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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 4944


Senator RYAN (6:00 PM) —I rise to take note of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report for 2007-08. The report contains some fairly horrific statistics—statistics that betray Labor’s claims to be able to run an effective health system; and statistics that Labor state governments all around the country have gone to great lengths over many years in office to prevent coming to public attention. What this report tells us is that over 10 years up to 2006 there was a substantial and massive decline in the number of beds in public hospitals—public hospitals that are run by state governments, significantly funded by this place but managed day to day by state governments, and for much of this period Labor state governments. In the 10 years to 2006 the number of beds that have been slashed from public sector hospitals is around 5,000. When you take into account the increase in Australia’s population to over 21 million over this period, we see that the number of beds per head of population has declined alarmingly. It has declined from 4.5 beds per thousand people in Australia to 4.0. Indeed, my own home state of Victoria has the lowest number in the country of 3.7.

I do not argue that the number of beds is the sole test of an efficient health system, but this does tells us a story—particularly when we look at the explosion in staff in these same public sector hospitals. Over this 10-year period the number of nursing and personal care assistants grew by 55 per cent, despite the fact that there are 5,000 fewer beds now than there were 10 years ago. More alarmingly, the number of medical administrators grew by 70 per cent over this period. I assume these are the administrators in my home state of Victoria who were caught fudging the numbers in our own hospital statistics over the last two years. What these two trends—declining numbers of beds, increasing numbers of staff—tell us is that Labor, as it always has been, is in hock to the unions. In this case it is the public sector unions—the public sector unions that have demanded wage rises, more people being employed, but at the same time seen a decline in the number of beds.

We know it is Labor’s fault, particularly in my home state, because for the overwhelming part of this period there was a Labor state government in Victoria. We have had an explosion in costs, we have had a reduction in services and a dramatic fall in the number of beds. We have had an explosion in the number of people waiting for semi-urgent and elective care. We have had an explosion in people waiting on trolleys for beds. I will not even go into what has been happening in the state of New South Wales, where the stories are nothing short of horrific and where there was a Labor government in place for all of this period. Labor does not want to take on the vested interests of the public sector unions. There has been report after report issued around this country that shows that while the number of employees has gone up, the number of employees per bed had skyrocketed as Labor has stripped resources out of the health system. Labor always wants to talk about how much they spend, but they never actually want to talk about what we get for the dollars we spend on our health system. The previous federal government doubled the spending on health care in this country. Yet at the same time that that money was being poured in Labor was ripping beds out of the public sector system. What they want to do on top of that today is to start to rip resources out of the private health system—the same private health system that has grown over this period and has managed to take up some of the slack left by Labor’s incompetence and their negligence. They care about their union mates, they look after their public sector support base but it comes at the expense of patients and Australians.

Question agreed to.