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Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Page: 4279

Mr GEORGANAS (3:42 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Will the minister update the House on the government’s plans to improve the health system for all Australians and on any other policy proposals?

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I thank the member for Hindmarsh for his question. It is nice to get a question on health. It has been a number of days since the budget and we have not had any serious questions from the opposition on health, we have not had one on infrastructure and we have not had one on family and community services. In fact, even as I stand here today there does not appear to be a health spokesperson or an education spokesperson even here in the chamber. We are determined to invest in health. It is why in our budget we are making historic investments in hospitals, in primary care and in infrastructure in a whole range of different areas. The fact that every Australian can receive free treatment in a public hospital, no matter where they live and no matter what their income level is, is something that Labor is absolutely committed to. It is why the government has invested more than 50 per cent more into our public hospitals than the previous government did in its last agreement.

It seems clear to me that the opposition are really struggling to come up with any alternative health policy. I can imagine after the budget the Leader of the Opposition sitting down, perhaps with the member for Dickson and perhaps sharing a Bacardi Breezer or something, and having a chat over what sort of a response they might make. I would not be surprised if the member for Dickson does not have any suggestions and I imagine that the Leader of the Opposition might decide to call an elder statesman of the Liberal Party, so put a call in to say, ‘What sorts of ideas do you have for our health policy?’ I am pretty sure that call was made because shortly after we saw some comments coming out that seemed to be the formulation of health policy. We heard the member for Dickson exclaiming, ‘We need to get private patients out of public hospitals.’ Then we heard the Leader of the Opposition speaking fondly of his utopian vision that every Australian would have private health insurance. It seems to me that the view was becoming clearer and clearer about what the Liberal Party sees as a sensible health policy: take money out of public hospitals and force everybody into private health insurance. I am sure it will not be long before they are attacking Medicare.

So you might, on this side of the House, be asking: ‘Who was it? Who was it that the Leader of the Opposition called in his hour of need?’ I want to give the House a bit of a clue. It is an elder statesman in the Liberal Party. It is a person who has been in the parliament for a long time. He is a man of ideas—I know that does limit the people that it might be. He is a man of vision, which does rule out the member for Higgins, in case anybody thought it was him.

The Leader of the Opposition decided to call somebody with real policy gravitas and I would like to give you a quote, before I tell you who this person was. Listen to this interview conducted with the then Liberal shadow minister for health. The interviewer says simply, ‘So the proposal is the end of Medicare and for everyone to pay for private health insurance?’ The shadow minister says: ‘Yes, no Medicare. Yes, everybody to be privately insured.’ And who do you think the architect was—the true ideological grandfather?

Mr Tuckey —It was me.

Ms ROXON —Of course, that is right. Malcolm would turn to the member for O’Connor for advice on health policy—taking us not just a decade back but two decades back into Liberal Party thinking on health policy. No wonder there have been no questions from the opposition on health after the budget.

We are determined to invest in public hospitals. We are determined to support those who have private health insurance. We are determined to get the right balance, and we expect the Leader of the Opposition to be prepared to do the same. He should recant on his view that every single Australian must have private health insurance and he should start backing our investments in public hospitals so that every Australian can get their care in a public hospital free of charge if that is what they choose.

Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.