Page 1817 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 4 May 2005

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current federal government in terms of social issues, and it is clear that this move by Tony Abbott is one that has been prompted by this conservatism.

This proposed cutback on Medicare is a cruel denial of health care to ACT women and is only the very beginning. Once this cap is made, who is to say whether the caps will stop. What next will the Howard government cap in an attempt to reduce the effect of the blunder it committed in introducing the short-lived, so-called Medicare safety net?

Tony Abbott, as with all other politicians, has no place in the medical consulting room. However, this move by Tony Abbott is exactly where this places him. Tony Abbott has a degree in law, not medicine. Tony Abbott has worked as a journalist, not as a general practitioner. Tony Abbott is a member of the federal parliament, not a family planner. Tony Abbott is a government minister, not a gynaecologist. Yet this move places him directly in the consulting room with a woman, her partner and her specialist. It involves the federal government in a clinical decision where it has no place and no right to be.

It would appear that Tony Abbott is not the only member of the Liberal Party who has medical aspirations. A member of the ACT Liberal opposition has also weighed into this debate and is quoted in the Courier-Mail as saying that is it cruel to encourage older women to seek IVF. Perhaps members of the ACT Liberal opposition should first seek a degree in medicine before attempting to give medical advice.

The decision about whether to undertake in-vitro fertilisation treatment is a decision that can only be made by a woman and her partner in consultation with her specialist. It is stressful and traumatic, and women do not need the added pressure of the federal government being tight fisted and downright mean when funding medical procedures that women have the right to access.

The federal government has a responsibility to protect and enshrine the right of each and every Australian to access equitable and affordable health care. There is nothing in this proposed change that is equitable or affordable. This is merely a further example of the conservative campaign the Howard government has convinced itself it has the right to fight. The notion of universality of care is exactly that—universality, all, every. Access to Medicare-funded treatment should always be based on objective merit rather than the Howard government’s subjective value judgments. Mr Speaker, this is the thin edge of the wedge. This is yet another attempt to dismantle the basic tenets and principles of universality of care—the basic tenet of Medicare.

Finding a bulk-billing doctor continues to become increasingly difficulty. Witness the promise of a safety net, cynically broken six months after we were told by Tony Abbott that it was rock solid, cast iron. And now the Howard government wants to deny some women and their partners the opportunity of having a family.

This is yet another shameful attempt to create a class system based on the principle of user pays. If you can afford to have IVF treatment, then it is available. But if your income is insufficient to privately pay for the procedure, then you miss out. To deny women access to Medicare-funded IVF treatments is a denial of the right of women to access health care—the very heart of the notion of universality of care. I ask members of this place to join me in affirming a commitment to accessible and affordable health services for all ACT residents.

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