February 07, 2024

 I'm so very proud to be a member of the Albanese Labor government that is delivering on the promises we made to the people of Shortland before the last election, particularly our efforts to improve access to health care by making it easier to visit a doctor. The Labor Party has and always will believe that access to health care in Australia should be based on a person's need for treatment and not their ability to pay for that treatment. Your Medicare card must always be more important than your credit card.

It was great to celebrate the anniversary of Medicare at Charlestown Medical and Dental Centre last week, and I thank the wonderful team there for hosting me. Medicare is cherished by Australians and none of us should ever forget that the Liberals and Nationals will attack, undermine and seek to dismantle Medicare whenever they get a chance. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition is so out of touch with what Australians value that, as health minister, he tried to abolish bulk-billing and introduce a GP tax for every Australian. That's why he was voted the worst health minister ever. Only Labor guarantees to both protect Medicare and make it stronger.

I was delighted to join my Central Coast colleague the member for Dobell at the opening of the Medicare urgent care clinic at Lake Haven just before Christmas. It fulfils a commitment Labor made to the people of the Central Coast before the last election. The urgent care clinic at Lake Haven is open seven days a week, you don't need to make an appointment and, importantly for my constituents, it bulk-bills. It is ensuring that my constituents get the urgent treatment they need from doctors and nurses, and it takes pressure off the very busy emergency department at Wyong Hospital.

In the health space alone, Labor, before the last election, committed to restore funding cut by the Liberals to GP access after hours, and this has been delivered. We pledged to reclassify Shortland as a priority area for GPs, which the Liberals refused to do, and this has been done. We committed to build two urgent care clinics on the Central Coast, and these are now operating. We've also tripled the incentive for GPs to bulk-bill millions of Australians. This is all in the space of 20 months, and I was delighted to report last week that we've seen a significant increase in bulk-billing in the Hunter. It has moved from two-thirds of visits being bulk-billed to 70 per cent. That is 10,800 extra visits being bulk-billed in two months alone.

Finally, I'm very pleased to advise the House that one of my constituents, Isaac Strutt-Stevens from Cardiff South, has made his acting debut in the hit TV series of the summer Boy Swallows Universe, based on the book by Trent Dalton. Everyone, it seems, is either reading the book or watching the series. I congratulate Isaac, and his family, on this significant achievement at such a young age and I send him my best wishes for a long and successful acting career.