opinion

You won't be paying that $7 fee to see your doctor.

Image: Thinkstock

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has accused the Opposition of sabotaging sensible reform after the Government abandoned the GP co-payment in its current form.

The $7 co-payment was one of the Coalition’s key budget measures, but the Government has walked away from its proposal, knowing it did not have enough support in the Senate. It is one of several measures swept up in what Mr Abbott is describing as a “barnacle-clearing” exercise to remove policies slowing the Government’s momentum through its second year in office.

The ABC understands the Coalition is going back to the drawing board though it still supports putting a price signal on visits to the doctor. Mr Abbott would not be drawn on why the Government walked away from the policy, but did accuse the Opposition of sabotaging sensible economic reform.

Why doctors don’t want women to get The Pill without a script.

“This is a Labor Party which has entirely given up… they’ve got no plans, no policies, they’re just a chorus of complaint,” he said. “At the expense of our country’s long-term national interest, it’s economic vandalism.”

Health Minister Peter Dutton joined Mr Abbott in not commenting on the fate of the GP co-payment, other than to say the Government would continue negotiating with senators.

“We will look at every option available to the Government to ensure that we make Medicare sustainable,” he said. “Labor is intent on killing Medicare through making everything for free and you will not protect the most vulnerable in the country if you collapse Medicare.”

The PM is yet to explain why the policy has been abandoned.

Other Liberal party players are standing strong with the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Eric Abetz, brushing off suggestions the Government is on the verge of dumping the co-payment, describing it as "good policy".

"Is it difficult? Of course it is. Is it impossible? I'm not going to say that anything is possible or impossible," he told the ABC's AM program. "It remains to be seen whether we can get it through the Parliament."

The Opposition's health spokeswoman Catherine King is concerned the Government will try to implement the co-payment plan through regulation rather than legislation.

"What the Government can of course do by regulation is reduce the fee the Government pays to doctors via the Medicare Benefit Schedule ... and we're been calling on them to rule that out," she said.

“I’m 23, single, and freezing my eggs. This is why…”

ADVERTISEMENT

The suggestion the co-payment could be reshaped or even shelved was immediately welcomed by Associate Professor Brian Owler from the Australian Medical Association.

"The AMA has been saying from day one of the budget that this is bad health policy," he said. "It would be bad, particularly for vulnerable patients."

Professor Owler warned the Government against introducing any other measures to raise money, such as increasing the cost of medicines. It is also not clear what impact the decision will have on the Government's proposed Medical Research Future Fund.

In an address to the National Press Club yesterday, Labor leader Bill Shorten said Australians knew the budget was unfair.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten.

"Every time they scrape off a barnacle, they just reveal another hole in the hull," he said. "A new set of talking points won't fix this budget - it's like raising the Titanic or re-marketing the Hindenburg, and that's really hard."

In an address to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry last night, Mr Abbott focused on the positives and looked to the future.

"I know that we have it in us to be better than we've been," he said.

Could there be a drug-free solution to anxiety?

Emboldened by the Coalition's position in the polls, several union figures now feel there is a serious chance they can help make Mr Abbott a one-term prime minister.

The Coalition was also expected to make further changes to its $5.5 billion paid parental leave scheme, a signature policy for Mr Abbott. The policy would pay new mothers their full salary for six months. Mr Abbott had already watered down the scheme, lowering the maximum possible payment from $75,000 to $50,000.

But Education Minister Christopher Pyne told Sky News he would not be raising the white flag on his overhaul of the university sector.

"If I was physically capable of it and had the time, I would go house-to-house if necessary to explain the importance of these reforms because they are vital," he said.

Senator Abetz said the deregulation of university fees remained "part of our agenda".

"We would like to see that resolved before the end of the year, and so we are working through that as we speak with the crossbenchers," he said.

This post originally appeared on the ABC and has been republished with permission.

00:00 / ???