Labor will keep fighting for universal healthcare

The honourable minister said he wanted to inject a few facts into the debate. Here are a few facts the minister got wrong.

The first is that Medicare is not free. We pay for it. We pay for it through our Medicare levy. That includes those people who are concession card holders. I know the minister tries to deny the fact that concession card holders are also paying, but one of the facts he might like to go and find out for himself is how many of those concession card holders are also taking up private health insurance. They are being whacked twice by this GP tax, a fact the minister does not like to admit.

He also gets his facts wrong on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. He tries to convince people that it was the Labor government that introduced a co-payment for the PBS. I have news for the minister: there was this bloke called Menzies. The minister may not know our history very well but you would expect a Liberal Party minister to understand their own history a bit better than he does. It was Menzies who first introduced the co-payment into the PBS system. It was 1960 and it was a charge of five shillings.

Yesterday the House, and indeed the nation, mourned the passing of a great Australian. Today we on this side of the House recommit ourselves to his vision for a better Australia—a better Australia that includes universal access to health care. As Gough Whitlam stood on the steps of Parliament House some 39 years ago, he issued a solemn injunction to all fair-thinking Australians. He said to us, 'Maintain your rage.' Maintain your rage against all of those who seek to make Australia a place that is smaller than it is today—a place that is less equitable than it is today. There is much that we remain angry about. That sacred duty to maintain the rage now falls to each and every Labor member of parliament, because just as Labor was the party that introduced Medibank and Medicare, we are the last line of defence for those who would seek to destroy them.

Amidst the confusion, the chaos, the ineptitude, the false communication and the rotten handling of this terrible budget, we can define a consistent line of thought that joins this Prime Minister, this health minister and the policies of this rotten government to those Liberal elitists who sought to destroy Medibank 40 years ago—who sought to stop Medibank ever being introduced and then over the next four years pulled it apart, brick by brick. It was Billy Snedden who said in the debates during the historic joint sitting of parliament to introduce the Medibank legislation:

We will fight and we will continue to fight. We will destroy it.

Of all the promises that this government seeks to keep and all the faith that they tried to keep between 1974 and today, it is the promise to destroy Medicare brick by brick—and that is exactly what they are attempting to do. They are trying to destroy Medicare, just as they tried to stop it happening in 1974 and again in 1984.

I want to talk about the regions. When we contemplate the impact that these atrocious policies are going to have on regional Australia we are left wondering what it is that binds the MPs on the other side of the House to these mad policies. Let's contemplate the facts—as the member for Ballarat has done today—of the cost of diagnostic imaging for people living in regional Australia. It is $90 up front for an X-ray, $380 for a CAT scan and $160 for a mammogram. A PET scan could cost over $1,000 for people who are living in some of the poorest communities in the country. You have got to ask yourself why the people who pretend to represent those communities in regional Australia are binding themselves to these mad policies. If they were such good members as they pretend to be, they would be standing here today arguing against those policies and they would be crossing the floor when the legislation comes before the House because that is the right thing to do. (Time expired)

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