Published On: Tue, Apr 1st, 2014

Hockey says higher income earners should have no right to free health care

Michelle Grattan (TC) : Joe Hockey is so committed to the end of the “age of entitlement” he apparently has tried unsuccessfully to pay for his own bulk billed medical services.

As the Treasurer continues to soften up the public for budget cuts in Medicare and other health areas as well as frontline social services, he agreed with radio presenter Alan Jones’ proposition that “you and I shouldn’t be getting one cent of taxpayers’ money for health”.

Treasurer Joe Hockey gives the strong impression of being after as many budget savings as he can get. AAP/Lukas Coch

Treasurer Joe Hockey gives the strong impression of being after as many budget savings as he can get. AAP/Lukas Coch

“I accept that,” Hockey said. “I often, if I go to .. just a bulk bill doctor, I offer to pay and they won’t accept it.”

Changes to Medicare, altering the timing of the national disability insurance scheme, as well as cuts to welfare are among the most sensitive issues being debated in the budget’s preparation.

Summing up the budget cuts Hockey said: “It’s not going to be a case of a few do the major sacrifice. Everyone is going to have to make a contribution – big business, small business, all people from all demographics.”

Hockey gives the strong impression of being after as much as he can get in terms in savings, but the government is also constrained by politics and election promises.

On health, where there is speculation about means testing of bulk billing, Hockey told a news conference: “I would say to the Labor party, that seems to rail against paid parental leave for higher income women, why is it okay for higher income women or higher income men to receive free health care when they can clearly afford to make a contribution and don’t?”

The health system should help the most disadvantaged, but “the fact is that where people can afford to make a contribution to their health care they should. If we want to have the very best health system in the world, there’s no such thing as a free health system for people that can afford to make a contribution. I have private health insurance – a lot of people do. We are making a contribution to our health system”.

While it seems clear means testing or some other impost on the better off will be imposed on Medicare, how the government is going to manage the huge cost in later years of the disability insurance scheme, and keep faith with its promises, is less obvious.

According to Hockey’s figures, in 2017-18, there would be a 125% increase on the year before in disability service spending as the full rollout of the NDIS neared.

Hockey said it was a matter of getting quality of service in an affordable manner. A recent report on the scheme had identified that the current structure was like taking a plane into the air that was still being built.

“So clearly, it’s not about the money in relation to the NDIS – it is about the quality of services and the outcome and making sure we don’t end up with another [Labor] pink batts program or a $900 cheque program or a school halls program.”

Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield said the government was determined to implement the NDIS in full. The scheme’s timelines were in bilateral agreements with the states and could only be changed by renegotiation.

The government was waiting for advice from the NDIS board, on the basis of the capability review it had commissioned, about the ability to deliver the scheme according to the time lines in those agreements.

Fifield insisted the government was not looking for ways to delay the NDIS but for ways to deliver it, but he pointed out that Labor, in bringing forward the commencement of trial sites a year ahead of the timetable recommended by the Productivity Commission, had “compromised the foundations”.

The scheme had been costed at about $22 billion for a full roll out. “Half of that is Commonwealth money, half is state, and about $8-$9 billion of that amount will be new Commonwealth money”.

Fifield dismissed any suggestion that the Commission of Audit would say the government’s funding should be cut back. The commission had as one of its principles that government should do things that only government could do – and proper support for disabled people was “core government business”.

Asked about welfare spending, Hockey said that no one wanted to hear that they might receive less money from the government and so of course people did not want any changes. But some areas of welfare had “massive growth, well beyond the norm”.

Meanwhile, as the budget preparation enters its final intense weeks ahead of its May 13 delivery, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has agreed to dismissed Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson staying on in his job until after the November G20 leaders’ meeting.

Parkinson was sacked in a mini purge of departmental heads after the election though, unlike three other secretaries, he was to remain in place until mid this year. The removal of Parkinson has caused some embarrassment and difficulty for Hockey who wanted him retained. Parkinson is working closely with Hockey in the budget process.

Parkinson was anxious to stay for the G20. His earlier role as head of the now defunct climate change department is regarded as being a key factor in the Prime Ministerial decision to remove him.

Michelle Grattan, The Conversation

About the Author

- nsnbc international is a daily, international online newspaper, established on 25 February 2013. nsnbc international is independent from corporate, state or foundation funding and independent with regards to political parties. nsnbc international is free to read and free to subscribe to, because the need for daily news, analysis and opinion, and the need for independent media is universal. The decision to make nsnbc international freely available was made so all, also those in countries with the lowest incomes, and those inflicted by poverty can access our daily newspaper. To keep it this way however, we depend on your donation if you are in a position to donate a modest amount whenever you can or on a regular basis. Besides articles from nsnbc's regular contributors and staff writers, including it's editor and founder, Christof Lehmann, it features selected articles from other contributors through its cooperation with media partners such as Global Research, The 4th Media, Aydinlik Daily, AltThaiNews Network, New Eastern Outlook, The Cairo Post and others.

Displaying 4 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Terry says:

    Unfortunately Mr Hockey seems to forget that Australia has a universal healthcare system which covers everyone irrespective of socioeconomic status. I wouldn’t be surprised if this federal government attempts to privatize the system. I know there are problems with the public system with people on waiting lists waiting to have surgery. Private insurance simply helps you to have your operation performed quicker. I have had two major operations (yes, I waited) in the public system with excellent doctors and nurses looking after me.

  2. Just look at the face of that Hook Hockey Crook.
    I wouldn’t even buy a used car from that guy!
    How Australians could vote for him, let alone run the country’s treasury and interfere in public health is really beyond me.

    Well propagandized people who digest what corporate and state media present them is the news, the truth and the only possible option? Well, now you got it? A horse cheater? ..From whom I wouldn’t even buy a car runs your country’s treasury and interferes in YOUR health sector – YOU deal with it. Just look at the photo, look at the eyes.

    Then tell me that that man would not hesitate to stab you in the back with a knife while he keeps that same smirk on his face. YOU VOTED – YOU HANDLE IT.Stop reading Mordor Murdoch’s and listening to AB(ull)C would be a good start. ;)

  3. taxpayer says:

    Why should bludgers who have no desire to work get free health care. Cut out tis Domestic Violence handouts. The taxpayer should not be responsible for two adults fighting.
    Same with counselling make people grow up and work out their own lives. Stop giving young people the dole let them find a job. No public housing for druggies and dole bludgers whatsoever and for single mums either.

    • Debbie says:

      Now that you start your rhetoric question with WHY.
      BECAUSE homo sapiens sapiens is a social species that survived due to its complex social structures based on reciprocity. There are, of course, two things that are exceptions to its nature 1) Psychopathy and the Greed of 1% that believe owing 90% of all of the resources while not sharing or having empathy is normal or O.K.. Interesting that you seem to have real 1% potential dear, but you probably lack something most of the 1% have that you seem not to have dear. ;)

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>