15 December 2022
Subjects: Labor’s energy bill, Medicare fraud reports, report on online child abuse
CORY BERNADI: Welcome back. I'm joined now by Shadow Health Minister Anne Ruston, who's had a very big day in Parliament. Anne, thank you for your time. It has been a big day and if we might kick off with the energy bill. Anthony Albanese is trying to paint the Coalition as the bad guys, that you're not supportive of reducing household power bills because you voted against it. How do you respond to that?
ANNE RUSTON: I mean, it's absolutely ridiculous. What we saw today was the Government legislate a lie. I mean, they know that what they've put before the Parliament today is not going to reduce people's energy bills. And the proof in the pudding will be next year when people open their energy bills and realise that they've done nothing apart from go up. It really is tremendously disingenuous. I mean, if we genuinely had believed that the legislation today was going to give real cost of living relief to Australian families in the lead up to Christmas, we would have been the first ones to vote for it, but we know that this bill will not do that. In fact, the complete opposite - It will push up power prices. It's going to destroy the energy market, because these sorts of interventions in the past have never worked. I don't know why they think they're going to work this time. So we voted against the Bill because we knew the Bill was not going to deliver what it was promising to. And sadly, Australians will find out that that's the case next year.
CORY BERNADI: Anne, you can lay London to a brick - Energy prices will be higher next year and the Government will say they would have been much worse if it wasn't for our bill. They will not be able to measure how much energy prices have been reduced, if at all, from this. And I have to point out before the election, Anthony Albanese slammed the idea of any sort of deal or coalition with the Greens. Even as recently as Monday, he was on radio national breakfast talking down reports of negotiations. Now, clearly he's either desperate or he's happy to mislead us all, to put it politely.
ANNE RUSTON: Well, I think that probably the latter is closer to the truth. I mean, this government so far, every single piece of legislation that has been important, that we've seen go past, has been completely devoid of any detail whatsoever. They're quite happy to do deals behind the scenes with the Greens and with the crossbench in order to get their deals or get their legislation through. And we've got absolutely no idea what those deals were. We have no idea what deal was done with the Greens to get their support for this bill going through today. We don't know what deal was done with Senator David Pocock to get his support for this bill going through. But it's going to make very interesting reading when we see next year's budget, because all of these things are going to come out, because they're guaranteed to have a price tag attached to them.
CORY BERNADI: It always seems to be the same motley crew that just endorse Labor's policies and there's always going to be a price attached to them. Now I'd like to raise with you, you're Shadow Health Minister, and I want to talk to you about an article I came across yesterday. Apparently there's a doctors-only Facebook group where GPs are sharing tactics for maximising Medicare billing. Now, Anne, I've raised this in my time in Parliament from way back decades ago. I'm not apportioning blame, but we know that billions of dollars, up to 8 billion, has been rorted from the Medicare system. Doctors seem to get away with overbilling, with doing the wrong thing without any real penalty. Taxpayers are being disadvantaged. When will one government or another do something about this?
ANNE RUSTON: Well, we certainly did start doing something about this when we were in government by providing additional funding to the regulator, to make sure that people who were doing the wrong thing were being held to account. But, you know, I think probably one of the most distressing things about the stories that we've seen, the one yesterday and ones that we've seen of recent times, is that there are people out there who are rorting the system. And unless they're brought to account, they bring into disrepute the many, many general practitioners that we know do the right thing, that work extremely hard, especially those ones out in the bush at the moment that are doing it particularly hard because they're really struggling with workforce. And so I think, you know, this government, one of the things I've got to say it's very good at is admiring the problem. It's not so good at actually doing anything about it. And, you know, every time I raise an issue in health, Mark Butler's response is he's going to have a taskforce, he's going to have a review, he's going to have an inquiry. He's got to stop admiring the problem and actually get out there and do something, because we do need to crack down on these people that are ripping off the system, because if we don't do that, the reputations of all those amazing health professionals out there just get thrown in with the wash with all the rest of them. So, I agree something needs to be done, but we also need to be careful that we don't throw everybody into the same basket and taint all of our amazing GPs because of some of the ones that are doing the wrong thing.
CORY BERNADI: Very well said. Now, before I let you go, I want to get your thoughts on this. It's really a quite a complicated issue. A new report on online child exploitation material is accusing media companies and tech companies of turning a blind eye to the issue. It takes particular aim at Apple, which is refusing to adopt technology which would allow them to check iPhones for child abuse material. Now, Apple says it's because they get a lot of backlash from customers about privacy concerns, which I think is fair enough. How do we strike the balance to stamp out child abuse images, versus the privacy that people should expect of what they have on their phones?
ANNE RUSTON: Well, I think one of the things that we have to continue to do, or sorry the Government needs to continue to do, is to make sure that people like the eSafety Commissioner are properly resourced so that they can keep an eye on these things and continue to make recommendations about how we can best protect Australia's children from this online abuse. But you know, we were the Government that brought in the first eSafety Commissioner in the world. We put over $300 million against a strategy to be able to deliver on initiatives to try and address the issues of child sexual abuse. And I would call on the Government that they need to continue to increase their investment in this, because there is nothing I think that is more abhorrent than thinking that Australia's children are being abused online and the Government is not doing absolutely everything in its power to stop it from happening. So I think the fact that the Government has decreased funding to the eSafety Commissioner is a really sad indictment on the priority that they are placing on this super important issue.
CORY BERNADI: And it's not just Australia's children either. It's all the children of the world need to be protected from the predators that are out there. Senator Anne Ruston, thank you very much for your time at the end of a parliamentary year. I wish you a very merry Christmas and enjoy whatever break you get. Thanks for joining me tonight.