Medicare anniversary exhibition launch

Prime Minister

We’re here today to mark 40 years of Medicare.

Last Thursday, I was in Robertson with Emma and Dr. Gordon Reid, appropriate that I was with a pharmacist and a doctor there in Umina at an Urgent Care Clinic last Thursday to mark Medicare’s birthday.

One of the things that we’re reminded of is that Medicare wasn’t the first iteration. The first iteration was, of course, Medibank.

And today, we remember our friend the late Bill Hayden as well. As we commemorated his life, but one of his greatest achievements was of course Medibank.

It’s also a reminder that support for universal healthcare, as the foundation stone of our public health system is not something we can take for granted.

Because when the Fraser Government came to office, they got rid of Medibank. And it took the election of the Hawke Government in 1983, to bring back Medicare, as one of the key elements of that campaign.

It took the leadership of Bob Hawke, and the determination of Neal Blewett, another great Health Minister in the fine Labor tradition.

It is a testament to the good judgement of the Australian people who time and time again, voted to protect Medicare and keep it strong.

John Howard went to elections saying that he would get rid of Medicare and to trash it.

And of course, we know that it is now just one of the core foundations of what the Australian Labor Party believes in and what the Australian people know is so important as well.

In recent times, there’s been more bipartisanship, when it comes to the foundations of Medicare, it doesn’t mean though that it hasn’t been contested.

Because we do know, as we were reminded by Nemesis over the last couple of Monday nights, we’ve been reminded of exactly what the Government that we replaced stood for, when it comes to healthcare.

Where when they got elected to office, without saying anything before the election, they tried to introduce a GP tax under Peter Dutton, and get rid of therefore bulk billing, and seeing the doctor for free.

They tried something similar on not just visiting the GP, they tried it on hospital visits, and also, cuts to pharmaceuticals as well, increased costs are coming through.

So we need to remain vigilant. We need to celebrate the achievement of the creation and the maintenance of Medicare and we need to strengthen it.

And that’s why since we came to office, we’ve been determined to have strengthening Medicare as one of the key components and it will be in the next election going forward as well.

At the December meeting of the National Capital, we provided an additional $1.2 billion of support for primary healthcare.

We said that we’d add to the 58 Urgent Care Clinics that are providing again, another step between visiting the GP and visiting the emergency department of the hospital.

That is making an enormous difference. Just there in Umina alone, I think there has been 1,200 visits. And that is what we are seeing right around the country at the 58 Urgent Care Clinics that we’ve opened.

Whether they be in Bunbury in WA, Frankston in Victoria, Umina. Whether they be, where I was in the electorate of Dickson last week as well.

Everywhere, it is making a difference and that’s why we’re going to add to it.

The tripling of the Bulk Billing Incentive that was at the centre of our Budget last year has made an enormous difference as well.

We need to rescue bulk billing, where numbers have been dropping over a long period. We needed to arrest the decline and you starts to increase.

And we saw for the first time in a long while, we saw a bump in bulk billing rates, people being able to visit the doctor in excess of an additional 300,000 free visits to the doctor, as a direct result of just two months of adding to bulk billing support.

We want to today as well acknowledge those people who make Medicare possible.

The GP, the doctors, the nurses, the people who work on the front desks, at our doctor’s surgeries, at our hospitals. The orderlies, the people who take the X-rays, radiographers, all those people who make a difference.

But also those good public servants, working in offices making sure that payments are made, making sure that people receive that support going through.

We think that government has no greater responsibility than to look after people with the healthcare that they need, when they need it.

And if you look at our system compared with other parts of the world, that rely upon a private system, what you see is the difference Medicare can make.

When Kerry Packer had a heart attack, he ended up at my local hospital in Camperdown, the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

He got the same care that my mum got throughout her life as a single mum and invalid pensioner.

The same care, the same support. That is a fundamental tenet of who Australians are, that we look after each other.

We don’t look at people’s credit cards and what’s in their wallet, all they need in their wallet is Medicare card.

And that’s important that that continue to be the foundation of our health system here in this country. And that’s what makes an enormous difference.

/Public Release. View in full here.