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Thursday, 24 May 2012
Page: 5526


Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyMinister for Health) (13:36): I will not spend too much time talking about the previous member's contribution, but I cannot go past pointing out a few things. When he said, 'What did you spend out of the stimulus? Not a cent on health and hospitals.' Well, not a cent beside the $5 billion in the Health and Hospitals Fund. I guess if he thinks that is nothing then he probably has a different view of value for money from me, as well as $600 million on the GP superclinics and GP clinic upgrades. He spoke about bureaucracy as though this is all about bureaucracy. There is no net increase in bureaucracy because of these measures. This measure will move some staff who were in the department of health to an independent body. You would think that having an independent body would be something that would be welcomed by members opposite. The previous speaker was concerned about this all being about bureaucracy and the back end. He failed to mention the increased investment that the Commonwealth will make in hospitals over coming years—an extra $20 billion into hospitals and into hospital services, going up to, initially, 45 per cent and then 50 per cent of the funding of the growth in the efficient price of hospital services.

In fact, the previous government, when Tony Abbott was health minister, decreased the proportion of Commonwealth funding going to hospitals. This government is increasing the proportion of Commonwealth funding going into hospitals. We are talking about a guaranteed $16.4 billion extra in coming years. The idea that we make that investment without having the surety, transparency and insight that these independent funding bodies give us is not right. That is the reason the coalition never made any health reforms, that they never improved our health system—because they were ripping money out of it. But the money they did put in, they just shovelled out the door without watching where it went. The government not only have the health funding body that we are speaking about today but also have the MyHospitals website that allows people to see in detail the performance of their own hospitals.

I thank members for their contributions to the debate on these bills, the National Health Reform Amendment (Administrator and National Health Funding Body) Bill 2012 and the Federal Financial Relations Amendment (National Health Reform Bill) 2012. These bills represent a critical part of the government's historic national health reforms and deliver on improving the sustainability and transparency of funding for our nation's public hospital system.

Under the National Health Reform Agreement the Commonwealth government and all state and territory governments have agreed to implement new funding arrangements for our public hospitals to improve access, transparency and financial sustainability. The National Health Reform Amendment Bill provides a key element of that agreement through the creation of the National Health Funding Pool Administrator and the National Health Funding Body. Corresponding legislation will also be introduced in all states and territories, supporting the establishment of the administrator. The administrator will be responsible for calculating and advising the Treasurer of the levels of Commonwealth funding for public hospitals required to meet our commitments under the National Health Reform Agreement. He or she will also be responsible for making payments from the National Health Funding Pool and reporting each month and annually on the amounts paid through the National Health Funding Pool to local hospital networks, the basis on which payments were made and the number of services provided. This will provide unparalleled transparency in public hospital funding. For the first time, the public will see how much funding flows to local hospital networks and why and where the money comes from.

The provisions relating to the appointment of the administrator will be the same in the Commonwealth and state and territory acts. I will shortly be moving amendments to the bill to give effect to an agreement with the states to split the functions of the administrator between Commonwealth and state laws. But the sum of the functions will remain as they are expressed in the current bill.

This legislation also establishes a national health funding body to assist the administrator in his or her tasks. Since this bill was first presented to the parliament the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee has conducted an inquiry. I am pleased to inform the House that the committee has recommended that the bill be passed, with the amendments that I will shortly be moving on behalf of the government.

The Federal Financial Relations Amendment (National Health Reform) Bill 2012 will also put Australia's federal financial relations on a more sustainable footing for the future and allow us to better manage health expenditure growth. These changes are designed to deliver value for money spent on important health services. This bill makes our health reforms possible so that future generations can enjoy an affordable and sustainable healthcare system.

I thank, again, the members who have contributed to this debate. The establishment of the National Health Funding Administrator and the National Health Funding Body is clear evidence of the government's ongoing drive to deliver for all Australians the best-quality healthcare possible and to improve the transparency of our health system.

I note that the shadow minister for health and ageing has entered the House. He asked earlier about the number of public servants who would be employed by this body. About 20 people will manage about $30 billion of finances going to hospital health services. However, there is no net increase in the number of health bureaucrats because we are, at the same time, reducing the number of health bureaucrats in the health department itself. I commend the bills to the house.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.