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Correct diagnosis, wrong prescription: Mr Kennett's drive towards American-style health system fatally flawed.

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Senator Meg Lees

Australian Democrats

Parliamentary Leader


6 January, 1999




Mr Kennett’s drive towards American-style health system fatally flawed.


The Australian Democrats today called on the F ederal Government to ignore Premier Jeff Kennett's call to scrap to Medicare but, at the same time, acknowledge that Australia's health system needs urgent and major reform.


Democrats Leader and Health Spokesperson, Senator Meg Lees, said that Mr Kennett's diagnosis was correct but his prescription was quite wrong and more likely to “make the patient sicker than better".


"Mr Kennett's argument that we need to dismantle Australia's universal health care system in the name of reform is just more of the "private is best" ideological clap-trap for which he is justly famous." said Senator Lees.


“But I can’t help but agree with Mr Kennett that the private health insurance rebate scheme will only "tinker at the edges" of much needed health reform.


I do have to ask, though, where Mr Kennett's "advocacy" was when the debate was being had," she said. "Strangely silent, as I recall. Wisdom is always much easier to come by in retrospect.


“This was the policy that was going to solve the health crisis by reducing waiting lists and pushing people into the expensive private health system.


“I've said it before and I'll say it again. The private health insurance rebate scheme is a hopelessly conceived, expensive and massively unfair waste of taxpayers' money. Less than a week after the start of the rebate scheme, it has already been damned as an expensive mistake from within Government ranks.


“And you cant help wondering just what the Government's going to do for the health insurance industry next. After receiving $1.6 billion of taxpayers' money annually to make a demonstrably unattractive product more appealing, the Government is now paying for the advertising campaign," said Senator Lees.


The Democrats instituted a major review of Australia's health-care system prior to the October election. Called “The Search for a Cure", the review involved research and lengthy consultation with the entire gamut of Australia's health system. The final round table is due to be convened around March this year when the final report is expected to be tabled.


It's clear that Mr Kennett is advocating an American style health system — one in which the rich can afford to go private and the rest of us are left with the dregs of a poorly resourced welfare system, said Senator Lees.


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