Speaking To Journalists About The Temporary Halt To The GP Tax

Tony Abbott still wants to gut Medicare and still wants a GP Tax, now it's just death by 1,000 cuts. Today I joined the rest of Labor's health team to to say that only Labor will protect Medicare.

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CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: The announcement we are about to hear which is obviously already in the media is that the Abbott Government has not changed its mind when it comes to Medicare. It is still determined to destroy Medicare. Instead of the $5 GP Tax we are now going to see death to Medicare by a thousand cuts.

We know there are still $1.3 billion on the table of cuts to general practice which will be passed on to patients. It is a GP Tax by stealth and exactly what this government has always been intent on doing. A government that thinks putting a barrier in the way of people accessing primary care is the best health policy this country can have.

It is an indictment on this government that after 18 months of being at war with doctors that it is still not backing away from its destruction of Medicare. We know we are only in this position today because Labor has stood up for Medicare, patients have stood up for Medicare, doctors have stood up for Medicare against the Abbott Government’s attempt to introduce its GP Tax. This will see the death of a thousand cuts to Medicare.  

STEPHEN JONES, ASSISTANT SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: We know in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health what is still on the table is over $100 million worth of cuts to their program and complete policy paralysis. You’ve got right across the Indigenous sector people not knowing whether their services are going to continue to be funded.

The same with rural and regional health. We’ve seen significant cuts. The freeze on Medicare rebates means money is being ripped out of primary care, and a lot of these practices are very marginal indeed. They don’t know whether the doors are going to be open at the end of the year. There’s no relief for them in the government’s announcement today.

JAN MCLUCAS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH: The mental health sector is reeling from the inaction and the chaos of the last 18 months from the Abbott Government. The mental health sector is reporting a reduction in services, a reduction in staff and the lowest morale in the service that’s ever been experienced.

Mental health patients are a cohort of the community that, more than anyone, are affected by increases to patient costs. They are as a group poorer, they are as a group more likely to need to go to the doctor. And in fact they have to go to the doctor early so that we can get on with the early intervention activities that are required.

NICK CHAMPION, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR HEALTH: For medical workforces around the country what we see is the death of a thousand cut to Medicare. We see $100,000 degrees for medical students and we see this utter chaos. An on again, off again, on again GP Tax. All of this provides great uncertainty and it will ultimately finish off Medicare.

JOURNALIST: Does the Government need to now get rid of the Medical Research Future Fund as well?

KING: Well that’s going to be a matter for the Government. It has raised huge expectations in the medical research community that there will be a $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund. It is good to invest in medical research, but not off the back of sick people.

The announcement we expect to hear from the government today is, of course, they now have to find an additional $800 million of saves out of health. They have already cut $57 billion out of public hospitals; over $300 million out of preventative health programs. Dental programs, Aboriginal health programs, cuts right the way across the board. It’s the totality of what they’ve done in health and I suspect we’re about to see worse to come.

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