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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 611


Mr PERRETT (2:54 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Can the minister update the House on the government’s support for public hospitals and any alternative policies?


Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I welcome this opportunity and thank the member for Moreton for this question because he, as a member with very high demands in his electorate from the health system, will be very interested to be able to compare and contrast the record of the government’s investments in public hospitals with the record of the Leader of the Opposition as a former health minister who cannot pretend that he was not intimately involved in every decision and every legacy left by the Howard government in our health system. We have spent the last two years rebuilding, block by block, after not just four years of this Leader of the Opposition being the health minister but also 12 years of a Howard government which neglected the system.

I can understand why the public responds very badly when they are reminded of Mr Abbott’s time as the health minister because one of the things that people remember most about Mr Abbott is that he pulled a billion dollars out of our public hospitals and then spent the next four years blaming the states for everything that went wrong. Compare and contrast ripping a billion dollars out of our hospitals to putting hundreds of millions of dollars into elective surgery and into emergency departments—billions of dollars into our public hospitals. This compare and contrast is a very easy thing to do.

Look at another thing that the Leader of the Opposition oversaw when he was the health minister: for all of the time that the Leader of the Opposition was the health minister the Howard government had a cap on the training places for GPs. This was despite the fact that 60 per cent of the country had a shortage of GPs. For four years as the health minister, Mr Abbott simply looked the other way and tried to pretend this was somebody else’s problem. We have already started to undo the damage caused by those years of neglect. We have increased the number of GP training places by 35 per cent. I am sure the public will want even more than that. We are taking action for things that the Leader of the Opposition neglected year after year after year.

Actually, it reminded me very much of a very familiar Monty Python script where it was fine to say that we have just cut off an arm as we rip a billion dollars out of our hospitals and we have cut off a leg as we have capped our GP training places, and the Leader of the Opposition just kept saying: ‘It’s only a flesh wound. Everything’s going to be fine; it’s just a flesh wound.’


Mr Abbott interjecting


Ms ROXON —It is interesting that the Leader of the Opposition is asking about GP superclinics but the health spokesperson has not asked a question about GP superclinics. That is probably because one has opened in his electorate. Following a $2½ million dollar investment by our government in the member for Dickson’s seat, the Strathpine GP superclinic opened two weeks ago and is providing services to the community that otherwise turns up at Redcliffe, Caboolture and Prince Charles hospitals, where the emergency department presentations have gone up exponentially—at one of those hospitals by more than 20 per cent. In the member for Dickson’s electorate there is now a service that runs all day Saturday, all day Sunday and until seven o’clock every night during the week. The reason the shadow minister has been completely silent about it is that he did not even have the decency to turn up and congratulate them for providing these services to the community. The Leader of the Opposition is a risk. He has pulled money out of health. If he is elected, he will pull money out of health again, as his finance spokesperson has already made clear, and the public cannot afford that risk.