Strengthening Medicare


I move that this House:

  1. acknowledges that the Government is working for Australia by delivering our commitment to strengthen Medicare and making it easier to see a doctor by:

    (a) tripling the bulk billing incentive, the largest increase to the incentive in the 40-year history of Medicare;
    (b) delivering cheaper medicines by cutting the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme co-payment for the first time in 75 years and allowing 60-day prescriptions, saving patients time and money due to less visits to the doctors and the chemist;
    (c) establishing bulk-billing Medicare Urgent Care Clinics across the country where patients receive urgent but not life-threatening care and freeing up overstretched GPs, take pressure off hospitals and improve access to affordable care; and
    (d) growing our health workforce and supporting our trusted health workers to do what they are trained to do by investing in the work force and supporting our local GP practices through the Strengthening Medicare General Practice Grants; and

  2. notes the mess the health system was left in after a decade of neglect, including under the stewardship of the now Leader of the Opposition who during his time as Minister:

    (a) tried to tax every single visit Australians made to their GP;
    (b) tried to jack up the price of medicines by $5 for each and every script;
    (c) cut $50 billion from hospitals;
    (d) started six years of a Medicare rebate freeze; and
    (e) was voted the worst Health Minister in 40 years by the Australian Medical Association.

I'm pleased today to rise to move this private member's motion that acknowledges the Albanese government working for Australia by delivering our commitment to strengthen Medicare and make it easier to see a doctor after a decade of cuts and undermining of Medicare. We all know how much that has been hurting in our communities. I am pleased to stand here to say that, in the community that I represent, we have been supported by this Albanese Labor government to support our local members accessing the health care that they need.

The first thing I want to point out here, purely from a local perspective, is the reversing of the Liberal Party's local Medicare cuts. Unbeknownst to many, whilst in power in 2019 Scott Morrison's Liberal government made cuts that meant some regions of Australia, including Wyndham, were banned from hosting the overseas-trained doctors and doctors in the Bonded Medical Program that served our communities. This saw a depletion of GPs by 30 per cent in my community. That was 30 per cent fewer GPs on the ground. It saw cuts to long hours, where people could drop into the doctor on their way home from work. It saw cuts across the board. The Albanese Labor government has reversed that decision, and Wyndham is now part of the distribution priority area, recognising that shortage. Over time we'll build back that 30 per cent of GPs, and we'll be part of the process of training overseas-trained GPs.

They told me, when I visited Utopia, one of our local GP clinics, recently, that it is already having the effect that we thought it would, and that they are able to have more GPs on their books. You can't get much better than that: as a member of a government, to go and visit a GP clinic and hear that good news that we have doctors coming back into our community, a community that needs access to general practitioners.

But it's not just that. We've also tripled the bulk-billing incentive—the largest increase to the incentive in the 40-year history of Medicare. This will be supporting people in my community. We're also delivering the Medicare urgent care clinics across the country. There are many of these in Victoria, and I'm proud to say that there is one in Werribee. Having visited the Medicare urgent care clinic, I'm pleased to say that they are reporting that the community is becoming very aware of their existence, and rather than heading to emergency they are now able to be treated for non-life-threatening but very important things. On the ground, importantly, X-rays are available. Kids fall off the double bunk, kids have an accident at sport and break an arm with a greenstick fracture, and they can now go to that urgent care clinic and avoid long delays and avoid putting pressure on our hospital emergency.

We're also strengthening the Medicare GP grant. The Australian government is investing $220 million in grants over two years through the Strengthening Medicare GP Grants Program. I'm pleased to say that in 2023, 6,820 grants have been awarded Australia-wide. In Lalor, 41 of our GP clinics have collectively received over $1.1 million in funding in 2023. So we're supporting our GP practices. This government is about ensuring that they are supported so that we maintain the level of care that we already have to ensure people can access it.

We're increasing the bulk-billing payment incentives. This is important. From 1 November 2023 we're increasing Medicare Benefits Schedule bulk-billing incentive payments for Commonwealth concession card holders and children under 16 years of age for a range of MBS consultation items. This is an historic $3.5 billion investment across Australia and will triple the bulk-billing incentive. It's the largest-ever increase to the bulk-billing incentive in the history of Medicare and will provide an immediate benefit to 97,000 Australians in my community.

Deputy Speaker, this government is serious about rebuilding Medicare, about fixing Medicare after 10 years of disaster under the previous government. I'm proud to stand here as the member for Lalor and speak on behalf of my community to say that they appreciate their government's actions. They need to see their doctors easily; they need access to good-quality health care; and this government's going to do it for them.

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