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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5185

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (12:16): Minister, you have spoken about the National Health Reform Agreement. As I understand it, it is $16.4 billion worth of additional Commonwealth funding. In my electorate of Throsby in the state of New South Wales we are very keenly interested in this. If you picked up over the last week the newspapers which are circulated in any areas of New South Wales you will have seen a raging debate going on about hospital waiting lists and quite some concern about the capacity of hospitals and medicos within those hospitals to deal with a blowout in waiting lists. My question in this particular area is: how can we be seeing this increase in waiting lists at a time when the Commonwealth is actually increasing its funding to the hospital sector in states like New South Wales? Is our increase in funding going to the right places? Is it above and beyond CPI increases? What is going wrong here?

The second issue that I would like to hear from you about, Minister, concerns Medicare Locals. I understand that we have a number of Medicare Locals throughout the country who are already up and running, with a particularly successful one in the Illawarra which is well received within the community. I would like to hear from you about the importance of Medicare Locals in our overall delivery of primary health care and what that means and whether there is a threat to Medicare Locals and the benefit that they provide to the community.

Thirdly, I am also keen to hear from you, Minister, about the impact of this budget on the healthcare needs of people in my electorate. I will give you a little bit of a profile of the people in my electorate. The percentage of people in my electorate over the age of 65 is roughly 18 per cent, which is above the New South Wales average of 15 per cent and the Australian average of 14 per cent. So it is a greying electorate. Also, around 33 per cent of people in my electorate are classified as coming from low-SES backgrounds. That contrasts to the Australia-wide average of about 19 per cent. How are the measures within this budget helping to address the health needs of people from these two demographics?

Next, in relation to bulk billing, I was very pleased to see that over 92 per cent of the presentations to general practitioners in my electorate are bulk billed. This contrasts well with the national average of 82 per cent. What policies have we got in place to ensure that we can continue to see high rates of bulk billing for people who present to general practitioners in electorates like mine?

Then I have two issues regarding the Medicare Benefits Scheme. On my analysis, the average person receives around $966 per annum from the Medicare Benefits Scheme in my electorate, compared to the $780 average across Australia, and $446 per annum from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme per person compared to the $332 average per annum across Australia. What reasons can you give for the increased spending in both the MBS and the PBS for people in electorates such as mine? How are measures within this budget going to ensure that we can continue to deliver high rates of bulk billing, benefits from the Medicare Benefits Scheme and benefits from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to people in my electorate, who quite clearly, on the aggregate figures, are relying heavily on these two important government schemes?

Mr Dutton: I seek some clarification on the process here, Madam Deputy Speaker. In previous years, the minister, during consideration in detail, has always made at least some attempt to answer questions at the time they were put. It was only when the minister was not readily able to provide the facts that the question would be taken on notice and detail provided later. My question to you is about how proceedings should be conducted.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Grierson ): The minister is able to take the questions and answer them at the end if he or she wishes. The process here is that we have five minutes—

Mr Mitchell: I am seeking clarification, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are doing consideration in detail of the budget. This is the opportunity for the opposition to ask detailed questions about the budget. Are we to understand that the minister is going to listen to this for one hour and then respond at the end of it?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The minister can do that.

Mr Mitchell: That is just outrageous.