Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:29): I want to take the opportunity today to speak on behalf of constituents about their very serious concerns about the Abbott government's GP tax. This, in particular, has been raised in our local paper, the Illawarra Mercury today, and I want to reference some of the comments that have been made.
But I should indicate that it has been in response to the front page of the Illawarra Mercury yesterday, which I have here for those who were not able to see it. This is what it said 'Pain. Pain. Pain.' It reflects the front page of the Illawarra Mercury under a previous Liberal government budget where taxes were increased and the impact on health was a concern. So this ran yesterday in the Illawarra Mercury, and it prompted some locals to write in and raise their concerns.
What is the size of the problem?
Illawarra-Shoalhaven Medicare Local statistics show that we had 2,130,799 GP consultations in the region last year. There are over 50,000 pensioners across the region, so this is no small impact. In Cunningham specifically, there were 800,489 bulk billing services in 2013—that is, 86.24 per cent of the GP services delivered. At $7 per visit, that will lead to an increase in my electorate alone in costs for GP services of $6,497,575. It will not surprise members that locals are very concerned. In particular, today in the Illawarra Mercury local Milton GP Brett Thomson has outlined his concerns as a health professional. He said that he bulk bills the majority of this patients. The changes announced in Tuesday's budget for him will mean his patients will pay $7 up front or, if chooses to waive that fee, he will receive $5 less in government rebates; He said:
I do think it will have some effect on some people and unfortunately it will be the people who are most vulnerable, I suspect.
The people who are the poorest, people who are older and socially disadvantaged.
We say to people here, 'Oh you need to drive to Wollongong from Milton for a specialist appointment' and they say 'I can't afford the petrol. I can't go this week because I don't have petrol'.
We don't realise there are people living on the edge. They've said people who are under 30 and unemployed aren't going to get the dole for six months. If they're not eligible for the dole, how are they supposed to make a co-payment?
These are the concerns of locals, pensioners, GPs and all sorts of health professionals. I think the government should seriously reconsider this proposition.