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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8591


Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (14:08): My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister outline the importance of reform for the nation's health system? What are the risks to this reform and how is the government addressing them?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:08): I thank the member for La Trobe for her question. When the nation's leaders meet together tomorrow at the Council of Australian Governments what I expect that meeting to do is to work cooperatively on implementing the health reform agreement that we have recently signed—all states and territories coming together to reform the nation's hospital system. We will be announcing tomorrow, out of the Council of Australian Governments meeting, some important implementation measures. We will be announcing the chairs of the National Health Performance Authority and we will be announcing the chair of the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority. These bodies are critical to the reform of the hospital system as they will be there to provide greater accountability and transparency, and oversee the activity being undertaken in the nation's hospitals.

I had the opportunity last night to address the dinner of the Australian Medical Association. Whilst I was there I had the opportunity to outline the way in which health reform will change our health system for the future and that this is a once-in-a-generation reform of the size and scale of Medicare. What these reforms do is buttress our central principle of universality with the important principles of sustainability, transparency, high performance and value for money. This puts into our hospital system an extra $19.8 billion between now and 2020. It injects into the system $175 billion extra by 2030. Let us be very clear: this is extra; this is not money the Commonwealth was obligated to provide. It will make us forever an equal partner in the growth in hospital costs and that is appropriate. It will ensure that between 2014 and the end of the decade alone our new funding will deliver 2.9 million extra cases in emergency departments, two million additional inpatient services and 19 million additional outpatient consultations.

This new money for these services being provided is associated with a profound reform agenda. We have secured the right to expect that every service is now delivered at an efficient price. We have secured the right to track where every dollar, state and federal, goes via the national health funding pool. We have secured the right to expect the health system's performance to be reported and available transparently not just to government but to ordinary Australians, so that they can see that reported by an umpire without fear or favour. And we have secured the right to the creation of local hospital networks; more local control, as is appropriate.

The significance of these reforms cannot be underestimated. We have secured these reforms in circumstances where we were able to see politics put to one side. It would have been easy for people to assume political divisions between the Commonwealth and the states would kill the prospect for enduring reform. It would have been easy to continue the blame game. It would have been easy to give money to the states via a blank cheque. But we have not gone down that low road because that low road is not an option in health. When it comes to health we will always do the right thing. It may be a very difficult thing to achieve, but we have achieved this health reform agreement and tomorrow we will take steps on its implementation.