The federal government's neglect of bulk billing doctors by failing to make sure Medicare rebates kept up with the cost of running medical practices is a disgrace, Chief Minister Andrew Barr says.
Mr Barr told the ACT Labor Party conference on Saturday the ACT was facing a critical shortage of bulk-billing practices, as a result of the Coalition "ripping the guts out of Medicare".
"Bulk billing doctors in the ACT are closing their doors and the Liberals aren't doing anything about it," Mr Barr said.
"It's forcing Canberra families to pay more and more for the GP visits they need. It's not good enough."
Mr Barr told delegates Canberrans should hold their Liberal Senator, Zed Seselja, and his party to account for letting people down who needed free primary healthcare.
"I look forward to the next federal election where the Labor team ... will be doing everything they can to win government and stop the destruction of the Medicare system in this country," he said.
Mr Barr said the Labor party was the only party voters could trust to deliver public health, and the ACT's health system had excelled when Canberra needed it through bushfires and the Covid pandemic.
"It's a health system that will always be protected under a Labor government," he said.
Mr Barr said the strong public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic had been essential for protecting jobs and keeping the economy strong.
Mr Barr also used the speech to lash climate change denialism as one of the "most destructive, negative influences in public policy in the 21st century".
The ACT could transition to net zero emissions through investments and progressive policy decisions that would save and create jobs, the Chief Minster said.
Mr Barr, who has been ACT Labor leader since December 2014, pointed the sustainable household scheme, the big Canberra battery project, and efforts to increase electric vehicles on ACT roads.
"We are the party taking real action on climate change," he said, taking aim at a lack of action in the federal parliament.
Mr Barr also thanked the party faithful at the first conference since the 2020 election, which delivered a record fifth term for the Labor party.
"You helped deliver an election result where more people voted for Labor than any other party, and demonstrated strong support for our progressive policies," he said.
"The union movement has stood with us to protect the jobs of Canberra workers through Canberra's toughest year - and provided invaluable support in the lead up to the election."
Mr Barr noted more than 100,000 people gave their first preference to the Labor party, more than three times the Greens vote, and that 200 extra votes could have given the Labor party two more seats in the Legislative Assembly.
"We have a strong base to grow our support in every electorate across Canberra. It's why the work of our MLAs, unions and members this term is so essential."
Mr Barr also thanked the input of unions in developing the Jobs for Canberrans program, which employed people at the height of pandemic restrictions in 2020 who were ineligible for federal support.
"Jobs for Canberrans was a lifeline for hundreds of our vulnerable residents who would have otherwise fallen through the cracks of Commonwealth schemes, and a win for our community as we conducted essential Covid-safe and bushfire recovery work," he said.
Mr Barr said ACT Labor would work to increase the number of apprentices on government projects and provide more training to younger workers.
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