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Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Page: 5360


Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (19:56): In the spirit of the member for Scullin's speech, I am quite ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with him when it comes to the issue of higher education achievement for people from low socioeconomic groups, particularly those from regional areas. We do have a lot more work to do in that regard, and I am sure the government realises there are many challenges ahead for us in relation to raising the participation rates for students from regional communities.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak tonight. I will be tabling four petitions—which I understand is a bit unusual—that have all been found to be in order by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Petitions. Two of them have been raised in smaller form in the past, so it is a chance to make sure that the people who signed these petitions have the opportunity to see them tabled in the House tonight.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Petitions, I congratulate the secretariat and all the other members of the committee for conducting themselves in a very professional manner on that committee. I think it is an important role we play in giving the people of Australia the opportunity to directly petition the House and to have their issues raised in this most important of places.

The first petition relates to the supply of PBS medicines. Specifically it relates to the timely and efficient delivery of those medicines. It is a huge petition. There are more than 13,000 signatures on it, and this is on top of the petition with 50,000 signatures that I tabled last November. There was significant concern regarding the distribution system for PBS medicines, and it helped draw attention to a very important issue at that time. I have been reassured by the companies involved that their delivery performance has improved significantly since the matter was first brought to the attention of the House. I am confident that we are moving in the right direction in relation to that, and I congratulate the petitioners for bringing it to the attention of the House.

The next petition comes from the community of Boolarra, and it is a somewhat smaller petition but a very significant petition for the 92 residents who signed it. It relates to issues associated with switchover to digital TV. The Boolarra community is one of the first areas that was switched over. There were many assurances given to the community in relation to the switchover from digital to analog, but the expectations of that community have not been met. The services are continuously interrupted. I have made representations to the minister, and his office has been very forthcoming in trying to come up with some solutions to work with the community but, unfortunately, we have not really resolved the concerns of the Boolarra and district residents. It looks like there is going to be considerable expense to many residents to try to overcome their issues. The communication issues associated with the digital TV rollout have not been resolved in those areas, where the topographic conditions are sometimes very difficult to overcome.

The third petition relates to the Princes Highway east of Sale and the need for additional funding to ensure that one of the most notorious stretches of road in Victoria is properly maintained in the future. It actually relates specifically to the need to include that section of road on the national road network. It is something I have raised before in the House and I will continue to work with the minister in that regard.

The final petition relates to the La Trobe Regional Hospital. More than 2,100 people have signed that petition calling on the federal government to work with the state government in a major overhaul of services for La Trobe Regional Hospital. It is an issue I have raised many times. I have discussed it with the relevant ministers and I am looking forward in the future to achieving an outcome on behalf of all the people of Gippsland.

Supply of PBS Medicines

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of pharmacy customers draws the following to the attention of the House:

The Federal Government established a Community Service Obligation (CSO) to ensure that all Australians have timely access to the PBS medicines they require, regardless of the cost of the medicines, or where they live.

Under exclusive PBS supply arrangements established by pharmaceutical manufacturers, eligible CSO Distributors are excluded from supplying PBS medicines within 24 hours under the CSO and pharmacists have their supply options for PBS medicines reduced to a single supplier.

We therefore ask the House to take immediate action and introduce an amendment to the National Health Act 1953 that prohibits exclusive supply of PBS medicines by manufacturers and suppliers to community pharmacies.

from 13,672 citizens.

Petition received.

Digital Television Reception in Boolarra and District

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of citizens of Boolarra, Victoria, Australia draws to the attention of the House: the ongoing difficulties with Digital Television reception in Boolarra and surrounding district. Interruptions and "No Signal" messages can number many dozens of times during a day. Our area was first to be switched over to Digital Television reception, and despite the assurances given at Town Meetings regarding our Repeater tower by the authorities, the service provided has continuously been interrupted. Individual complaints have met with no satisfactory answers or solutions to the problems experienced. Recent discussions with the service provider also indicate that the functionality/directionality of the previous tower has been reduced, although there was no mention of this in the extensive consultation we had prior to the new transmitter being installed.

We therefore ask the House to: Investigate the viability and operation of the Repeater Tower, and improve the transmission of the Digital Television signal so that it is constant and reliable and provides an equivalent service to the previous transmitter, whether by provision of a new Repeater tower or equipment, or alternately, aerials for all residents to receive transmission from Mount lassie at no cost to citizens.

from 92 citizens

Petition received.

Princes Highway Gippsland Region

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of citizens of Australia who travel in the Gippsland region, draws to the attention of the House the inadequate condition of the Princes Highway between Sale and the New South Wales border.

In particular we note:

Accident rates that indicate the Princes Highway in Gippsland is one of the state's most dangerous roads. From April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2009, there were 314 crashes reported on the Princes Highway east with 497 people injured and 28 people killed;

Insufficient overtaking lanes;

Concerns over the poor road surface, lack of shoulders and inadequate rest areas;

An RACV assessment of highways in Gippsland found that most sections of road were an unacceptable standard for a national highway.

We therefore ask the House to support the adding of the Princes Highway east of Sale to the National Road Network to give it access to Federal Government funding.

from 362 citizens

Petition received.

Latrobe Regional Hospital

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of citizens of Australia, draws to the attention of the House the urgent need for Federal Government investment at Latrobe Regional Hospital (LRH).

Gippsland some of the poorest health outcomes in Victoria and demand at LRH is expected to increase due to an ageing population locally and growth predictions in the region of 13 per cent over the next 10 years.

Despite the fantastic efforts of staff, facilities at LRH fall well below existing standards and are not adequate to meet the needs of the local community.

We therefore ask the House of Representatives to recognise the importance of Latrobe Regional Hospital's application for $65 million through the Federal Government's Health and Hospitals Fund and support the establishment of new and improved health facilities for Gippsland and Latrobe Valley residents.

from 2,175 citizens

Petition received.

House adjourne d at 20 : 00