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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5669


Mr BALDWIN (5:56 PM) —The issue I shall now raise with the minister is that of defence family healthcare clinics. Minister, you would be aware that on 12 November 2007 the then shadow minister for defence, Joel Fitzgibbon, and Kevin Rudd, our now Prime Minister, stated:

A Rudd Labor Government will invest $33.1 million to extend free basic medical and dental care to spouses and children of Australian Defence Force personnel.

Federal Labor’s four year plan will extend free basic medical care to 12,000 ADF spouses and children by funding 12 Defence Family Healthcare Clinics.

…                     …                   …

… priority will be given to the establishment of Defence Family Healthcare Clinics at remote and major regional bases.

That was one of the early promises to be broken. I want you to take this question on board given that your government has a package of 36 GP superclinics, of which only three have been delivered. In the last budget you promised another 23 GP superclinics. You promised 12 clinics would be located at Lavarack Barracks at Townsville, Robertson Barracks at Darwin, Cairns, RAAF Edinburgh, Elizabeth North, RAAF Amberley, Jerrabomberra, Williamtown, Shoalhaven, Singleton, East Sale, Karratha and Pilbara. So why isn’t your Defence portfolio team—whether it is your Minister for Defence, your previous minister for defence personnel, or you in your role—strongly advocating, because you recognised in your pre-election manifest that access to GP and dental services for defence families who by nature of their posting cycle are rather transient, and pushing for these GP superclinics to be established in those areas because that is where the need is?

Minister, you would be aware that your government decided, in breaking the promise, that it would put out a funding trial which made up the gap payment between whatever the GP was charging and the Medicare rebate, and that you provided vouchers for access to dental care —I think it was $300 vouchers, a long way from your promise. And you have rolled that out to Lavarack Barracks at Townsville, Robertson Barracks in Darwin, Cairns, East Sale, Karratha, Pilbara and, in addition, Katharine and Puckapunyal, but also Singleton.

I ask you to take on board this scenario. We have an army base at Singleton and we have a RAAF base at Williamtown. We have defence housing right across that region. In particular, we have defence housing in and around the Ashtonfield-Maitland area. So there may be two neighbours in defence housing—one may be posted to Singleton and the neighbour posted to Williamtown—living side by side.

Minister, can you tell me where the equity is when the one that is posted to Singleton gets the gap payment paid to them on the GP and gets the voucher for the dental rebate, but the person living next door—serving their nation, serving at Williamtown—gets nothing. Where is the equity in that? Minister, given that your government decided that you were going to embark on 12 family healthcare clinics and that you acknowledged that Williamtown and Singleton were both areas of need, why is it that your rollout of a so-called trial—which was just handing a bit of cash and a couple of vouchers out—is restricted? Where is the trial required in handing out cash—something your government seems to do so well on a broad range of things? Why wasn’t it provided to all of those people you originally identified? Minister, could you answer these questions: when do you propose to end the trial—are you listening, Minister?—and roll the program out across all of those that are in regional and remote locations? What is going to be the future financial limit of their benefit under this scheme? How much has your government allocated for this scheme in 2010-11, how much funding will be made available for this in the forward estimates and, Minister, will you commit to pushing your own government to develop some of these promised GP superclinics in areas in and around these Defence Force bases where access to medical services is much needed?