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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 2 Hansard (5 March) . . Page.. 535 ..

minister is responsible in that regard.

MR CORBELL: It is worth making the point that federal policy changes in bulk-billing will have an impact on Canberrans. I have a responsibility to make that point very clearly and to articulate why those policy changes should not occur.

Imagine a working family on $30,000 per annum, with children. They are working; they are not low income earners as far as the Prime Minister is concerned. Will they get access to bulk-billing? I think the answer to that is no.

Mrs Dunne: On a point of order, what this minister said was, "I think that that would not be the case."The minister is speculating. He is expressing an opinion.

MR SPEAKER: There is no point of order. Have you concluded, Mr Corbell?

MR CORBELL: No, I have not. I am just warming up. I would like to hear the shadow minister stand up and say, "We're opposed to what the Prime Minister is proposing to do with bulk-billing."I would like to hear universal support for Medicare from Mr Smyth because Medicare is important to all Australians, and it is important to all Canberrans.

If this proposal goes forward as part of the next Australian Health Care Agreement, we are heading towards a second-class system of medical care for the majority of Canberrans. That is not acceptable. Why isn't it acceptable? Not only is it unacceptable on equity grounds; it is also unacceptable because of the impact it will have on our public hospitals. It will mean more and more people coming to the accident and emergency areas of our public hospitals because they do not have any other choice.

We have had this debate in the ACT before. Let's understand exactly what the Commonwealth government has done in relation to funding for our hospitals. Nationally, the cost of providing GP type services in emergency departments in our hospitals is estimated at $.1 billion. That means that every state and territory, including the ACT, has been funding the shortfall in GP type services and lack of bulk-billing at its own cost. It is cost-shifting of the worst order. It puts extra pressure on our hospitals, which have no resources to meet it except those that come from the state or territory concerned.

That is unacceptable, and this issue needs to be addressed. Instead of the opposition harping on, why don't they come on board and say, "We don't support the abolition of bulk-billing; we don't support proposals for a second-class system of health care."Why don't they come on board? This is an issue of key interest to many Canberrans. Basic access to health care is a fundamental tenet of being able to participate as a citizen in our society. Why aren't they prepared to come out and say that it is not acceptable to undermine bulk-billing and that it is not acceptable to further degrade the availability of GP services in the ACT?

Quite frankly, on behalf of the ACT, as all other states and territories have done, we have put forward our proposals for how these issues can be addressed. (1) the Commonwealth could raise the rebate so that bulk-billing is more attractive and (2) they could provide support so that GP services can be provided more effectively in hospitals or on hospital grounds.

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