BILLS Health Insurance (Dental Services) Bill 2012 [No. 2] Second Reading


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (11:31): I am disappointed to hear that the Greens will not be supporting the Health Insurance (Dental Services) Bill 2012 [No. 2]. I do acknowledge that in the past the Greens have been on our side, which is the correct side when it comes to remedying some of the deficiencies in dental health servicing. It seems that the Greens support for the Labor-Greens alliance has overridden what I previously understood was the strong support of the Greens for this program, acknowledging that it is not perfect. It was the Greens who helped us implement this and I am very disappointed that political considerations by the Greens have now interfered and have caused them to indicate they will not be voting with us.

It seems that the reason the Labor Party are opposed to this is purely the fact that it was a great scheme introduced by Tony Abbott and heaven forbid that the Labor Party should ever agree with anything that Tony Abbott should do. It was good to see the Labor Party backing down humiliatingly and agreeing with Tony Abbott on offshore processing. I just wish they would do that in relation to this bill before the chamber.

There are a number of others from our side who want to speak on this bill but we are very keen to bring this debate to a close so we can get a vote. I know Senator Bushby, who introduced the bill, has some comments he wants to make. So regrettably my comments will be very brief. I did want to refer to the contribution made by my fellow Queenslander, Senator Jan McLucas from the Labor Party. There was one thing in Senator McLucas's speech that I agreed with. That was when she praised the James Cook University dental school in Cairns on the great work it is doing in providing the support and tuition for those who will go out and help.

Senator McLucas talked about fraud amongst the dentistry profession. The coalition have made it very clear that there have been perhaps a couple of genuine cases but, as Senator Back has pointed out, there have been many cases where honest, god-fearing dentists who do a great job and make a great contribution towards their society have been penalised by an over-zealous Medicare police unit for things whichno matter which way you look at themwere simply minor omissions as to the red tape that Medicare imposes. Compare that with, for example, the four years that it took Fair Work Australia to investigate the member for Dobell. In that case, this government ensured that the investigation and prosecutions went on for years. Compare the alleged offences, the things that Fair Work Australia eventually found Mr Thomson had done, with some of the things that dentists have donefor example, the incident Senator Back raised. If Mr Thomson had been prosecuted with the same enthusiasm and vehemence as these dentists who have made some error in the clerical work, there would have been an election by now because Mr Thomson would have been out on his ear and a by-election would have meant that a full election was needed.

The duplicity of the Labor Party lies in how they treat prosecutions of almost innocent dentists on the one hand and how they deal with Mr Thomson' case on the other hand. Senator McLucas was accusing the dental profession of fraud. There were a couple of incidents but, if you go on that principle, do you say that Mr Thomson being a Labor Party MP has allegedlyaccording to Fair Work Australiadefrauded the country, defrauded his union Does that mean that we should not allow into parliament any Labor Party parliamentarian who ever worked for a union It is the same sort of convoluted logic that you get from this government. You talk about fraud. A dentist does not fill in the form properly and he is in real trouble with the authorities.

Ms Gillard gets up before Australians, promises to every Australian, 'You vote for me, you make me Prime Minister, and I will not bring in a carbon tax'. And you talk about fraud What even the worst of the dentists have done cannot compare with that sort of fraudulent act. Again, last night Ms Gillard, in addressing the AMA, deliberately told untruths about breast screening and Queensland. Is that a worse offence than some dentist who does not fill in the forms correctly The duplicity of the Labor Party in its approach to administration knows no bounds.

Mr Deputy President, I did have a lot of things I wanted to say on this bill, but unfortunately time has beaten me. I say on the record that I concur with all of the remarks made by colleagues on this side of the chamber, and I urge the chamber to support Senator Bushby's bill.

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