I was interested to hear the member for Menzies’s vision of a lawless country, apparently, with businesses out there growing on their own, with no laws around that, doing what they need to do and presumably not paying their workers. There is no doubt Australians are facing very real cost-of-living pressures, and our government is absolutely aware of that. And Australians are aware of that, in my community and in others.
The other thing that Australians are aware of is that our government is investing in the things that make our community stronger. We’re investing in health care, in child care and in education—in the things that we all value in this country and which were, for too long, under nearly a decade of those opposite, neglected. It’s not untrue to say that when this government came into office Medicare was on its knees. It’s not untrue to say that we were facing a crisis, with GPs around the country saying they couldn’t go on because of the policies of those opposite. It was because of the now Leader of the Opposition, who, when he was the health minister, ranked as the worst health minister in living memory. He tried to introduce a Medicare copayment. Those opposite did nothing to save Medicare.
Australians know that we, on this side, built Medicare and that we will always invest in Medicare. Since coming into office, we’ve made record investments in bulk-billing. Those record investments needed to be made; without those investments, which had been neglected for nearly a decade by those opposite, we were facing a health crisis. So we’ve tripled the bulk-billing incentive for key groups: children under 16, pensioners and Commonwealth concession cardholders. That was a crucial investment so that people in our communities could see a doctor. It was the biggest increase to Medicare rebates in more than 30 years. And we’re making medicines cheaper. Again, I have received much correspondence from people in my community about the very real difference that is making for them.
We’re putting Medicare Urgent Care Clinics in right across the country, including one in Heidelberg in my community. Again, I’ve had direct feedback from people in my community about how helpful this is been; the reviews are in about our Medicare Urgent Care Clinic in Heidelberg. Kelly said: ‘We had a late Sunday morning visit for a knee injury, post holiday. We were greeted by friendly reception staff and seen to by an obviously experienced RN before seeing the doctor. The care was efficient, friendly and of an excellent standard.’
Svetlana said: ‘Our youngest son had an injured toe, and your team made the whole process a breeze. When we arrived, the doctor was prompt and efficient, guiding us to get an x-ray. What’s even more amazing is that we had the results and a plan in less than an hour.’ Terence said: ‘From start to finish I was treated with absolute respect and dignity. The nurse I saw prior to the doctor left no stone unturned, and was kind and compassionate. The doctor was equally as kind and thorough, and it all felt very genuine. This is what health care should feel like.’ That is what this government is doing: investing in health care in our communities, making sure that people in my community and around the country can see a doctor when they need to and that they get health care that is affordable.
Another area that I want to concentrate on where our government has put a lot of effort into relieving the cost-of-living pressures is when it comes to one of the particular pressures that families, and particularly working women, face in this country: child care. We know that Australians have one of the most expensive childcare systems in the OECD. Our government knew that when we came into office, so we came in with a plan to do something about it. We came in with a commitment to make child care cheaper for Australian families, and we have delivered on that commitment.
On 1 July this year, we introduced changes to the childcare subsidy, helping 1.2 million families right across the country, including 6,600 in my community. This is good for families, it’s good for kids and it’s good for our entire country. Again, we get it on this side of the chamber. We understand that child care is one of the biggest expenses that Australian families, and particularly Australian women, face. And, just like we said we would, we’ve invested in it. This government takes a serious approach to supporting Australians with cost-of-living pressures. We’re investing in the things that matter: in health care, child care and education right around our country. We have a plan; those opposite only have negativity. They do not have a plan for our future.