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Transcript of doorstop: Wednesday 28 May 2003: Parliament House, Canberra: Medicare legislation; John Howard's hotel bill; Governor-General.



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T R A N S C R I P T

Stephen Smith MP Member for Perth Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP - PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA, WEDNESDAY 28 MAY 2003

E & OE

Subjects: Medicare legislation, John Howard’s hotel bill, Governor-General

SMITH: Well, today is the day John Howard introduces legislation to destroy Medicare.

In the House today, the Government introduces its legislation to introduce what it describes as its “Fairer Medicare” package. It is, of course, an unfair Medicare package.

It reminds us of John Howard’s slogan when he was elected in 1996. His slogan was “For all of us”. Well, this legislation lets us know that under John Howard, Medicare is just for some of us.

We will of course be opposing the central parts of the legislation tooth and nail in the Senate. I’ll have a look at the detail of the legislation to see whether there are any aspects of the legislation that relate to those measures which we are prepared to support.

But I suspect we will find that this will be a battle, tooth and nail, day in day out, not just in the House, not just in the Senate but in the community every day from now until the election.

JOURNALIST: When you say elements that you might be prepared to support, does that mean that the doctors training components aren’t actually in that Bill?

SMITH: Yes. Well as I’ve said previously, the only thing which on my reckoning the Government actually requires legislation for, is to split the patient rebate from a doctor’s co-charge. This of course is the device which gives doctors the green light to charge Australian families what they like for a visit to the doctor.

The Government may have decided to put its entire package in the legislation. We’ll see that when we have a look at it.

But the only thing that is actually required on my observations for the Government to legislate for is the splitting of the patient rebate from the doctor’s co-charge. That’s currently unlawful for very good reasons. That certainly will be opposed by us tooth and nail. That’s central to the Government’s package because that provides the

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financial incentives for doctors to bulk bill pensioners and concession card holders only, because it gives them the green light to charge Australian families whose income is greater than $32,300 whatever they like.

JOURNALIST: What’s your current expectation when it hits the Senate? Does it go off to Committee?

SMITH: Well you may have seen when the Senate last sat a couple of weeks ago that the Senate established a Select Committee to deal with Medicare and these matters. The Senate may determine that rather than referring this legislation to a standard Legislation Committee that it refers the legislation to the Senate Select

Committee.

In the event, that will be a matter for the Senate but I’ll be most surprised if the Senate didn’t refer the legislation to a committee. It’s established a special Select Committee to deal with Medicare generally and with these issues. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Senate referred the legislation to that committee.

JOURNALIST: What’s your response to Howard spending $40,000 for four nights in a hotel in Rome?

SMITH: Well I’ve seen reports of that. I’m not aware of the details. But it’s not uncommon with this Government for the Government to crystallise in the Australian community that there’s one style of life for the top end of town and there’s another

style of life for those families out there struggling out there to make ends meet.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident the Prime Minister will get it right second time around with the Governor General?

SMITH: I have no confidence in the Prime Minister’s judgement and I think the Australian community are becoming all too familiar with the Prime Minister making bad judgments not just as they relate to appointments but as they relate to the things which matter most to Australian families - health, education, cost of living, pressures on families.

Ends

Contact: Andrew Dempster - 0407 435 157 or 02 6277 4108