House of Representatives Speech- Seniors: Health Care

I recently held four seniors morning teas in my Isaacs electorate as part of Seniors Week celebrations. I find these events an excellent opportunity for me to talk to seniors in the Isaacs community and to discuss issues that matter to them. This year I held morning teas in Chelsea, in Carrum Downs, in Mentone and in Noble Park.

I recently held four seniors morning teas in my Isaacs electorate as part of Seniors Week celebrations. I find these events an excellent opportunity for me to talk to seniors in the Isaacs community and to discuss issues that matter to them. This year I held morning teas in Chelsea, in Carrum Downs, in Mentone and in Noble Park.

In the six years I have held these morning teas, I have never heard such a level of concern about the difficulties facing seniors in my electorate. Many seniors I spoke to are frightened for their future. They are scared by Tony Abbott's cuts to the age pension and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and they are angry about the government's tax hike on filling up a tank of petrol.

The single issue that was raised most frequently, though, was the Abbott government's plans to introduce a $7 GP tax to visit the doctor. Many seniors in my electorate, in particular those with chronic health problems, simply cannot afford $7 payments to visit their local GP. Again and again seniors said to me that, if the government does introduce the $7 GP tax and does increase the cost of medicine, they simply do not know how they will make ends meet. Stories like this are frighteningly common. For those with limited incomes and a rising cost of living, Tony Abbott's GP tax is threatening to become the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. In my electorate it is estimated that Isaacs residents would be paying an extra $6.8 million per year, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable in my community.

One of the things that make Australia great is our strong universal healthcare system. Since the introduction of Medicare, Australians have been assured that if they are sick they can be seen and treated by a doctor without charge. This is how Australia's health system should be. You only have to look as far as the United States to see the terrible effect of heavily privatised health care. Many sick Americans simply cannot afford to go to the doctor and, as a result, become more and more sick, to the point that they are a major financial burden on the US health system and a weight on economic productivity. It is a remarkable fact that current health expenditure in Australia makes up 9.1 per cent of GDP compared to 17.9 per cent of GDP in the US, despite America's system of selective health care. It is clear that universal health care leads to better health outcomes and higher productivity.

I call on the government to drop its plans for yet another tax, to stop its attack on Medicare and to commit to the principles of universal health care, which the vast majority of Australians support. That is the message I got from seniors in my electorate when I met them at the seniors morning teas this year, and that is the message I am sure I will continue to get until the Abbott government drops its plans.