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Thursday, 11 March 2004
Page: 21368

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads) (12:33 PM) —I will answer Senator Allison while her question is fresh in my mind. Firstly, there is no doubt that the $220 payment for the allied health professionals and the extra $220 for dental work in complex and chronic cases meets one of the complaints about the existing scheme. You could come up with the perfect program for someone with diabetes, for example, who needs that care, but if they cannot afford to pay for it then the uptake is not going to be as good. It is a very clear benefit. Secondly, we have made it very clear that we will be consulting with doctors about how we will implement the scheme. We want to ensure that the value of the $220 payment, which is not available now to people—this support for allied health professionals and dentists is not available under any existing scheme; it was not envisaged in any policy that I have seen, and it is a good policy—is provided to the patients without putting an undue burden on the doctors.

Senator Allison knows better than most, because she takes a very close interest in this, that this government has been very active in looking at ways to reduce red tape in doctors' surgeries. We set up an inquiry, we have responded to it and we have implemented a whole range of measures to do that using the very best information and communications technologies. We have given assistance to doctors' surgeries to get them online and to increase the uptake of practice software. That is the same constructive, positive and active attitude that we will take to make sure the new program ensures that doctors, where it is in their patients' interests, take up the new benefits that are attached to the health care plans.