Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2127

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:25): I move:

That the Senate take note of the minister's failure to provide either an answer or an explanation.

Because the Senate's entire time has already been taken up, this will be a more brief contribution than I would like to make on this. But I would make this point: the question I asked was a very simple question which dealt with a MYEFO measure, a Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook measure. It was not dissimilar in its terms to one of the questions which I referenced yesterday after question time, which also asked for more information on a measure in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. I think governments should be able to provide detailed information about measures which are published in the budget and budget update.

Yesterday I detailed a measure which had not been answered, and this is in very similar terms. I asked with reference to the 2015-16 MYEFO measure 'more efficient health programs': (1) can the minister provide a list of the 24 health programs which will be cut to achieve $146 million of savings over four years, and (2) can the minister provide a profile of the amount cut from each program over the forward estimates? The minister today has said 'the government is considering its response'. So the government made a decision last year to cut $146 million out of a range of 24 health programs. This, of course, is on top of the $57 billion worth of cuts in the health area, particularly to public hospitals. But, on this one, $146 million of cuts over four years in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook update, they cannot tell us which programs. They are still considering their position.

It is ridiculous. This is already built into the budget, and this information, in the ERC process, would have had to have been part of the way in which Finance costed the measure. It would have had to have been provided to government by Health. The government knows which programs. That is how it can identify in a budget update that there are 24 programs, and now they will not tell us which programs are actually being cut. It is ridiculous.

This government's failure to provide basic information to this Senate on questions on notice really demonstrates its desire to be secretive and not to be transparent when it comes to public moneys, because the question that I am asking and that we are talking about today is not a question where there is an extraordinary amount of work, a question which is obviously not ascertainable without a great deal of detail. It is a question which deals with information which must have been before the government when it made the decision to cut over $140 million from Health. They must know which programs are being cut. That is why the numbers are in the budget. That is why the number of programs—the 24 programs which are being cut—is also in the budget. But they cannot tell the Senate which programs.

I would have liked to have talked longer not only about this government's these cuts but about the $57 billion which the government has cut from public hospitals, but I cannot because of the shortness of time. It has been instructive to see the continued denial by the minister. I understand she has had to leave the chamber for other reasons, but the minister told us yesterday there was no such thing as a cut. Well, it is in her own budget papers. She should have a chat to Joe Hockey, because it is in the budget papers. She should have a chat to the Australian Medical Association, which has documented last week what these cuts mean to people—what they mean for people's waiting times in our emergency departments; what they mean for elective surgery; what they mean to Australians across this country in terms of their medical outcomes and the health care they get.

There should not be a tricky game around saying, 'No, there are no cuts—despite the fact that it was in our budget papers, there are no cuts.' What the minister should be addressing is the real impact on real people across this country. She fails to do that in question time by pretending there are no cuts, even though it is in her own budget papers. She has failed to do that again by not being up front with the Senate about which programs she has cut in the most recent budget update.