Committees - Select Committee on Health


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:16): I also wish to speak on this motion about the select committee report on supposed hospital funding cuts. I note in commencing that Senator Polley said she never personally attacked Mr Nikolic when he was in this parliament. It seems to me that she has waited until he was not in the parliament and could not speak for himself in this place to launch a pretty vicious personal attack on a great Australian who, both in parliament and his life previously in our defence forces, has made a magnificent contribution to Australia—a much more significant contribution, I might say with respect, than Senator Polley ever has or will.

Senator Polley's discussion on this health report draws to my attention the whole question of hospital funding. I commence my remarks by congratulating all of those who work in our hospitals, both public and private—the nursing staff, the support staff, the medical staff. They do a wonderful job for all Australians and it means, of course, that Australia has one of the best, if not the best, health systems anywhere on this planet. So congratulations go to all of those involved.

My congratulations also go to Sussan Ley, the Minister for Health, who has done a wonderful job in the time that she has been the health minister, and has continued funding not only to hospitals but all aspects of the health budget. I particularly note the work that Ms Ley has done in bringing on to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme some very expensive drugs that have now been made available to ordinary members of society. I mention in passing just one of them: the drug related to fixing hepatitis C. So congratulations to the coalition government and the minister on the work she has been doing there, and also on the work she has been doing generally with hospitals.

Senator Polley's reference to Medicare alerts me yet again, with much sadness, to what is the most disgraceful episode that I have ever seen in my long life in any campaign. This was perpetrated by the unions, who control the Labor Party, with the Labor Party and with that outrageously fraudulent group called GetUp!, which is just a front for the Greens political party. I do not know what happened elsewhere, although I suspect this disgracefully dishonest campaign was conducted by the unions and the Labor Party and the Greens right throughout Australia, but I know it certainly happened in north Queensland.

In the two pre-poll booths in Townsville there were long queues waiting to get a pre-poll, and southern unionists—not locals, I might say, but people imported by the Labor Party and the unions, from the south somewhere—were there bullying people in the queue with dishonest comments like, 'the Liberals will get rid of Medicare' and 'the Liberals are going to sell Medicare'. I mean, who would want to buy Medicare, for a start? It was a disgracefully dishonest campaign.

Further to that, the unions—and I suspect, the Labor Party—had printed cards that looked exactly the same as the Medicare card all of us have when we go to a doctor or a hospital. But these were fraudulent cards with a message on them that said the coalition government was going to sell Medicare, to get rid of Medicare. It was completely dishonest and fraudulent. This was followed up by those robocalls—unauthorised, I must say, but I do not think anyone would challenge me in saying they were paid for by the unions or the Labor Party—with voices coming across in the blackout period in the last couple of days before the election, saying, 'this is a message from your local Medicare office; the coalition government is going to get rid of Medicare', or words to that effect. This was a disgracefully lying campaign that is the lowest point that I ever seen in the long years that I have been involved in campaigns in Australia.

This campaign by the Labor Party and the unions actually scared a lot of people. Those unionists who were bullying people along the queue waiting for a vote at the pre-poll picked their mark. They would go to older people—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Back ): Senator Polley on a point of order.

Senator Polley: I am sure that under standing orders, as the good senator would know, you should not be misleading the Senate. If you have something that you want to talk about on bullying at polling booths, then perhaps you should talk to your former member who was grabbing leaflets out of people's hands.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, resume your seat. As you well know, that is a debating point. Senator Macdonald, please continue.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: As I always say with those ridiculous points of order, the Labor Party will try that bullying on me. I can tell you, Senator Polley, it does not work on me. In fact, you had a couple of your union hacks on these polling booths and as they were standing there, lying to people and saying, 'the coalition will sell Medicare,' I went and stood next to them. As they would say that, I would say: 'Please ignore this. That is a complete lie.' The unionists on a couple of occasions then turned round and said to me, 'You're bullying me. You're in my space.' Me bully them! They were about five times my size! But I just told the voters who had been told a lie by these union thugs what the truth was. The unionists said, 'You're in my space.' I said, 'If you don't like it, move somewhere else or go back to Sydney, Brisbane or Hobart, from whence you obviously came.' This was the low point: trying to confuse and frighten vulnerable people into casting a vote on the basis of the most outrageous lie I have ever head in my long time in politics.

Senator Polley interjecting

Senator IAN MACDONALD: For Senator Polley to continue the mistruths about funding by the coalition government for hospitals and health care right around Australia is equally as demeaning.

The GetUp! people are just a front for the Greens political party and the left wing of the Labor Party, and they even acknowledge that themselves now. We have always known GetUp! were a fraud, but they are confirming that themselves now. They were in the electorate of Dawson, which is in the southern part of Townsville, going down through my home town of Ayr and into Mackay. Five or six of them were there trying to run this campaign; they were not very good, I might say, but they were there in numbers. They had this big banner up saying, 'The coalition is going to sell the Mackay hospital'. Now they could not work out that although it was still in the electorate of Dawson, they had these signs about the Mackay hospital talking about a city 400 or 500 kilometres south of Townsville. Quite frankly, Townsville people were really not convinced on the way they voted because someone was talking about a hospital 400 or 500 kilometres away! But that was the standard of the sort of person that GetUp! were paying or had convinced to go and try and get rid of Mr Christensen in the electorate of Dawson. Mr Christensen increased his vote in spite of a most vicious campaign against him by the unions and GetUp!—they both set upon him. So perhaps the Labor Party will learn in the future that they should look at their resources more.

On that, I might add that the CFMEU and the MUA, I was told, sent up workers to hand out how-to-vote cards for the Glenn Lazarus Team. Remember Senator Lazarus, who was here for a short period of time? Undistinguished time, I might say. He had all these unionists up there handing out his how-to-vote cards. I think he got about one per cent of the vote. Again, I understand there are repercussions within the Labor Party for the MUA and the CFMEU putting resources into Mr Lazarus's campaign rather than the Labor one—although, of course, Lazarus's preferences all went directly to the Labor Party, as you would expect if you had seen the way then Senator Lazarus voted in this chamber.

So while this report is a majority report, you can understand where it is coming from. I think the minority report is by far the better indication of what happened in that committee.

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