I proudly stand here today, following in the footsteps of great Labor members who for over 40 years have fought for the right of all Australians to a universal system of decent, affordable health care.
From Gough Whitlam who first gave us Medibank in 1974, through Bob Hawke who brought universal health care back as Medicare to Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard right through to Bill Shorten today.
Proud Labor leaders fighting in opposition or in government, to defend this basic right of all Australians to decent affordable health care.
For over 40 years Labor has been fighting to defend Medicare, and for over 40 years, the Liberals have been fighting to destroy it.
In 1974 Liberal Leader Bill Sneddon promised “we will fight this scheme continually and the coalition has never resiled from that objective.”
He was right. From that day on, the Liberal party has never resiled from its objective of tearing down Medicare and denying Australians access to universal healthcare.
Malcolm Fraser tore it down, and it took Bob Hawke to rebuild it in 1984. John Howard declared Medicare to be a disaster and vowed to dismantle it.
Tony Abbott promised no cuts to health and called himself the “greatest friend Medicare ever had” which turned out to be just as honest as everything else he promised.
It’s no exaggeration to say no single issue did more to end Tony Abbott’s prime ministership than his attempt to destroy Medicare through his GP Tax.
I’m proud to stand before you today and says that it was because Labor stood up for Medicare, because the unions stood up for Medicare, because the doctors and nurses and other health professionals, and people like you, ordinary decent Australians stood up for Medicare, Tony Abbott is no longer prime minister today.
He learnt, at great cost that Australians have a deep affection for Medicare and those who try to destroy it will be rejected by voters.
It’s a lesson Malcolm Turnbull has not learnt.
Instead of defending Medicare, he has adopted everything Tony Abbott did to health, and gone even further that Tony Abbott dared with his cuts to health.
In his very first economic statement just before Christmas Malcolm Turnbull continued Tony Abbott’s attack on health care, and then added another two billion dollars in cuts.
Despite promising new leadership, Malcolm Turnbull is now, like his predecessors, trying to destroy Medicare by denying Australians access to bulk billing for pathology and diagnostic imaging.
Malcolm Turnbull wants to make it more expensive for a woman with breast cancer to have an MRI, he wants to make it more expensive for someone with liver cancer, or lung cancer to get the scans they need.
Malcolm Turnbull wants to make it more expensive for a person with diabetes to have the tests they need to manage their health.
And now, we learn, that as well as trying to kill Medicare with these cuts, Malcolm Turnbull wants to privatise Medicare.
He wants to sell off Medicare services, get rid of hundreds of jobs, and put the confidential Medicare data of every Australians into the hands of the highest bidder.
Enough is enough.
Malcolm Turnbull has proven that no matter who the leader is, the Liberals only ever see health as a source of Budget cuts, and will always look to make health less affordable for those who need it most – the sick and the poor.
The GP Tax, the cuts to public hospitals, the cuts to pathology and diagnostic imaging, and now the privatisation of Medicare services – all this has one aim in mind, to destroy Labor’s great legacy of Medicare, and send us back to the dark ages where the right to a decent health system entirely depends on your capacity to pay.
Well, Labor says no more. Labor says we will not support these attacks on bulk billing.
Labor says we will not support this attempt to sell of your Medicare data to the highest bidder.
Labor built Medicare, Labor has fought for Medicare for over 40 years, only Labor believes in Medicare, and only a Labor government can ensure Medicare is saved for another 40 years, to provide all Australians with decent affordable health care.