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.
“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.”
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.