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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 13277

Ms MARINO (9:36 AM) —I rise to table the following petition from constituents in my electorate of Forrest who strongly oppose the Labor government’s cut to the Medicare rebate for cataract surgery. The petition consists of 529 signatures from constituents who believe that slashing the cataract surgery rebate by 46 per cent and forcing senior Australians and pensioners to delay having the surgery is a major problem for people throughout my electorate and across Australia. The government is punishing patients needing cataract surgery by making them pay hundreds of dollars more for treatment. This is contradictory behaviour by the government given that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs is increasing the rebate for the very same surgery for veterans. We certainly believe that veterans deserve first-class health care, but so too do seniors in the south-west, who are now being forced to pay back the reckless spending of the Labor government. This is the way that Australians will pay for the Labor government’s debt and deficit.

According to the Australian Medical Association, 79 per cent of Medicare rebates for cataract surgery are paid to men and women over 65. I have over 16,500 residents in my electorate in this age group who will be hit hard by this cut, and I stand here in this House on their behalf. One constituent who contacted my office explained that her husband recently had cataract surgery on one eye but, due to the cut in the rebate, cannot afford to have surgery on the other. She said it would make it difficult for him to just do the simple things in life.

I would like to make special mention of the principal petitioner and local resident, Shirley Robb, and five local businesses and organisations that were instrumental in gaining so many signatures: the Busselton Senior Citizens Centre, the Busselton Association of Independent Retirees, Capel Pharmacy, Collie day care centre and South West Eye Surgeons. In conclusion I, like the many constituents in my electorate, call on the government to reverse this ill-considered cut to the cataract rebate. I am pleased to present this petition.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives

This petition of certain citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House:-

The 120,000 senior Australians who, each year, have 200,000 surgical procedures to treat cataracts.

We therefore ask the House to:-

Block any Labor Government effort to halve the Medicare rebate for these treatments. Any reduction in the Medicare rebate will force thousands of Australians into an already overburdened public health system and inflict unnecessary financial hardship on many others.

from 530 citizens

Petition received.