11 February 2015
Mr WILKIE (Denison) (14:19): My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, the government claims the GP co-payment is necessary to rein in Medicare. However, GP services are a small fraction of Medicare costs and just one-fifth the size of the total hospital bill. The reality is that GPs keep down the cost of other health care, especially ER departments. Prime Minister, why would you target GPs when they are in fact saving money for taxpayers and when the Medicare blow-out lies elsewhere?
Mr ABBOTT (Warringah—Prime Minister) (14:19): I am happy to take the question from the member for Denison and to agree with him that in fact good general practice is an absolutely vital part of our healthcare system. I was the health minister for four years and I did everything I could to improve our health system, including the operation of general practice. There were bulk-billing incentive payments put in and there were GP care plans established and expanded under my stewardship of that portfolio. I appreciate, in a way that I suspect not all health ministers have, that GPs are not the gatekeepers to the system. They are certainly not just gatekeepers to the health system. They are at the heart of holistic patient care. Good general practice is at the absolute heart of holistic patient care.
I absolutely take the point that the member for Denison makes that general practice is but a part of our Medicare system. I might also make the point that the PBS is perhaps a fifth of our healthcare spend. There are co-payments in the PBS; there always have been, and those co-payments are supported by all sides of this House, I presume. But I want to conclude the answer by reminding the member for Denison of the fundamental principles that this government is pursuing—
Mr Wilkie: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The question is: why are we targeting GPs?
The SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
Mr ABBOTT: Just as I was the best friend of Medicare as health minister, I am determined to be the best friend of Medicare as Prime Minister. All of our changes in health are designed (a) to protect the vulnerable, (b) to ensure that our health system is strengthened for the long term and (c) to guarantee that our health services get better and better over time. That is why the health minister is now engaged in very extensive consultations and dialogue with a whole range of medical professionals, and I can assure the member and the House that the government will not be taking further proposals forward in this area without the backing of the medical profession.