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  1. 1
    Melissa Sweet

    Melissa Sweet

    Two further points arising from the Ministerial reshuffle:

    1. Minister Wyatt’s office has provided the following information to clarify how his new role differs from his previous role.

    “Assistant Minister has been elevated to the outer ministry and to the front bench.

    His new responsibilities mean that aged care is now a standalone portfolio and the same with indigenous health.

    Whilst he previously held these responsibilities as an assistant minister he now has the authority for both these key areas.”

    2. Minister Hunt needs to answer whether his views on healthcare have changed since his 2002 maiden speech.

    Read it in full here:

    In the speech, he appears to support US-style healthcare, with employers taking on responsibility for private health insurance for employees as per the extract below:

    Extract Greg Hunt’s maiden speech, 2002

    “I believe that there are also five key social imperatives facing Australia over the next 20 years. The first is building on the achievements of the last six years, which have seen private health care coverage make the extraordinary leap from 30 per cent of Australians in 1998 to 45 per cent of Australians in 2001.

    The next expansion in private health coverage is, I believe, through employer incentives for the inclusion of health care in workplace arrangements—perhaps through creative ways of excluding employer health care from the fringe benefits tax regime. The result of this, the freeing of resources which private health care generates—it is not about some special system of privilege, it is about freeing resources for the rest of society—will allow even greater funding to be directed to our elderly, who, as the then new member for Bennelong said in his first speech in 1974—when, incidentally, I was eight years old—`face the twin threats of loneliness and alienation’. The same threats and challenges are with us today.

    Our second social task is broadening the very nature of what education means in Australia. That means providing incentives for lifetime training, and it means providing concrete alternatives for those who seek education outside of the traditional academic path.

    Our third task—and I am very passionate about this—is protecting and preserving our environment. There are many environmental initiatives, of which the government’s national salinity strategy may be the most important. Personally, I want to make it a crusade to help establish a national ocean outfall policy aimed at ending the routine, destructive and wasteful discharge of effluent into our seas by 2025. It is a great task, but if we partner with the private sector and create incentives for re-use then I believe it is achievable. That really would be something for us to achieve as a nation.

    Fourth, we need to continue bridging the divides. At home, as the Prime Minister said in his acceptance speech after the 1998 election, there remains much to be done in the reconciliation of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. These two stories have run parallel for far too long. Abroad, we also have a role, realistically focused, in bridging the divide between those who have and those who have not, and also between those who remain implacable foes of one another. We cannot and must not be passive when there is evil afoot. Bridging divides leads ultimately to building a national sense of unity—for a unified nation, based on inclusive decision making, can achieve immeasurably more than a divided one.

    Fifth, we must continue to renew our institutions of governance. I am one of those who believe that four-year terms for the House, linked to a two-term cycle for the Senate, is a step forward.”

  2. 2
    Melissa Sweet

    Melissa Sweet

    In response to a query from Croakey today about Minister Hunt’s 2002 statement supporting an expanded role for private health insurance and moving to a US-style health system, his office provided the following comment:

    “Having lived in the USA, the Minister has always been of the view that the Australian healthcare system is better, stronger and more appropriate for Australia.

    Providing universal healthcare for all Australians is at the heart of Medicare.

    Only yesterday, the Minister made it clear that the Turnbull Government has a rock solid commitment to Medicare. As such funding is increasing every year.

    Minister Hunt will be Australia’s strongest advocate for Medicare.

    Private health insurance has always had an important place in our broader healthcare system. But as the Minister said only yesterday, Medicare is, and will always be, the fundamental basis of our universal healthcare system.

    In addition, since 2002 other far better measures have been adopted to improve choice in private healthcare.”


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