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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 860


Mr DUTTON (Dickson) (15:20): I second this motion. If anybody needed any reassurance that this government is built on a lie, then they should look no further than this latest betrayal of the Australian people. This government went to the 2007 election saying to the Australian people that under no circumstances would it introduce this change. In question time today, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health tried to say to us that somehow they sought a mandate in 2010 for this change of position. But have a look at the time line and you get an understanding of the depth of betrayal that this government has undertaken on the Australian people.

This is a government that in February 2009 said to the Australian people that this rebate was not going to be modified at all. That was before the 2010 election, Minister Plibersek. This was not a mandate that you sought at the 2010 election. You went with a lie to the Australian people in the 2007 election and you betrayed that by the time of February, March, April and May of 2009. This is a government that did not seek a mandate for a change of policy in 2010. We should put a stop to that lie and that latest betrayal right here and right now.

The SPEAKER: Order! I am uncomfortable with the use of the term 'lie'. The honourable member would assist the chair if he withdrew it.

Mr DUTTON: I withdraw, Mr Speaker. Their record speaks for itself. This is a Prime Minister who, as we said in question time today, made a commitment to the Australian people that this change—this so-called reform—would not be introduced. This is a government which has tried to portray private health insurance in this country as some sort of playground for the rich. When you look at the facts, however, nothing could be further from the truth. We know that in this country almost half the population has private health insurance. We know that, of those people, about five million are on incomes of less than $50,000 per annum. We know that a million people who have private health insurance are on incomes of less than $25,000 per year. These are people who will be affected by these changes.

This government goes around—and of course you cannot rely on any figures that they put into the public debate—saying that, of the 11 million Australians who have private health insurance, about 30,000 will drop out as a result of this change. Does anybody believe for a moment, knowing the track record of this government, that those numbers will hold up? You are going to rip $2 billion—or $2.4 billion, depending on their estimates—out of private health insurance in this country and somehow only 30,000 out of the 11 million people with private health insurance are going to withdraw. It is an absolute nonsense and I do not think anybody should believe those figures.

The government's own insurer, Medibank, estimates that it alone will lose many thousands more than that figure of 30,000. HBF, the biggest provider in Western Australia, say that, just in WA, 208,000 people—or 23 per cent of their members—stand to lose all or part of their rebates. These people are not rich. These are people who are struggling with all of the cost-of-living pressures which have been heaped on them by the Labor government over the last four years. So, yes, this government has been coming into this place telling untruths about the figures—about how much impact there will be on the private health insurers and on those people with private health insurance in this country.

The other issue people need to be made aware of is that, when people flee private health insurance or when they downgrade their cover, those people are going to end up in the public system. We have a universal system in this country. People can turn up to a public hospital without charge to themselves—the taxpayer picks up the bill. Those people coming out of the private health system will put extra pressure on the public system. The people who are already waiting hours and hours in emergency departments right now will know that that situation is only going to get worse under this Prime Minister.

I do not think that this government can be believed about the impact of this change over the short term, let alone the longer term. I think that is why standing orders need to be suspended—because this Prime Minister needs to come into this place and explain to the Australian people why she misled them at the last election and why she has continued to mislead them every day since. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: I would remind the member, for next time, that he ought to more closely address the actual motion before the chair.