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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 6 (4 May) . . Page.. 1815..


MR PRATT (continuing):

Graffiti is affecting the city's look, it is affecting our tourist potential and it is affecting our business potential. For the sake of business, tourism and peace and quiet in this jurisdiction, graffiti must be directly taken head on. This government must get serious.

Mr Hargreaves's amendments agreed to.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

Medicare

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (5.42): I move:

That this Assembly:

    1. recognises the importance to the ACT community of maintaining accessibility to Medicare funded treatments and services based on objective merit rather than subjective value judgments;
    2. notes the negative implications associated with restricting Medicare subsidisation for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments on an arbitrary basis; and
    3. affirms its commitment to accessible and affordable health services for all ACT residents, including the provision of IVF, at the discretion of the individual, in consultation with their medical practitioner.

Bill Hayden, on 29 November 1973, said that the purpose of Medibank-and later Medicare-was to provide the most equitable and efficient means of providing health insurance coverage for all Australians. Under the leadership of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, the Australian government introduced Medibank to the Australian community in 1975 and, with it, the notion of universal health care. These visionaries of the 1970s recognised the need for the government to respond to a growing decline in health care and ensure that each and every Australian had access to high-quality health care, no matter their class, race, sex, status or station.

Universality of care, however, has consistently come under attack by the Howard government and its campaign to achieve a society where the user pays. John Howard, early in his career as Prime Minister, was quoted as describing bulk-billing as "scandalous" and Medicare as a "monster". The Howard government has never been a supporter of Medicare, and it would appear that he is determined to undermine the universal health care system wherever possible.

In the ACT, bulk-billing rates per capita are the second lowest in the country, only ahead of the Northern Territory. Bulk-billing rates have declined so much in recent times that in the ACT the current bulk-billing rate is at a mere 37.6 per cent. Finding a doctor who will bulk-bill in Canberra is nigh on impossible, and for the everyday Canberran whose young child has fallen suddenly ill it is often the case of "Do I take my child to the doctor or do I buy groceries to feed my family this week?" We now have to live with a two-tier health system, a system based on wealth and capacity to pay, not based on need and equity of care for all. This is not universal health care.


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