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The government's cuts to dental care

Speeches in Parliament
Richard Di Natale 4 May 2016

Senator DI NATALE

I move:

That the Senate—

(a)   recognises the success of the Child Dental Benefits Scheme, which has provided access to dental care to children aged 2 to 17 since 2014;

(b)   notes:

(i)   That the broad exclusion of dental care from Australia's public health system causes hardship and poor patient outcomes for millions of Australians,

(ii)   that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those living in rural and regional Australia and low income earners, have more than twice the rate of untreated dental decay as high income earners, and

(iii)   the ongoing delay of $1.3 billion in Commonwealth funding committed for state dental services under the National Partnership Agreement;

(c)   rejects the Government's recent cuts to Medicare-funded dental care, noting that 80 per cent of services are delivered through non-government practices; and

(d)   calls on the Government to address the inequity in dental health outcomes by committing to the expansion of Medicare-funded and state-funded dental care to all Australians over time.

Senator RYAN

I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT

Leave is granted for one minute.

Senator RYAN

The Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme, announced by the Turnbull government, represents the largest ever Commonwealth investment in public dental services. Under this scheme state and territory governments will receive more money from the Commonwealth than they ever have for public dental services. We will invest $2.1 billion over the next five years through this scheme. The Turnbull government is abolishing Labor's Child Dental Benefits Schedule because it is a failure. Only one-third of eligible children were treated under it, yet costs were running nearly double that at more than 50 per cent of the allocated budget. In addition to this, it was being rorted with nearly $4 million worth of incorrect claims being investigated.

Senator DI NATALE

I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for one minute.

Senator DI NATALE

How remarkable it is that the government would suggest that axing an effective program that is delivering dental care through the non-government sector—and let us be clear that 80 per cent of all dental services are provided through the non-government dental sector—is a failure. This government has been very, very tricky here. It has taken funding away from state dental services—first implemented through that huge cut in the 2014 budget—and it then proposes to cut funding for the Medicare funded dental scheme and return some of the funding that should have gone to public dental services several years ago. This is very, very tricky. We need to recognise that, if we are going to achieve adequate dental care in this country, it must be delivered through a Medicare funded dental scheme. The Greens have a plan to do that.

Question agreed to.

Senator DI NATALE

I move:

That the Senate—

(a)   recognises the success of the Child Dental Benefits Scheme, which has provided access to dental care to children aged 2 to 17 since 2014;

(b)   notes:

(i)   That the broad exclusion of dental care from Australia's public health system causes hardship and poor patient outcomes for millions of Australians,

(ii)   that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those living in rural and regional Australia and low income earners, have more than twice the rate of untreated dental decay as high income earners, and

(iii)   the ongoing delay of $1.3 billion in Commonwealth funding committed for state dental services under the National Partnership Agreement;

(c)   rejects the Government's recent cuts to Medicare-funded dental care, noting that 80 per cent of services are delivered through non-government practices; and

(d)   calls on the Government to address the inequity in dental health outcomes by committing to the expansion of Medicare-funded and state-funded dental care to all Australians over time.

Senator RYAN

I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT

Leave is granted for one minute.

Senator RYAN

The Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme, announced by the Turnbull government, represents the largest ever Commonwealth investment in public dental services. Under this scheme state and territory governments will receive more money from the Commonwealth than they ever have for public dental services. We will invest $2.1 billion over the next five years through this scheme. The Turnbull government is abolishing Labor's Child Dental Benefits Schedule because it is a failure. Only one-third of eligible children were treated under it, yet costs were running nearly double that at more than 50 per cent of the allocated budget. In addition to this, it was being rorted with nearly $4 million worth of incorrect claims being investigated.

Senator DI NATALE

I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for one minute.

Senator DI NATALE

How remarkable it is that the government would suggest that axing an effective program that is delivering dental care through the non-government sector—and let us be clear that 80 per cent of all dental services are provided through the non-government dental sector—is a failure. This government has been very, very tricky here. It has taken funding away from state dental services—first implemented through that huge cut in the 2014 budget—and it then proposes to cut funding for the Medicare funded dental scheme and return some of the funding that should have gone to public dental services several years ago. This is very, very tricky. We need to recognise that, if we are going to achieve adequate dental care in this country, it must be delivered through a Medicare funded dental scheme. The Greens have a plan to do that.

Question agreed to.

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