hospitals are struggling thanks to the coalition

It is now well accepted, at least by all of those on this side of the House, that Australia, which was once known as country of the fair go, as the land where people could pull themselves up by their bootstraps, indifferent to the circumstances of their birth, with the support of the government and the great opportunities this country would bring to them, and make good of themselves. 


But we know that inequality is growing. It is growing right around the region and right around this country. In fact, in the middle of last year the OECD published a report, which found that inequality in Australia is growing, as it is right throughout the OECD countries, and that it is in fact a drag on our national growth and eroding our social cohesion. It found that in Australia the top 10 per cent held over 45 per cent of the country's wealth and that the gap was going. That is a point that should be of great interest to all those National Party members and regional MPs opposite. The OECD found that in the city you were 20 per cent more likely to be in the top and wealthiest people in the country, as opposed to those people in the regions and in the country.

With growing inequality it is all the more important that we have a government that is dedicated to providing a decent health system. We already know that gaps in access to healthcare services and that health inequality are greater between city and country, and as we will learn tomorrow when the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition address this parliament on progress on closing the gap we will learn once again that we are not making sufficient progress on closing the gap in health outcomes between black and white Australia.

Against this background, why on earth would anybody who gives a toss about a fair go, which is seriously committed to addressing inequality in this country, do this government is doing to the health system of this country.

The member for Ballarat has gone through the long list of cuts that this government is attempting to visit upon the Australian people. The member for Ballarat went through the $57 billion worth of cuts to our hospital system, and we are seeing state premiers of Liberal and Labor persuasions saying that if something is not done about this our hospitals will fall over.

In my state we are already seeing the beginning of hospitals without doctors, something unthinkable a decade ago. There are hospitals without doctors, because they simply cannot afford to ensure that they have the full complement of staff.

Mr Nikolic: Name one!

Mr STEPHEN JONES: The member over there, the member for Bass, has asked me to name one. What about Bega?

Mr Nikolic: No doctors in Bega hospital? That's ridiculous. How can there be no doctors in Bega hospital?

Mr STEPHEN JONES: And, if the member really wants to entertain this dialogue, we will give him a full list: $1.8 billion worth of cuts to general practice; the proposals to increase the cost of medicines; the proposals to increase the costs of blood tests, X-rays and MRIs, which we learn will cost the average patient up to $60 a presentation. If this is what it means to be 'agile', I want to be standing for something different. If this is what 'agile' means, it is not what we are for. On this side of the House we stand for Medicare. We stand for a decently funded hospital system.

We learned today that the new government led by the new Prime Minister has not discarded their ferocious plans to attack Medicare, because we find today that there is a proposal to privatise Medicare. This will put the livelihoods of between 5,000 and 10,000 hardworking Australians at risk. I would have thought the member for Bass over there—who always has a lot to say—in an electorate like his, with such high unemployment, would be going into bat for the employees of Medicare, but he cares about something far less than that.

The only thing more ridiculous than the idea that we are going to privatise Medicare is the idea of putting the embattled Minister for Human Services in charge of such a proposition. Have you ever heard of a more ridiculous proposition? Those on this side of the House are going to fight until our last breath to ensure that we have a well-funded public hospital system and a Medicare system that is fit for the purpose of dealing with health inequality in this country.(Time expired)