GP Tax will do what is designed to do: stop people seeing the doctor

Medicare_MPI_meme.jpgMr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (15:35): On this side of the House, all Labor members of parliament are celebrating a very important anniversary. This month marks the 40th anniversary of the passage through the federal parliament of the bills which brought Medicare into place—the introduction of the most historic healthcare reforms in this country. It did not come easily. Gough Whitlam took the Medicare policy to three elections and still could not convince those opposite to support the legislation. So we saw the first and only joint sitting of parliament, which was convened to break the deadlock with the Senate. But even after the legislation was voted up by a joint sitting of parliament, did those opposite give up? The answer is no. A defiant leader of the coalition, one William Snedden, made a firm promise which echoes down the generations. He said: 'We'll fight this till it is finished because that is what we believe in.' So while we on this side of the House hold the flame for universal health care, those on the other side of the House are the heirs to that solemn promise of Billy Snedden's. They were doing it in 1975 and they are doing it today: they are trying to wreck universal health care in this country.

The member for Ballarat has pointed out that this tax will do exactly what it is designed to do. This horrendous tax—this $7 charge on people who are sick, who want to go and see the doctor—will do exactly what it is designed to: it will stop people going to the doctor. Where is the sense in that? Where is the sense in not having people go to the most efficient place in the health system to have their ailments dealt with. Instead of that, the policy of those opposite is to have them forced into the emergency wards of hospitals. Where is the sense in that? What is this tax and this PBS increase going to do? It is costing the country around about $5.8 billion—ripping it out of the pockets of consumers and it will do exactly what it is designed to do: keep people away from their GPs.

If that is not bad enough, if you look—and this should be a concern to you, Deputy Speaker Scott—at the areas where these policies are having the greatest impact, the top 12 electorates which are hurt most by the GP tax and the increase in medicines are in regional Australia. Gippsland, total cost $38 million over a four-year period; Hinkler, $38 million over a four-year period; the seat of Murray, $32 million; Gilmore, $33.7 million; Cowper, $31 million, and; Lyne, $32 million. We know that the increased charges on medicines alone are going to rip in excess of $112 million out of regional Australia. Knowing this we have to ask ourselves: 'Where is the National Party?'

In 1973 the National Party was led by a real leader with courage, because in 1973 the then Leader of the National Party, Doug Anthony, was willing to cross the floor. He was willing to cross the floor in the interests of country people and country electorates. I ask, through you Deputy Speaker Scott, the members of the National Party: do they have the courage of Doug Anthony to stand up for the people in their electorates and do the right thing? Because the people in country Australia are calling out to their members, saying, 'We rely on you.' A former member of that side of the House, Fred Chaney, had this to say:

Crossing the floor is the stuff of which parliamentary heroes are made.

You have the opportunity to see some heroes.

Mr McCormack interjecting

Mr STEPHEN JONES: We have the opportunity to see some heroes on that side of the House to stand up for their electorates.

Mr McCormack: When have you ever crossed the floor?

Mr STEPHEN JONES: Some of them might be saying, 'It might not be good for their careers.' There have been members on that side the House who have been willing to cross the floor in defence of something they believed in.

Mr McCormack interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Member for Riverina!

Mr STEPHEN JONES: Let's see them stand up for their electorates on this issue.

Mr McCormack interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Member for Riverina!

Mr STEPHEN JONES: Because we know there are National Party members who are scared to death on this issue.

Mr McCormack interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Riverina will desist!

Mr STEPHEN JONES: Well, stand up in this place for the people that you represent.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Riverina was being grossly disorderly and is lucky to be still in the chamber. You were being been grossly disorderly, along with others. I was trying to get your attention.