Of all the terrible things in the Budget (and there are plenty of them), I think the $7 tax to go to the doctor would have to be the worst.
We have one of the best healthcare systems in the world.
One of the reasons we have one of the best health systems in the world is because if you get sick you will be looked after, regardless of how rich or how poor you are.
Making people pay a $7 tax to go to the doctor throws a grenade into that.
It means people will decide whether to go to the doctor based upon whether they can afford to, rather than whether or not they are sick.
I know this because I can see it’s having an impact on my electorate even before this has been introduced.
In the week after the tax was announced, visits to the doctor in my electorate dropped by about a third.
That’s the advice of local doctors, local GP’s in my electorate.
Why has this happened? It happened because people thought the tax had already started. Doctors had to send out emails to their patient lists telling them the tax hadn’t started yet.
$7 doesn’t sound like a lot of money to some people, but it is a lot of money to a lot of people in my electorate. And it is if you have got a few of sick kids who need blood tests and x-rays, then the cost can ratchet up quickly.
And these costs affect the decisions that people make. One mum told my office if her three kids get sick she will just take one to the doctor and share the medicine amongst the three kids.
That is a real story. And it should put dread into the hearts and the minds of any thinking Member of Parliament.
This is a tax that will encourage people to make bad decisions, like that.
It will discourage people from going to the doctor. That’s what the purpose of this tax is. The Budget papers indicate that it expects to save money from a million fewer visits to the doctor every year.
By putting people off going to the doctor it means that sick people will just get sicker.
And where will this hurt most?
The answer to that question is Western Sydney.
My electorate, in Western Sydney, has the second highest bulk billing rate in the country – 98.2% of visits to the doctor in my electorate are bulk billed.
That means when you got to the doctor the only thing that you pull out of your wallet or the only thing you pull out of your purse is your Medicare Card.
This is the case right across Western Sydney. The top 10 bulk billing electorates across Australia are all in Western Sydney.
That means that this tax will hit Western Sydney harder than anywhere else.
The Prime Minister claims that Western Sydney is the new Liberal Party heart land. Well this is how he repays the people of Western Sydney. With a tax that will hurt them more than other parts of the country.
There are a lot of reasons why this budget is so unpopular.
The cuts to health, the cuts to education. The cuts to pensions. The doubling of the cost of university degrees.
But this is the big one.
In the last few months I’ve been holding street meetings in my electorate with a petition encouraging people to sign a petition against this tax. Whenever I do that I get a queue of people lining up to sign the petition. Already I’ve got more than one and a half thousand people who have signed this petition. Before I table it there will be more people that will sign it as well.
People are angry about this. They are worried. They don’t like it. This is a tax that is as popular as anthrax.
It’s little wonder we heard nothing about this before the election.
Healthcare is a right, it’s not a privilege. It shouldn’t be a privilege just for people who can afford it.
We don’t want a healthcare system like America where it depends on how much money you have. If you are sick you should be looked after, whether you’re rich or whether you’re poor.
This is a bad tax. So I urge the government to listen to the people of my community, to listen to the people of Western Sydney, to listen to the stories right across Australia and ditch this bad tax.