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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 138 ..

MS DUNDAS (11.14): I will just address amendment No 1 from Mr Smyth, regarding the Medicare rebate. The government's private health insurance rebate pours $2.3 billion per year into the private health insurance industry. Much of that money ends up in the pockets of the insured or shareholders in private health funds, and not in the public health system, where it is desperately needed.

By simply means testing and capping the private health insurance rebate scheme, we would be able to direct over $1 billion towards the public health system. Neither the federal government or the Opposition is interested in doing that. The Federal Opposition does agree that the private health insurance rebate is "the worst example of public policy ever seen in that parliament."Yet the Australian Labor Party has made a firm commitment to keeping the scheme.

Recently a report written by John Deeble, a health economist and architect of Medicare, found that the scheme reduced the out-of-pocket expenses of insured people but produced no additional care for public patients. It has had no impact on increasing private health insurance membership or hospital waiting lists and is not an incentive to join private health funds.

Sixty per cent of the $2.3 billion was eaten up by higher ancillary benefit for services such as dentistry, speech therapy and natural therapies; upgrading insurance coverage; eliminating hospital gaps; and extending medical gap insurance over scheduled fees. I understand that Mr Deeble's report will be tabled when state and territory health ministers meet the federal minister-hopefully-later this month. I look forward to hearing Mr Corbell's actions as a result of that meeting.

Considering the abject failure of the private health insurance rebate policy, I cannot support Mr Smyth's amendment, as such a policy should be continually reviewed. The fact that it is such a failure should be a flag to the federal government that it needs to be reviewed. I think we do need to make the strong statement that this Assembly believes that the private health insurance rebate policy is not addressing the issues in public health and is a monumental failure.

MRS CROSS (11.17): It is interesting to be able to speak on this from this side of the chamber. I have heard a lot of descriptions used today about the Commonwealth government and the government here and the major parties' words like "political posturing". I think Mr Corbell used those to refer to Mr Smyth's amendment.

Mr Hargreaves used the words "monumental failure"in his motion. It is interesting that people say that health is a very important issue and put it on the notice paper on the 18th when we are here to debate it on the 19th. If members are serious about motions such as this, they should really consult all members in this place, particularly those on the cross bench, when they are seeking to get their support.

I wonder whether, if the federal government were a Labor government, members of the Labor Party here would be using the words "monumental failure"in the motion instead of just "review"or "reassess". I think that both parties use political posturing in this way.

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