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Monday, 7 July 2014
Page: 4190

Budget


Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (14:00): Mr President, congratulations on your elevation. My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Nash. Is the minister aware of the recent University of Sydney study which found that a young family consisting of two parents and two young children will pay an additional $184, on average, to access medical care as a result of the government's $7 GP tax and increased prescription fees? Is this correct?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:01): I am aware of the Sydney university research. I am also very well aware that the previous Labor government left us a budget mess, which we are addressing. There have been a range of views expressed relating to the budget since that time. But what is very important for the Senate to note is the very fact that we are having to take tough decisions is because of the previous government's economic mismanagement and the budget mess that they left us. We had an MBS 10 years ago that was costing this nation $8 billion. It is now costing around $19 billion and is projected to cost around $34 billion over the next decade. This government has had to make some tough decisions. There has been a range of commentary about that.

Senator Moore: Mr President, I rise on a point of order, which is particularly on direct relevance. The minister has been asked specifically about whether she thinks that the figures quoted in the question are correct. It is not whether she is aware of the University of Sydney process. It is about the specific figures about the cost of two parents and two children and the impact of the GP tax. I would ask you to draw the attention of the minister to the question.

The PRESIDENT: The minister has got nearly a minute left answer the question. The minister is being relevant.

Senator NASH: I indicated that I am aware of the view. I am aware of a range of views when it comes to the budget measures that this government has put in place. For over 50 years, successive governments have recognised the need for a co-payment when it comes to the PBS. We have had something like an 80 per cent blow-out over the last decade in the PBS. The question relates the PBS. The reason we have made—

Senator Moore: Mr President, I again rise on a point of order on direct relevance. The question is specifically about the figures in the question and about whether they are correct. That is the question.

The PRESIDENT: The question was broader than just the indication of figures. Senator Nash is being relevant.

Senator NASH: As I was indicating to the chamber, over successive governments for nearly 50 years there has been an acknowledgement that there needed to be a co-payment when it comes to the PBS, to ensure that it is sustainable. This government will ensure that we have a sustainable health system into the future. The budget is going to relate to ensuring that happens.








Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (14:04): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the minister also understand and accept that this study found that the elderly and those with chronic conditions will be the hardest hit by the government's $7 GP tax and that it could deter those who are most vulnerable in our community from seeking treatment, due to higher costs? Is this study correct?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:04): I am aware of the study, as I have indicated. I am aware of a range of views about what the impact is going to be. However, the previous Labor government left us with a trajectory—

Senator Wong: Mr President, on a point of order: the fact that the word 'aware' is in part of a question does not mean that the minister can simply say, 'I am aware of everything,' and then not answer the question. The question is very specifically about a study which shows that the government's GP tax deters the vulnerable from seeking medical care. That is the question that the minister should respond to and that is the question that the minister should be directly relevant to.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. The minister has only been going for 12 seconds in this answer.

Senator NASH: I would say that, as with most studies relating to these things, this needs to be taken in context. This government has said that the requirement for a modest contribution when it comes to a co-pay is a necessity to ensure that we have a sustainable health system into the future. Unlike those opposite with a history of waste and mismanagement, which has led to the fact that we have a tough budget, we—

Senator Moore: Mr President, I again rise on a point of order on relevance. The specific question refers to the accuracy of the report. We have not got there yet.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. Senator Nash might not be answering the question specifically, but she is being relevant to the topic and relevant to the question.

Senator NASH: I indicated that the research needed to be taken in context. This government is going to take the tough decisions to ensure that we have a sustainable health system into the future.








Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (14:06): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Why is the government continuing to deny that their $7 GP tax will hurt families, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions, the people who need health care, not more health costs?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:06): Isn't it interesting that the shadow Assistant Treasurer actually supports a co-pay? Let me just share this with the chamber:

But there's a better way of operating a health system, and the change should hardly hurt at all. As economists have shown, the ideal model involves a small co-payment - not enough to put a dent in your weekly budget, but enough to make you think twice before you call the doc. And the idea is hardly radical.

That is from your shadow Assistant Treasurer.

Senator Moore: Mr President, I rise on a point of order again going to relevance. We only have a minute for this particular answer. It is halfway through. We have not got close to the question, which is about the impact on the elderly and those with chronic health conditions. The minister has gone nowhere near it.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. Senator Nash is being generally relevant to the portfolio and the question. Senator Nash, you have the call.

Senator NASH: The best way those opposite could assist the elderly and indeed all people across Australia is to support this government getting rid of the carbon tax, which is putting such a huge impost on people. Those opposite claim that they are worried about the cost to people. Get rid of the carbon tax. That will assist them all. (Time expired)