By TONY ABBOTT
Just before the caretaker period began on the eve of the 2004 election, I established a new Medicare item for the management of pregnancy.
Obstetricians’ fees would largely be covered by the safety net and mothers-to-be would be vastly less out of pocket for having a baby.
Although this move was made in consultation with the prime minister’s office, it led to one of my few serious disagreements with John Howard, who thought it would be a burden on the health budget.
In the run-up to the 2005 budget, more concerned than ever to rein in Medicare costs, the government proposed to increase safety net thresholds and to limit older women’s access to IVF. It’s a matter of record that I considered resignation over the safety net decision. Perhaps not going ahead with the IVF restrictions was my colleagues’ way of atoning for a decision I deplored.
I have never opposed IVF. How could any pro-family politician not encourage people to have children and make it easier for them to do so?
A minister’s job is to implement the policy of the government and to administer departmental programs. It is not to make moral decisions for people. Governments should do what’s best based on expert advice and keep prudent control over expenditure, as taxpayer dollars are not inexhaustible, but otherwise leave people to decide what’s right for them. Contrary to myth, as health minister I never sought to restrict access to the morning-after pill, never sought to prevent the importation of RU486 and never sought to limit access to abortion.