The Greens are set to make rolling free dental care into Medicare a “key priority” if the party is able to hold the balance of power in the House of Representatives after May’s federal election. To pay for it, they promise to introduce a “billionaires tax”.
According to an excerpt of a speech that Greens leader Adam Bandt is poised to give at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, the policy will help everyday Australians manage soaring cost of living expenses by taking dental off the list.
“The money is there to pay for these plans if we have the guts to take on billionaires and big corporations,” Bandt will say, according to an advance copy of his speech seen by VICE.
“The Greens will make Clive Palmer pay more tax so you can fix your teeth.”
If legislated, the policy would mean that people will be able to use their Medicare card at the dentist, just as they would at the doctor. According to the plan, it would extend bulk-billing coverage to everything from rebated dental check ups, to orthodontic treatment, free “oral surgeries”, periodontics, and even prosthodontics.
This isn’t the first time the party has put free dental squarely in its sights. As part of the party’s agreement to form government with Kevin Rudd’s Labor government in 2007, the Greens later delivered on a similar plan for children called “Denticare”, in 2013.
Bandt is confident the party is on track to hold the balance of power once again.
“Last time the Greens were in the balance of power, we got dental into Medicare for kids, and now we’ll finish the job by getting dental into Medicare for everyone,” said Bandt’s statement.
“The best way to tackle the rising cost of living is to make healthcare and housing cheaper, not one-off handouts that get eaten up by inflation. People will be better off if dental is in Medicare.”
To relieve the financial burden felt by dental patients, Bandt’s policy will introduce a new, narrowly targeted 6 percent billionaire’s tax, along with a corporate “super profits tax”.
“Labor agrees with Liberals that workers should get a one-off payment of $420, but billionaires should get a tax cut of $9,000 per year, every year, forever,” says Bandt’s speech. “But the Greens want something different.”
“We will introduce a corporate super profits tax, or tycoon tax, which will get the one in three corporations that currently don’t pay any tax and force them to hand over their excessive profits on anything they make over $100 million, and we will crack down on multinational tax avoidance.”
“And we will end the billions in subsidies to fossil fuel corporations which are not only trying to kill us, they’re sending us an invoice.”
According to Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) costings provided by the party, the policy is set to cost about $7 billion every year, assuming that about 80 percent of the dental services redeemed through Medicare are routine checkups, or otherwise lower-lift health engagements, and that there are enough dentists to meet the demand.
The PBO estimates that the package will cost about $7.5 billion a year over the forward estimates, before getting more expensive, at about $10 billion a year, through the medium term, and then $77 billion over the next decade.
“In balance of power, the Greens will kick the Liberals out and take climate action by stopping new coal and gas mines,” Bandt said, “and we’ll tackle the cost of living by getting dental and mental health into Medicare, fixing the housing affordability crisis and wiping student debt.”
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