MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - Health Care


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:58): I follow Senator Bilyk in this debate with some disappointment because I know and like Senator Bilyk but, regrettably, she just follows the Labor lies about health and education. I see some school students up in the gallery and they would have heard Senator Bilyk say that the government has cut funding to schools and to health. These are the facts of the matter: under the new national health agreement, where the Commonwealth funds most of the states to provide hospital and health services, the coalition is on track to double funding from $13.3 billion in 2012-13—when the Labor Party was in charge of the government—to a record $28.3 billion under the coalition.

I repeat that: the coalition is doubling the billions of dollars that come under the national health agreement for the states' hospitals. It is doubling what Labor paid, yet Labor speakers continue the mantra that became quite famous at the last federal election and actually has become part of the lexicon of our nation when you want to demonstrate something that is an outright and absolute lie: the 'Mediscare' campaign by the Labor Party at the last federal election. Around the country, they got on the telephones and started telephoning people at random, saying the coalition was going to cut Medicare, which was a complete and absolute untruth. It was an unmitigated lie, and yet the Labor Party perpetrated that lie—the 'Mediscare' campaign—all the way through the election, and it did result in changes of votes. But, as I've just indicated, the fact is that, under the coalition's plan, funding for the national health agreement will double to $28 billion.

Madam Deputy President, the coalition's increase in hospital funding is up to 6.5 per cent per annum, and that is more than four times population growth, which is only 1.6 per cent, and more than three times the consumer price index, which is at 1.9 per cent. So popular is the coalition's offering on health that New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory have signed up to the Commonwealth national health agreement, and half of the governments that have signed up with glee and relish are, indeed, Labor state or territory governments.

Madam Deputy President, we continue to fund hospitals and health very, very appropriately. The 'abolition of Medicare' as Labor called it, in one of the greatest lies of our generation, has been proven to be false. This government has established the Medicare Guarantee Fund, which guarantees by legislation—the Medicare Guarantee Act—the Medicare Benefits Schedule and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Indeed, Madam Deputy President, under the coalition government, more Australian patients are seeing doctors without having to reach for their wallets. At 85.8 per cent in the period July 2017 to March this year, we have seen the highest bulk-billing rate at any time since the inception of Medicare—and that's under a coalition government. The GP bulk-billing rate is up by 3.8 per cent since Labor was last in government and more than 97.7 million bulk-billed GP visits were provided to patients between July 2017 and March 2018. That's an extra 3.7 million services bulk-billed under Medicare during the coalition's term of office.

I just spent a week in hospital getting my knee replaced. I had one of the best knee surgeons going. He did a wonderful job with me, and there was an assistant surgeon and an anaesthetist. Curiously, I paid the assistant surgeon very little; I paid the anaesthetist nothing; I paid my surgeon a little bit. I would have paid him triple what I paid him, because he did such a wonderful job. But with most of those specialists, including the cardiac specialist—one of the best cardiac physicians in Queensland, who looked after me because of the valve in my heart—there was no bill at all from them. That's all paid by Medicare. That is typical of the growth of bulk-billing under the coalition government and the guarantees that the coalition have given. This is the Medicare scheme that the Labor Party told all and sundry at the last election that the coalition was going to abolish.

Time won't permit me to go through everything, but I will quickly turn to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Since coming to government, the coalition has, on average, listed one new medicine a day on the PBS, which is the scheme for the hugely subsidised pharmaceutical provisions given out to Australians. Those new medicines are worth around $8.3 billion to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This includes new cancer treatments, some of which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, that are now available for a $6.40 payment on concession, or $39.50 for general patients, per script. I remember I was involved with Senator Smith in the campaign to get the cure for hepatitis C onto the PBS. That's been a wonderful boon for people who suffer from that disease. The coalition continues to increase the funding for the PBS, and bulk-billing is increasing under the coalition.

I would like to respond to some of the lies on school funding that have been propagated by the Labor Party—not just with comments but with actual facts. Under the coalition all schools will reach 20 per cent of the SRS by 2023. Investment in public schools will rise from $6.8 billion last year to $7.4 billion this year and yet the Labor Party say we've cut funding to schools. The facts simply show the truth—$8 billion next year and $13.3 billion in 2027. I have to mention the record levels of recurrent funding for Catholic schools, totalling some $6.6 billion this year and nearly $9.8 billion in 2027. On average, funding will grow by around 3.7 per cent per student per year.

These are the facts of the health and education debate. Forget Labor's lies, forget Labor's 'Mediscare' campaign and look at the facts—they show government funding increasing.

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