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Monday, 27 September 1999
Page: 10511

Mr LAWLER (1:42 PM) —The three issues we are talking about here today are, really, the issues of gaps, the lack of availability of services provided by specialists and the costs to the public purse. Quite clearly, as the member for Werriwa pointed out, it all comes back to providing competition in the marketplace. I agree with nearly everything the member for Werriwa said except, perhaps, the matter of timing. At least there is a procedure put in place to look at this issue. As I said, I think there needs to be a review into the whole process of selecting and training not only specialists but GPs, because we also have to look at the delivery of services, not just the costs. Having said that, there is an enormous number of dedicated specialists practising in rural and remote areas of Australia, and they are not getting the support they should from those who should be providing it. Obviously the colleges are big players in this equation. Certainly there is anecdotal evidence of the colleges allowing some hundreds of people to sit for the entrance exams to the courses at the colleges—collecting their money, I might add—knowing full well that the number accepted is predetermined and has nothing to do with the level achieved in such exams; the predetermined number may well be that only a few are accepted out of a couple of hundred who may sit for them.

I believe the teaching hospitals also have a role to play in this, and they have a long way to go. Getting back to the delivery of services to rural and remote Australia, there is a perception among medical students who are interested in pursuing a specialist's career that, if they do go and do some of their pre-learning in the bush, they are cut out of the loop. They are no longer under the eyes of the specialists looking after an area and they have no chance of achieving their goals. So the teaching hospitals certainly have a role to play in encouraging people to go and gain the very valuable experience they will get by practising in a rural hospital.

Debate interrupted.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! It being 1.45 p.m., the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 101. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next day's sitting. The member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed on that day.