Protecting Medicare from the Liberals' cuts

By Terri Butler MP

16 June 2021

Once again Medicare is under threat by the Liberals and the Nationals. They've been caught trying to sneak through almost 1,000 changes to the Medicare Benefits Schedule under the cover of COVID. That means patients in my electorate face the prospect of life-changing surgeries being cancelled at the last minute or being landed with huge bills they didn't expect. This is not the first attack on Medicare from this government. Defending Medicare was one of the first things I did as the member for Griffith—in fact, even before I became the member. When I became the candidate the commission of audit that then Prime Minister Abbott had initiated was just reporting. That was the commission that recommended a GP tax, a co-payment for people. I defended Medicare back then, in 2014, when Mr Abbott tried to introduce a co-payment for patients. I defended it for the same reason I do now—because when you attack Medicare you attack people.

Australians know that Medicare, universal health care, has never been so important. You only have to turn on the news and see what's happening in other countries in the pandemic to feel that Medicare is one of Australia's greatest achievements. Locals in my electorate have told me they're proud of Medicare. They have told me that they don't want to see us go down the American path. They know that parents shouldn't have to save for years just to be able to afford surgery for their child and that people shouldn't have to risk their own health just to avoid the cost of medical attention. They fundamentally believe that everyone should be able to get the health care they need. Health care should be based on need, not postcode or credit card.

Under the Liberals the costs have been going up, and that undermines universal health care. In the eight long years they've been in charge the cost of seeing a doctor has gone up and wait times have gotten longer. Under the Liberals it costs you 26 per cent more to see a doctor in Griffith than it did in 2014. As I said, the first thing this government did when it came to office was try to bring in a GP tax. When that overt attempt failed, they froze the Medicare rebate for years. That's how they brought in a GP tax by stealth, and now, from 1 July, Australians are going to be hit with increased bills for essential surgery, such as hip replacements, and other services.

This has been happening without proper consultation. It has been snuck through, but Labor and the community have found out about the government's attempts to further undermine Medicare. In fact, the AMA warned the Morrison government about the rushed nature of these changes and the significant disruption to the provision of health care. The Grattan Institute has said that it's almost inevitable that patients will see their fees rise after the first month. It's clear when you look at the history of Medicare from its earliest days, when the Fraser government undermined what the Whitlam government had done. It took Bob Hawke getting elected to create Medicare for this country. There has been attack after attack on Medicare from the Liberals. Labor defends Medicare; the Liberals try to undermine it—that happens every time. Labor will stand up for Medicare.