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Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Page: 3366


Mrs ELLIOT (Richmond) (15:33): It is always a pleasure to follow the member for Riverina when we talk about regional and rural issues. Gee whiz, there was not much of an enthusiastic defence of what the government does. He was sort of begrudgingly talking about a few things and attacking us. He talked about the backpacker debacle; pity he did not talk about the massive cuts to regional and rural Australia. Maybe in his electorate—if you tell us about how the Medicare cuts have affected them or how the education cuts have impacted people there, because the fact is that the cuts in regional and rural Australia have been devastating by this government.

There are many ways to describe this dysfunctional government. We can say it is a government that has no unity, it is a government at war with itself, but for people in the country this is a government that has abandoned them. It has abandoned the people of regional and rural Australia. It has failed us on so many issues—consistently failed us. Country people know that every harsh and cruel budget measure they have taken since 2013 has hit our communities in regional Australia so much more. They are very much aware of that. In regional areas, who do we blame for that? We blame the Nationals for all the extreme, cruel cuts we have seen. As I have told this House many times before, National Party choices hurt. Their choices hurt because they are choices that they make about supporting cuts—or fighting for those cuts as well, I would imagine, very harsh ones.

Let's have a look at what they have done; let's recap some of those National Party choices that have hurt. They have abandoned families with their cuts to education, childcare and family payments. They have abandoned youth people with their cuts to training and also with their plans for $100,000 university degrees, especially hitting kids from regional and rural areas. They have abandoned seniors with their harsh cuts to Medicare and cuts to important health services. They do not invest or encourage economic growth in any regional areas. They do not address those incredibly high levels of unemployment in the regions. And let's look at their NBN. My goodness, what a debacle. That has left regional areas behind. They have consistently failed on all of those points.

The fact is the National Party have just walked away from regional and rural Australia. It starts, of course, with the Deputy Prime Minister and it continues all the way through to those National Party members in the House. A great example is the backpacker tax debacle they have created. My goodness, they have certainly sold out the regions on this.

I think the failure of this government in regional and rural areas can really be epitomised by their harsh and cruel attacks on the health services that our regional Australians rely on, particularly through their cuts to Medicare. We know there is a huge divide about health outcomes when comparing regional areas to urban ones. We all know that. The fact is that the average yearly Medicare spend per individual in rural, regional and remote areas is $536 a year compared to $910 in major cities. That is a huge divide. Another important fact to note comes from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report Australia's health 2016, and that is:

In 2009-2011, people living in Remote and Very remote areas had mortality rates 1.4 times as high as people living in Major cities. For nearly all causes of death, rates were higher for people living outside Major cities, with people in Remote and Very remote areas faring the worst.

So our health outcomes are a lot worse.

That is why the National Party cuts to health are so harsh—cuts such as: imposing a GP tax by freezing the Medicare bulk-billing rebates, increasing fees for pathology and bulk-billing and increasing costs for prescription medicines. What all these cuts mean is that people just do not go to the doctor—they just do not seek medical attention—because they simply cannot afford to. That is what they are telling me. In my electorate, we also see the government's failure to respond to massive community calls for a fully funded MRI licence for the Tweed Hospital, a vitally needed health service.

When it comes to education, Labor has a very positive plan—fully funding those Gonski reforms. That stands in contrast to the government's planned cuts of $29 billion. In my electorate of Richmond, $20 million has been cut and in the electorate of Page, $24 million. There are huge cuts right across the board. As I said, another example of this government's failure is the appalling NBN services. This government, and particularly the National Party, has consistently failed and abandoned the people of regional and rural Australia. They are just being left behind when it comes to so many matters. I will continue to raise this in the House; I will continue to condemn the National Party for these cuts because their choices do hurt. Country people also know that it is only the Labor Party that look after their interests and properly fund regional services.