Medicare and Public Health

Ms WELLS (Lilley) (19:40): Public health sits at the intersection of individual responsibility and collective action, two concepts that the Morrison government appears to have no grasp of at this point. Throughout COVID, every state and territory government across the country has made tough decisions in the face of intense public scrutiny and stakes to protect the health and wellbeing of Australians. As state and territory governments set out their plans to end COVID lockdowns and open up their domestic borders we know that our public hospitals, including the Prince Charles Hospital in my electorate of Lilley will be under increased pressure.

To alleviate some of that pressure, every single state and territory government has joined together to write to the Morrison government, asking to continue the current fifty-fifty public hospital funding agreement until 2023. What was the Morrison government's response? They accused the state government of extortion. That's pretty rich from a government which was extorted by its own MPs this week to agree on net zero emissions by 2050. Just in case the Morrison government has forgotten, taxpayer money is meant for important things like adequately resourced public hospitals. It's not for paying off the Nationals for net zero.

The government's refusal to continue this fifty-fifty funding agreement isn't just short-sighted and selfish. It is an insult to the health workers who have been through hell over COVID for 18 months and beyond, and who will continue to bear the brunt of the overburdened public hospital system when the lockdowns and the border controls end. I call on the Morrison government to end the political games and the finger-pointing, to do the right thing and protect the health and safety of all Australians by extending the fifty-fifty public hospital funding agreement.

I would thank our Lilley health workers, who have done such a brilliant job in keeping northsiders safe from COVID outbreaks. The Prince Charles Hospital hosts the COVID ward for northern Brisbane, so it is our health workers who are looking after our COVID afflicted patients, and they are themselves the most at risk. We are also proud to host the Boondall vaccine clinic at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre—proud host to AC/DC concerts in the past and where my very first concert, Blink-182, was. Now it hosts our max vax clinic. Thank you to everybody who has made that possible.

When I speak to northsiders at mobile offices and community events, no matter what side of politics they're from, they always agree that Medicare makes Australia special. The value of Australia's public health system is no more apparent than after battling a pandemic. It was our public health system that kept us safe. But there's growing concern in Lilley about the Americanisation of Medicare and of our public health system under consecutive LNP governments. Northsiders know that having an LNP government isn't just bad for our hip pockets, it's bad for our health. Since the LNP came to power in 2013, the cost of seeing a specialist or going to a GP for a check-up has become shockingly more expensive. In 2013, the average out-of-pocket cost to see a specialist was $59.70. In 2020, the average out-of-pocket cost to see a specialist was $92.37. That's an increase of $32.67, or 55 per cent in the eight years of the Liberal-National government. In 2013, the average out-of-pocket cost to see a GP was $27.86. In 2020, the average out-of-pocket cost to see a GP was $39.36. That's a 34 per cent increase in out-of-pocket costs to see a GP under this third-term government.

The LNP has dismissed this figure to me as not that much. But if you're a pensioner or if you have three kids who each need to see their GP several times a year, or if you are receiving JobSeeker, that increase takes a decent chunk out of your household budget. And these increased GP costs don't just hit household budgets they hit our public hospital system too. At the start of October Queensland was experiencing four code yellow alerts across North Queensland hospitals in unison, signalling major capacity issues. While the Queensland LNP was quick to blame the Palaszczuk government, the fact is that when people can't afford to see their GP or to see a specialist for a medical issue, they put it off for as long as possible, and that means that they end up in our emergency departments. It isn't good enough, and Queenslanders shouldn't be forced into emergency rooms because they cannot afford preventative health care because of Medicare cards. Under the LNP, protecting the health of your family will always cost more. I thank the House.