the Howard government's safety net. That man will lose $240 if members opposite get into government.

Let it be very clear to the people of Australia that the only political party in this country which is proposing to actually cut any health program is the Australian Labor Party. They are the only ones in this country who are proposing to cut a health program. It was not always that way. I have here the words of the member for Werriwa when he was just the plain old member for Werriwa in this parliament in 1994—`once was Werriwa'. He said:

... egalitarian values should always be reflected in the maintenance of a compassionate and effective safety net ...

That is precisely what the Howard government has done. That is precisely what the member for Werriwa has forgotten. These days, he has changed. These days, he is inspired by Whitlam, he is advised by Keating, but I have got to say that I think secretly he was cloned by Doc Evatt. If Ben Chifley and John Curtin were around today, they would be supporting the John Howard Liberal Party, not the Mark Latham Labor Party.