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Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Page: 1069


Ms KING (BallaratParliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport and Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing) (18:45): I rise to support appropriation bills Nos 3 and 4, and it is a delight to follow the member for Fairfax, whom I genuinely will miss in this place. I worked alongside him when he was the Chair of the House of Representatives Health and Ageing Committee and a proud champion of the tradition of the Country Women's Association, after whose founder his seat of Fairfax was named. I want to thank you, Mr Somlyay, for being an incredible champion for breastfeeding. I note that may not be something many of your colleagues know about, but your work on the Health and Ageing Committee and the report you did on Australia's breastfeeding rates was a very outstanding piece of work. I want to thank you for the great leadership you showed on that committee. You will be missed.

The additional estimates represented in the bills before us seek appropriation for measures announced since the 2012-13 budget. Our 2012-13 budget focused on assisting families with cost-of-living pressures. The budget has continued our commitment to advancing the skills and education of all Australians. It reflects our significant investment in our nation's infrastructure—roads, rail and ports—and in new infrastructure such as the National Broadband Network. It is a true Labor budget. I particularly want to highlight our commitment to ensuring the health needs of all Australians and to talk a little about that in my constituency.

Since the election of the government back in 2007, my region has seen unprecedented investment in the health and hospital system. Year after year the federal budget has delivered on a major health infrastructure in our region, and the 2012-13 budget was no different. That budget included two major new health investments in Ballarat. The first was the expansion of facilities for Ballarat District Nursing and Healthcare to support nurses who deliver incredibly important services in people's homes, supporting people staying longer in their homes and recovering from often fairly awful health circumstances. In addition, there was $2.6 million to enable La Trobe University to buy house and land packages in Ballarat to accommodate allied health and dental students on clinical placements in the region. Obviously, increasing the number of students who do their placements in our region will increase the chance that they will settle and conduct their practices in regional and rural areas.

Ballarat District Nursing and Healthcare had been discussing their project with me for a long time. Their funding provides for podiatry clinic rooms, a wound clinic, a diabetes education clinic and the upgrade of their IT infrastructure. The demand for their services across our region is continuing to grow. The upgrade of their facilities is going to ensure that this healthcare provider can provide the services needed for the people of Ballarat and the region well into the 21st century.

The $2.6 million funding for house and land packages for La Trobe Uni is also warmly welcomed. The work to provide those is well underway and I look forward to many of those students operating within another federally funded project, a new dental clinic, in my electorate. Ballarat is a great place to work, to live and to raise a family. We want health professionals to experience our region and the advantages of living and working in regional Victoria. That funding to La Trobe University is doing just that.

The budget also saw a $3.3 million boost to Ballan and district health services. The funding is in addition to $1.4 million we have already provided for the GP superclinic, which is up and running. Ballan and district health services have seen incredible improvements over the past five years. It was the first GP superclinic in the country and it continues to thrive and attract doctors and nursing staff from across the state. There was significant funding from the federal government, and the centre now includes 24-hour emergency care, dental, physiotherapy, dietetics, podiatry, occupational therapy, psychology, pathology, echocardiograms, audiology, district nursing, community health nursing, a women's health clinic, chronic disease management, drug and alcohol support services, welfare support services, emergency relief, optometry and transport connection services which were not available in that community previously.

The $3.3 million committed to that service under this year's budget is providing additional consulting and treatment rooms, rehabilitation facilities, pharmacy, education facilities and space for additional staff, as well as a hydrotherapy pool to help with rehabilitation for both young and old residents to exercise and to rehabilitate all year round—a very significant commitment to the Ballan community.

The funding for health project follows on from other major commitments that have previously been announced and are well underway in terms of construction: the Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, $42 million from the Commonwealth; the Ballarat dental clinic, $8.3 million from the Commonwealth; Ballarat primary care facility, $11.6 million from the Commonwealth to build a new community health centre; Ballarat headspace; Bacchus Marsh and Melton Regional Hospital, the upgrade of $2 million there; the Creswick Medical Centre upgrade; the Daylesford Springs Medical Centre upgrade; and Daylesford student placement accommodation—all Commonwealth funded programs under this government for health in my region.

Labor has invested heavily in transforming health services and the way health is delivered in my electorate. Yet, on health, we have seen in Victoria one of the most extraordinary misinformation campaigns that I have ever seen in the time that I have been involved in politics. Investment in health has been a very serious priority of the Gillard government, and in this budget and the appropriation bills we are talking about tonight, the government has been providing $3.2 billion of funding for the day-to-day running of Victoria's hospital system. It is a $196 million increase from last year, so every hospital in Victoria should be getting more money than last year, and that money is coming from the Commonwealth government. By 2015-16, this will rise to $4.5 billion in health funding coming from the Commonwealth to the state of Victoria, and that is an increase of $900 million over four years.

Under that funding agreement, Victoria's health system has received $1.2 billion more than they would have under the opposition's old health funding model, the Healthcare Agreement. This is in addition to the infrastructure capital payments that I have just spoken about, that are funding projects right the way across the state of Victoria.

While federal Labor is providing record investments in revitalising Victoria's health system, the Liberal state government has cut $616 million out of the health system and has sought to use the Commonwealth's increases to mask their own cuts. The federal government is providing extra funding to Victoria under the National Health Reform Agreement, and, despite claims to the contrary and despite MYEFO adjustments, that money is continuing to go up every single year. Hospitals and patients in Victoria have a right to feel that they have been let down by the Victorian Liberal state government, and that they have been taken for mugs on health.

In addition to all of that funding, under the national partnership agreement—a separate agreement from the National Health and Hospitals Reform agreement—the Commonwealth is investing more money specifically in projects to relieve pressure on elective surgery, to relieve pressure on emergency departments and to provide for extra hospital beds. That is in addition to the National Health and Hospitals Reform program. Victoria has already received, under that partnership agreement, an extra $556 million on top of the health funding that I have already outlined, and of this money $128 million was paid to the Victorian Liberal state government on Thursday. That agreement and that money are for specific projects in specific health services in Victoria. This includes $4.4 million that has been earmarked for Ballarat health services.

There are some media reports today that are also a bit worrying; they clearly show that $2.4 million was also on the table and available to be provided to Victoria on Thursday, but because the Liberal government has not provided the data it had agreed to provide that money cannot be paid under the agreement. We are very keen to pay that money, but unfortunately the Victorian state government needs to come to the party and actually honour its commitments under that agreement. The federal government is keen to provide that investment to Victoria, and to Victorian health services as soon as the Baillieu government provides the promised assurances that that funding will go directly to front-line services.

As part of health reform an independent administrator provides information on how each state and territory is spending Commonwealth money across its public hospital system, including funding that goes to each hospital. Not surprisingly, it is Victoria which is the only state or territory government that has not properly provided that data. In Victoria we have had a state Liberal government that has slashed some $616 million from Victoria's health system. That is a figure that is in its own budget papers. The Commonwealth in the meantime has increased funding by $900 million and will do so over the next four years, including this year. Yet the Victorian Liberal government continues to withhold data and refuses to adequately report data as part of its agreement under the health and hospitals reform.

The question needs to be asked about what is happening to Commonwealth funding in health as it goes to the state of Victoria. Where is it going? Hospitals in Victoria should be asking very specifically, 'How much of my money is money that is coming from the Commonwealth,' and are they getting every single dollar of Commonwealth funding they should be? My concern is that they are not. My concern is that Commonwealth funding to the state of Victoria is not being passed on to front-line health services as it should be, and the Liberal state government of Victoria needs to tell us why. Having been around in this space for a while, I know that state governments tend to like squirrelling away a bit of Commonwealth money—they tend to like doing that. We talk about The Blame Game, a very good report that the member for Fairfax and the member for Shortland were intimately involved in. I want to know whether every single dollar of Commonwealth money, all that extra money that is coming in from the Commonwealth to Victoria, is going to front-line hospital services. On Thursday an extra $128 million is coming under the partnership agreement into the state of Victoria, agreement that there are specific hospitals that it should go to. Ballarat Health Services is one of those, and $4.4 million is quite a lot of emergency service procedures. It is 18 beds in the hospital. I want to know that money is directly going to the hospital. It has been paid to the state government and the hospital needs to be asking where it is.

I want to be very clear that there is a stark difference between the federal Labor government and the Liberal state government in Victoria when it comes to health funding. Labor has invested in health and has increased its investment in health. We want to see better health services across this country. The Liberal Party in Victoria has cut funding. We have seen Mr Baillieu slash funding in Victoria and I am concerned about what the consequences nationally will be if the Liberals are in power here. I am pleased to support these appropriation bills and the additional expenditure that they represent. These bills show our long-term investment in health, our long-term commitment to health infrastructure for families across my electorate.

Our budget supports families with cost-of-living pressures. Families and pensioners are receiving payments to assist with bills. We are delivering tax cuts to working families and have tripled the tax-free threshold so that up to a million Australians are no longer required to lodge a tax return. We will continue to support families with things like the Schoolkids Bonus, something that has been very well received in my electorate and I know was very much needed and was very timely for the many families as their children return to school. The budget has significant investment in roads, education, aged care, dental care and skills training as well as the initial commitment to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I am pleased to signal my support for these appropriation bills and to have had the opportunity to outline the significant investment both in capital and recurrent funding that comes from the Commonwealth to the state governments directly into health and directly into health in my own electorate.