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08 Apr 2019

BY THE HONORABLE BILL SHORTEN MP, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

 

If we win the next election, we will put back every single dollar the Liberals have cut from public schools and public hospitals.
 
Now Mr Speaker, to be fair, there was one new feature in this Budget, albeit troubling.
 
The short-changing of the National Disability Insurance Scheme by $1.6 billion, to prop up a flimsy budget surplus forecast. Now it looks a lot more like dodgy accounting than good economic management.
 
I freely acknowledge government members sincerely care about people with disability. But the truth is, the record of the last six years, the Government has made a record of poor decisions regarding the NDIS.
 
Sacking the board. Delaying the signing of funding agreements with the States. Capping staff numbers for the National Disability Insurance Agency – leading to an outbreak of contractors and consultants undermining the system.
 
And then – after all these policies that hamstring delivery of services – the Government shrugs, and say the $1.6 billion wasn’t needed, because of a lack of demand.

Mr Speaker, there are thousands of Australians who have embraced the promise of the NDIS but whose legitimate demands have simply not been met. 
 
The young man in Ballarat who has waited more than two years for a wheelchair, waited so long that he ended up in hospital with pressure sores. The family whose daughter has an intellectual disability, who have waited ten months for funding for the speech therapy she needed to learn to make friends at school. Or the family of a profoundly deaf young man who was denied interpreters and training in Auslan and has spent the last two and a half years appealing the decision.
 
All these people… the carers seeking modest respite…the parents, the loved ones, filling out the forms, calling time and time again for promises not fulfilled, waiting on the phones.
 
They do not tell me there is a lack of demand, they’re talking about a desperate need. Mr Speaker, working with the Member for Jagajaga, with people with disability, their carers and an army of advocates to help create the National Disability Insurance Scheme is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever been part of.
 
And tonight I can give every Australian living with disability and the people who love them this personal commitment: that if we are elected as the next government, we will lift the NDIA cap on staff numbers, so we can get the support out the door, keep the promises made to people with disabilities.
 
And we will put people with disability back at the centre of decision-making in the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
 
We will get the NDIS back on track.
 

****

 

Tonight, I want to conclude by talking to you directly in your lounge rooms, about our vision for the most significant investment in Medicare in a generation.
 
Cancer is one of the biggest killers in our national. Not for nothing is it called the Emperor of all Maladies. One in two of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in our life. 145,000 of our fellow Australians are diagnosed with cancer each year. And 50,000 die.
 
One way or another, we will all witness the ordeal. I saw it with my Mum and her battle with breast cancer. Chloe and I have seen it with dear friends of ours – some old, some far too young.
 
Cancer is frightening, it’s isolating, it’s exhausting. And – all too often though – it is impoverishing. For so many people, cancer makes you sick and then paying for the treatment makes you poor.
 
And I think a lot of Australians would be surprised to learn that all those vital scans and tests and consultations with specialists are not fully covered by Medicare.
 
Instead, they cost hundreds of dollars, adding up to thousands, out of your own pocket.
 
Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world – and most people pay over $5000 for the first two years of their treatment.
 
One in four women diagnosed with breast cancer pay over $10,000 for two years of scans and tests. Some men with prostate cancer are paying more than $18,000.
 
And if you’re in Stage 4 cancer, you have to quit work, so your finances are already under horrendous strain. If you live in the regions, there are the added costs of travel and accommodation.
 
Every year 300,000 Australians who need radiology just don’t get it – because they can’t afford it. That’s three hundred thousand of us.
 
We are a smart country, we’ve got the best health care staff, we are a rich country, we are a generous country – and we are better than the statistics I read out.
 
If someone you love has cancer, you’d sell the roof over your head if it would help, you’d sell the shirt off your back - but should you have to?
 
Our fellow Australians pay your taxes to Canberra. You pay your Medicare levy.
 
And if I am elected Prime Minister, I’m going to make sure the health care system is there for you when you need it most.
 
So tonight, I am announcing the most important investment in Medicare since Bob Hawke created it.
 
Labor’s $2.3 billion Medicare Cancer Plan. To my fellow Australians, I will explain what that will be used for.
 
First, if we win the election, we will invest $600 million towards eliminating all of the out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic imaging.
 
Over four years, this will mean six million free cancer scans, funded by Medicare.
 

  • CT scans
  • PET scans
  • Mammograms
  • X Rays
  • Ultrasounds

 
Reducing the out-of-pocket costs for cancer patients from hundreds of dollars, to zero. And this will apply to MRIs too.
 
Today, only half the MRI machines, that amazing technology - half the machines in Australia are covered by Medicare. People in the bush and the regions often have to drive hours, or pay thousands.
 
If we win the election, not only will we provide new MRI machines to communities where they are needed most. We are going to change the game.
 
We will guarantee that every single MRI machine which meets national standards, every single machine is covered by Medicare for cancer scans - full stop.
 
The second part of our plan is to deal with the cost of seeing a specialist. As anyone knows, treating cancer relies on a marvellous team of experts.
 

Medical oncologists in charge of your diagnosis and ongoing chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Surgeons performing your operations and monitoring your recovery.

Radiation oncologists designing targeted radiation therapy plans to destroy cancer cells.

 
These appointments are part of your weekly routine, often for years. There is the trips, the waiting, the treatment, the recovery. Thousands of dollars.
 
A new Labor Government will invest $433 million to immediately cover specialist consultations for cancer patients.
 
What this means over the next four years, is it means that an additional 3 million appointments will be bulk-billed – with no out-of-pocket costs.
 
Reducing what you pay from hundreds of dollars – to zero.
 
And thirdly: our Affordable Medicine Guarantee.
 
Every drug recommended by the independent experts, will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Not just cutting the cost of your treatment – cutting the cost of your cancer medication too.
 
Cancer is a curse. I wish I could stand here tonight and guarantee you that we will find a cure. But no politician can give that promise.
 
We will continue to support our scientists in their work, we will invest in the research and the clinical trials. And until the day that we find a cure, I promise the men and women of Australia this:
 
Under Labor - if you are battling cancer, you can focus on getting well, without worrying about going broke.
 
I can promise that if you are in the fight of your life - a Labor Government will be alongside you every step of the way. 
 
Mr Speaker, To summarise what our first four years of Labor’s Medicare Cancer Plan means for Australians:
 
-        Up to 6 million free cancer scans
 
-         3 million free appointments with specialists
 
-         And an affordable medicine guarantee
 
This is our vision for the future. This is our vision to build Medicare. And we can pay for it – and deliver it – because of our reform decisions.
 
We choose our health care system over bigger tax loopholes.

 


Published: 08 Apr 2019