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Transcript of doorstop: State Parliament, Melbourne: 22 August 2004: Howard Government's extension of 30% private health insurance rebate; children overboard affair.

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Shadow Minister for Health



22 AUGUST 2004


Subjects: Howard Government’s extension of 30% private health insurance rebate; children overboard affair

JULIA GILLARD: John Howard today has announced a change to the private health insurance rebate. No real details are available apart from radio reports. Labor will be taking time to study this plan. But can I say, I think the Prime Minister today has made this announcement to try and shift the public focus from the children overboard affair and whether or not he can keep this word. So I think once again, this is the Howard Government playing politics with health.

Secondly, whilst the plan is about the private health insurance rebates for over sixty-five year olds and over seventy year olds, there's been no announcement today about any new health measures for over sixty-five year olds or over seventy year olds who don't hold private health insurance.

I'm also concerned that there's no details of where the money's coming from and whether or not it will be paid for by cutting other parts of health. And we've got to remember that the private health insurance rebates (indistinct).

And thirdly, (indistinct) value of the 30% private health insurance rebates has been eroded over time by the Howard Government letting private health insurers put their premiums up by around seven per cent every year. There doesn't appear to be any mechanism in this package to keep private health insurance premiums down.

At the last election, the Prime Minister said he would put downward pressure on private health insurance premiums. He broke that promise. We don't know whether he's even

restated that promise today but if he has, why should people believe him, given private health insurance premiums have gone up around seven per cent each year and we know his word is worth so little?

REPORTER: Why do you think Mr Howard has released this instead of the Health Minister Mr Abbott?

GILLARD: I think this is a pretty desperate move by Prime Minister John Howard to get the focus of public attention off his capacity to tell the truth. I suspect that they have been preparing this announcement and were probably keeping it for the campaign, but they have rushed it out today because the Prime Minister wants a circuit breaker to get public focus over whether or not he can tell the truth when all of the evidence suggests that he has lied to the Australian public.

REPORTER: Can the Labor Party make a commitment to do with private insurance if they were to be elected?

GILLARD: Labor has committed to keeping the 30% private health insurance rebate. Today's announcement we will weigh up and respond to when we have the full details.

For further information contact: Julia Gillard MP on 0417 361 637 Jamie Snashall on 0407 438 746