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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5205


Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyMinister for Health) (13:41): I am happy to answer, but I am not sure what time we need to finish here.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms O'Neill ): We will be rising at 1.45.

Ms PLIBERSEK: In relation to dental services, we have put $4.6 billion over two budgets into dental services. The initial $515.3 million included around $345 million for a waiting list blitz. That is already treating patients right around Australia. People who have been on waiting lists for years are now getting their teeth seen because they are able to participate in this waiting list blitz—$345.9 million. It took some time for some of the states and territories to sign up. I was disappointed in how hard it is sometimes to give states money. But they now have all accepted the money and are treating patients, taking them off the waiting lists and getting their waiting lists to such low levels that they are able to recall people for preventive checks as well. The benefit of this approach over the CDDS is that it can treat people that do not have a chronic disease. We know that there are a lot of people who have terrible teeth but did not have a chronic disease and missed out on the CDDS. We also know that the CDDS was a widely rorted scheme. Unfortunately, it was designed so poorly that there is no other way of doing it but to close the scheme down. It was not salvageable.

As to whether Aboriginal medical services are making use of the new scheme, they absolutely should be. They should be in very close contact with their state and territory governments, which are the managers of the public dental systems in each state and territory. Some Aboriginal medical services have dental chairs in the service. They should be talking to their state or territory government about continued funding from this Commonwealth funding boost going straight to those dental chairs in the AMSs. Where the AMS does not have a chair—where it has an arrangement with another dental service—again the existing relationships that those Aboriginal medical services have with their patients should be a very good way to make sure that the people who need good dental care are getting it through this boost to funding.

I also have to mention the $2.7 billion that goes into Grow Up Smiling. I am sure that the member for Bowman, like me, has travelled to a number of Indigenous communities where you see kids with no teeth, or very bad teeth. Right across our community we are seeing rates of dental caries increasing rather than decreasing since the nineties in particular. Some of it is related to diet. Some of it is—

An honourable member: State governments stopping fluoride in the water.

Ms PLIBERSEK: State governments stopping fluoride in water certainly will not help. But those children for the most part were not eligible for Grow Up Smiling because they did not have other ill health effects in their bodies. So for Grow Up Smiling there is $2.7 billion that will make it as easy for 3.4 million children to see a dentist as it is now is to see a doctor. This will mean that they get good oral health today, but that good oral health today lasts them a lifetime. It is pretty hard to have poor teeth as a kid and grow up to have good teeth. It does not happen. So, by investing early in children and making sure that they start life with good oral health, we make sure that they can grow into adults that have good oral health.

The member for Bowman also asked about the Mason review and recommendations that have been taken up. The Mason review has made a number of recommendations, and there are a number that I will consider in greater detail. But there were two that I accepted immediately because all of the information I had from other sources—not just the Mason review—told me that they were sensible recommendations. (Time expired)

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Sitting suspended fr om 13:45 to 15:48

Education, Employment and Workplace Relations

Proposed expenditure, $4,202,808,000