More than 3 million children will be eligible for Medicare-funded dental care under a scheme starting on Wednesday.
The $2.7 billion scheme is the final element of a dental package negotiated by the Greens with Julia Gillard in return for their support for her minority government.
Under the scheme, families who receive Family Tax Benefit Part A will be eligible for $1000 worth of Medicare-funded treatment over a two-year period. About 3.4 million children between the ages of two and 17 are expected to benefit.
As opposition leader in January 2012, Tony Abbott declared it his ''aspiration'' to extend Medicare to cover dentistry.
Greens Senator Richard Di Natale used the launch of the children's dental scheme to challenge Mr Abbott to commit to a broader one.
Mr Abbott, addressing the National Press Club in 2012, said the big problem with Medicare was ''that it supports treatment for every part of the body except the mouth''.
As health minister in the Howard government, Mr Abbott in 2007 introduced a Medicare-funded dental scheme for sufferers of chronic disease.
The scheme was abolished by Labor to help fund the new one, but Senator Di Natale said the scheme was evidence of Mr Abbott's commitment to including dental care in Medicare.
The Greens want Mr Abbott to implement their plan for Medicare-funded dental care for all Australians by 2018.
In the next stage, about 3 million pensioners and welfare recipients would be included in 2015, at a cost of $1 billion a year. The full scheme would cost $8.5 billion in 2018-19.
''We're challenging the Coalition to back up their rhetoric with a promise,'' Senator Di Natale said.
He said the Greens were open to negotiation on how such a scheme would be funded, and that while the party preferred it be paid for by a redesigned mining tax and by ending fossil fuel subsidies, it was prepared to consider an increase in the Medicare levy.
Senator Di Natale said universal dental care would deliver savings by preventing GP visits and emergency department presentations caused by untreated dental disease.
Health Minister Peter Dutton said the Coalition would like to improve dental care.
''There is a lot more the Prime Minister and I would like to do in dental but the level of debt we inherited from Labor is a nightmare,'' Mr Dutton said.
''The interest bill alone would pay three times over for a national dental scheme.''
Labor frontbencher Shayne Neumann called on the government to quarantine the children's dental scheme from cuts being considered by the Commission of Audit.
What's changed in state services
Health Before enrolling a child at a childcare centre, parents must produce proof of up-to-date vaccination. Otherwise they must present documents showing the child has medical reasons for not being vaccinated or a conscientious objector form from a doctor.
Transport From January 5, single train tickets will cost 20¢ more and bus tickets will cost 10¢ more. Weekly and TravelTen tickets will rise by between 80¢ and $2.
Finance Injured workers have their entitlement to medical expenses payments cut under changes to the state's workers compensation laws.
Regional Regional relocation grants will be extended to long-term renters in metropolitan areas. Renters who buy a home in a regional community will be offered a $7000 grant.
Justice The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal starts.
Primary Industries A new organisation known as Local Land Services begins.
Treasury The tax-free threshold for land tax increases to $412,000. The weight tax charged on vehicles as part of registration fees increases by 2.5 per cent.
New services from the federal government
- New national school funding system starts, worth an extra $2.8 billion over four years.
- New drugs including Tarceva (erlotinib) for the treatment of lung cancer and Quetiapine for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
- Students, young jobseekers, carers and young people with disability receive payment increases of up to $18.80 a fortnight.
- Fair Work Commission gets powers to deal with claims of bullying in workplaces.
- Coles and Woolworths to stop offering fuel discounts funded from other parts of their businesses, and will limit fuel discounts linked to supermarket purchases to a maximum of 4¢ a litre.
- Australian Aged Care Quality Agency becomes the new regulatory body for aged care homes.
- Increased court fees for the High Court and Family Law Courts.
- New rules on the entitlements of MPs and senators come into force, requiring those who make incorrect claims to pay a penalty of 25 per cent of their claim.