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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 134 ..

MR SPEAKER: You need leave to move them all together, but you do not need leave to move them one at a time. Let me intervene for a moment. There are a number of amendments on the table. Three new point 4s have been tabled, and it looks as though all of those could stand together and all survive. There are some other, separate, amendments, some from you and some from Ms Tucker, and we will have to work out whether they can stand as well.

If you proceed with all of yours at once, it may be difficult to separate some of the issues. So, in an attempt to get all of the concerns of these amendments included in the eventual motion, I propose to deal with your amendment omitting point 3 and inserting a new point 3-your first amendment-then deal with Ms Tucker's amendment and then deal with the point 4s separately.

The issue that arises is that people may wish to vote differently on all of the amendments. If you put the amendments together, they may well be locked into voting against particular amendments that they might otherwise agree with.

MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (10.59): I move the following amendment:

Omit paragraph (3), substitute:

"(3) and calls on the Commonwealth Government to review the Medicare Rebate.".

I think this gets to the nub of the matter. The complaint is that the rebates are quite small and that over time they have not kept abreast of what is a reasonable expectation of the service or given encouragement to GPs to take on bulk-billing customers. It will go a long way to alleviating some of the pressures that GPs are feeling and some of the problems that GPs are facing in not being able to keep their practices afloat.

MR CORBELL (Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (11.00): I welcome this debate today because it is on a central issue of public policy: the effective provision of primary health care services to the Canberra community. It is a central tenet of any local government that the provision of these vital public goods-public education and public health-are as efficient, equitable and available as possible. At the moment in the territory we face severe pressure on the primary health components of our system: GPs and the cost to people of accessing GP services.

The issue that Mr Hargreaves raises in his motion is therefore welcome by the government-welcome because it goes to the heart of these central public policy issues. We cannot have a just and equitable society unless we have just and equitable access to primary health care on an affordable basis. But it is interesting to hear the rhetoric of the Leader of the Opposition. He says these are our issues and our problems, and we must address them.

What has he just moved in his amendment? His amendment is to say, quite rightly, that the Commonwealth needs to address the Medicare rebate. It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to say, "This is your problem, government, and you must fix it,"but in the next breath he acknowledges the reality that funding for primary health care has been nationally recognised since the 1970s as the responsibility of the Commonwealth government under Medicare and the subsequent Australian Health Care Agreement.

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