CATHERINE KING MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE
MEMBER FOR BALLARAT
SPEECH TO ALP NATIONAL CONFERENCE
“A HEALTH SYSTEM FOR ALL”
It’s been three-and-a-half years since I last stood before you and spoke of Labor’s vision of “A Health System For All”.
Since then we’ve had quite a fight on our hands.
On every front, our conservative opponents have sought to pillage and plunder our health system.
Cut … after cut … after cut.
Their cuts are as relentless as they are predictable.
Because we know that they don’t really want “A Health System For All”.
They want a health system for the rich. They want an Americanised, privatised, user-pays system in which the wealthy get world-class care and everyone else misses out.
They’ve done some damage.
They’ve cut billions from our hospitals, meaning Australians are languishing for longer and longer in Emergency Departments and on elective surgery waiting lists.
They’ve cut billions from Medicare, forcing up the cost of seeing GPs and specialists.
And the cost of private health insurance has gone through the roof because they can’t bring themselves to rein in the big insurers.
It’s not as bad as it would have been without Labor.
By being a stable, united opposition – guided by our values – we have blocked many of their worst proposals: to cut $57 billion from hospitals; to introduce a GP co-payment; to force up the cost of medicines; to cut dental care for children.
But stopping the Liberal rot isn’t enough for us. We can’t do what we want from Opposition.
To deliver on our vision of “A Health System For All” we need to reclaim Government.
We want to govern so we can realise our vision of a health system that is truly universal, affordable, accessible and equitable. A system in which everyone in Australia is treated based on their needs, not on their capacity to pay or where they live.
We are the party that invented Medicare. We are the party that invented the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
We are the only party that truly believes – in our very core – in the principle of universal health care. And we’ve done more than any other party to advance that cause.
The last time we were in Government we continued this great work – delivering the most significant health and hospital changes since the introduction of Medicare.
But our mission isn’t ended.
We have a bold agenda for Government.
Yes, we have to undo the damage of the last five years: we have to restore funding to our hospitals; we have to lift the Medicare freeze; and we have to get soaring costs under control.
But we have to go well beyond that.
This chapter lays down the principles that will guide us as we build on our significant achievements.
We must ensure that the most disadvantaged, the most marginalised, the most vulnerable people in our society have the same health opportunities as the rest of us.
We must also take strong action on the social, economic, environmental and cultural determinants of health.
We must put prevention back at the heart of our health system so people don’t get sick to begin with.
We must work alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to Close the Gap in life expectancy and other indicators of health and wellbeing.
We have to lead on reproductive health, so all women have access to safe and affordable terminations – and I want to acknowledge the advocacy of Labor for Choice on this point.
We have to continue to take steps towards universal dental coverage, building on Tanya Plibersek’s creation of the Child Dental Benefits Scheme.
And we have to innovate on primary care and come up with new models that are fit for purpose for the 21st century.
Friends, rest assured: health will be a top priority for us in this campaign and if we win Government – because it is core business for us.
There is nothing more important to us – no mission more critical – than delivering “A Health System For All.”
I commend the Health Chapter to Conference.