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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7333


Mr SYMON (Deakin) (15:19): My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Will the minister update the House on investments the government is making to improve the accessibility of care for Aus­tralians? How will the use of new comm­unications technology assist with the provision of health care?

Mr Dutton: Tricky Nicky!

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Dickson will withdraw.

Mr DUTTON: I withdraw.

Ms ROXON (GellibrandMinister for Health and Ageing) (15:19): I thank the member for Deakin for his question because I know that, unlike the member for Dickson, he is interested in services that are being provided to his electorate. I can inform the House that two brand-new services became available for people across the country from 1 July, last week. Our telehealth services are particularly for rural and regional Australia but also for those living in outer urban electorates like that represented by the member for Deakin. In addition to our telehealth services, the GP after-hours hotline became available for the first time at six o'clock on Friday night. I can inform the House that already 1,300 families and consumers have used that service and been assisted by GPs who are on hand to provide them with medical advice and information in the middle of the night or on Sunday afternoon when their GP services are closed.

The Prime Minister and I were lucky enough to be on hand to sit in on one of the first telehealth conferences. The Prime Minister was in Darwin, in the GP superclinic in Palmerston, with a GP and with a patient, Mary. I was with a specialist dermatologist in Adelaide. Using new technology, with of course the new MBS payments, we were able to see how a consultation could occur. It took under 10 minutes. With the use of technology it meant that the patient in Darwin, instead of having to travel thousands of kilometres there and back to Adelaide to see a dermatologist or to wait weeks or months to have a simple consultation, was able to have her sore leg properly diagnosed. The GP was able to write the script and she was able to get along straight away with that treatment—a simple thing that could not occur if we were not in government because those opposite (1) are trying to pull down the NBN and (2) have opposed our investments in telehealth and opposed our investments in GP superclinics. I was also able last week to visit with the members for Chifley, Greenway, Reid and Parramatta, and with seniors and families in their electorates who want to be able to use the GP after-hours service. Those families would probably be very surprised to know that the Liberal opposition have said they will slash funding for those services.

I have not had a question from the member for Dickson for 97 weeks, yet they can go to the campaign and say that they will cut back these services that are already providing support right across the country. If you live in rural and regional Australia, a specialist has suddenly become closer and easier to access because of our government's $620 million investments. If you are a family that has a sick child in the middle of the night you can now get a GP on the end of the line, but if the Liberal Party were in government they would be closing down those services.

It is about time the Liberal Party came into this House and actually asked us a question on another matter of policy. While we are getting on with delivering health services and delivering health reform, all they are doing is opposing every investment and making it harder and harder for families that need medical services to get access to them. It is about time the member for Dickson started doing some work.

Ms Gillard: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.