Medicare is Guaranteed
Mr HOWARTH (Petrie) (15:48): It is interesting to sit here and hear the member for Ballarat continue on her scare campaign from the 2016 election—because that is exactly what just happened here. That is exactly what we heard from the shadow minister, because the statistics prove very different to what she is saying. And statistics do not lie. That is one thing that you are always taught. If you look at the stats, they are true.
The older you get, the more clear it becomes that good health is every Australian’s most valuable asset. It is one of those ‘money cannot buy it’ things. That is what they say, but it is true. When you do not have your health, you have nothing else. While we cannot guarantee that every Australian will be blessed with perfect health, investment in preventive health, health management and treatment ensures you are in the best health you can be. That is why this government is committed to safeguarding Australians’ ongoing access to Medicare. While I cannot guarantee every one of us will be forever in tiptop perfect health, I can guarantee that, as a result of the coalition government’s resolve, our health system will be.
Australians can have great faith in the fact that Medicare is not only here to stay but will be further bolstered by a $10 billion package that supports our health system so that it may in turn best support Australians and their families. The 2017-18 budget delivers on the coalition government’s plan to make the world’s best health system even better, so that every Australian has access to the best doctors, nurses, hospitals and medicines.
Funding for our outstanding public hospital system will increase by $2.8 billion this financial year, despite what the member for Ballarat says, and Medicare funding will increase by $2.4 billion over the next four years. This funding injection includes a $1 billion commitment to our doctors and their patients to restore indexation of the Medicare rebate—cut by Labor, by the way—commencing with GP bulk-billing arrangements starting on 1 July. We have joined with Medicines Australia to ensure access to important treatment, by reducing the costs of medicines by $1.8 billion over the next five years. In addition, with heart disease being Australia’s No. 1 killer, we are giving new hope to 60,000 patients at risk of chronic heart failure, who will benefit from the listing of new drugs at a cost of more than $510 million.
I am proud to be part of the government that is securing the future of Australians and their families through our commitment to Medicare and the establishment of the Medicare Guarantee Fund. The fund sees proceeds drawn from the Medicare levy, minus the portion set aside for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and an additional contribution from income tax revenue, with the sole purpose being funding the MBS and the PBS. The fund will ensure transparency, visibility and sustainability of the Medicare Benefits Schedule and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, guaranteeing Australians access to these services and affordable medicines long term.
The coalition government understand the value of an effective, efficient health system and what that means to Australians and people in my electorate of Petrie. We are unwavering in our commitment to tangible measures that use taxpayers’ money wisely to improve the health and lives of Australians. It is sad that the same cannot be said about those opposite. They see Medicare as a political tool to manipulate for their own gain. I am just saying that we all remember ‘Mediscare’ in the 2016 federal election. The opposition are not interested in guaranteeing Medicare; their primary focus is guaranteeing their own jobs, and if that comes at the expense of the health of Australians, well their actions suggest an attitude of: ‘Oh, well, so be it.’
For those actually interested in the facts about the federal government and our position on Medicare, it is good to know that we are investing record levels of funding into Medicare, and this continues to grow each and every year—each and every year it goes up. We are investing more than $22 billion into Medicare, and this will increase to nearly $26 billion in 2019-20. We have an economic plan that underpins our ability to fund better health care for Australians and their families. Our plan is sensible and sound and it drives jobs and growth, which means that we can fund Medicare into the future and guarantee Australians access to health care.
Medicare is a core coalition government priority, despite what those opposite say. In fact, during the election campaign the Prime Minister made a commitment that every element of Medicare currently delivered by government would continue to be delivered by government. Already we are seeing Australians getting more benefit from Medicare than ever before. Bulk-billing rates are the highest they have ever been. Let me repeat that again: bulk-billing rates are the highest they have ever been—not this year or next year; right now they are the highest they have ever been. It is over 85 per cent, compared to an average of 79 per cent under the member for Ballarat and those opposite. Last financial year there were roughly 17 million more bulk-billed GP attendances than in Labor’s last full year in office in 2012-13. More people than ever before are seeing a GP without having to pay anything.
It was great to have the minister in my electorate just this month, when we spoke with local doctors and pharmacists who are particularly welcoming of our Health Care Homes policy. The policy gives GPs and their team flexibility to coordinate, manage and support patients with chronic illness with the aim of keeping them healthier at home and out of hospital. Five sites in Petrie will take place in the Health Care Homes trail: Lakelands Medical Centre, Moreton Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service, Redcliffe Peninsula 7 Day Medical Centre, The Bay Family Medical Centre and, lastly, Redcliffe GP Super Clinic—which, when I was elected, was still shut; the doors were closed, and there was not a doctor in the place. After all that they said about Redcliffe GP Super Clinics, we finally got it open, and there are doctors practising there. The Redcliffe GP Super Clinic will now take part in the Health Care homes trial. It is a great win for the people of Petrie and a great win for all Australians.
It is no accident at all that Australia rates among the 10 healthiest nations in the world. We boast a robust agricultural sector, an environment which supports the plentiful production of fresh food and we get out and about—we exercise. We have a great nation, a wonderful nation, to get out and about in, and we are active. Importantly, our government is committed to the people it represents. We are definitely committed 100 per cent to the people we represent. Unlike Labor, the coalition governs for all Australians, even if they did not vote for us. We are not lining the pockets of unions.
Mr Tim Wilson interjecting—
Mr HOWARTH: We are not being held to ransom by a third party, Member for Goldstein, and we are not playing politics with issues like the NDIS and school funding that we have clearly see this week from those opposite. We are focused on outcomes, as opposed to the opposition. We take seriously the health of Australians and their families. Australians place great faith in the range of essential services available to them, and they can be confident that the coalition government will deliver.