Answers to Questions Take Note of Answers

I too rise to take note of answers given to questions asked by opposition senators today. As have many of my colleagues on this side, I point out that the reason we have had to take a number of measures—and I understand that many of those measures are not popular—is the situation the nation has been left in. I will not go through all the figures, because people have heard all that before. What I want to talk about is some of the mismanagement that has led to that situation.

Let us look at something that we hope will be dealt with here in the Senate in the next month—and that is the mining tax. The former government brought in a mining tax that increased sovereign risk and discouraged companies from investing in Australia, which has had a flow-on impact on jobs. In doing so, the former government obtained net revenue from the mining tax of $340 million. In the same period, however, the structural spending the previous government racked up against the mining tax was in excess of $16 billion. That is a huge differential. It is that kind of mismanagement that has led to a situation where, like any responsible household, we have had to take measures which may not be popular. They may not be the measures we wish to take but they are the measures needed to keep Australia’s economy on track and important aspects of our community funded.

Health funding has been the subject of many questions today. In South Australia, we see the state Labor government trying to blame the federal government for cuts they want to make to health in this year’s budget. In South Australia in 2013 14, hospital services funding was $983.3 million and public health funding was $23.1 million, for a total of just over $1 billion from the federal government. In this year’s budget, 2014-15, it is $1,053 million for hospital services funding and $24.3 million for public health—a total of $1.07 billion. That is a substantial increase this year. Going through to the out-years of the forward estimates, in 2017-18 the figure is $2.188 billion. For the Labor Party, whether it be here in opposition or in government in South Australia, to be trying to blame cuts to health in South Australia on the federal government is therefore just completely wrong. The figures in the budget papers show that health funding to South Australia increases, compared to the last year of the Labor government, year on year for the next four years. For Labor to claim it is decreasing—and, more particularly, for the South Australian Treasurer to cut health services there and blame the federal government—is clearly misleading the people of Australia.

As to the claim that co-payments are going to cause people to not seek the health care they need, I remind members opposite that the PBS system is recognised as an affordable and effective system for Australia. But go right back to 1960, when Robert Menzies was the Prime Minister. The co-payment was 50c. When did it start leaping up to higher amounts? It was in 1985, under Prime Minister Hawke, that it went up to $5. In 1986 it went up to $10 and in 1990 to $15. Under the prime ministership of one of Labor’s heroes, PBS co-payments went up to $5 and then up to $15—and yet that has not deterred people from seeking the help, the medications, they need. It has not deterred people from getting the health care they need. Bear in mind that $15 in 1990 is worth a lot more than $15 in today’s money. So it was a substantial increase for it to go from $5 to $15 under then Prime Minister Hawke. But the point is that it made the system sustainable, and nor did it deter people from seeking the medications they needed.

The aim of this government is to make sure that we have a Medicare system and a health system that meets the priority needs of our community but that is sustainable into the future. We are doing this in the face of a huge debt and deficit that has been left to this country, not only to my generation but also to my children’s generation, by the former government. We seek to take responsibility for that as a responsible government. (Time expired)