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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9154


Mr PALMER (Fairfax) (14:30): My question is to the Minister for Health, Mr Dutton. As most Australians are against the co-payment, Palmer United, the Greens and Labor have now formally declared war against it. There is no prospect of it becoming law. Why does the government persist in undermining business confidence by not putting forward proposals that have the support of the Australian people and by putting forward proposals that will never happen? Do they want to frighten people or undermine business confidence?

Mr DUTTON (DicksonMinister for Health and Minister for Sport) (14:31): I thank the member for Fairfax, and I thank him for the way in which he has been able to engage with me and with the government on this very important issue. We have had very productive discussions and his suggestions around the co-payment, which I have not spoken about publicly, we have welcomed. We have done work on the proposals put to us by the member for Fairfax and the Palmer United Party. Like the government, the Palmer United Party—and I think most good thinking Australians—understand that we have a problem when it comes to Medicare and we want to make sure that we can sustain it for the next generation. Labor had two independent reports that came to them and said that spending at its current level was unsustainable, but what did they do; what the member for Sydney do? She spent more money on building great big new bureaucracies and not on front-line services. Labor run around telling people, 'We raise $10 billion out of the Medicare levy. That'll pay for Medicare,' but, in typical economic fashion conducted by the Labor Party, the problem is that, for the $10 billion that we raise, we spend $20 billion a year on Medicare. So, if the Labor Party are going to go out before the next election saying to the Australian public that they are going to double the Medicare levy to pay for the gap, they should go out and declare that, if that is their plan. If their plan is to increase taxes, they should be up-front about it, but of course they are not, because Labor cannot manage the economy and they cannot manage the health portfolio.

We were spending $8 billion a year 10 years ago on Medicare. Today we spend $20 billion a year. In 10 years time we will spend $34 billion a year. What we are saying is that, through a modest co-payment, we will strengthen Medicare for the next generation. That is what the government aims to do. At the same time, we have adopted Labor's logic when it comes to the PBS, because Labor introduced a co-payment on the PBS. Why did they do that? They did it because, at the time, Labor were honest with the Australian public and they said, 'Our medicine scheme is unsustainable without the co-payment.' We are definite about our plans to strengthen Medicare and to make sure that we have a world-class health system for a generation to come. Labor are putting a proposal to the Australian public which is unfunded and, in typical Labor fashion, they ran out of money before they were able to do anything about this problem before the last election.