2 June 2009
The Rudd Government last night refused to increase taxes on cigarettes preferring instead to make health insurance more expensive for 1.7 million Australians.
Its action will see private health insurance rebates for almost ten per cent of Australians phased down and wiped out, leaving them to pay up to 42 per cent more in higher premiums.
The Government admitted that its reckless multi-billion dollar cash-splashes have forced it to seek $1.9 billion dollars in savings from private health.
Prime Minister Rudd and Health Minister Roxon chose to claw back that money by changing health insurance rebates – something they had continually promised not to do,” Shadow Health Minister Peter Dutton said last night.
The Coalition moved an amendment to Government legislation calling on Rudd Labor to abandon its disastrous changes to private health rebates and instead impose additional tax on tobacco.
But Labor chose to vote-down the amendment ignoring the positive health outcomes it would have provided in helping to lower the rate of smoking in Australia, Mr Dutton said.
“Labor prefers to make all Australians pay a high price for their health care so Labor can push ahead with its ideological hatred of private health,” Mr Dutton said.
Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in Australia leading to 15,500 deaths at a cost to the country of $31.5 billion.
Twenty three per cent of Australian adults – around 3.5 million people – are regular smokers.
Nicola Roxon has become the first Health Minister to oppose a rise in tobacco tax.
“The outcome will mean higher premiums for the 11 million Australians who chose to take out health insurance and it will mean longer waiting lists at public hospitals as those who drop out of insurance rely on the public hospitals for treatment.”
“Rudd Labor is absolutely bloody-minded that it must get its way, ignoring realistic alternatives that are in the best interests of all Austalians” Mr Dutton said.
Mr Dutton said health groups supported the Coalition’s alternative.
Executive Director of QUIT, Ms Fiona Sharkie, said: “There is absolutely no doubt that increasing cigarette prices will save thousands of lives that otherwise would be lost to the devastating harms of tobacco.”