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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13370


Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (11:20): I have to say, it is a little bit shocking that the member for Ryan has not even been able to get the members of those electorates which benefit from BUSHkids to even come in here and speak to this motion. It is a good motion. It is important to acknowledge the great work that this organisation does in ensuring that the most vulnerable in our regional communities receive the medical help and the care that they need, when they need it. It is pretty shocking that the government members of parliament are not here to stand up and say that they agree with the member for Ryan and that they support this motion that she has put forward to acknowledge the hard work that BUSHkids does in their own communities. Perhaps it is because they are a little bit embarrassed at this government's record when it comes to regional health; a record that the previous speaker has outlined. On coming to office, this government cut billions—absolutely billions— from the health portfolio in their first budget. Through various measures, they have basically made it very hard for regional health services to deliver help and support when people most need it. In regional communities, we are starting to see the real impact of those cuts starting to be felt on a day-to-day basis.

Firstly though, let us take a moment to acknowledge the great work that BUSHkids does. They are in the core business of providing allied health services. They focus on children's development. They believe in early intervention. They are a not-for-profit organisation providing primary health care to children and their families in rural Queensland communities. I grew up in regional Queensland, and I know the distances that people would quite often travel to seek allied health services. BUSHkids do an amazing job of education, in making sure that, where children might be at risk of poor health, educational or social outcomes, they engage the schools and they engage the local community. They make sure that children most at risk receive the help that they need. As I have said, their core business is allied health. They focus on speech-language pathology, they focus on occupational therapy, they focus on psychology, and they focus on family health support workers. As a previous speaker has said, these kinds of support services would be welcome in Victoria. The not-for-profit based model that we have in Queensland is something that my own state could benefit from—because, right now, regional communities in Victoria are struggling, and they are struggling as a direct result of policies that this government has introduced.

The most shocking attack has been on Medicare. The impact of this government's attack on Medicare is being felt throughout regional Victoria. The freeze to the indexation of the Medicare rebate is having a big impact on allied health services. In my own electorate just recently, a couple of clients of Burra Consulting Services have been in touch to say that they received a letter asking them to pay $165 up-front to access services—yes, they would receive the Medicare rebate, but they would have to pay up-front and then receive the rebate afterwards. To a young person who might be accessing these services, or to a family that has a young person needing these services, it is hard to find that $165 to pay up-front. But this is what some regional services are doing—because this government has frozen the Medicare rebate. We know that CPI is going up by 1.3 per cent, that the Wage Price Index—even though it is at the lowest rate it has been for a while—is still at 2.3 per cent, and that the ABS reports an increase in hospital and medical costs of 6.5 per cent. So the costs of running these services are going up, yet this government has cruelly frozen the Medicare rebate indexation, meaning that GPs, allied health services, and health services in regional areas are having to put up their costs. If we really want to see help for BUSHkids then this government needs to reverse its shocking track record on health. It needs to be investing and not cutting funding to rural health services.