Mr FITZGIBBON (Hunter) (13:57):  I give my congratulations to you, Mr Speaker. One of the greatest challenges faced by those of us who live in rural and regional Australia is the maintenance of access to affordable health-care services.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is cutting $2 billion from Medicare over the next four years in his latest attempt to introduce a GP tax. These harsh cuts, of course, will hit pensioners and low-income earners hardest. But, more broadly, they will have their greatest impact on those of us who live in rural and regional Australia. You have to ask: where are those opposite who represent rural and regional seats in this matter? Where is the member for Barker? Where are the members for Eden-Monaro, Page, Capricornia, Braddon, Lyons, New England, Bass, Gilmore and Mallee? Of course, there are a few more. Where are they when their constituents need them?

We do not begrudge our city cousins for the plentiful GPs they have in their local electorates, but in rural and regional Australia, the Prime Minister should understand, we have doctor shortages and we have GP to resident ratios that are all too low. This will make the situation worse in rural and regional Australia. This, apparently, is a Prime Minister who wants to be known not for what he did but rather for what he ended. The way he is going, bulk-billing in rural and regional Australia will come to an end. (Time expired)


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