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Monday, 31 October 2011
Page: 12152

Ms O'DWYER (Higgins) (10:49): Unlike the Prime Minister I am not afraid to wear out my shoe leather talking to my constituents in Higgins. In fact, only the other Sunday I was doorknocking my local constituents and they raised with me the issues that concerned them. Two of the big issues in Higgins right now are the cost of living and the provision of and access to quality health care. The Gillard-Brown government is going to make it even more difficult for families in the electorate of Higgins on both fronts, as it plans to slug individuals and families even more for their private health insurance. Currently, around 77 per cent of all people in the electorate of Higgins pay for private health insurance. The position that the government has outlined is maintained in its planned legislation to be brought forward and was restated by the Minister for Health and Ageing over the weekend. But it was not always so. Before the last election the government said it would not touch private health insurance. But we know that this government says one thing and does another. The government claims that the reasons for this decision are economic and that it stands to save $2.8 billion over the forward estimates. However, independent modelling shows that not to be the case and that the net loss to the government could be in the order of $1 billion.

Deloitte, one of the largest and most respected audit firms in the world, investigated the impact of this government's proposed means-testing. The main findings to come out of that report were that 1.6 million consumers would drop private hospital cover and a further 4.3 million would downgrade their cover. A further 2.8 million would drop their ancillary cover—for instance, dental—and, as a consequence, private health insurance premiums would rise by 10 per cent more than would otherwise be expected, making it less affordable for those people retaining private cover.

This would result in public hospitals having to treat significantly higher numbers of patients—some 845,000 additional patients—as people withdraw from private cover. The impact on private health and public health will be significant. It shatters the claims of the health minister and Treasury that only approximately 27,000 people will drop their private health insurance cover. The minister's claim that 0.26 per cent of people who have private health insurance will drop their cover is not credible, considering that, according to Treasury's own figures, 1,603,972 of the 2,240,842—or 71.5 per cent—individuals who have private health insurance earn under $75,000 and about 79.4 per cent of those listed as a member of a couple who have private health insurance earn under $150,000. That means that, on average, around 25 per cent of those who have private health insurance stand to lose their health insurance rebate. Even common sense tells us that these government figures are simply absurd. It is most definitely a case of Gillard economics and Gillard figures. It simply does not stand up. This measure will impact on families in the electorate of Higgins, and I will stand up for them.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): Before calling the member for Hindmarsh, I would gently remind the member for Higgins that she ought to refer to the Prime Minister by her title.