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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 3816


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:56): I'm pleased to enter into this MPI debate—which I thought was about health but, from hearing the previous speaker, it seems that I must have read the wrong Red. It seems that it's a re-debate about last week's taxation decisions and the taxation decisions the Senate will be called upon to talk about and decide upon into the future. Of course, I can't let Senator Di Natale's misinformation about the tax system pass unchallenged. Senator Di Natale was part of a Labor-Greens alliance that ran this country for six hard, dark years. Senator Di Natale says that because we give tax cuts and because we encourage investment into Australia we're not going to have money for education and for the thing that this debate is about, health.

Senator Di Natale may have been a good doctor, but I'm afraid his economics is sadly lacking. You see, Senator Di Natale, one of the reasons we want to encourage investment in Australia is so that we can create jobs, so that we can create profitable companies employing people, both of which pay tax. When you have more taxpayers paying tax, you're able to first of all pay off Labor's debt—and we've started that long process, down from over $100 billion when we took office; we've got it down this year I think to around 25 in this year's budget, down to 16 and next year 11, and the following year we're back to the Howard government type surpluses. It was very small at the start—a $2½ billion surplus the year after next—but is projected to go upwards. Contrast that to the Labor Party. Every year they were in power the deficit went up.

Senator Di Natale says that because we're giving tax cuts there won't be money for health. Well, the contrary is the fact. If you encourage investment into Australia, if you encourage this multinational investor who wants to build widgets—and he's going to make X million dollars profit, but he can do that in Australia or he can do it in France or he can do it in the United States—where do you think he's going to go if he can invest his money and still make $100 million profit? Is he going to go to the place that charges him 30 per cent company tax? Or is he going to go to the one that charges him 25 or 20 or 15? You don't have to be a Rhodes scholar to work that out. If he doesn't invest in Australia to build his widgets, that will mean the cost of the work provided in building the widget factory will not go to Australian workers but to United States' workers or to French workers. The people that will man the widget factory when it's built will not be paying tax in Australia. They will not be providing jobs for Australians; they will provide jobs for citizens of the United States or of France, and they will pay tax to those countries.

By keeping our corporate tax rate competitive with the rest of the world, we create investments, we create jobs and we create tax. So Senator Di Natale's comment that because of the tax cuts we won't be able to invest in the health system is just absolute foolishness, misinformation and part of the Labor-Greens mantra. I would remind Senator Di Natale that when he and the Labor Party ran this country for six dark years, health funding actually went down, and what was spent wasn't money that the government had; they had to borrow it all from overseas lenders just to keep the health system going. Now, fortunately, under the coalition government, that no longer applies and we are able to pay our way and start paying off the Labor-Greens debt of those six dark years.

I don't know that the Greens were part of this, but Labor's major contribution to the health debate in recent years was that outrageous lie that the government was intending to sell Medicare. Everybody knew beforehand, they knew on election day and they know now that was nothing more than an unmitigated lie, a fabrication made up by the Labor Party's propaganda machine, and yet it worked. It convinced a lot of people to vote for the Labor Party at the last election. That was an unmitigated lie. What this government has shown is that it is intending to move ahead with the health debate.

I digress slightly to think of the system in Queensland. It was only 2½ years ago that the Newman government was in power and, in that time, it stopped the waiting lists in the public hospitals. They got rid of a lot of people, a lot of those Labor apparatchiks who were employed in the middle level in the hospital area. They weren't doctors or nurses; they were just the normal sort of mid-level clerical people that the Labor Party are so fond of finding jobs for, because they are mainly Labor Party branch members. Lawrence Springborg, to his very great credit, had a hospital system in Queensland that was actually working. There was a dental system that provided private practitioners around the state with the money to look after the teeth of all and everybody, even those who couldn't afford it. It was, for a short period of time, a wonderful health system in Queensland, and that's similar to what the coalition does with health at a federal level.

The health minister is already involving himself in the substantial reform of private health insurance, and some of my colleagues in this debate would have spoken about it. I want to, particularly in the short time left to me, talk about private health insurance reforms and discounts for 18- to 29-year-olds. Insurers in Australia will be making private health insurance more affordable for young Australians, and that's what every young Australian aspires to—I shouldn't use the 'aspiration' word; people opposite me won't know what I'm talking about. From 1 April next year, insurers will be able to offer discounted private hospital cover to people aged 18 to 29. Legislation currently prevents insurers from offering premium discounts to people on the basis of their age. But insurers will be able to offer that premium discount to offer hospital cover of up to two per cent for each year that a person is under 30 to a maximum of 10 per cent for 18- to 25-year-olds, and these discounts will be gradually phased out once the policy holder turns 40. This is important, because private health insurance cover provides consumers with greater choice in the provision of treatment, access to shorter waiting times and coverage for some services that are not funded by Medicare.

Younger Australians, particularly those under the age of 30, have far lower rates of private health insurance participation than most other age groups. This means that young people are currently missing out on the benefits of private health insurance, which I'd suggest everyone in this chamber take advantage of. The viability and sustainability of private health insurance relies upon a broad membership base. Encouraging more young people to take out private health insurance will, therefore, benefit everyone. This will really improve the affordability of private health insurance for young Australians, increasing their access to private hospital services. The lower premiums will encourage more young Australians to purchase private health insurance. With lower premiums, taxpayers will save $16 million over four years on private health insurance rebates, and these premiums for hospital cover, for young Australians, will be up to 10 per cent cheaper. That's just one of many reforms that this government, and our wonderful health minister, Mr Hunt, is looking at, again, to improve Australia's health system. I think it's uncontested that Australia has the best health system of anywhere in the world, and we in the coalition government intend to make it even better in a sustainable—that is, a paid for—way.