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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5184


Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyMinister for Health) (12:10): I will make a few opening remarks about the health budget as a whole, but I also have available with me my parliamentary colleagues the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, who will be able to make comments in his area, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Mental Health and the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, who will also be able to make comments in their areas.

The 2013-14 budget continues Labor's record of strong investment in health, with record spending again in the health portfolio. One of the key initiatives of the most recent budget is the world-leading cancer care package, a new $226.4 million package that will reinforce our position as the world's leader in cancer research, prevention and treatment. Australians now have the best cancer survival rates in the world, and we intend as a government to continue to invest, protect and promote that lead. Every Australian has been touched by cancer, either themselves as sufferers or by knowing someone who has been touched by cancer, and we are committed as a government to continuing to promote research, treatment, care and cure.

This budget is also committed to investing record amounts in public hospitals: more doctors, more nurses, more hospital beds, more acute services, more subacute services and more transition services. We are also expecting to invest $1.3 billion over the next four years in additional funding to help Australians see a GP. We have historic high levels of bulk-billing today, with rates at 82.4 per cent for Australians going to visit a GP, and 76½ per cent overall bulk-billing rates. These historic highs have been achieved with the cooperation of our excellent health and medical workforce here in Australia, and they paint a sharp contrast to the days when the Leader of the Opposition was health minister and bulk-billing rates fell to 67 per cent.

We are also investing in aged care services, and my colleague the minister will speak about aged care services. This budget alone allocates $14.9 billion for public hospitals in 2013-14, an increase of $871 million on last year. Unfortunately, this comes in the face of some severe cutbacks in health spending by states and territories. I am concerned that despite our increased investment—almost $1 billion extra between 2012 and 2013-14—we continue to see, for example, $3 billion of spending cuts in Queensland, and $3 billion of cuts in New South Wales in its last budget. We have a new Queensland budget out today, and I hope and expect that some of that funding has been restored, because we have seen the ill-effects of the cuts in the health systems of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria in particular every single day as patients are turned away from hospitals.

Our relationship with the states has changed, despite this extra investment in hospitals. We have invested a great deal in setting up hospitals to make the transition to activity-based funding. We have invested in new buildings, new surgical equipment, new wards and new beds.

We are transitioning to a time when activity based funding will be the way that hospitals increase their funding. We have made a commitment of an extra $16.4 billion of funding to the states and territories between now and the end of the decade. But our relationship will change. The Commonwealth will bear an increased share of funding as activity increases. There are billions and billions of dollars in extra support available and, of course, there are reward payments for states that meet their targets. But it will be important for states to increase their funding and to continue to improve the care of their patients to continue to see growth at both a state and Commonwealth level for the hospital system.

There have been more and more calls on our health dollars. We have an ageing population. We have access to new treatments, new therapies and new medicines all the time, and we need to make wise decisions about how to fund those exciting new developments.