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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1495

Senator COLBECK (2:31 PM) —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I note for the record that the minister did not give a commitment that no-one would have to wait longer for public hospital treatment, which is probably just as well given that the Tasmanian health minister said yesterday that she would be expecting even more money, an increase in federal funding, to deal with the likely increase in demand. Aren’t we just seeing the Garrett prophecy come true: ‘Once we get in, we’ll just change it all’?

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Human Services) —When the opposition were in government, they cut a billion from public hospitals and failed to tackle GP shortages. What we will do, and what we said we would do, is keep the Medicare levy surcharge. And we have. We said we would keep the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate, and we will. The Australian Health Insurance Association should show more faith—and perhaps the opposition should show more faith—in the ability of private health policies to meet the needs of consumers. If people are getting value for money, they will stick with the system. In six months in government we have announced $1 billion in extra funding for public hospitals over the next year, beginning to reverse the 11 years of neglect of our public hospital system by the opposition—by the Liberals—and we are providing $600 million to slash elective surgery and waiting lists. (Time expired)