Mr RAMSEY (Grey–Government Whip) (15:59): I sometimes think those opposite are living in a parallel universe. Yesterday I made some comments in this House that upset some people-that if a lie is repeated often enough people start to believe it. That’s what is happening from that side of the chamber. It is a fact that the federal government is creating a new record for health spending every year-a new record every year! A new record is not a decrease in funding; it is an increase in funding. The member for Ballarat and the member for Macarthur, who’s just leaving the chamber, rattled on about the Medicare freeze. I think it was called the government’s Medicare freeze. Those of us who’ve been around a little while will well remember that it was the opposition’s; it was the Labor Party’s Medicare freeze. They say that we wouldn’t have continued it, but they did not allow for it in their forward estimates in their budgets in 2013. No kind of alteration to the Medicare freeze was to be seen over the next four years. This government has moved to end the Medicare freeze. It’ll end on 1 July.
I’ll touch on bulk-billing here, because this is related to the Medicare freeze. I took some flak at the last election from some doctors within my electorate who were talking about how the Medicare freeze was affecting them. But the counterargument always is that the bulk-billing rate keeps rising-82.2 per cent when we came into government and 85.9 per cent now. In fact, in my electorate it’s 86.4 per cent. So, 86.4 per cent of the consults that GPs are dealing with in my electorate are at no cost to the consumer, because they’re bulk-billed. You can’t just wash that away. Yes, the government has heard the doctors’ calls, and we are lifting the freeze. I think a bit of credit should be given for the way this has been handled.
In South Australia, since this government came to power the coalition has increased hospital funding every year. In fact, in the last Labor budget-the last budget of the member for Lilley-it fell. Commonwealth support for hospitals in South Australia fell by 0.5 per cent. Since then, it has risen by 31.6 per cent through to this year, with another 8.6 per cent to come over the next two years. In total, there has been an increase of a little over 47 per cent since this government came to power. A 47 per cent increase is not a cut. It is not a devaluation. It is well in front of the CPI. It’s in front of health CPI. This is a significant increase-a significant increase!-in funding. Strangely enough, it seems that our premier thinks he’s awash with money, because he’s knocked back another $1½ billion that was offered by the federal government.
We know why. Things get a little bit funny around here when there’s a state election. We know why. It’s because it has become Premier Weatherill’s MO to blame the Commonwealth for everything he has mismanaged within the state, whether it be electricity or whether it be schools funding. We’re reaching record levels there, and apparently the Commonwealth has somehow sinned. He goes on to blame the Commonwealth for things he has mismanaged. So he’s spoiling for a fight with the Commonwealth right now. He’s spoiling for a fight over hospital funding, but he’s got no grounds on which to make that fight, because the minister has offered an extra $1½ billion. That’s what he’s knocking back. It should be exposed for what it is.
We know what they’re doing to hospitals on my patch, in the electorate of Grey. I’ve been to a number of public crisis meetings in Quorn, Yorketown and Jamestown, where the state government is no longer investing in small rural hospitals. They say, ‘No, we don’t withdraw services,’ but they will not invest in their operating theatres and they will not invest in their sterilising equipment. When it’s no longer up to scratch, they say, ‘Well, we can’t continue that service in your hospital, because your equipment is not up to scratch.’ It is the long-term plan to disinvest in these rural hospitals so that they can shunt the people out of them-close them down in the communities. They don’t believe in rural South Australia. They should be exposed for it.