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Thursday, 24 May 2018
Page: 4618


Mr LAMING (Bowman) (16:07): It's always nice to be in the cheap seats at the end of the debate and hearing yet another farrago of cuts and growth. As a health economist, it's probably worth defining a couple of terms, because when the fear campaign ceases to work—look, I confess: back in the 2016 election we were slightly wrong-footed by 'Mediscare'. We didn't think anyone would have the effrontery to actually put out fake Medicare cards and make out that Medicare was under threat and likely to be erased forever.

We're dealing, of course, with a Labor entity that created Medicare in 1975 and never really moved on. They live back in the era of payments, where it's all about saving Medicare, back in the mid-1970s. What they've abdicated completely from is any debate about private health insurance and any debate about how the PBAC and the PBS work—anything about the four pillars of Medicare. They've never seen a private hospital they weren't scared of. You're flat out getting a Labor MP into a Catholic hospital. They try to fake it in a non-state hospital and then hope they've got a couple of mates there from Victorian Catholic education to back them up when they don't know what to say.

These are Labor politicians without any clue on how the health system works. Have more than one of them ever worked in a hospital? I think they just recruited a second one. They managed to scrounge around and find a nurse. They've got a guy who's an actual paediatrician on extension 2311—you never call the guy. You never listen to the one specialist you've got. You never involve him in the debate. In fact, you never even invite him to do an MPI, because he knows too much. He might actually talk about something other than fictitious, completely ridiculous cuts to Medicare.

Let's define some terms. Let me have a crack at this as a health economist. Growth is numbers getting bigger? Cuts is, maybe, numbers getting smaller? When growth doesn't increase as fast as it did the previous year, it's a reduction in growth; it's not a cut, by any means. It's like a shyster walking down the street, offering to double your salary and then vanishing, then you go back and beat your boss up and say that he's halving your pay. It's rubbish! You never funded a single growth number you quote. You never found the money for it.

When this mob over here tell you they had a $52 billion health plan, remember, they only funded $2 billion of it—the rest of the money was never found. There was never any effort to find the money, because they were too busy funding bureaucrats, too busy putting people behind desks with executive toys, standing around water bubblers. They are very good at that to try and fake their unemployment data but, when it comes to hospitals, these MPs opposite know nothing more about the public hospital system than the visiting hours. They wouldn't know where to go except to the coffee cart in a public hospital. None of you have worked in a hospital. I see one bureaucrat who stood around a water bubbler and looked at numbers and said, 'Just say a number and put the word "cuts" after it.'

Let's be serious. Let's look at what's happening in Queensland. For every dollar the feds put in, the state is flat-out matching it now. In the great Mater Hospital of South Brisbane, we have seen negative-10 per cent funding growth from the state government while we are shovelling in a 10 per cent increase in funding—overall, in my own area, $404 million to $582 million; for the entire state, $2.7 billion up to 5.2 billion over five years of Commonwealth contribution; of nationwide $14 billion up to $23 billion. You need to be a kabuki artist to be able to turn that into a cut. You have to have a masters and be a third Dan in kabuki to turn that into a cut, because it's growth in funding. You can say, 'You are using a lower base.' Every year before has a lower base, because funding goes up every year. Of course the base of the previous year is lower.

That mob opposite are so tied up in their calisthenics, desperately trying to keep together that simple cuts argument but it is starting not to work with Australians. We are doing the right thing with HIV patients. We are doing the right thing in aged care. We are generously funding mental health. At every level, it looks bad for the Labor Party. This great party of health reform, in 1975, would be far wiser to say, in 2018, 'Good for them for continuing the increase in funding; we would advise you spend it in a different way. We would advise you to be more creative, to work not just in funding and need but in outcomes.' But, oh no, this party never heard of the word 'outcomes'. They never cared about how well the patient was; it's just about defending the funding and leaving the other stuff to the experts. When they walk through a hospital, they say, 'Careful, don't press that button.' I mean, you guys are absolutely petrified of health policy. Bring down the member for Macarthur, a man with a long career in public health provision. His extension is 2311. For those listening to the debate around the nation, 062772311, call that man and say, 'Come down and save Labor.'