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Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Page: 3578

Mr RANDALL (NaN:NaN:00) —I am pleased to speak today on the Federal Financial Relations Amendment (National Health and Hospitals Network) Bill 2010. Let us understand why we are here today. We are here because before the 2007 election the former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a threat that if the hospitals and health networks of the states did not get their act together he was going to take them over, 100 per cent. In fact the threat was made a number of times. He threatened that the Commonwealth would use its powers to take over state health jurisdictions. What we have here today is a watered-down version of that. We have a watered-down version because of the fact that the former Prime Minister no longer holds the same position and his deputy then, who I suspect supported everything he said, has now come to the conclusion that this is the fall-back position.

Today, on what I understand is the third anniversary of the election of the Rudd government, we are no better off. If the Australian people were to ask themselves whether they were better off or worse off after three years of Labor, they would have to say they were worse off—substantially worse off.

Mr Sidebottom —Go to Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain.

Mr RANDALL —I hear the interjection from the member for Braddon, and he would say these sorts of things because Tasmania is the biggest beneficiary of this proposal. Of course, Tasmania needs to be because it is a leech on the teat of the Australian economy, supported by states like Western Australia. We are sick and tired of propping up mendicant states like Tasmania and the largesse that goes to people like the member for Braddon who has just bragged about having two superclinics in his electorate when other electorates around Australia are in need of all the support they can get. My electorate, for example, does not have a GP superclinic and there is not one earmarked. And we do not want one. I have had the doctors in my area come to me and say, ‘Please don’t allow the Commonwealth to waste money by putting a GP superclinic in our area.’ We have got a very good set of hospital services and GP clinics funded by GPs themselves, and they do not want to be imposed on or competed against by a taxpayer-funded GP superclinic in the electorate of Canning, thank you very much.

We oppose this bill—we have to oppose the bill—because as it is an unfair bill. For years Labor opposed the GST. They went to three elections, starting from Paul Keating, opposing the GST. They did not want a GST. You will remember Kim Beazley, a former Western Australian colleague now enjoying his sinecure in the United States, going on about roll-back. If they got in they were going to roll the GST back. They thought it was terrible. The Rudd-Gillard governments have since been elected twice. I use the term ‘elected’, but we actually have more seats on this side. I remind the House on the third anniversary of the Labor government that it was ‘selected’ by the Independents after the last election because it failed to get enough seats. After three years the government has had an opportunity to roll back the GST and it has not.

In this bill the government is now saying, ‘The states have got the GST’—because we know that every cent raised by the GST goes back to the states as a growth tax—‘and we want to help ourselves to some of that.’ I say to the states: beware. Beware of the Commonwealth dipping its hand in your little back pocket and taking your money away from you because they will continue to erode that growth tax that was given to you as a reform of Commonwealth-state financial relationships. Remember the great Paul Keating saying:

Never get between a Premier and a bucket of money.

That is why we had to have a sustainable way of financing the states. Under the GST arrangements, every cent collected by the GST goes back to the states. This bill is opposed by many people. John Brumby put up a false front for a while, trying to ratchet up a better deal before he agreed to it. Mind you, no-one has signed any agreement yet. That was confirmed by the Prime Minister as reported in an article in, dare I say, the Australian on 19 November. The article by Sue Dunlevy and Matthew Franklin, referring to the government, says:

… it confirmed yesterday it had not secured a single signature agreeing to change the state, territory and federal tax arrangements.

Not one signature. The article goes on to say:

Six of the eight state and territory governments have “agreed in principle” to the reforms but Western Australia and Tasmania are holding out.

I say to you that Western Australia will not agree to sign on, not at all. Being a Western Australian member, I have been present on many occasions when Colin Barnett has confirmed and reconfirmed this. We will not sign on to this and the WA Minister for Health, Kim Hames—he is the member for Dawesville, which is in my electorate, and he is somebody I have a lot to do with—continues to reiterate that we will not sign on. Yes, we will voluntarily hand over 30 per cent of our GST, but we are not going to formally give away the opportunity for growth in this tax revenue, because, as I will point out shortly, we are essentially being dudded under the GST arrangements in any case. This bill is an attempt by the Commonwealth to claw back some revenue from the states and it plans to do that progressively over the years.

The tables in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, MYEFO, are quite interesting. When we were first told about this, the contribution from the states was going to be 30 per cent. Now we find out that there is going to be quite a bit of variation between states. New South Wales is pretty much on track for 30 per cent. Their total GST revenue in 2010-11 is going to be about $14½ billion. In 2011-12, it will be $15.8 billion. Out of that, they will pay $4,774 million. The MYEFO table goes through each state. Victoria, for example, would be $2.8 billion in 2011-12, which is 25 per cent of its GST; Queensland is $3.54 billion, which is 40 per cent; South Australia is $1.229 billion, or 26 per cent; Tasmania, 20 per cent—the member for Braddon should hang his head in shame; they are barely contributing—the ACT, 50 per cent; and the Northern Territory, only 14 per cent due to its status as a territory et cetera.

But all of those figures grow over time. By the time you get to 2013-14, it goes up to 31 per cent for New South Wales; Victoria stays the same; Queensland goes from 40 to 44 per cent; South Australia goes from 26 to 27; Tasmania from 20 to 21—barely a contribution, as I said—and the contribution from the territories also grows, as I indicated. Interestingly, under Western Australia the figure is zero, because we are not contributing—we are not going to sign on. We are happy, as I said, to rebate the GST, but we are not going to get caught up in this growth grab from Canberra, this attempt by them to continue to dip their hands in our pockets. The Premier made his position very clear, as reported in an article by Paul Kelly in the Australian on 30 October. In that article, Colin Barnett is reported as saying:

… that he would never surrender a third of Western Australia’s entitled GST revenue to the commonwealth, under the terms of the federal government’s national health agreement.

Is it any wonder? Western Australia has a very bad hand dealt to it by the Commonwealth Grants Commission through the GST arrangements. We get 68c in every GST dollar returned to us—only 68c. Victoria, I understand, gets back roughly 89c in the dollar, Queensland 91c and New South Wales 93c. It is unfair and we are continually being ratcheted back. The article goes on to report Colin Barnett saying:

This situation has become simply unacceptable to me … It is unacceptable to all Western Australians. And the public understands this. Yet projections over the next three years are that this return will fall to 54c and keep heading south.

So why would we sign on to something as ridiculous as this when, as he said, the Minister for Health and Ageing, Ms Roxon, has been threatening him about not handing over other money? She told the Premier that he would pay the price, but he told her that he was unwilling to pay the price because the amount he was forfeiting—$356 million over four years, or $90 million a year—was, he said, only ‘enough to run our health system for five days’. So of course we do not mind going it alone, because we are not going to be led by the nose.

The most disappointing thing about all of this is that, as I said earlier, this legislation is in this House before everyone has signed on. Worse than that is that there is an election in Victoria this weekend and the opposition have said that, if elected to government, they will not sign onto this. In New South Wales, similarly, the opposition have said that they want to have a further look at it. So we are now getting ahead of the game, imposing the will of the Commonwealth on people in states where there is a huge chance—certainly in New South Wales—that the state government may change.

When I was doorknocking during the election campaign, one of the main things, apart from the issue of the further attack on Western Australian through the mining tax, people were saying to me was: ‘Whatever you are doing, make sure Colin Barnett holds his ground on this GST. We do not want WA people handing over this money to the Commonwealth.’ How can a bureaucracy from this far away, over 3½ thousand kilometres, administer, or even attempt to administer, health arrangements in Western Australia? We are out of sight, out of mind. Somebody, in fact, today referred to Western Australia as the other side of the black stump. You might say that, but do not forget the fact that we contribute a massive and disproportionate amount to Commonwealth revenues. We might be out of sight and out of mind, but you certainly want us to continue doing what we are doing.

In the last few moments, I just want to mention the fact that, as the member for North Sydney said, this is essentially saying to the Commonwealth government, Prime Minister Gillard and Minister Roxon: ‘Here’s a blank cheque from the states. We’ll sign on and you can grow the amount that you take away from us.’ We are not going to be doing that sort of thing. The member for Denison went on about GP superclinics, and I have addressed the fact that we do not want one in Canning because our doctors are running their GP services very well. He talked about after-hours GP services. We have had after-hours GP services operating out of the Armadale hospital for years, funded to some degree by the Commonwealth. So this is nothing new. We are doing very well, if you don’t mind, so we certainly do not want the Commonwealth imposing themselves on us.

We are actually quite leading-edge in the way that we run our health system in Western Australia. We were the first state to introduce the four-hour waiting program in emergency departments, based on the British model. If you are in an emergency department of a hospital, rather than being parked on an emergency bed somewhere in the corridor, you have to be admitted to a bed. All the ramping that goes on regularly in hospitals is another issue that has to be addressed. So the four-hour waiting rule has been introduced in Western Australia and—surprise, surprise—I see the Commonwealth and other states starting to say, ‘It wouldn’t be a bad idea if we could do this throughout the rest of Australia because it sounds as if it’s the right thing to do.’ We did not need to pinch anyone’s GST to do that in Western Australia; we are quite happy to fund it ourselves, if you don’t mind.

But what we do object to in this bill, which is just another attack on Western Australia, is the money it wants to leach off us again. As I said, thank goodness for the geniuses who thought up the mining tax before the last election. That is why you only have three seats out of 15 in Western Australia, so keep it coming. I will be happy to make sure you have that policy leading up to any future election, whether it is in three years or before that, because Australians have a deep affection for the mining industry in this country. It is a bit like the deep affection we had many years ago for riding on the sheep’s back. Now we are riding on the mining industry, and any tax or any attempt to slaughter it for short-term gain is not held well by Australian people. They want it to continue to grow and make us prosperous, because the prosperity of this country comes from our resources, and this is a time when the rest of the world wants to soak up many of our resources. So we oppose this bill because it is an opportunity for a government that cannot stop its reckless spending and we will not sign on to it.