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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 978

Health Funding


Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (14:11): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Health, Senator Nash. I refer the minister to Health Workforce Australia and its work in improving—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Just wait a minute, Senator McEwen. You are entitled to be heard in silence and those having the discussion across the front of the chamber make it very difficult for me to hear the question.

Senator McEWEN: I refer the minister to Health Workforce Australia and to its work in improving access to doctors and other medical professionals outside our major cities, including its integrated regional clinical training networks. Is Health Workforce Australia quarantined from any cuts?




Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:12): It would come to the surprise of none on this side of the chamber that the coalition remains committed to a very strong health workforce. Our goal is to consistently reduce the gap in service delivery whether you live in Canberra, Cairns, Cudal, Kununurra—anywhere across this nation—and we will do it far better than the previous government did. Of that this chamber can be very sure. We know that a range of programs have received commentary of late and there has been some around Health Workforce Australia, and I do understand that. Interestingly, this side of the chamber is going to appropriately ensure the delivery of health services, unlike those on the other side who spent year after year wantonly spending taxpayers' dollars and not appropriately addressing the issue of health delivery at the primary cause.

Senator Moore: Mr President, I rise on a point of order going to relevance. There are now 52 seconds to go and there has been no answer to the specific question.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. The minister has been addressing the question and the minister has 52 seconds, quite correctly, to go.

Senator NASH: I appreciate there are concerns out in the community about the delivery of health in our communities, and predominantly those concerns are because the previous Labor government did such a terrible job at health delivery. Who can forget the fact that it was the previous Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who said in 2007—

Senator Moore: Mr President, I rise on a point of order, again on relevance. In terms of the specific question, the answer has not been coming from the minister. She goes onto the history—her perceived history—rather than the answer to the question.

The PRESIDENT: The minister still has 26 seconds remaining and the minister should address the question.

Senator NASH: I am addressing the question, because I will indeed indicate to the chamber that it will be this government that appropriately addresses the issue of health delivery, including issues such as clinical placement, in a far better way than the previous government ever did.








Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (14:15): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the Prime Minister's pre-election commitment that there will be no cuts to health, will the minister actually guarantee the future of Health Workforce Australia and its important work?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:16): I do not think the irony of that question will be lost on the Australian people, who spent years living with the phrase 'there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.'

The PRESIDENT: Order! You need to come to the question.

Senator NASH: There is absolutely no doubt that those on this side of the chamber, in this government, will be appropriately assessing the delivery of health services to ensure that we get front-line health service delivery appropriately done, and we will be including appropriate delivery of things like the clinical placements that the senator referred to.




Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (14:17): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the minister is refusing to guarantee the future of Health Workforce Australia, can she confirm that more than 130 staff based in Adelaide, many of whom are specialists, face an uncertain future as a result of the government walking away from the Prime Minister's commitment?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Health) (14:17): The only thing that was uncertain for people in the health sector was when they were living under the previous Labor government, who would not appropriately address issues of health, particularly in rural and regional areas.

Senator Moore: Mr President, I rise on a point of order, again on relevance. I do try to allow the minister to start her answer and get going, but again there is no response to the specific question about Health Workforce Australia staff.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. The minister has been going 17 seconds and has 43 seconds remaining.

Senator NASH: I have been addressing the question. Perhaps those on the other side have not been listening closely enough. We in this government have taken the perfectly appropriate and expected attitude to health delivery that the Australian people expect us to do. They expect us to cleverly and sensibly look through the appropriate health delivery mechanisms and make sure that we get health services where they are needed, and that is the front line and not wasted in bureaucratic spending like the previous government. (Time expired)