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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6200


Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (5:40 PM) —I thank the member of Leichhardt for his question. He has been one of the most tireless advocates for health needs within his community, which is a very diverse electorate. The member for Leichhardt’s seat is a good case study in where the government is prioritising its effort with the health budget. We are changing a system that the previous government had in place—the RRMA classification system—which used 20-year-old data even though the demographics have changed significantly and which did not pay doctors on any suitable scale. We believe that, the more remote you are, the more incentives and support you should get as a GP. This has fundamentally changed the sorts of incentives that we provide for doctors who go and work up in the cape. It has changed the incentives that are provided for doctors working in Cairns.

There is a whole range of other initiatives, which I know the member for Leichhardt will be pleased about, that show our investments across the whole health system. The $130,000 that is going into Leichhardt for various programs spans Indigenous health and provides more money for the division of GPs, because the formula for what GPs had been paid previously was based on very old data. We have more money going into the Mums and Bubs program run by the Indigenous health service. I think that it will be really useful over the coming years to see how those investments play out in communities like the member for Leichhardt’s seat, because we are doing something the previous government were never prepared to do. They were either too lazy or it was too hard. They did not want to look at paying more for those communities that were truly remote. They were not prepared to update the demographic data. It has been a really hard job. We have consolidated more than 60 programs into five streams. That takes a lot of administrative work, but it means that we are now using a classification system that is consistent across a whole lot of other government programs. It means that doctors can easily find out what incentives are payable to them, and I think it will be of huge benefit not only to the Indigenous community but also to the whole community in Cairns.

This funding comes on top of the money that has gone into the community for the dental school that is being built at James Cook University. There really is a lot of good news. There was a very high number of needs that were not being adequately dealt with by the previous government. This is a sign of what new investments, and reorientation, across the health system can deliver to local communities. I particularly want to thank the member for Leichhardt, who has been a tireless advocate in making sure I was aware of the range of issues facing his community and making sure that we are addressing those various needs.