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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13205


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (18:34): I too rise to speak in support of the Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. I thank the member for Blair for his contribution, because, even though we have the member for Oxley between us, we share the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local. I will touch on Vicki Poxon's departure and the great work done by Dr Kay Pearse, but up-front I echo his fine words about the great work being done by the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local. I also want to thank him for his contribution about health care generally and the Labor-Liberal divide in approaches to community and public health. It was great to touch on those attacks on Medibank and Medicare by the Fraser government and how it was Labor policy and Labor hard work—and the forbearance and unity of Australian unions and workers—that ensured that these great social contracts when it comes to health care are now enshrined and taken for granted on both sides of the chamber. Even though I have only been in the House for five years, I have seen debates about means-testing of the baby bonus and health benefits and how it was going to be the end of civilisation as we know it. Somehow it has not panned out that way—people are still taking out private health insurance—so I guess there can be a bit of rhetoric in this place every now and then.

The bill before the chamber makes minor amendments to the readability of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 and does not alter the intent of the act or its regulations. Another amendment is to the Health Insurance Act 1973. This stems from a change to a regulation on 1 July 2011 which allows specialist trainees from an approved professional medical college to conduct certain procedures in private settings under the direct supervision—and I stress 'direct supervision'—of a supervising specialist. This change has proved effective with stakeholders and is expected to increase training capacity for specialist trainees.

As every federal MP would know, specialist trainee positions are at an absolute premium at the moment. One of the problems associated with the decision by Health Minister Wooldridge, I think it was, about cutting off the production line for GPs is that, although Labor made steps to redress this short-sighted gatekeeping and bean counting, it will have health consequences, budget consequences and training consequences for many, many years to come, and we are just sorting that out. So this amendment is welcome, and, whilst it has been in effect for some time, this bill seeks to enshrine the policy in legislation rather than by regulation.

The main elements of this bill that I would like to speak on today are the amendments to the Human Services (Medicare) Act 1973 that aim to clarify that the term 'Medicare Locals' does not breach the act. At present, it is an offence for any person other than the Commonwealth to use the term 'Medicare' or 'Medicare Australia'. This legislative change is a common-sense approach to ensure that the use of the term 'Medicare Locals' is not in contravention of the act.

Like the member for Blair, I am fortunate to have two Medicare Locals in my electorate, the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local, which was described by the member for Blair, which is to the west of my electorate, and the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local, which covers probably 80 or 90 per cent of my electorate. The West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local is chaired by the very, very hardworking and indomitable Dr Kay Pearse, and the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local is chaired by Dr John Kastrissios. Obviously, these are only two of the 61 Medicare Locals spread out across Australia, but these two, which I know very well, do an excellent job in ensuring that they coordinate and deliver primary healthcare needs to our local community and connect patients with a range of healthcare services, meaning that there is better and more efficient access to health care. It is particularly in that job that they have in making the connections, bringing the stakeholders together, educating and reaching out to the public, particularly in primary health and preventative health, where we are starting to change those, making the wise investments that will pay off in the future as Australia ages and, sadly, as Australia becomes more and more unhealthy.

The West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local was founded on 1 October 2011, covering an area of almost 10,000 square kilometres from Ipswich to Boonah, from Laidley, Esk and Springfield through to Oxley, Corinda, Chelmer, Sherwood and Graceville—right up to the Indooroopilly bridge, in fact—which are the suburbs in my electorate. These patches, particularly to the west in that Ipswich corridor, are particularly booming, and there will be increased demand to meet the growing needs of this population.

The West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local provides a range of programs to assist the needs of our community. From an after-hours GP service to mental and Indigenous health, e-health—some great advances there—and also immunisation, it is doing some great things. This Medicare Local provides access to quality services when and where people need them. The CEO, Vicki Poxon, who is departing, will be a very, very sad loss. I knew her particularly when she headed up the southside division of GPs. I still drive past their former office every day on the way to work. She will be sadly missed, and I wish her well in her move to Melbourne.

The Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local, or GMSBML—obviously that is not a three-letter acronym, so I might just call it Metro South—has a critical planning and integration role to identify any gaps in service delivery and ensure that all parts of the primary healthcare sector on the southside, which is a huge area, come together so that patients have the best possible care, provided through one central coordinating agency. Metro South was one of the first Medicare Locals to be established as part of the federal government's national health reform program. This Medicare Local covers over 3,700 square kilometres, including both urban and regional areas, and includes a diverse demographic of 890,000 patients from almost the Brisbane CBD right down to the Scenic Rim.

Regardless of what these organisations are called, they do a phenomenal job, and their role is only just kicking off. I love the fact that they have those patient-centred care outcomes and their particular focus in preventative health. The week before last I was with the Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, the member for Sydney, who came to my electorate for a breakfast, where we met with a lot of stakeholders, and then went on to some GP medical practices at Acacia Ridge and Sunnybank Hills, two completely different practices doing great engagement work and preventative health work.

I had three seniors forums in that same week. At one at Corinda State High School I was lucky enough to have the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local people come along to focus on some of the preventative health. It was amazing how desperate the seniors community was for information about so many preventative health matters. I think I am going to have to increase the number of seniors forums that I have, because we went over time and still did not have enough time for them to hear from all the speakers.

I was also lucky enough to have the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Minister Mark Butler, the member for Port Adelaide, visit a seniors forum held at St Brendan's, Moorooka. He also touched on a lot of those ageing issues in particular and also on some of that preventative health.

West Moreton-Oxley and Metro South are doing great work. I am sure that the member for Dickson, the shadow minister, is very supportive of the great work that they do. I look forward to continuing to work with the chairs, their committees and their people on the ground for years to come. I commend the legislation to the House.