Coalition MPs don't have the guts to speak out on health cuts

POSTED ON
July 18

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (16:37): This is an absolute outrage—that the coalition today have gagged debate on the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014, this important bill. I make this point: they had the opportunity to let the people of Australia vote on this proposition, but they did not have the courage to put this proposition to the people of Australia not 12 months ago when we went to a general election. They then ram the bill into the parliament and demand that we vote on it without having a full debate. Well, there is a very good reason they will not let us have a full debate on it: they do not want sunlight on it.

As the shadow minister, the member for Ballarat, has pointed out just now, they could not even fill a speaking list on it. In fact, the shortest queue in the building yesterday was the queue of government MPs who were willing to stand up in this place and defend this atrocious legislation. Only four speakers were willing to stand here in this place yesterday and defend this atrocious legislation. There is a very good reason for that. We know that one of the last reports that the COAG Reform Council published before the government shut it down—because they do not like the message that the COAG Reform Council is giving them—showed that there are already people who are failing to fill the scripts that their health professionals have told them are essential for their health. There are already people who cannot afford to fill those scripts. In fact, in June they found that around 8.5 per cent of people were already delaying or failing to fill their prescriptions.

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Deputy PM says costs will always be lower under Coalition - clearly not talking about health costs

POSTED ON
July 18

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (17:42): The National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014 is a part of the government's plan to increase the cost of health services for all Australians. It includes the $7 GP tax; the $55 billion in cuts to hospital funding, which have been roundly condemned by every single premier and chief minister, the AMA and every health association in the country; and a 13 per cent increase in PBS out-of-pocket costs. Labor will not be supporting the bill. Let me explain why. It increases the PBS charges from 1 January 2015—for general patients by $5 to $42.70, and for concessional patients by $0.80 to $6.90. These changes are above and beyond the usual CPI increases and indexation. On top of this, the concessional PBS safety net threshold is increased by two prescriptions per year and the general safety net threshold is increased by 10 per cent each year for four years. The bill raises $1.3 billion over four years and diverts money straight from people's pockets—the pockets of sick people—into the Medical Research Future Fund. We simply cannot support the bill.

In question time today, we heard the Deputy Prime Minister say that costs would always be lower under the coalition. Clearly he was not talking about the cost of health services. This bill introduces a 13 per cent increase to the cost of prescriptions on top of the $7 GP tax. This means that a patient is lucky to pay just less than $100 in out-of-pocket expenses for a trip to the doctor that results in two prescriptions and a blood test. Nobody can claim that that is lower than under Labor. The Treasurer famously said the GP tax payment would be about the equivalent of a couple of beers or one-third of a packet of cigarettes. I know the Treasurer has expensive taste but you would struggle even in this town to find a beer that cost you 100 bucks. Clearly, the Treasurer is out of touch and these propositions are out of touch.

For Australians living in the country, in regional areas such as the one I represent, where bulk-billing rates are lower and it already costs more to travel the greater distances to see your doctor, the costs will be even greater. For Australians with private health insurance cover, this measure comes on top of the largest increase to private health insurance premiums that have been approved by a government in living member. One of the health minister's first acts on coming to government was the approval of over a six per cent increase in private health insurance premiums. It is simply not fair and Labor cannot support it.

The government has a package of measures which is deliberately designed to drive up the cost of health care for every day Australians. We saw during the MPI debate today the member for Lyne concede that exact point. The measures are designed to drive up the cost of health services, of visiting a GP, because if you do that you are going to dissuade people from going to the doctor.

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Australia is facing a healthcare emergency

POSTED ON
July 16

IMG_3745.JPGMr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:33):    Australia is facing a healthcare emergency—not the false emergency that those opposite are trying to convince the Australian people of, but one of their own making. This morning I stood with the member for Ballarat and dozens of Labor members with a rally of nurses and midwives from across Australia to protest against the lies and broken promises of this government. Over $50 billion has been gutted from our public hospital system, and it is going to send the health system in this country back 50 years—an ill-considered and unfair GP tax that will do exactly what it is designed to do, and that is stop patients going to see their doctor.

Before the election the Prime Minister said there would be no cuts to the healthcare system. Not even a year later, every Australian is starting to see the impact of these cuts—a $7 GP tax every time they go to the doctor, get a blood test or seek an X-ray. This is going to affect all Australians, but it is going to have a devastating effect on regional and rural Australia. In my region alone, where over 91.7 per cent of GP consultations are being bulk-billed, this is going to be hit on the head. Over $5.5 million is going to be ripped from the pockets of consumers through this horrible— (Time expired)

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From cradle to grave, nurses are copping it under this Budget

POSTED ON
July 16

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (15:28): If the longest queue in the building is the queue outside of the coffee shop at eight o'clock in the morning, the shortest queue in the building has got to be the queue of government MPs that are willing to line up here in this parliament and defend their own government's policy when it comes to their atrocious attacks on the health care system.

Mr Ewen Jones interjecting

Mr Nikolic interjecting

Mr STEPHEN JONES: I see Townsville's answer to Benny Hill has got a lot to say, I see 'Sergeant Strop' from Bass over there has got a lot to say, but none of them are willing to put themselves on the speaking list. They had an opportunity today to put themselves on the speaking list and defend their horrid attacks on the PBS system. But all we see is four people who are willing to stand up and defend their government's atrocious attacks on the health system.

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PBS Amendment will increase health costs for all Australians

POSTED ON
July 16

PBS.jpgMr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (17:42):    The National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014 is a part of the government's plan to increase the cost of health services for all Australians. It includes the $7 GP tax; the $55 billion in cuts to hospital funding, which have been roundly condemned by every single premier and chief minister, the AMA and every health association in the country; and a 13 per cent increase in PBS out-of-pocket costs. Labor will not be supporting the bill. Let me explain why. It increases the PBS charges from 1 January 2015—for general patients by $5 to $42.70, and for concessional patients by $0.80 to $6.90. These changes are above and beyond the usual CPI increases and indexation. On top of this, the concessional PBS safety net threshold is increased by two prescriptions per year and the general safety net threshold is increased by 10 per cent each year for four years. The bill raises $1.3 billion over four years and diverts money straight from people's pockets—the pockets of sick people—into the Medical Research Future Fund. We simply cannot support the bill.

In question time today, we heard the Deputy Prime Minister say that costs would always be lower under the coalition. Clearly he was not talking about the cost of health services. This bill introduces a 13 per cent increase to the cost of prescriptions on top of the $7 GP tax. This means that a patient is lucky to pay just less than $100 in out-of-pocket expenses for a trip to the doctor that results in two prescriptions and a blood test. Nobody can claim that that is lower than under Labor. The Treasurer famously said the GP tax payment would be about the equivalent of a couple of beers or one-third of a packet of cigarettes. I know the Treasurer has expensive taste but you would struggle even in this town to find a beer that cost you 100 bucks. Clearly, the Treasurer is out of touch and these propositions are out of touch.

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Abbott's Fair Work Amendment, anything but

POSTED ON
July 15

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (19:58): This bill is about the regulation of unions, employer associations and their officers and officials. In common parlance, the word 'official' is taken to mean somebody who is elected or appointed to a full-time job within an organisation and who draws a salary for performing those functions. It belies the fact that the majority of officials, at least within unions, are volunteers who give up hundreds of hours of their time every year for a purpose and a cause that they believe in. For unions, the cause is the protection and the betterment of the wages and conditions of the people they represent—ordinary Australian workers. They help them balance the cost of living with their income and they help them get a fair go at work.

Any debate about workplace relations in this place is always conducted on many levels. As the contributors to this debate have demonstrated, it is as much about the political contest between the conservative parties and us, the Labor Party, as it is about the subject matter of the bill. We have heard numerous contributions from those on the other side of the House and from those on this side of the House which give testament to that. It has been that way since Federation. Governments have risen and fallen on the question of industrial relations. It is an unfortunate fact that the objects of the legislation, by which I mean those for whom it purports to regulate, are often swept aside.

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Labor seeking submissions on cosmetic testing on animals

POSTED ON
July 14

animal_testing_meme.jpgMr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (16:42): During the last election Labor made a commitment to lead a national consultation and discussion on phasing out the importation, manufacture, sale and advertising of cosmetics and cosmetic products that have been tested on animals. I am very pleased to say that last week the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the member for Hotham and I announced that we would be commencing a public consultation process to review our policy and, hopefully, to review the law of this country on this particular issue. Anyone can be a part of Labor's consultation process. In fact, I invite members of the government to participate in the discussion as well, because we want to hear the views of all Australians including consumers, animal rights groups and, importantly, the industry stakeholders.

Developing a new party policy on the testing of cosmetics on animals is a complex matter, but it is also an important matter and we want to make sure that we get it right. In addition to public submissions, we are holding public forums in major cities around the country. Australia should not be behind the rest of the world on this issue. The European Union is ahead of us, Israel and India are ahead of us—and Australia needs to get with it. Changing the policy is not the objective; changing the law is, and that is what Labor wants to do.

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Address to the WA Labor Party State Conference

POSTED ON
July 07

SJ_and_Louise_Pratt_WA_ALP_conference.jpgIt’s a great pleasure to be addressing the conference of W.A. Labor at such a critical time in the history of our Nation and our Party.

As Tony Abbotts’ Coalition approaches the end of its first year in Government it has become known for the rash of broken promises that reach into every household in the country.

As bad as they are the Coalition project is bigger than the sum of each broken promise. Their mission is to recast the essential values on which our country has been built.  From health to education, infrastructure to taxation – fairness is no longer the touchstone.

The consequences are brutal. The politics of equality is being replaced with the politics of fear, of envy, of resentment.

The strong are being told to fear the weak. The rich are being encouraged to resent the poor. The majority are enticed to feel oppressed by the minority.

This tragedy turns to farce when those who complain about oppressive tax burdens secretly pay no tax and defend their entitlement to concessions and rebates.

This is not the Australia we want for our kids. It is not the Australia we want to grow old in.  

The battle is not joined on even ground – as a Party we are also challenged from parties on the left and right and from parties who are all over the place. We have suffered a significant defeat in the Federal Poll – in many ways we deserved it. But Australia cannot afford for Labor to retreat to introspection. Australia needs Labor to rise to meet the challenge.

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Government must not abandon National Congress of Australia's First Peoples

POSTED ON
June 23

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (11:11): When a government changes, the country changes. So said Paul Keating in his famous dictum. I agree with that totally. But some national projects have to survive the political baton change. It often falls to a government and a parliament to continue the good work of the previous government and the previous parliament. So it is with the project of national reconciliation, recognition and removing the gap that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. I thank the member for Blair, the shadow spokesperson, for bringing this matter before the parliament. I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the Ngambri and Ngunawal people, and pay my respects to elders past and present.

Deputy Speaker, you would remember that, on 13 February 2008, the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered the apology to the stolen generation. This was another step in the process of reconciliation, another step in acknowledging that it falls to the government to remove the burden of disadvantage and discrimination. He had this to say:

… we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

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Abbott Government health policy is a shambles

POSTED ON
June 23

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (17:58): It is a pleasure to be speaking on this bill, the Health Insurance Amendment (Extended Medicare Safety Net) Bill 2014, and to be following two MPs from the Hunter Valley, the member for Paterson, who directly precedes me, and the member for Shortland. I had the great pleasure of visiting the Hunter Valley on the weekend and joining with them and many hundreds of members from the local community in a conversation about the future of health care in this country.

We are in the midst of a national debate about how we organise and how we fund our health system. The unfortunate thing about this debate is the way the government is handling it, because the process is almost as confused as the policy itself. It is almost like we have a sheet of salami so long and we are slicing it up into little bits and throwing a few of those little bits into the parliament every month or so. Nowhere does the parliament have the opportunity to have a debate about the policy changes as a whole. It was this concern that moved the member for Ballarat to move amendments in her speech in the second reading debate to ensure that debate on this bill encompassed a debate on all of the government's proposed changes to the health system. I seek to direct my contribution this evening to those changes.

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Stephen Jones MP
Stephen Jones MP For Throsby