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Friday, 22 February 2008
Page: 1256

Mr HALE (10:54 AM) —I congratulate you, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, for your appointment to the Speaker’s panel. Today I would like to use my contribution to set out the Rudd government’s plan for improved health services for my electorate of Solomon. I certainly concur with the member for Herbert about the isolation people experience at times with our health services. I was pleased last September when I met with the then shadow minister for health to discuss the Rudd government’s commitment to a GP superclinic in Palmerston. The Rudd government’s commitment will see a contribution of up to $10 million towards the creation of a GP superclinic to provide better health services to Top End families. I have already met with the office of the Minister for Health and Ageing and indicated that I see the delivery of this commitment as a fundamental priority for the working families of Solomon. The minister has informed me that consultation will commence in April with the local community and local health professionals. I would also like to thank the Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services for the preliminary work they have been undertaking on this important project.

Once completed, the Palmerston GP superclinic is expected to include: 24-hour GP services; chronic disease and complex care management services; outpatient services provided on an outreach basis from the Royal Darwin Hospital such as cancer and oncology support services, obstetrics, gynaecology and ophthalmology; a greater range of allied health services such as physiotherapy, dieticians and podiatry than is currently available; and dental services.

Speaking of dental services, I am pleased with two important commitments that the Rudd government has made to the community in this vital area. I was quite shocked to learn after my election that 3,957 Territorians are on dental waiting lists. Two important commitments outlined by the Rudd government will see, firstly, the establishment of the Commonwealth Dental Health Scheme, which will provide $290 million for up to one million additional treatments. Secondly, the government will introduce a teen dental plan that will provide a $150 tax rebate to help families in receipt of family tax benefit part A. These are both practical solutions to help families in the area of dental care. People’s teeth are so important to their overall self-confidence, and I think this investment is great news for families.

Federal Labor is committed to ending the blame game—I know that a lot of that happens with regard to health between the states and territories and the Commonwealth—and to improving health care for all Australians. I look forward to working with the Minister for Health and Ageing to deliver Labor’s $1.5 billion national health reform plan to improve health and hospital services around the country. Solomon is no different to other electorates. Basic health care for all Australians is vital. Probably one of the biggest issues that I have discovered while getting around in my electorate and talking to people is the lack of health services, especially in the Palmerston area. It is a growing area. Usually kids will get crook at the most inopportune times—and having to drive from Palmerston to the Darwin Hospital at 2 am is an issue for people. I look forward to working with the minister. I thank her for the way she has kept me informed of the progress of the plan and I look forward to delivering this for the people of Solomon.