Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

Attack on Medicare and the cost of medicines

I rise today to speak on this matter of public importance—and it is of great importance, especially to the people of my electorate of Lalor. As with many measures in the Abbott government's budget of broken promises, when you add up the combined impact of the GP tax and the increase to medicine costs and when those numbers are crunched, we see Lalor topping the charts with an estimated cost to our community of over $52 million. That is $52 million taken out of our community and out of our local economy because it will have to be spent on going to the doctor and paying for prescriptions.

Our pain does not stop there, because we will be sorely hit by the $50 billion cut from hospitals and the scrapping of preventive health funding. We are heartily sick of being top of the pops. And we are heartily sick of projecting the compounding effects of this cruel budget on families. The truth is that our community keeps featuring because it has 60,000 families making their way in the world. In fact, in Lalor we are a microcosm of the broad Australian community. So I speak today for Lalor, but I speak also for middle- and low-income Australians.

When I think about the community of Lalor, I also think of other growth corridors that will surely be suffering in similar ways. I think of Cranbourne South in the seat of Flinders, and I think of Minister Hunt—and I wonder where he is today to speak on this MPI; I think of Pakenham in the seat of McMillan; and I think of Frankston in the seat of Dunkley. All of these electorates in the state of Victoria are held by Liberal members of this House. They are all in the top 40 in this week's charts. Given that their members are not speaking out in this chamber or, one suspects, in the LNP caucus or in cabinet, I speak for them today in this MPI. I speak for Lalor, I speak for Australia and I speak about their anger. I speak about the anger about the Prime Minister and the Treasurer promising before the election that there would be no cuts to health and no new taxes but now smashing that promise. I speak of the anger about higher costs to visit the doctor and to buy needed medications and about the effects that will have on people accessing the medical care in the primary sector that they need, resulting in fewer people accessing health advice.

In my own home, someone I care about deeply has found himself making decisions about going to the doctor and about filling prescriptions, because he has a large monthly bill for daily medications and he is really considering it with these threatened increases. I can only imagine how this translates to the 10,000 pensioners in Lalor. I have heard from several people who are on the disability support pension due to chronic illness and who have very real fears about how they will survive when they must pay more for prescriptions. I hear Minister Dutton and those on the other side of the chamber consistently cry, 'Labor introduced the PBS co-payment' but they deliberately omit that Labor also increased the pharmaceutical allowance to compensate pensioners and that allowance was paid weekly. Every time the PBS co-payment rose, so did the pharmaceutical allowance. They fail to admit that it was Prime Minister Howard who broke that nexus in 1997. They omit the targeted and responsible savings Labor made like the means testing of the private health insurance rebate. They omit that Labor made medicines cheaper by simplifying price disclosure.

It is little comfort to the people of Lalor that they will take this hit, that they will have their long-term health possibly compromised by reduced household budgets and by their capacity to pay. It is little comfort to them to know they will do this to fund a research fund that may find cures but that will be useless to them if the universality of our health care system is smashed in the process.

So we have smashed promises, smashed commitments. We will have, if the government continues to pursue its unhealthy agenda, smashed household budgets. We will have in my electorate smashed lives. Those opposite argue they have to do something. I say to them: you do not have to do this; you should not do this.


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