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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12445


Ms ROXON (GellibrandMinister for Health and Ageing) (11:09): I will be short in my summing-up comments on the National Health Reform Amendment (Independent Hospital Pricing Authority) Bill. I thank the member for Makin for his kind comments and all members for their contributions to the debate. The bill does represent a very critical part of the government's national health reforms and our focus on improving efficiency and transparency of the nation's public health system. All states and territories have joined with the Commonwealth to implement this national system of activity based funding. This legislation is an important part of that in creating the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority.

The authority, as many members have noted, not only will determine the prices for hospital services across the country but also will take into account important factors such as safety and quality and the cost of services in regional hospitals. While most services will be provided and funded through this system, block funding will be provided for some hospitals, particularly those in the smaller regional communities. Importantly, the authority will have strong independence from all governments and will provide the health system with robust decision making similar to that provided by the Reserve Bank for our financial system. In addition, the pricing authority will publish this and other information for the purpose of informing decision makers in the funding of hospitals.

Since this bill was first presented to the parliament the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee has conducted an inquiry and I am pleased to inform the House that the committee has recommended that the bill be passed in its current form. So I am hoping if the bill passes the House today that it will be handled promptly in the Senate in the coming sitting period. The government has also taken action to establish the interim Independent Hospital Pricing Authority, which was part of our commitment under the Health Reform Agreement. The interim authority has taken over the important activity based funding work from the Department of Health and Ageing, which will then transfer to the permanent authority after the passage of this legislation.

I thank again the members who have contributed to this debate. I acknowledge that the opposition have said that they will not be opposing the passage of this bill, as they should not since it implements reforms that have been supported on a number of occasions by the Leader of the Opposition. Of course, that has not stopped the opposition before, such as when they opposed our other health reform bills in this House. In fact, one of the bills they opposed was to make permanent a critical safety and quality body that was created temporarily by the Leader of the Opposition. Yet, despite this announced support, what we have actually seen in debate is the opposition members sniping and criticising at the edges of this historic reform of the health system. There might not be other opportunities for the opposition to do that. Since they do not have a policy of their own, they have not been able to talk about any positive action that they would take in health care. I suspect that the opposition are going to continue to avert the public's attention away from health, desperate to avoid scrutiny of the Leader of the Opposition's rather inauspicious record as the Minister for Health and Ageing. In contrast, the establishment of the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority is clear evidence of the government's ongoing drive to deliver for all Australians the best quality health care possible and to ensure the future sustainability of the health system. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.