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Thursday, 11 March 2010
Page: 2220

Mrs D’ATH (9:24 AM) —Last night prior to the adjournment, I was taking the House through all of the initiatives that the federal government has implemented in relation to health, from the initiation of the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission inquiry back in February 2008 right through to the significant increase—up to 50 per cent—in health funding, the increase in training places and other initiatives.

In contrast, the Liberals in government, under the stewardship of the then health minister, now Leader of the Opposition, slashed $1 billion from public hospitals. They caused a national shortage in the medical workforce by freezing medical student places and capping GP training places, leading to a critical doctor shortage affecting 60 per cent of the population. They did nothing to plan for future challenges like the ageing population and the growing burden of chronic disease.

Last night in the debate on these bills, the member for Herbert referred to the problems associated with Townsville Hospital. I do have to ask: on how many occasions, when both the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Herbert were in government and the Leader of the Opposition was health minister, did the member for Herbert on behalf of his constituents actually raise concerns about Townsville Hospital and how the federal government should assist?

It is important also to look at the Liberal Party since coming into opposition in 2007. They opposed the alcopops legislation, which was an important measure to address binge drinking by young people; they opposed the Australian National Preventive Health Agency Bill, which sought to establish the first-ever national approach to preventive health through this national preventive health agency; they opposed means testing for private health insurance, which would ensure that the government provides rebates in a way that is fiscally responsible and direct taxpayer dollars into areas that are most in need, such as health reform.

Mr Tony Abbott is working hard to distinguish himself from the previous leaders of the opposition and the Rudd Labor government. This leader of the opposition is doing so by saying ‘no’ in the Senate on every policy that has been put forward in the area of health. Mr Abbott’s latest example of this is the rejection of the private health insurance rebate bill. This decision blows a $2 billion hole in the budget and, by the middle of this century, it will be a $100 billion hole. This is money that would be better spent within the health system. Unfortunately this is not the only piece of legislation that is being blocked in the Senate when it comes to health and important priorities for the community.

The landmark legislation that will give more support and recognition to midwives and nurse practitioners has been delayed month after month after month, and the Liberal Party have not yet agreed to support this important reform within the health system. The opposition have twice blocked changes that we took to the last election to make sure that we could provide more than a million extra dental services to the most needy in our community. Unfortunately, it is not only health reform that the opposition is blocking in the Senate. Even our young people wanting to study at university have been left in the lurch because of the opposition refusing to pass the income support for students bill. The protection of the environment into the future through the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is also a target for the opposition. In fact, the opposition has blocked 41 bills in the past year, which is four times as many as any other opposition in the past 30 years.

I have to say that the LNP candidate for Petrie has recently come out saying that he supports local hospital boards. I hope that means he will now support local hospital networks. The other members from Queensland in this chamber may be very interested to know that he says he is going to advocate strongly for Logan Hospital to be the first off the mark. I am sure that Logan is a lovely hospital, but Logan has about four other federal electorates between Petrie and where it actually resides, and it is certainly nowhere near outer northern metropolitan Brisbane.

Mr Ciobo interjecting

Dr Emerson interjecting

Mrs D’ATH —I would say good on the LNP candidate for Petrie promoting Logan as the first off the mark, but, as the member for Petrie, I will actually be advocating for Redcliffe Hospital and my local health professionals to support our area to be the first off the mark.

For the Rudd government the message is simple: we are serious about health reform; the opposition is serious about playing politics. This legislation before the House is part of the Rudd Labor government’s commitment to health reform and is another step forward to positive change. I commend the bills to the House.

The SPEAKER —I thank the Queensland members present in the chamber for not showing their territorial biases too much.