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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5188


Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyMinister for Health) (12:30): I have proposed to take the questions in groups because otherwise we will run out of time. If I speak for five minutes after everybody asks a question, I will be speaking for half the time here. But I am very happy to answer the questions from the three people who have just spoken.

The first was the shadow minister who asked about the cost of capital in teaching and training in activity based funding. There is not a separate provision made for capital in activity based funding, because it is about activities. There is a provision made for consumables. But we have invested massively in capital for teaching and training. We have a rural clinical training schools set up. We have a fantastic new simulation laboratories that I have visited at Epworth, at UTS in Sydney and at Broken Hill. Right around Australia we have invested massively in simulation facilities for nursing and medical students and allied health professionals to train together because they will work together in the future.

After the cap on GP training places left to us by Tony Abbott, we have increased the number of training places very substantially both for doctors and for nurses. We have seen the results of that in increased employment numbers for doctors and nurses. We have 17,000 extra doctors and 26,000 extra nurses.

Just on the issues that the member for Throsby raised, hospital waiting lists in Throsby are of great concern to the member. It is inexplicable that while Commonwealth funding continues to increase the results are that a number of states are going backwards when it comes to hospital waiting lists. However, it is explicable when you look at state budgets. If you take $3 billion out of the New South Wales health budget, it is no surprise that we end up with these long waiting lists.

The member asked what Medicare Locals do and whether there is any threat to them. Medicare Locals are the organisations that are going to drive better primary health care on the ground, with local decision making, finding the gaps in local services and filling them in. I know you, Member for Throsby, have an excellent relationship with your Medicare Local that is doing this very thing. Unfortunately, the opposition have said in the past that they cannot afford the 3,000 front-line staff that work at Medicare Locals and they are going to get rid of them. So the real threat to Medicare Locals is an Abbott government.

You talk about the health needs in your electorate. Of course with an ageing electorate, as you rightly point out, the health needs are higher. The higher reliance of your constituents on the PBS and the MBS reflects the fact that you have an ageing electorate with people who depend very much on our fine Medicare system and our subsidised medicines for their good health. The Labor government has been both the instigator and the Guardian of these fine systems. You see in our policies expanded and accelerated price disclosure, a very important way of making sure that we continue to be able to list new medicines. $5 billion of new medicines have been listed since 2007. We are able to continue to invest in these terrific newly invented and newly manufactured medicines because we are paying less for older, generic medicines—billions of dollars less over time.

The member for Boothby asked about the Medicare advertising campaign. Yes, Australians love Medicare. They love it. They loved it the first time Labor introduced it. They loved it at the time the Liberal government destroyed it. They loved it when Labor had to reintroduce it.

Opposition members interjecting—

Ms PLIBERSEK: What happened to Medibank? You killed it, didn't you? We know that the plans for Medicare now in its new iteration of Medicare Locals are the same. They plan to get rid of $1.2 billion from primary health care by destroying Medicare Locals.

The member for Boothby is right in saying that there is an advertising campaign coming up about the new elements of Medicare—the GP after-hours line, the personally controlled e-health record and Medicare Locals.

I have heard the Leader of the Opposition say he does not know what Medicare Locals do; well, shame on him that he has not been out to meet his Medicare local and see the sorts of services that they are delivering on the ground—finding the gaps in primary health care and filling them at a local level with local decision-making, employing front-line workers and caring for the health of people who live in his electorate. Shame on him for not knowing what his Medicare local does. I have heard the shadow minister make similar remarks. If he does not know by now what Medicare locals do, shame on him as shadow health spokesperson.