02 Mar 2020 speech

Ms FLINT (Boothby—Government Whip) (12:43): I want to thank and acknowledge my colleague the member for Lyne for moving this motion. I'm very pleased to speak in support of it today. The Morrison government has an unwavering commitment to Medicare and has demonstrated this commitment by guaranteeing its long-term future through legislation. Through the Medicare Guarantee Act, providing funding for Medicare, along with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, will now be the top priority for any government into the future. We know why this is necessary. It is because, under those opposite, Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, our hospitals funding and bulk-billing really did not keep up with the expectations of the Australian people. That's why we have acted to make sure that all of these services are properly funded.

We are increasing Medicare funding every year, up from $19.5 billion in 2012-13, to $26.1 billion in 2019-20, to $30.7 billion in 2022-23. Increased funding has turned into better health outcomes for patients. More Australians than ever are visiting the GP, with no out-of-pocket expense. Over 136 million free GP services were delivered last year, an astonishing figure, and 30 million more services than when the Labor Party were in government. This translates to a bulk billing rate of 86.2 per cent, up from Labor's 82.1 per cent when in government.

The rate of bulk-billing for specialist attendances has also increased. Important diagnostic services, including ultrasound and X-ray imaging have seen Medicare rebates increased under the Morrison government, bringing down costs to patients. Reducing the payment required for these essential services helps in bringing down the cost of living for all Australians. Despite what you may hear from those opposite, Medicare has no better friend than the Morrison government.

An important part of our Medicare system is the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The PBS plays a significant role in the treatment patients receive following their visit to a GP, specialist or hospital. It allows affordable medicines to be accessed by every single Australian, the costs of which would otherwise be astronomical and completely unaffordable for so many people. Since we on this side came to government, nearly 2,300 medicine listings worth around $10.9 billion have been added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme—that is, 2,300 medicines which may have been out of reach for most Australians otherwise. These recently added medicines help people suffering from cancer, heart disease, epilepsy, spinal muscular atrophy and severe asthma. Through these additions, we have provided 3,000 women, for example, with breast cancer access to the drugs Ibrance and Kisqali, which, without the PBS, would have incurred an annual cost of $55,000 and $71,820 respectively. By subsidising Spinraza, Australian families are being spared having to spend $367,850 per year to care for their children with spinal muscular atrophy. This is genuinely life-changing stuff.

In stark contrast, unfortunately, during the last Labor government, we witnessed the unprecedented deferral of medicines, and the government at the time said: 'The listing of some medicines would be deferred until fiscal circumstances permit.' The Morrison government, in comparison, understands that funding the PBS is vital for all Australians and that the only way for us to do this is through a strong economy. Only a coalition government can deliver an economy that allows us to not only fund medicines currently on the PBS but to continue to grow the scheme into the future.

There is also under the Morrison government record funding for public hospital services, which will see an increase from $13.3 billion in 2012-13 to more than $29 billion in 2024-25. Our new five-year national health reform agreement will deliver $31 billion in additional public hospital funding from 2021 to 2024-25. This means more hospital services, more doctors and more nurses. We know that the most pressing health concerns for Australians change over time. As new technologies and treatments are brought into the system, issues that were once seen as a top health priority may no longer have such an impact on local communities and this is why we have developed the Medicare Benefits Schedule review. We want to make sure that taxpayers' hard-earned money is being spent exactly where it needs to be to deliver the most benefit for those most in need. I just want to say again that the Medicare system provides all Australians with world-class health care and I'm very proud that the Morrison government is supporting.