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This service ought to be a bulk-billing service. My real fear is that, if at this stage the Chief Minister allows one or two doctors, or more, to set up a practice where they are not bulk-billing, it will be the thin end of the wedge and it will be only a very short time before the other doctors look at it and think, “Why is Dr Fred earning substantially more than I am for doing exactly the same thing?”, and the process will snowball. It is far better to set the standard from the word go, and that is why I welcome Mr Osborne's motion. I think it was very astute of him to recognise this problem and, having heard the answer in question time, to bring this matter to the attention of the Assembly now. I think it is a very sensible motion.
MS TUCKER (3.50): We will be supporting this motion as well, because it is totally consistent with how we voted yesterday. I was not quite clear why Mr Moore and Mr Osborne voted the way they did, but it is clear now; so we will be supporting the motion.
MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Minister for Health and Community Care) (3.50): As I have said to the Assembly on a number of occasions, our preferred position is exactly in line with this motion; but the CMPs and the union representing the CMPs currently working in our health centres have raised a position with our negotiating group, suggesting that they should be able not to bulk-bill some people. They have said that they are quite happy to bulk-bill people who are on health care cards, the disadvantaged people on low incomes and people who cannot afford to pay; but they want some flexibility.
The position as I put it in question time was that, as negotiations were continuing with those CMPs, I was not willing to rule out that position, as I believe that it is in the community's best interests for those CMPs, if possible, to stay in their current practices. But, as I have often said and will say again, it is our preferred position that all doctors in our health centres bulk-bill. If it is the will of the Assembly, and it appears to be, for that to be the case, to the exclusion of the union’s request in the current situation, I assume that the Assembly will rule that way. I think it is unfortunate, though, as I said in question time, to be so categorical with the very few doctors we are talking about here, if it means that they will not stay in practices that they have been in for a long time. There is certainly no skin off anybody's nose here, whichever way we go. But the only people who could potentially be disadvantaged in any way are people who have been going to a particular practice for a long time and whose doctor decides that he wants to have the flexibility to do something other than bulk-bill some people and decides to move. That means that that patient could, under certain circumstances, be disadvantaged.
Mr Moore told me that he believes that the CMPs are bluffing. Potentially they are. I suppose that is part of a negotiating situation. I am just making the Assembly aware of the claim that the union and the CMPs have placed in front of our negotiating committee. I really do not see that allowing doctors a capacity not to bulk-bill some patients - it is not as if they will not be bulk-billing at all - would really cause a huge problem. We certainly need some new doctors, as we find that there are fewer than two doctors at the Tuggeranong Health Centre. That is simply unacceptable in a $3m facility. We need to get new GPs into our centres, and our requirements are that they all be bulk-billing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.