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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 950

Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (21:51): I rise to express my concern and outrage at the detrimental effects of federal and state Labor policies on the cost of living for constituents in my electorate. The people of Brisbane deserve better than the incompetence and mismanagement of the Gillard and Bligh Labor governments. The latest attack by Labor on the cost of living of constituents in my electorate is the private health insurance rebate changes that are currently before the parliament. The changes propose the slashing of the private health rebate and increasing the Medicare levy surcharge for certain categories of taxpayers. This is effectively a tax hike for the relevant taxpayers in the categories that are prescribed, but the impact does not stop there. Independent analysis has predicted the flow-on and indirect effects of the changes will be very, very significant. These changes will force people to drop their private health cover or choose cheaper cover with more procedures excluded, thus creating upward pressure on premiums for everyone, including low- and middle-income earners, and forcing more people into overcrowded, overstretched public health services.

We see evidence of this every day at the Royal Brisbane Hospital in Herston. The AMA public hospital record card 2011 also revealed that 220,000 Queensland patients were kept 'off the books' for elective surgery; ambulances queue for hours outside emergency departments just to get their patients through the door and into a bed. These changes are especially significant for my electorate, because 89,920 people in Brisbane have private health insurance and 66,676 of these people are voters, which equates to 72 per cent of the voting public. This is 20 per cent above the national average.

The real life impact of these changes is expressed very well in an email I received from a constituent of mine in Grange. He writes:

I just read an article regarding debate about the medicare levy and means testing the rebate. I'm 31 and got private health insurance just in time. what a waste that was.

I earn just over $80,000 and my girlfriend who i've bought a house with is a teacher. I went to uni and have a hecs debt but because of my earnings I'm paying it off. would like to pay it in bulk but they've dropped the discount so the $$$ better in my pocket for longer.

Why is it that everything is means tested? We are currently just over the limit, meaning that we are getting slugged with the flood levy, soon to be carbon tax and if they change the Medicare levy or increase it, we will be dudded on that as well. Tell me why Australians should try to succeed. There is no point. I'm now working harder for free. The more i earn the quicker i pay my hecs, the more i pay for others. I'm on the borderline. I should go get a job earning $75,000 and I'd be better off. No levy's,no means testing.

Please do something. This country is going down the drain!

These are the forgotten Australians that Labor is ignoring. As this constituent says, the changes come on top of the flood levy and the carbon tax. This is an ordinary, hardworking Australian who aspires to be successful.

Increasing the cost of living for working Australians is not a trait that is unique to federal Labor governments, because the Bligh government has an equally appalling record in this regard. Massive increases in electricity, water, stamp duty and car registration have been the hallmark of the Bligh government and its predecessor the Beattie government. That is why there is a very important choice for Queenslanders to make on 24 March. My electorate will be a key battleground in this fight. The LNP led by Campbell Newman has a plan to lower the cost of living by freezing car registration, repealing the waste tax, reinstating the principal place of residence concessional rate for stamp duty, cutting government waste and many other measures.

I look forward to working with Campbell in Ashgrove; Saxon Rice, up against one of Australia's worst Treasurers, Andrew Fraser in Mt Coo-tha; Dr Chris Davis in Stafford; Robert Cavallucci in Brisbane Central; and Tim Nicholls in Clayfield to ensure that we have a government that is committed to lowering the cost of living for Queenslanders. The people of Brisbane will have their chance to send both federal and state Labor a message on 24 March, and I urge them to do so by consigning the Bligh government to the scrapheap of Australian political history—exactly where it belongs.