The West

PM uses Hawke to push fee
Praised by Abbott: Bob Hawke. Picture: Rouke Walsh/The Kimberley Echo

Tony Abbott has urged Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to follow Bob Hawke's lead and support the $7 Medicare co- payment.

Citing the former prime minister's 1991 proposal to slap a $3.50 charge on bulk-billed visits to the doctor, the Prime Minister said Mr Hawke was the "father of the co-payment".

"Bob Hawke was a real leader," Mr Abbott told Parliament yesterday. "Bob Hawke was a real reformer. This man (Mr Shorten) is no Bob Hawke. This is right and fair and proper."

But despite his lionising of a former political foe, Mr Abbott is refusing to do what Mr Hawke did by excluding concession cardholders from the coalition's Budget plan to take $3.5 billion from patients' pockets.

Though Mr Hawke's plan never got off the ground because Paul Keating used the issue to stoke a revolt among backbenchers, the $3.50 co-payment would now be worth about $6.10 if it had been indexed to inflation.

Mr Shorten said Labor would not compromise on the Medicare co-payment, even if Mr Abbott exempted concession cardholders.

"Labor will fight with every ounce of breath in our bodies to stand up for universal health care in this country," he said.

"Taxing the sick as some way to reduce your healthcare costs does not make sense."

Of the $37 billion in savings announced in the May 13 Budget, about $18.5 billion appear unlikely to secure passage through the Senate.

Labor opposes pension and welfare changes, the deregulation of university fees and reintroducing twice-yearly indexation of fuel excise.

The Government will likely get Greens support for petrol tax increases but there are another $9.2 billion in savings or revenue measures that will need to be legislated in the next few weeks if they are to start on July 1.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann gave no sign of retreat on the Government's proposals.

"We delivered the Budget Australia had to have," Senator Cormann said, in comments that harked back to Mr Keating's infamous "recession we had to have".

Labor yesterday focused its parliamentary attack on the change to Family Tax Benefit Part B - cutting the limit for primary income earners to $100,000, down from $150,000.

The PM said the Government was doing this to "bear down on so-called middle-class welfare" but the Opposition pointed out Mr Abbott had previously called such payments "a fair go for families with kids".

The West Australian

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