Health Care Take Note of Answers

I rise to take note of the answer to the question that was asked of Senator Abetz about the Medicare payment, and I am thrilled that the Senate opposite has just highlighted the underlying problem with this whole affair. It is that Labor do not acknowledge that so much of the structural spend that they have put in place over the last six years has put Australia on an unsustainable footing into the future. If you look at the policy intent around the coalition’s policy for Medicare it is about sustainability for the long term to make sure that not only we here in this chamber, in our old age, but also our children and their children have a system that will support us.

The narrative that those opposite seek to paint into the Australian community is somehow that coalition senators do not care about Medicare and that the Labor Party is the sole protector of our healthcare system. I want to take you back to the former coalition government under Prime Minister Howard. When we had Prime Ministers Rudd, Gillard and Rudd, their constant refrain and attack was that the coalition was all about cutting funding to health care. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact sheets that the Museum of Australian Democracy has on different prime ministers. They highlight just a few of the key achievements of those ministers. For Prime Minister John Winston Howard, AC, one of those key achievements was record health funding, which back then was $46.7 billion in 2006-2007. Just in case you think this is some kind of conservative think tank, the four people who were ex-members of parliament on their board included two members of the Labor Party, one Democrat and only one Liberal. So the facts speak for themselves. The coalition actually makes record investments into health care.

Let us contrast that with the ALP when they were in government. Let us go and have a look at the 2012-13 MYEFO and look at the evaluation that was conducted there not by the Liberal Party but by the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute at the Australian National University, an organisation that is not known for being a strong supporter of the conservative side of politics all the time. What they said was:

The hidden disaster in the 2012-13 MYEFO is the hit (unacknowledged by anyone in the Government) taken by preventive and public health. We know that $ 1.5 billion over four years ($254 million in 2012-13) has been cut from the National Health Reform (NHR) funding.

What we see is absolute hypocrisy here from the members opposite who seek to say that the ALP are the only people who care about health care, whereas the policy intent from the coalition is clearly about making sure that not only do we provide, as we have in the past, record funding but also we provide sustainable funding for the healthcare system for Australia.

Senator O’Neill interjecting—

They do not like hearing that, do they? They interject because they do not like to hear it. Anyone who is listening to this broadcast can recognise that senators opposite do not like to hear the facts and so they interject to try and muddy the argument. But let us look at the facts. Medicare has more than doubled in expenditure from around $8 billion to about $20 billion over the past decade, despite the proportion of Medicare spending covered by the Medicare levy falling backwards from about 67 per cent to 54 per cent.

The consultation that is ongoing now is because the government has realised that there is clearly not support in the public and there is clearly not support from members opposite nor from the crossbench to put in place measures to make Medicare sustainable. The consultation that is going ahead now is to work with the AMA and other groups who are stakeholders in the industry to say, ‘Where can we make this more efficient?’ What I hear is the AMA saying there are savings that can be made, there are efficiencies can be made. But, as Andrew Leigh, the shadow Treasurer, has indicated in the past, one of the viable methods for that, which and he has clearly supported, is the concept of having price signals. The government has accepted that there is no support here for that and we are looking for other savings. But the point is that the policy intent of the coalition in this area is to make sure that Medicare is effective and sustainable into the future, and our track record shows that we have invested heavily in the health of this nation.