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Wednesday, 3 October 1984
Page: 1092

Senator BOSWELL(11.41) —I welcome the opportunity to enter this debate, particularly on the Medicare Levy Bill. I wish to put Queensland's position on this Bill. Before I do that I want to take Senator Maguire to task as I believe he gave some misleading figures. I seek permission of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard a table prepared by the Parliamentary Library on the tax levels of pensioners.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-

1982-83 TO 1984-85

Additional income weekly 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 Additional income per annum . . 260 520 780 1,040 1,300 1,560 1,820 2,080 2,340 2,600 1984-85 pension 4,771 4,771 4,771 4,771 4,771 4,771 4,771 4,641 4,511 4,381 4,251 Total income 4,771 5,031 5,291 5,551 5,811 6,071 6,331 6,461 6,591 6,721 6,851 Tax (1984-85) 47 116 186 255 324 394 463 498 532 567 602 Pensioner rebate 250 250 250 248 215 183 150 134 118 102 85 Net Tax Nil Nil Nil 7 109 211 313 364 414 465 517 *1983- 84 pension 4,445 4,445 4,445 4,445 4,445 4,445 4,445 4,315 4,185 4,055 3,925 Total income 4,445 4,705 4,965 5,225 5,485 5,745 6,005 6,135 6,265 6,395 6,525 Tax (1983-84) Nil 33 111 189 267 345 423 462 501 540 579 Pensioner rebate . . 250 250 250 243 210 178 162 146 129 113 Net Tax Nil Nil Nil Nil 24 135 245 300 355 411 466 *1982-83 pension 4,012 4,012 4,012 4,012 4,012 4,012 4,012 3,882 3, 752 3,622 3,492 Total income 4,012 4,272 4,532 4,792 5,052 5,312 5,572 5,702 5, 832 5,962 6,092 Tax (1982-83) Nil Nil 21 101 181 261 340 380 420 460 500 Pensioner rebate . . . . 167 167 161 129 96 80 64 48 31 Net Tax Nil Nil Nil Nil 20 132 244 300 356 412 469

* Actual Pension Income: Department of Social Security.

Economics and Commerce Group

7 September 1984 Legislative Research Service

Senator BOSWELL —I thank the Senate. As I have said, I wish to put Queensland's case on the Medicare debate. We have had misinformation in this place from the Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, aided and abetted by Senator Reynolds and Senator Colston, who I see is in here to interject. If Senator Colston has a position to put he should act like a man, and stand up and place it before the Senate as I am doing now.

In answer to a question from Senator Reynolds, Senator Grimes said that the Queensland Government was not spending its Federal Medicare allocation on health in Queensland. That is a gross misrepresentation of the truth. Senator Grimes and the Labor Government should be very careful before making such accusations. I believe that Senator Grimes has not studied the Medicare position of Queensland. Much of what he has said in the Senate has been said on the run. I believe it is time that the facts are spelt out for his benefit and for the benefit of Senator Colston, Senator Reynolds and all other honourable senators in the Government.

I will spell out the facts exactly. Queensland has been cheated-I use the word cheated-of $62m a year. That is the amount owing to the Queensland Government if it is to be paid at the same rate as every other State in Australia. I state that figure again for the benefit of Senator Colston: $62m is the amount that Queensland is owed, what Queensland should be paid if it is not to be discriminated against. Queensland receives $46.60 per person under the Medicare outlays, under Commonwealth Government grants. The other States receive $65 per person. That represents a shortfall of $20 per person in Queensland. That is the fraud that has been perpetuated by the Federal Government. It is defrauding Queensland taxpayers of $62m a year-$20 for every man, woman and child. The justification for this is that Queensland had a free hospital system at the time of the introduction of Medicare. The Government's justification is that because Queensland had a free hospital system it has always paid the medical costs. What an absolute fraud. Does Senator Colston not think, as he is sitting over there, that he should be standing up for Queensland? He should be saying that Queenslanders pay the same rate of tax as every other Australian. Senator Colston is sitting there and letting the people he represents be defrauded of $ 62m. He must not come here in the Senate and tell me I do not know what I am talking about.

Senator Colston —You wouldn't have a clue, you old fool.

Senator BOSWELL —I think that remark should be withdrawn.

Senator Colston —I am quite happy to withdraw the word 'old'.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman) —Order! Senator Colston, there has been an objection to the remark that Senator Boswell is an old fool, and I must request that you withdraw it.

Senator Colston —I am quite happy to withdraw, Madam Chair.

Senator BOSWELL —Thank you. As I was saying, every Queenslander pays the same amount of tax as every other person in Australia and should receive the same benefits. On 10 September, in answer to a question, the Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, said that Queensland had done well out of Medicare. He said that the Queensland Government had misused $20m of Queensland's funds. If Senator Grimes was in the Senate at the moment I would call for a withdrawal of that statement too. The Courier-Mail contained a Press release entitled: ' Medicare cash spent properly in Queensland'. The Courier-Mail is the premier independent newspaper of Queensland. It said: 'We are not spending the money unwisely or wrongly'. Queensland received an allocation from the Federal Government of $79m plus a $35m special grant. That is a total of $114m. The $35m that was allocated to Queensland in the Federal Budget on 22 August was promised at the July 1983 Premiers Conference when the big hearted Federal Government gave us $15 a head and everyone else $50 a head. The Premier had to go in there and fight tooth and nail for the people of his State. Senator Colston could take a page out of his book and fight for the people who put him down here instead of trying to rob them. The Premier fought for a $35m special grant and got it. Now the Medicare subsidy has moved up to $46.60 per head compared with the other States. The Australian people are receiving $65 a head but Queenslanders are still $20 behind the eight ball.

After the Federal Budget on 22 August Queensland's share of the Medicare funds, including the $35m grant, came to $114m. I want to tell honourable senators exactly what the position is at the moment in Queensland. The facts are that last year Queensland spent $743m through the Hospital Administration Trust Fund on health services for the people of Queensland. Last year $720m was allocated for these services in the Budget. Of the $23m, $15m came from the special grant and the remaining shortfall was made up by the Queensland Government. Senator Grimes told us in the Senate that a special subsidy was given to Queensland to make up Queensland's pre-existing free health service. The Queensland Government had to fight to get that subsidy up to $50m, which is paid in monthly instalments over 17 months, or $35m this financial year. That is still not proper compensation as it should be much more. It should place Queensland on an appropriate equal footing with the other States. The Queensland Government has spent every cent of that grant on its health services and, what is more, it will always be able to account for every cent that it has spent on its health Budget.

Why has the Australian Labor Party spread this story? The reason is so that it can hide the fact that the people of Queensland are being short changed to the tune of $62m a year. That is why this misrepresentation is being spread around the Senate. Thankfully it is not going any further than here because the people of Queensland realise exactly what this Government is doing to them. In essence it is taking one per cent of their wages, which it promised to do, but it is also taking one per cent of investments on people's savings for a service that every Queenslander previously got for nothing. I reiterate that the whole of Queensland is not only being discriminated against because the people are not being subsidised $65 a head under the Budget but also the people are paying for a service that is costing them one per cent, which they got for nothing for 30 or 40 years. I ask honourable senators: What do they think the people of Queensland think about that? Of course they are upset and honourable senators should understand exactly why.

The Medicare monster is now out of financial control. It is running rampant. No one on the Government side can control it. No one knows what is going to happen to it. Medicare ran $109m over the Budget last year. The 1983-84 Budget deficit for the Medicare scheme was $134m. In 1983 Dr Blewett said that the Department of Health estimated a $25m deficit. No one has been able accurately to pinpoint the cost of Medicare. We have become used to revision upon revision of the actual cost of the scheme. For example the Treasurer (Mr Keating) said that the net effect of the introduction of Medicare on the 1983-84 Budget would be $35m from February 1984 and $80m in the full financial year. However, two days later the Minister recalculated his figures saying that the deficit would be $25m for that period and, for the full financial year of 1984-85, it would be $62m. Government senators will have to admit that they do not know where Medicare is taking them. It is a monster that is out of control and someone ought to do something about it very quickly because 9 out of 10 Australians are not receiving the benefit, as the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) said they would. I believe that probably six or seven out of 10 Australians-as Senator Walters pointed out-have been hurt by Medicare. Even Dr Blewett, who prescribes what we should be doing, makes rules for the whole of Australia but cannot abide by those rules when it comes to his own family. What can be expected if the Minister cannot even stand up for a Bill he has brought in? No wonder everyone in Australia has lost complete faith in he Medicare system.

What is Medicare? It is only another Labor control on doctors' incomes, which we have seen time and again since this Government came to office. Mr Willis has now brought down another system to control engineers' wages. It will not be long before accountants' wages are controlled. The Government says: 'We will do it through the prices and incomes accord, through the Economic Planning Advisory Council and through the National Economic Summit Conference'. What a giant fraud we are facing. All the Government wants to do is control incomes, and it is doing that successfully.

Senator Childs —Thanks.

Senator BOSWELL —Is the honourable senator acknowledging that the Government wants everyone on one level?

Senator Childs —We want to control incomes so that unemployment will be soaked up.

Senator BOSWELL —The Government will not soak unemployment up if it keeps adding on costs, such as redundancy and superannuation payments to the running of a business; but that is another area that we will come to later. I am very glad to be able to put Queensland's position on the record-

Senator Colston —The Queensland National Party position.

Senator BOSWELL —I stand up for Queensland; Senator Colston knocks it. He never says one decent thing about it. Queensland has openly disclosed its honest accounting of the Medicare funding and Queenslanders look forward to the Federal Government treating them equally with their fellow Australians and stopping the present rip-off of Queenslanders in unfair Medicare funding.