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Thursday, 18 March 2010
Page: 2987


Mr HALE (2:02 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on the government’s actions to achieve better health and better hospitals for all Australians?


Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Solomon for his question. I well remember our visit recently to Darwin and the inspection of the new integrated cancer centre which is now next to the Royal Darwin Hospital. It reminds me of a visit I undertook the other day to the Royal North Shore Hospital.


Mr Abbott interjecting


Mr RUDD —I can hear already the interjections from the Leader of the Opposition on this question. The Royal North Shore Hospital is a pretty interesting example of what we have been talking about with health and hospital reform because the hospital has been engaged in representations to the previous Australian government from 1997 in order to obtain a PET scanner.

I was pleased to actually be present with the member for Bennelong for the opening of that PET scanner last Friday. To be true it was operating for three days before that, but it had been installed during the period of this government. Before the Leader of the Opposition again intervenes on his own particular role here, multiple representations, as advised by the Royal North Shore Hospital, were made to the previous government from 1997 on, but nothing happened until the eve of the 2007 election, when the previous government said, based on representations from the indefatigable member for North Sydney, that they were going to do something about it. It only took 12 years before the previous government said they were going to do something about it. Which government actually did something about it? This Australian Labor government did something about it.

I spoke with an 80-year-old man, whose name was Gordon, who has cancer. He was one of the first patients to use the services provided by the new PET scanner. Gordon and others like him are now benefiting from this facility at the Royal North Shore Hospital. I thank the member for Bennelong for her strong representations, the commitments that she undertook, and the delivery on those commitments when it comes to the Royal North Shore Hospital.

This goes of course to the much wider challenge of how we properly fund our health and hospital system for the future. I heard, as I came into the chamber today, one of the other honourable members from the opposition benches speaking about the problem of juvenile diabetes. Together with the health minister, many members opposite and many members on our side of the House, I attended an event called Kids in the House, which was held in the Great Hall in Parliament House today, and I see many of the participants in the gallery today. These are great kids who come from all over Australia. I commend members opposite and members on this side of the House for being with their kids as they attended that event today. It was about one thing: how do we make it better for kids who are diagnosed with juvenile diabetes to deal with the challenges of that disease?

What I outlined to the gathering today in the Great Hall in Parliament House was the action that the government has now taken in terms of the subsidisation of the cost of insulin pumps. I outlined this to those who were gathered in the Great Hall today. These comments, as I indicated in the House, relate to a particular and significant increase in the amount of the subsidy for insulin pumps. I say to those opposite that all efforts need to be made by governments at all levels to support kids who are suffering from this condition. That is how we deal with those who are currently living with this condition. The other part of my comments today went to how we properly fund research for juvenile diabetes in the future. I indicated the Australian government was currently funding some 360-odd researchers, I think, to the tune of some $63 million to try and find a cure for juvenile diabetes.

These are the bread and butter concerns of working families right across Australia—the bread and butter concerns about how we properly fund medical research in the future; the bread and butter concerns about how we deliver PET scanners in hospitals like the Royal North Shore in the future. I say to those opposite that what we must ensure for the future is that we have a properly funded, properly structured health and hospital system for Australia.

That is why the Australian government has put forward its plan for a new National Health and Hospitals Network—one which will be funded nationally and run locally with, for the first time, the Australian government becoming the dominant funder of the Australian public hospital system, which means that in the future, when you are looking at the need for PET scanners at hospitals like the Royal North Shore Hospital, the Australian government will not just stand to one side; it will be there as a partner in making sure that those projects are delivered. It means that in the teaching and research function of our hospitals we are partners in ensuring that those services are delivered and that, when it comes to the capital needs of our public hospital system in the future, we are ensuring that we are partners—and the dominant funding partners—to make sure that those hospital services are delivered. That is our plan for the future. That is what we propose to do. That is why we have put forward this plan for the nation.

But I could say to those opposite that, nearly two weeks into this debate on health and hospitals, I have a simple question for the Leader of the Opposition, which is this: does he support or does he oppose this plan? We have waited for two weeks now to hear what the answer is: does he support or does he oppose?


Mr Abbott interjecting


Mr RUDD —The interjection from the Leader of the Opposition is, ‘Let me see the plan.’ I say to the Leader of the Opposition that a 72-page document outlining this plan in detail is there for all to see. I would note that the Leader of the Opposition, the day before the plan was released, said he was opposed to it—before he even saw it and before anyone else in the country had seen it. But my question again today, two weeks into this debate—plenty of time to review its content—is: does the Leader of the Opposition support this plan or oppose it? The Leader of the Opposition remains stoically silent. Let me try another question. If the Leader of the Opposition—


Mr Abbott —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: if the Prime Minister wants to give me leave, I am happy to speak on health and hospital policy in this parliament.