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Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Page: 8996


Senator DUNIAM (Tasmania) (14:42): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Fierravanti-Wells. Will the minister outline to the Senate the Turnbull government's ongoing commitment to Medicare-funded services?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:42): I thank Senator Duniam for the question. The Turnbull government has a rock-solid commitment to Medicare. We are committed to ensuring all Australians have access to high-quality health care. Only this week, the Minister for Health announced that more Australians than ever have been seeing their GP without paying and that bulk-billing rates for GP consultation nationally are up to almost 86 per cent. That's a lot higher than the 82 per cent when you lot were last in government. Of course, let me use an example: in the seat of Bennelong, the billing rates are 88.5 per cent. Notwithstanding this level, that hasn't stopped Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, and his girl, Kristina Keneally, going out there, pushing lies about Medicare. Of course, that's not the only lie.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hanson-Young, on a point of order.

Senator Hanson-Young: I ask the minister to reflect on the wording 'his girl'. I'm not sure it's appropriate.

The PRESIDENT: A request of a minister is not necessarily a point of order.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Senator Hanson-Young, considering they were the words that Bill Shorten used the other day, I'm only quoting him. Instead of coming in here with crocodile tears, you ought to read the news a little bit more.

Recently, we saw her allegedly telling us that she had to wait for more than an hour at the Medicare office in Top Ryde. Fact: data from the Department of Human Services showed that, in the week before the October long weekend, there was not a single person who waited over an hour at the centre for that week she claimed that she had an hour-long wait on. Not one person. The average wait was 13 minutes. And this is, of course, on top of the other lie that she's been telling us about the closing down of the Eastwood Medicare office. That was a decision of the former Labor government in 2009. (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! Senator Dastyari, Senator Collins, Senator Cameron—we can go through the alphabet backwards! Senator Duniam, a supplementary question?

Senator DUNIAM (Tasmania) (14:45): What a great answer, and I thank the minister for it. I wonder, will the minister update the Senate on the government's record investment in Medicare?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:45): Thank you, Senator Duniam. The coalition, of course, is investing more than ever in Medicare. Funding has gone up from $23 billion to $28 billion in 2020-21. But, of course, Senator Duniam, I do want to go back to Bennelong and the Eastwood Medicare office.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: This was a decision of the former Labor government. They took the decision to co-locate Centrelink offices—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Fierravanti-Wells, please resume your seat. Senator Reynolds, on a point of order.

Senator Reynolds: I'm sitting right behind the minister, and I cannot even hear her response. Those opposite might not want to hear great news about Medicare, but those on this side do.

The PRESIDENT: I will ask senators to once again respect the requests of their colleagues to be able to hear questions and answers.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: As I was saying, it was you lot that took the decision to co-locate Medicare and Centrelink offices. Before we took government, Labor closed down 128 Medicare offices. And who was the architect? The former Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen. But, as far as lying is concerned, what else do you expect from somebody who was a puppet of Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi. (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senators Watt and Dastyari, some tolerance for political combat is understood, but could we please get on with question time? Senator Duniam, a final supplementary question?

Senator DUNIAM (Tasmania) (14:47): Is the minister aware of any risks to Medicare?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:47): Yes, I do, and it's those opposite, Mr President. It's Labor's Medicare freeze. Never forget that it was the Labor government who introduced the Medicare freeze in 2013. In fact, the member for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek, was the mother of the freeze. The Turnbull government, however, is removing the freeze. We have committed a billion dollars to our doctors and patients by restoring indexation of Medicare rebates. Those opposite, you can bleat as much as you like, because you have no Health record. When you were in government—six years of fiscal vandalism—what did you give us? What did you give us in Health? You gave us 10 new bureaucracies and 27 per cent more staff in the Department of Health. You faked Medicare cards. That's your idea of policy. And then you spend time— (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! Senator Sterle, Senator Polley, Senator Carr—

Senator Sterle: Mr President, throw me out!

The PRESIDENT: Senator Sterle, a power not granted to me by the numbers in the Senate. Before I call Senator Hinch, I ask colleagues to recall that, on more than several occasions, Senator Hinch has asked that there be some degree of silence so that he may hear the proceedings of question time.