BILLS - Health Insurance (Approved Pathology Specimen Collection Centres) Tax Amendment Bill 2018 - Second Reading


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (21:06): I'm perhaps the person in this chamber most learned to speak on this subject because 22 years ago I had a valve put in my heart, which proves that, unlike Senator Cameron, I can say that I have a heart! Since then, I've had to be on warfarin—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Leyonhjelm ): A point of order, Senator Cameron?

Senator Cameron: Yes, a point of order: that is not a judgement that you can make!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: That's not a point of order.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: But I can actually prove I have a heart. It was sitting on the table next to me. I challenge Senator Cameron to, in any way, prove that he has a heart. I can do it; very few others can. But, as a result of that, I am on warfarin, which is a blood thinner, which is needed. So every three, four, five or six weeks, I go to a pathology collection centre, and have done for the last 22 years.

I must say that, as with most things that the Greens talk about, they have a very narrow, city-centric view of any aspect of life in Australia. I live, as I said in the previous debate, in a big, small country town—there are about 20,000 people in the district—and my community is very well served by two pathology agents. There is QML, who actually have a collection centre in the medical centre operated by my general practitioner and his partners. I don't go there—not for any reason; QML deliver a wonderful service, I'm sure. I deal with the other provider in the north, a group called Sullivan Nicolaides, who are very big in Queensland. They have a collection centre in Ayr, and I use them because they're more or less across the road and down the street a bit from where I live, and I've been going to them for 22 years now. They're not in a rented premises of a doctor; they're in a shop downtown, not far from where I live.

The comments by the previous speaker again were directed at anyone who seeks to run a private, profit-making business in Australia. The Greens, again, demonstrate their supersocialist approach. They want to regulate market rentals, just as they want to regulate prices for absolutely everything—a typical old communist approach that even the Greens should have learnt failed in Russia, the USSR, and eastern Europe over the last 70 or 80 years. Communist or socialist, market-price fixation simply does not work. I'm not sure what more of history the Greens need to research to understand that market forces are far better than government regulation of any sorts of prices, be they market rents or others.

As a regular user of pathology collection centres, I have been through the ups and downs of the pathology industry. There was a time there when the government made some changes to moderate the payments made to pathologists. There was a huge hue and cry over that period of time, but it quietened down. I think the pathologists do pretty well financially—not that I begrudge them that. They do a wonderful job. They provide a wonderful service. What I love about the pathology companies that I am familiar with in Queensland, and I am sure it happens like this elsewhere in Australia, is that they do have these collection centres where someone like me—who lives 100 kilometres from the laboratory of Sullivan Nicolaides—just has to walk down the street, the collection of blood is taken and it is shipped up to Townsville a couple of times a day. It is then assessed by the skilled doctors, the specialists who understand what blood is all about, and they get the results back to my GP very, very quickly.

That happens not only in my town but in most towns in North Queensland. I am aware that both QML and Sullivan Nicolaides have a number of collection centres around the City of Townsville, which is a city of around 200,000 people. That's so that people don't have to drive for hours through city traffic to get to a collection centre. They can go to one that is near to them. They do provide a very worthwhile service. Unless you are a patient, a user of these services, you perhaps don't understand. But someone who does use them regularly, like me, understands just what a wonderful service these pathology centres provide. I know from experience over the last 22 years that the nurses who take the blood samples are exceptionally skilled nurses and also exceptionally lovely people, if I can say that, in looking after not just me—forget about me—but so many people who I see at the pathology collection centre. They are looked after, encouraged and administered to by the nurses who operate in those areas.

I understand that, I am hopeful that and I am assured by the government that this bill will lessen the regulatory burden on pathology agencies. Instead of paying a tax of $1,000 each year, they will now pay a tax of $2,000 every two years. As far as the money goes, it is not going to be any cheaper for the pathology agencies. It is going to mean that the government receives no less revenue for the services provided, but it does mean that some of the red tape will be reduced. The regulatory burden of pathology providers will not negatively impact smaller pathology providers, as there is no increase in the financial component, as I said. It is simply that the tax and the associated paperwork will now happen every two years rather than every year. I understand that these changes are welcomed by the pathology sector because it does decrease the effort currently involved in the annual renewal of the ACC tax—that is, the approved collection centre tax. This is a bill that is another approach by the government to reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses and it should be supported. I urge support by all senators.

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