I rise to contribute to today's matter of public importance, whose subject is the Turnbull government's lack of courage on matters of importance to everyday Australians.
I have to agree that up to today the Turnbull government has displayed a lack of courage to many issues of importance to everyday Australians, but I make this point: it can change. I have just had a meeting with the PM and I have taken to him some very important issues, including the plight of SAS soldier Evan Donaldson and former Army officer Marcus Saltmarsh. I thank him for the time he gave to me today. Talking to him is always pleasant. He is a very good listener and talker, but it is actions that I judge him by.
With reference to the harm and damage that have been clearly done to Evan Donaldson and Marcus Saltmarsh, the PM has agreed to support genuine mediation processes for those gentlemen. I can only hope that that happens extremely quickly. That would be the best and easiest way of ensuring they are compensated for the incredible harm they have suffered for 7 years and 16 years, respectively.
I also spoke to the PM about the $650 million of Medicare cuts. He did not promise to lift them but he did promise to speak with Tasmanian medical scientist Richard Hanlon who warned about the $30 pap smears Australian women are faced with if the Liberals' cuts to Medicare go ahead. I hope the PM shows common sense and courage and abandons the cruel Liberal cuts to women's cancer checks and Medicare bulk-billing.
Other areas where this government can show some courage is to stop their freeze on federal assistance grants, grants the rural and regional local governments of Australia are heavily reliant on. These assistance grants are central to a council's budget and are intended to help build and maintain roads. Why did the coalition freeze these grants? As if rural Australians were not struggling enough, now their rates have increased. With rates at an all-time high, families will be incapable of achieving the Australian dream and own their own home.
That leads me to the Tasmanian municipality of King Island, an island that relies heavily on exporting its produce. Within 12 months their only shipping service will be taken out of the game, and neither the federal or state Liberal governments will contribute the necessary $60 million to upgrade the deepwater port at Grassy to ensure King Island. Without this upgrade, King Island will not be able to continue to export its world renowned products. Every person on King Island is crying out for help, but the Turnbull government and the Hodgman government have ignored their desperate pleas.
Now let us talk about Tasmania's public health system. My state is in the grip of an extreme health crisis, but the state Liberal government has no feasible plan to nurse the system back to health. In fact, the state Liberal government plans on reducing the number of hospital beds and medical staff instead of providing a much needed increase. The hospitals are operating at more than 100 per cent capacity, and Tasmania already lags behind the national average on bed numbers. Tasmania needs a further 150 beds to service its population. Only last week, The Mercury reported that a 95-year-old woman was left vomiting for hours on the floor of the Royal Hobart Hospital because there were no available beds. This woman had nothing but a blanket to lie on. It is not the fault of the healthcare workers. Tasmania's hospital staff are wonderful, highly skilled people. They simply do not have the resources. To make matters worse, Tasmanians are already waiting four times longer for elective surgery than any other Australian and are dying between one and two years earlier, on average, than their mainland counterparts. The only way to save the Tasmanian health system is to start by opening another 150 beds and, in the long term, place a third, fully serviced, hospital on the north-west coast. In the meantime, I ask the Minister for Health, Susan Ley, to stop making the health crisis in Tasmania worse by introducing $650 million worth of cuts to bulk-billing incentives on cancer and diabetes checks, which will mean people will not seek help until it is too late, which can only mean hospitals will be inundated with cases that could have been prevented. (Time expired)