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Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Page: 786


Mr McCORMACK (RiverinaParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance) (15:41): Never before in this place have I heard such rank hypocrisy from those opposite—never. Here they are with their mock outrage, having themselves when in government been associated with the most desperate dysfunctional and scandal-plagued administration in living memory; in fact, in history. Senator Fiona Nash is a palpably good person who, in her role as Assistant Minister for Health, is getting on with the difficult task of helping to repair Labor's mess. She is particularly getting out and about in regional and rural areas asking questions and, more importantly, hearing what country people have to say and providing hope for a better, brighter and healthier future.

All we have heard from those opposite in this matter of public importance debate today is an attack on Senator Nash. All we have heard is members opposite feigning indignation. They know that this is nothing more than a storm in a teacup—confected outrage to an absurd extreme. There has been no failure by the government to implement preventative health measures or to properly manage any aspects of the health portfolio. This is a smear campaign—nothing more, nothing less. It is a desperate move by a desperate opposition seeking a scalp. That is all this is.

This opposition left the nation with a legacy of debt and deficit. It is unsustainable. Labor in government was racked with controversy, in-fighting and scandal. There was daily disorder in the house of Labor. But don't just take my word for it; ask Mr and Mrs Average in any main street in any town in Australia, particularly any regional centre. Venture along, for example, Hoskins Street in Temora and ask anybody you come across about the former government and ask anybody about Senator Nash. They will give you two different responses. They will have anger and bewilderment about what Labor did to this country, particularly in the health space. In reply to how they perceive the Assistant Minister for Health, they will tell you about what a good person she is, how dedicated she is and the good outcomes she is trying to achieve on behalf of all Australians, particularly those who live far away from the bright city lights. Senator Nash is a familiar face in Temora. She headed up a health forum on 5 February where she informed, listened to, engaged with and provided hope for the good local people there who want and need better health outcomes, and better health measures and services.

The Prime Minister said in question time today that the former health minister, now the shadow deputy opposition leader, slashed $1.6 billion from the health budget in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook in 2012. This included tens of millions of dollars of cuts to the Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in the same city.

Those opposite talk about pulling down websites. Need I mention Fuelwatch and GroceryWatch—broken Labor promises. The shadow health minister, the member for Ballarat, spoke of a cost-benefit analysis—and I am surprised that she even knew what a cost-benefit analysis was—and pulling down a draft health star rating website which was not ready to go online, and Senator Nash has explained that fully.

If Labor were serious about preventive health measures, which it is not—but just imagine for a second that the once great ALP actually cared about preventive health—then it would congratulate us. The coalition has a long and proud record on preventive health both under the former coalition government under then health minister Tony Abbott, and very much under this current government under Mr Abbott's prime ministership. If Labor truly cared, then it would acknowledge that under Tony Abbott's term as health minister in the Howard government, Australia experienced: the sharpest decline in smoking rates; the largest increase in childhood immunisation rates; more than doubled the number of medical graduates; and championed research and funding for the human papillomavirus vaccination to eliminate cervical cancer. That is not funny; it is a serious women's health issue and I am surprised that once again those opposite are out there with their confected outrage, knocking something that we did to help women's health. I am surprised that they are even smiling about it.

Our record stands in stark contrast to those opposite. In government Labor implemented some of the worst health policy decisions imaginable. In the six long years Labor was in government it created: 12 new bureaucracies; created a $650 million GP Super Clinics program, where 26 promised clinics are still not open; introduced a $1 billion e-health record system that commenced in 2012 that GPs still do not use and which only has 31,000 users with a clinical record upload. This MPI is a joke. Senator Nash is doing a fine job and getting on with it. (Time expired)