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Wednesday, 30 November 1983
Page: 3049

Mr BEDDALL —Can the Minister for Health inform the House whether the recent statements by the Premier of Queensland and the Queensland Minister for Health concerning Queensland's share of Medicare funding are a true and accurate reflection of what Queensland will receive under Medicare?

Dr BLEWETT —Those rumblings by the Premier of Queensland and his turncoat Minister for Health have been brought to my notice. The most interesting fact about them all is that they never once refer to the interests of Queenslanders. They are simply about the concerns of the Queensland Government. Let us put the record straight about the benefits of Medicare to Queenslanders. Queenslanders will contribute $212m to the Medicare program in terms of the levy, in terms of money forgone through the taxation health rebate and, through their contribution , the reduced reinsurance pool. Under Medicare they will get back $220m in extra benefits relating both to their hospital system and to their medical system. Let us just--

Mr Lusher —Which State is the loser?

Dr BLEWETT —In response to the interjection, all States gain marginally under Medicare. Let us look at the benefits to Queenslanders. First of all, at the moment, only about 42 per cent of Queenslanders are covered by medical insurance . Under Medicare all will have that cover and all will be able to go to doctors and specialists of their own choice outside hospitals rather than having to wait and queue for the present outpatient services in Queensland public hospitals.

Secondly, let us look at the benefits to the Queensland public hospital system. In the first full year of Medicare the Queensland hospital system will get $80m more than it would have got if the Fraser system had continued. Of that, $35m is a special grant to Queensland which no other State receives. I am not concerned at all, therefore, about the noises that the Queensland Premier is making about taking this matter to the High Court of Australia. The only thing that that will do is cost Queensland taxpayers more money. Yet the Queensland Premier claims to be concerned for the taxpayers. There is no doubt that the Court would in no way contemplate overturning so generous an arrangement for the State of Queensland. But there is something that does concern me about the remarks made by the Queensland Premier. The Queensland Premier is getting some $80m more for Queensland's hospital system, yet the Queensland Premier talks about the possibility of cutting health services. Let me make it quite clear that we will protect the interests of the Queensland population against that kind of cheap politicking. If need be we will make those grants specific purpose grants to see that they are spent on the health needs of the people of Queensland.