Federal Election 2016: Medicare What the parties are saying

One of the core pillars of the Labor election campaign is the accusation the Government wants to privatise Medicare.

The party even enlisted former ALP prime minister Bob Hawke to level the accusation in an election advertisement.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ruled out making any changes to Medicare and says Mr Shorten is waging a "scare campaign" based on a "disgraceful lie".

What do the leaders say?

"Medicare will never ever, ever be privatised. It's a core government service and every element of Medicare, every aspect of Medicare that is delivered by government today will continue to be delivered by government in the future, full stop."

Malcolm Turnbull (18/06/2016)

"The Liberals are trying to pull-off the biggest fraud of this campaign, and there is some competition for that title. They're pretending their taskforce doesn't exist and that now privatising Medicare isn't part of their plans."

Bill Shorten (19/06/2016)

How did we get here?

Labor has been waging this war throughout the campaign, but concerns over the future of Medicare were diagnosed months before.

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley was forced to defend a taskforce set up within her department to modernise the Medicare payment system.

In June, Treasurer Scott Morrison released the terms of reference for a wide-ranging Productivity Commission inquiry into reforming the Department of Human Services.

Part of that was to investigate "services within the human services sector that are best suited to the introduction of greater competition, contestability and user choice," and look at overseas examples.

The second stage would analyse "the role of the government generally, and as a commissioner, provider and regulator, in the delivery of human services".

Earlier this year, a Freedom of Investigation request by The Australian for documents relating to outsourcing of payments were rejected, on the basis they were "Cabinet in Confidence".

But the Prime Minister said the matter had never gone to Cabinet.

This is the ammunition Labor is using to launch its attack.

Debate during the lengthy election campaign reached a crescendo when Mr Hawke, whose government brought in Medicare, appeared in campaign advertising.

"You don't set up a Medicare privatisation taskforce unless you aim to privatise Medicare," he said.

The Australian Medical Association has now come out arguing that updating the payment system is sorely needed, and does not amount to privatisation.

What's the argument?

Mr Turnbull said his comments on Medicare are unequivocal. It will not be privatised under his government.

The Treasurer said the Productivity Commission report is directed at looking at the provision of services across all of Human Services, not singling out Medicare.

But the Opposition Leader is maintaining the rage, and argues you do not start such a process without an end goal in sight — such as an American-style healthcare system.

Source: ABC News

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