Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (16:01): Scare campaigns are some of the most dangerous things in our political discourse, and Labor’s fabrications about Medicare were some of the most potent in the recent campaign. I had many people come up and talk to me in May and June, armed with the falsehood they had seen in Labor’s leaflets, to berate me for what they believed the Liberals would do to Medicare. Some people had been woken in fright on this issue—although, to be fair, that was because Labor was robo-calling pensioners late into the night. Shameful behaviour! I was very happy to talk to everyone who raised concerns over Medicare because, once I had explained the truth of the matters, most people readily saw the gaping holes in Labor’s arguments.
The facts are as follows. The Turnbull government is committed to ensuring that all Australians have access to affordable, universal health care by building a healthier Medicare. The Turnbull government is currently investing about $23 billion per year into Medicare. This will increase by $4 billion over the next four years. There were 17 million more bulk-billed Medicare services last year under the Turnbull government than in Labor’s last full year in office. No government has invested more into Medicare than the Turnbull government. No government has overseen a higher bulk-billing rate than the Turnbull government. We are undertaking budget repair to protect Medicare. There are no plans to privatise Medicare, and its payment systems will be delivered in house.
Every element of the health budget has grown since the Liberals came into power. Let’s look at the figures and compare them to the 2013-14 year: health, $71.4 billion, an 11.6 per cent increase; Medicare, $22.7 billion, a 13.6 per cent increase; hospitals, $17.9 billion, a 24.9 per cent increase; Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, $10.4 billion, a 9.8 per cent increase; additional primary care investment, including mental health, $1.5 billion, an 11.7 per cent increase; and aged care, excluding Department of Social Services, $17.8 billion, a 25 per cent increase on 2013-14. Overall, the number of Medicare services increased to 384 million in 2015-16, or more than one million per day, at a total cost of $21,107,750,246, an increase of nearly $1 billion on 2014-15. The overall Medicare bulk-billing rate also increased by 78.2 per cent in 2015-16, up from 77.6 per cent the year before.
These are not just the views of the Liberal Party—because we believe in consultation and discussion. We know that they are also supported by independent experts such as the AMA. In June this year the AMA President, Michael Gannon, declared that ‘there is absolutely no evidence at all that the Liberal Party has any desire to privatise Medicare’. I have long held an interest in this area. Bennelong is home to all levels of medical supply chain—from small business pharmacies and GPs through to the Australian headquarters of some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. So it is one of the areas in which I have been most involved, and I know the fantastic effects of Liberal policies in relation to the PBS.
On this front, we have undertaken important budget savings that have enabled us to list triple the number of medicines on the PBS than Labor did, at a cost of $4.5 billion over the past three years. The total Commonwealth investment in health will grow by over $71 billion in 2015-16. This will increase to $79 billion within four years. The PBS is a critical tool for helping people get access to the world’s leading medicines, which they deserve, fuelling medical investment in Bennelong. But, more importantly, each of these new medicines will make a life-changing impact to a person’s livelihood and, in many cases, it will save their lives and add to their quality of life.
The Labor scare campaign was so far off the money that it would be laughable had there had not been so much at stake. The Liberal Party is the only true friend of Medicare. I congratulate our Minister for Health for what she does to keep Australia—