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Matters of Public Importance: Medicare
Quite frankly, this is groundhog day. For 30 years, whenever the Labor Party has been desperate, the catch cry has been: ‘Cuts to Medicare! Cuts to health!’ The reality is quite different to the constant scare campaign that we have heard from Labor for 30 years. Effectively, for 30 years the Labor Party has said that we are cutting health and we are cutting Medicare. No wonder the Australian people just do not believe it anymore. Ten years ago the MBS, which forms a very crucial part of our health system and of health funding, was costing $8 billion. Today it is costing $20 billion, and in 10 years time that will have grown to $34 billion. So for 30 years, effectively, Labor has said we are cutting health expenditure, yet it keeps rising and rising year on year.
Today is all about an absolutely naked grab to get a headline in an area that Labor view as being a political strength for them: the health space. But we will never ever apologise for casting our eye over the health system. The $20 billion in MBS is not our entire health expenditure, but we will not apologise for casting our eye over every single line item of expenditure to try to make it as efficient as possible and as fit for purpose as possible. Surely we can agree in this House that any money we can save and reinvest into other more important parts of the health system is a good thing. The reality of productivity and efficiency with an ageing population is that we will need to squeeze out more services for every single dollar. How could anybody argue that it would not be wholly responsible for this government to cast its eye over every form of expenditure to see where efficiencies can be found? Importantly, those efficiencies will be reinvested back into the health system. That is something we are committed to.
The member for Bowman highlighted earlier that the shadow minister for health has spoken about Labor’s time in government, and about how not all savings that were made in health were reinvested into health. We have a proud record on this side in this parliament of making sure that every single dollar is reinvested in some way, shape or form. One great legacy of this government that I think will be remembered for many years to come will be the Medical Research Future Fund. Every single dollar that will be invested into the Medical Research Future Fund will come out of savings in health, and that research will be the thing that drives the health outcomes of the future. Yet the Labor Party was very lukewarm on the Medical Research Future Fund. They were dragged there kicking and screaming and ultimately supported it. But it needs money, and you must find it somewhere. Importantly, on this side of the House we will support the Medical Research Future Fund and make sure it has the capital that it requires to find the cures of the future.
This is quite an extraordinary MPI today because it is ill defined. I am not even sure that the hearts of members opposite are really in it, when we look at the particular issues that they are raising. We have bulk-billing for pathology at about 87 per cent. The $500 million being referred to by the Labor Party raised it from about 86 per cent. So we have seen a one per cent rise in the bulk-billing of these pathology services, and every single dollar subsidised by the government there goes to two large corporate providers. The Labor Party have no principles on these issues. They are just trying to get their headline out there: ‘Cuts to Medicare! Cuts to health!’ I know that is what you do in an emergency. In every single emergency you go to the playbook—’Cuts to health! Cuts to education!’—no matter how tenuous that is. But I do not think the Australian people believe you, because the statistic I started with has shown that expenditure in health increases year on year. We will always make sure that we get the best bang for our buck, because we do not have the luxury, like the Labor Party, of coming into office with surpluses, with big amounts of money in the bank. We, unfortunately, inherit disaster from the Labor Party. It is incumbent upon us to fix it, and we will.
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