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Thursday, 25 October 2018
Page: 11203


Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (15:57): I rise today in support of the matter of public importance before this House, and I do so because Labor, on this side, believes in investing in health care so that all Australians can access services of the best possible quality. In this matter of public importance, it is important to highlight the failures of the government. All we have to do is look back at the 2013 federal election, when the then leader, the member for Warringah, said publicly, on TV, a few nights before the election, 'There will be no cuts to health,' and he pledged to continue Labor's fifty-fifty hospital funding arrangement. But in his government's first budget—the very first budget—they tore up Labor's agreement, ripped it to shreds, not honouring the promise that he had made a few months earlier, and reverted to the previous, failed funding system—the failed formula that resulted in a $57 billion cut to hospitals across Australia. You cannot take $57 billion out and expect the hospital and healthcare system to operate in a way that provides good, proper health care to Australians.

As we've heard from colleagues, Labor believe in a universal health system. We were the ones that invented it. We were the ones that brought it to parliament on two occasions. On the first occasion, it was ripped down by the Fraser government. When Hawke came back as Prime Minister, a Labor government reintroduced it—and again the now government opposed it. They voted against it that time as well. We know it's in the government's DNA. It's in their DNA to rip down Medicare if they can. We certainly know this.

In the last federal election, if we hadn't spoken out, if we hadn't challenged them, they would have privatised Medicare. The only reason they haven't done it so far is that we on this side have defended it year after year after year. It's been defended by us because we believe in it. You don't believe in it. That's the difference. The reality is that, after the 2013 election, you tried to water it down by bringing in the co-payment for GPs. It didn't work, so you went through the back door. The back door was to put a freeze on doctor's payments. So you had already sown the seeds in 2014 for people not to trust you when it came to Medicare, for the Australian public not to trust this Liberal government. And nor should they, when they look at your track record.

We heard the member for Ballarat talk about the PBS. Those opposite wanted to bring in a co-payment where pensioners would be expected to pay $5 more for their medicines. Not only that; today we saw a report in the paper that said they actually are privatising parts of Medicare by bringing in contract workers to work in Medicare offices. It might not be a direct privatisation but it is creeping in, and they would love to creep it in all the way and privatise it. Their agenda has been to privatise Medicare from back in the Whitlam days, when they abolished it, and the Hawke days, when they opposed it. Every change that we bring in to better it, they oppose it.

There's much more I could go on with. For example, we know that the government ripped down the fifty-fifty hospital funding agreement—they tore up Labor's agreement—and made a further $10.4 billion in cuts to Medicare and other health programs, including the dental care program that Labor brought in. They ripped that up and threw it away immediately. They tried to bring in a $7 GP co-payment. It is in this government's DNA to water Medicare down, to bring it down, to do everything they can not to have a good, universal system.

We on this side of the chamber believe in a universal system. We believe that everyone should have access to good health care. We also believe that everyone can visit their GP if they're not feeling well and want tests. Those on that side of the chamber want us to present our credit card, not our Medicare card. It's quite obvious.

The reforms that this side of politics, the Labor Party, fought for throughout the seventies and eighties to ensure we have a system in place that looks after everyone—they are what we on this side are defending. That's what we defended in the 2016 election campaign, and we'll continue to do so in this place, because Australians deserve a good healthcare system.