Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4886

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (11:54): I must say that I find it really interesting that the first piece of private members' legislation the shadow health minister tries to introduce is legislation to protect dentists. It is not about good, strong health policy and it is not about increasing health services. I find that unbelievable and a double standard. I have heard previous speakers in this debate say, 'These are professional people; they need to be protected; they're too busy; they shouldn't have to worry about this paperwork.' It is unbelievable.

I had a constituent come to see me who was hospitalised and she filled out her Centrelink forms incorrectly. What happened to that Centrelink recipient? She ended up before the court because they said she had defrauded the government. It was a very sad case. She managed to not have a conviction recorded against her, but she was held accountable to the nth degree. Yet we have members in this House standing here arguing that dentists should not be held accountable if they do not fill in their paperwork correctly. That is all this woman did: she filled in her paperwork incorrectly. I find it absolutely unacceptable that there should be one standard applied to dentists and another standard applied to every other person in the community. I think the shadow minister for health should really turn his mind towards developing some good, sound health policy.

The chronic dental health program is a program that has been fraught with problems. As has been said by previous speakers on this side of the parliament, this is a program that we would like to end and which we have been trying to bring to cessation, but we have been stopped by the opposition. It is a program that benefits a very small group of people and it is a program that is really hard for a lot of people to access. I experienced that with my own mother, who was extremely ill but could not access the program because of the complicated nature of application and the fact that her doctor did not think it was a good program—that it did not work very well.

We on this side of the parliament believe that delivering health and dental services is about delivering those services; it is not about propping up dentists and it is not about selecting one group of people to be eligible to access a program. It should be about a person's need. Some people who have accessed the dental health program are millionaires, whereas people that are on a pension have not been able to get the dental health treatment they need. They are on lengthy waiting lists. The state government has not funded their side of the scheme properly and that is from both persuasions. I am not just saying it is a Liberal Party problem; it has been both sides of the equation. When the now Leader of the Opposition was health minister, before this program was introduced, he used to argue that the Commonwealth supports dental health through private health insurance. Well, the most needy people in the community—those people who really need to access a Commonwealth funded dental health program—cannot afford health services.

This only refers to 37 dentists nationwide, so it shows that most dentists can fill out the paperwork and comply. To think that the shadow minister for health can come in here and introduce legislation that is going to benefit 37 dentists retrospectively but not come in here to introduce legislation to provide dental health care for the most needy people in our community is absolutely despicable. I think he stands condemned by the legislation we have before us today.