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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4081


Mr THISTLETHWAITE (Kingsford Smith) (10:31): The Turnbull government has really let our community down when it comes to the delivery of health services and, in particular, Medicare. In the first Abbott budget, we saw $50 billion in cuts made to the hospital's budget for the nation. Those cuts have been kept by the Turnbull government and, over the course of this year, you are going to see those cuts hit hospitals; particularly, in our community, the Prince of Wales Hospital—where already 30 beds have been closed, staff are not being replaced, and the hospital is under enormous pressure.

Also in the electorate of Kingsford Smith, in our community, we are facing a number of challenges associated with the closure of our local Medicare office at Eastgardens. In 2014, the government closed that Medicare office, and we warned that there would be cuts to services, and that customers would face increasing delays. But the government said: 'No; no problem—it will be all right: we are relocating to the Centrelink office at Maroubra, there will be the same staff, it will be a separate line, and there will be no cuts to services.' Well, the outcome has been anything but what the government promised. There has been a reduction in the level of services. And I am now inundated with emails, particularly from elderly constituents who are facing difficulties in accessing Medicare services in our local community. Many now go into the Centrelink office in Maroubra, and face 20-deep lines, and queues for services associated with Medicare. Many of them just give up. And they go home and try and get on the phone, but they cannot get through on the phone—sometimes it does not even work; you can't even get through and get any sort of message about what is going on. I asked local representatives if they could come to a seniors morning tea and sign up people for the online service and the call-back service. They said they could not do that—because the system was not operating! The system had closed down.

This is the sort of service delivery that we getting from this Turnbull government when it comes to the delivery of health services. Now they say that they want to privatise the delivery of Medicare services. So they are going to ask the private sector to run the payments processing and the ancillary services associated with Medicare. Well, we all know that the private sector are out for one thing—that is, to make a dollar for their business. So again we are going to see further cuts to services associated with Medicare, and we are going to see the cost of delivering the services increase for taxpayers. Top this off with the cuts to the rebate for diagnostic imaging—which will see those organisations simply pass on the cost to consumers—and the end result is that people in my community and across Australia are suffering. We know this government is not committed to Medicare.