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Wednesday, 3 October 1984
Page: 1158

Senator COLSTON(6.53) —I wish to address my remarks to certain clauses in the Medicare Levy Bill 1984. Earlier today Senator Boswell informed the Senate that he would outline Queensland's view of Medicare funding. Senator Boswell was being less than honest. What he was outlining was the Queensland National Party's view of Medicare funding which in no way can be taken to represent the views of the Queensland people. I intend to outline factors which indicate that Queensland has been well treated by the Hawke Labor Government. I also mention that in the course of his convoluted remarks Senator Boswell made a statement that I never do anything for Queensland. That is a measure of the nonsense that Senator Boswell brings into this place. I dare say that on most days before Senator Boswell rises I achieve more for the State that I represent than he does in the rest of the day. But I will leave Senator Boswell's churlish remarks and return to the important area of Medicare funding.

Queensland is reimbursed under Medicare on the same basis as all other States, that is, on a reimbursement basis. In addition, Queensland, and Queensland alone , receives a special grant of $35m per annum. The Queensland Government has persistently claimed that under Medicare it is disadvantaged on a per capita basis compared with other States. This is the approach that Senator Boswell used today. This approach is a spurious one.

I will outline two basic facts about Medicare reimbursement to the States. Firstly, Medicare funding is unrelated to per capita funding. Therefore the per capita argument is at least misleading if not irrelevant. Secondly, Medicare funding is related to reimbursing each State for revenue it would otherwise have collected by way of hospital charges had Medicare not been introduced. Thus, in simple terms, the more revenue a State forgoes, the more it is reimbursed in dollar terms. In overall terms Medicare funding is a relatively small component of Commonwealth payments to the States. Nevertheless as the Queensland Government has, for simplistic political purposes, persisted with the irrelevant notion of per capita inequities, it is reasonable to look at the overall per capita position concerning the disbursement of total general tax sharing and significant health related grants to the States. Unfortunately, members of the National Party cite only the amounts that Queensland receives by way of Medicare grants. To make their arguments more attractive they fail to mention funds which come from other sources.

I wish to refer to a table for 1984-85 which clearly shows that once again Queensland is more generously treated than the two most populous States. The table is based on data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and is contained in one of the 1984-85 Budget Papers. I showed this table to a front bencher earlier and I now seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-


N.S.W. Vic. Qld S.A. W.A. Tas. N.T. Total

Est. Population Dec. 1983 ('000) 5,378.3 4,053.4 2,488.0 1,347.0 1,373.7 434.7 136.8 15,211.9 Tax Sharing Grants $m 2,693.7 2,013.6 1,890.0 997.1 1,044.6 415. 0 475.0 9,529.0 Health Grants $m 521.4 344.2 104.7 182.3 161.9 58.9 27.2 1,400. 6 Medicare $m 320.0 229.1 79.2 106.2 81.3 29.5 10.2 855.5

Total $m 3,535.1 2,586.9 2,073.9 1,285.6 1,287.8 503.4 512.4 11,785.1

Per capita 657.28 638.20 833.56 954.41 937.46 1,158.04 3,745.61 774.72

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Payments to or for the States, the Northern Territory and local government authorities. 1984-85 Budget Paper No. 7.

Senator COLSTON —The table indicates that if we take into account tax sharing grants, health grants and Medicare grants to the States the per capita amount received by New South Wales is $657, by Victoria $638 and by Queensland $833. Although Queensland receives a lesser amount per capita than South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania or the Northern Territory, it does receive an amount greater than the average per capita for the whole of Australia. This indicates that Queensland is not poorly done by when one looks at all funding that goes to that State.

Queensland is owed nothing under the Medicare arrangements. The Queensland Premier signed the agreement and by doing so accepted the basis on which Queensland Medicare funding would be calculated. In cash terms Queensland receives monthly advances in the same way as every other State. The Commonwealth agreed that the Commonwealth Grants Commission would consider the Queensland position under Medicare relative to other States as a special reference within its 1985 review of tax sharing relativities. The Grants Commission is expected to report on these matters by March 1985. It is a pity that the Queensland National Party Government continues to use an irrelevant argument for cheap political purposes. Queensland has not been short changed by the Government. Senator Boswell and his National Party cronies would do far better to convince the Queensland Government to use the money provided to Queensland to improve the public hospital system in Queensland.

Bills agreed to.

Bills reported without amendment or requests; report adopted.