40TH ANNIVERSARY OF UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE
OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 6 AUGUST 2014
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Friends, four decades ago, in the people’s house behind us, the great Gough Whitlam set a new standard for Australian health – the standard of universality.
Forty years ago, with Medibank, Labor declared that the health of any one of us, is important to all of us.
And ever since then – if you ever wanted to know the difference between Liberal and Labor, have a look at Medicare.
Medicare, friends, is the measure of what Labor does. It is, I believe, proof of what Australia does best.
Medicare friends, is the rock of which we have built modern Australia and we will not allow it be dismantled.
If you have nagging asthma, if your child has a rising fever, or indeed if you are worried that it is something worse than that, you can in this country of ours, see a GP.
It doesn’t matter if you have lost your job or if you are flat broke. It doesn’t matter, if you work hard but it’s the last day of the previous pay period and there isn’t a lot of money to see the doctor.
In this country, unlike most other parts of the world, if you need care, if your beautiful, precious, unique child that you love needs care. If your parent needs care – then we can ensure that because of Medicare that you get that care, and we know that every Australian is healthier when Australian can get care.
We know that Medicare is fair. We know that Medicare works. We know that Medicare doesn’t just make you healthier. It makes us more productive. It boosts the participation.
Our home grown Aussie, smart, preventative system of primary health care means fewer sick days, which is good for business and it’s good for jobs. Our special Aussie home grown system of health funding means less cost for the tax payers. Australians as you know well here, spend less money for more care, longer life expectancy and better access to services.
And as the union reps here would know, it means no cost to employers, no extra burden on business. This gives us a head start on the rest of the world. So if we know that Medicare is fair, if we know that Medicare works, the great question of Australian politics is why do the Abbott Liberals hate Medicare so much?
Abbott Liberals cannot be trusted with the health of Australia. Their attitude to Medicare is a disgrace.
This GP Tax which has brought you here today, it represents an unconscionable assault on the bottom half of Australian society.
It turns our GPs, Australia’s medical front line, into Abbott tax collectors. Taking their time and their attention away from patients.
GPs know what this tax means, they know the pain it will cause. They know that this is a tax on the sick. It is a tax on the vulnerable.
And all of this is for what exactly? The GP tax will not be returned to the bottom line. Not one dollar, not one cent of it. This GP tax is not about money, it is about philosophy. About their Liberal philosophy or more accurately, it is about their rotten Abbott Liberal prejudice. Is it nothing but a plan to destroy Medicare.
It is cynical, it is dishonest, it is an attempt to socially engineer an unfair, two-tiered, US-style health system on to Australians. And like Catherine and like the other Federal Labor MPs here, Labor will not allow this to happen.
We are Labor. We will never allow a system where your wealth determines your health.
As has been said, the Liberal have always hated Medicare. 40 years ago in this place, Billy Snedden, the then leader of the Liberal Party, said of universal health care, “we will fight this scheme continuously and in the end we will defeat it”.
30 years ago, John Howard, still at the letterbox waiting for his knighthood, John Howard said that Medicare was ‘a total disaster’. John Howard said Medicare was a ‘human nightmare’. He said about Medicare that he wanted to ‘stab it in the guts’.
Now we have Tony Abbott, he wants to wreck Medicare, he wants to demolish it, he wants to lay waste to our smart, home grown system of primary and preventative care.
We know and you know that Medicare is fair. We know that Medicare works, and we know that Medicare belongs to all of the Australian people. It belongs to you, it belongs to everyone and we will not let Tony Abbott wreck Medicare, will we?
In 40 years since Medibank, 30 years after Labor introduced Medicare, it falls to this generation, it doesn’t matter if your 17 or 77, we are the generation for whom faith and destiny has made us, yet again, the people who must save Medicare from the Liberal Party of Australia.
Today, let us loudly and proudly make a promise on behalf of the millions of people who count upon Medicare. Let us make this promise. Labor will fight to the death to defend bulk billing. That will fight right down the line for the principle of universal access to healthcare. That we reject that pernicious, cynical mantra of the worst health minister in federation history, Peter Dutton. That he says that nothing is for free, how dare this people, how arrogant. Australians pay for Medicare through their levy, they should not have to pay for it again, Peter Dutton, you joke of a health minister.
So today, we say about Medicare and this rotten unfair budget, we say this:
No compromise, no trading, no retreat, no surrender on Medicare.
We have built Medicare and the people before us have built Medicare. Australians depend upon Medicare. Together, we will stop Tony Abbott’s attack on Medicare.
It’s as simple as this. We will fight for what is right and we will prevail, I promise you that.
MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 405
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