I am very confident in going back to my electorate and talking about affordable and sustainable health services, which is exactly what Labor did not provide. We saw costs in health explode under Labor by 46 per cent since 2007. The pressure on the budget from Medicare, the PBS and public hospitals has been unrelenting, driven by many reasons: chronic disease, continuous higher costs, an ageing population and the rising cost of medicine as it becomes more advanced and complex.
We can perform procedures today that a few short years ago would have looked like science fiction. We have a raft of new drugs that treat disease better and faster, but each costs a small fortune to develop and get onto the market. Chronic disease conditions that we once just lived with we now treat with surgical correction—for example, knee and hip replacement surgery has grown exponentially. Of course, we should develop new techniques and new medicines because this improves the quality and quantity of life for Australians. In many cases, our work benefits the entire world.
However, all of this improvement comes at a cost—and a cost that never goes down. Once we start fixing one disease state, another one takes prominence. Cardiothoracic treatment and surgery has made major inroads into the outcomes of heart attacks, as have preventative campaigns. But massive growth will still occur in new areas of growth, such as dementia, diabetes, degenerative diseases and mental health, which will take ever-increasing funding to address—something that is ignored by the other side.
This is why the government’s $20 billion medical research future fund is so critical. It is a never-ending issue of cost that must be managed. There is no choice: we have to manage this. But it is Labor’s failed management of expenditure growth that has left us where we are today. The coalition is spending more money on health but is doing so in a responsible manner by addressing the ever-growing costs. Developing a plan to manage spiralling health costs is a long-term job that requires tough decisions.
Labor’s plan was simply to spend and ask future generations to foot the bill. They were putting the health budget growth on the national credit card. This is extremely unfair because it asks our children and our grandchildren to pay for health outcomes after the fact—and, of course, that is true even of today’s generation. When the former Treasurer, the member for Lilley, was asked about the debt limit, he responded by saying, ‘Well, it will be someone else’s problem.’ An affordable and affordable health system is someone else’s problem—it is certainly not Labor’s. He would have passed on the current generation’s health bill to the next generation.
However, the government recognises that the increasing demand that causes increasing costs is in part the responsibility of the recipient of those services as well as government, and should not simply be dumped on the never-never—on future generations. We need affordable and sustainable health services that Australians can access now and in the future. It is not just about today; it is about the future. It is what we, as a government, take responsibility for providing. Of course, all Australians have to invest in their health outcomes at every level that they can afford. That is our responsibility. It will take a responsible and disciplined government to make this happen. They are the two things that we never saw with the previous government—taking responsibility and discipline.
To not act as the Abbott government has outlined is simply to make future generations pay and pay and pay. The other side of this is: what happens in the instance where there are insufficient health services because it is not affordable and because it is not sustainable? What would we be doing to future generations?
To top this, the investment fund to help drive outcomes that can help maintain some of these costs, maintain sustainability and maintain affordability is what we should be all aspiring to. But we could well see Labor actually vote against that—vote against better health outcomes for current and future generations. This would be the most dreadful outcome. What a legacy to leave for this nation. I am pleased to be part of a government that will take responsibility for current and future generations. That is what we are here for and that is what Labor could never do.