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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6203

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (5:52 PM) —I thank the member for that question. It is interesting that the Minister for Ageing can provide a very detailed answer and that the member opposite, who thinks the minister should not refer to her notes, had to read a question that I think lasted less than 10 seconds. The truth is that the shadow minister knows that we made a very clear commitment at the election that we would do a range of things, and we are absolutely doing that range of things. Firstly, we said that we were going to reverse the previous government’s approach of pulling money out of public hospitals. This budget sees a 50 per cent increase in funding going into our public hospitals. We are starting to see results on that already, and we do not—

Mr Dutton interjecting

Ms ROXON —I am coming to your question. You have asked your question and I get the opportunity to answer it.

Mr Dutton —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We are 40 seconds into the answer and there is still nothing about the criteria that the government will apply to whether or not public hospitals will be fixed by 30 June—not a word.

Ms ROXON —I think it is entirely relevant for me to give the context to the shadow minister. He cannot get a question up about this in question time. He has not asked me a question on health for months and months. We are happy to use this opportunity but it does mean I can explain—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr AJ Schultz)—The minister is reminded that we are not in question time. We are in the Main Committee and she will answer the question.

Ms ROXON —Exactly. I can explain the context, which I am going to, of the question that has been asked. We are making that extra investment and we have not heard anything from those opposite about a 50 per cent increase in public hospitals. We have said that by 30 June we will have a report from our Health and Hospitals Reform Commission. I am looking forward to having that report, and we expect there are going to be a range of recommendations. We have seen the interim report. We know that there will be a range of issues that we will need to consider. That report will be made public and there will be a debate about processes from here. These are some of the biggest reform options since the introduction of Medicare by a previous Labor government, so in the last decades these are—

Mr Dutton —Just name one!

Ms ROXON —I am not going to have this process be abused through the shadow minister opposite not being prepared to listen to the answers. If he wants us to answer his questions, that is fine; we will. Otherwise we will let all the statements go, I will answer them all at the end and we will not be any further down the track.

The criteria that we made clear at the election and have made clear since are that we want to look at a range of things: have the states and territories signed on to significant reform to deliver better and more services through our public hospitals? I am on the record as saying that the COAG agreement that was reached last year was a significant step to that. On 1 July, all of the new requirements—reporting, new accountabilities and moves to activity based funding—come into place under our new National Healthcare Agreement. The shadow minister opposite does not want to acknowledge that we have been able to achieve more in terms of increased accountability and more transparent reporting than those opposite were ever able to introduce in their 11 years in government.

These are big changes, but I am not pretending—I would not pretend to the shadow minister opposite or to the public—that we have all of the answers right here today. We actually set up the health reform commission to provide us with advice, ideas and recommendations about what we will do into the future. We will look at it as well as at the performance in our public hospitals. We know that the State of our hospitals report, for example, will also be released at about that time; it provides a lot of data, albeit some of it is not as current as would be useful. The new investments that are coming online do not immediately show in some of the data, which has lag time, and I am sure that the shadow minister understands that. We will be making some further statements in the coming weeks on the process that will be followed for us to make that decision, and no amount of yelling and screaming by the shadow minister opposite takes away from the fact that we have invested a record amount in public hospitals—something that they never did—and are delivering benefits by working with our state and territory colleagues.