Matter of Public Importance - Universal Healthcare

In September 2013, the electors of Parkes, Page, Lyne and Riverina and, indeed, right throughout regional Queensland voted for National Party members. 


The fact is that they are still waiting for them to turn up. When they voted for those National Party members, they did it on the basis of the commitments that the National Party members made to their electorate. If ever there has been a land speed record for members of parliament running away from the commitments that they made to the electorate, it has to be granted to the National Party members who were elected to the 44th Parliament.

I have in front of me an excellent document, which is an analysis of the some of the promises that were made by National Party members when they went to the 2013 election. I like this one in particular, on page 45 of the Nationals' plan for regional Australia, which states:

The Nationals will provide increased financial support for doctors who provide health services in regional and remote communities—

wait for it; this is the bit I like—

through increased Medicare rebates and scheduled fees loaded on top of regular Medicare billings …

The truth could not be further from the promise that they went to the election wit Where are the members for Lyne, Parkes, Page and Riverina and those Queensland country members? Why aren't they up here fighting against the proposal to freeze and cut Medicare rebates? The fact is that those Queensland electors voted for a National Party MP, and they are still waiting for a National Party MP to turn up to this parliament.

Like the movie Jaws, the first budget was a shocker and the second is no better—it is still not safe to go back into the water! On top of the $55 billion worth of cuts in the 2014 budget, we have built an additional $2 billion worth of cuts. I have some challenges for those National Party members who purport to represent regional Australia. We have a challenge for them. At a time when it is very difficult to get a dentist at an affordable price in regional Australia, you would expect to see the National Party championing schemes which provide dentists to regional Australia. Instead, in this budget we see cuts to the Dental Relocation and Infrastructure Support Scheme. I expect the National Party to be railing against that with great vigour! At a time when there are shortages in training places in rural and regional Australia, you would expect to see more money going into providing training places for our medical practitioners—not $72.5 million worth of cuts to workforce programs, including the program which is supporting scholarships to people in rural and regional Australia.

They are all very good. But the one that really takes the cake is this one. We saw on the Sunday before budget night, with great fanfare, the Assistant Minister for Health, Senator Nash, launch these fantastic new ads, at a cost, we are told, of $20 million, to educate Australians about the danger of ice and methamphetamine use, particularly in rural and regional Australia. We support appropriate evidence based measures which are going to assist people in rural and regional Australia deal with this terrible blight of methamphetamine use. We thought the government were genuine. But not three days later we saw in the budget paper over $500 million worth of cuts to the very funds which are providing resources for drug treatment, rehabilitation and education to prevent and treat and deal with drug addiction, including ice and methamphetamine addiction, throughout the country. Like the movie Jaws and its sequel, it is still not safe to go back into the water. The people of rural and regional Australia are still waiting for their National Party MPs to turn up in this place and defend the health care in their regions and to stick to their promises.