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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 10923


Mr DUTTON (3:14 PM) —My question is to the Acting Prime Minister. Acting Prime Minister, does the government stand by the Prime Minister’s pledge to the Australian people that he will fix the public hospital system by 2009 or he will have a referendum to take over the public hospitals from the states?


Mr Adams —It’s your fault!


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Lyons is simply not assisting.


Ms GILLARD (Acting Prime Minister) —I thank the member for his question. This government has inherited from the former government a public hospital system that has had a billion dollars ripped out of it. It cut back GP training places and other workforce places, leaving us with a crisis in workforce in many parts of the country. It is not a track record to be proud of. What the government has done since it took office is to work with our state and territory counterparts on new Australian healthcare agreements. What the government has said consistently is that it will work with our state and territory colleagues to get new cooperative arrangements to deal with the problems in the health system.

What the Prime Minister said before the election, as opposed to what the member for Dickson just summarised him as saying, was that we would work with our state and territory counterparts and seek a new era of reform. My colleague the Minister for Health and Ageing is well into the journey of the reform agenda. We have already put more money into hospitals. She has a reform commission working with her. The Prime Minister always said that we would aim to work through these issues cooperatively, and that is what we are doing. What he said to the Australian people as well was that, if these processes did not work to a satisfactory outcome, the buck would stop with him. We are doing exactly what the Prime Minister promised before the election: working collaboratively through the processes.


Mr Laming interjecting


Ms GILLARD —We said that we would do that first. We said that we would invest in our hospital system, and we have.


Mr Laming interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Bowman is warned!


Ms GILLARD —We said that we would invest in GP superclinics and we have. The list goes on. The last thing that I would think that a member of the Liberal Party would do—


Mr Dutton —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. This was a question directed in relation to the referendum as a commitment of the government.


The SPEAKER —The Acting Prime Minister will respond to the question.


Ms GILLARD —In responding to the question, I say this to the member who asked the question and to members opposite: the last thing that I would have thought that members of the Liberal Party would want to do is to start a debate about honouring election promises, given that they are the political party that gave to this nation the terminology ‘core’ and ‘non-core’. From the very first day they were elected, they wanted to dump their election promises, and they did. I remind members opposite that, when it comes to the question of promises, they promised Australians before the 2004 election that it would be business as usual in workplace relations.


Mr Dutton —Mr Speaker, I again rise on a point of order in relation to relevance. There has been a defiance of your earlier ruling by the Acting Prime Minister. It is about the referendum. Does she stand by it or not?


The SPEAKER —The member for Dickson will resume his seat.


Ms GILLARD —What I can say to the member for Dickson—


Mr Dutton —Just answer the question.


Ms GILLARD —I have answered the question. His screaming is not going to change that. We are a government that honours its promises. We will do that in health. We will do that in all areas in which we made promises to the Australian people. That is a sharp contrast to the non-core promises of the Liberal Party and its failure to tell the Australian people about Work Choices before 2004.