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Tuesday, 26 March 1985
Page: 781


Senator AULICH —I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether he has seen reports in the Advocate indicating that he has said that the Federal Government would be prepared to give approval in principle to the establishment of a private hospital in Burnie. Can the Minister say whether he has been quoted accurately by Mr Talbot of Australian Hospital Care Pty Ltd?


Senator GRIMES —Yes, my attention was drawn to an article in the north-west Advocate in Tasmania which said that I had given the representatives of Australian Hospital Care Pty Ltd to believe that the Federal Government would approve in principle a private hospital on the north-west coast. There are no private hospital facilities on the north-west coast of Tasmania and at the moment there are at least two competing organisations which wish to set up a private hospital-one in Burnie and one, I understand, in Devonport. The State Government, wishing of course to divest itself of public facilities, would prefer that such a private hospital be in Ulverstone by its selling the Ulverstone hospital to private interests. When I was Acting Minister for Health I saw representatives of Australian Hospital Care Pty Ltd and told then two things. First I said that the Federal Government would consider giving approval in principle to the establishment of a private hospital on the north-west coast of Tasmania. I said that I did not favour any particular site and I did not suggest that we would favour any particular site. I also told them that such recommendations would be considered when the State Government made recommendations to the Federal Government on where that hospital should be and by whom it should be operated.

I can understand the difficulties and the frustrations of the various groups involved which want to set up a private hospital, but those difficulties and frustrations are not the fault of the Federal Government. The difficulty is that the State Government-and particularly Mr Cleary, the State Minister for Health, who has great difficulty in making up his mind about anything and, when he does, has to go back to the Premier and seek the Premier's permission before he can give a view on anything-will not make a decision. The great difficulty which governments of that type have in Tasmania is that they cannot make up their minds whether they should please the voters of Burnie, the voters of Ulverstone, the voters of Devonport or none at all. When the State Government makes a recommendation, the Federal Government will consider it. But until that happens, I am afraid that Australian Hospital Care Pty Ltd, and other such organisations, will have to remain frustrated.

In this competitive situation, I can understand that the organisation may have misstated what I said, but I am in no doubt about what I said at all. I made those statements to that organisation after having been fully briefed on the situation by the Department of which I was Acting Minister at the time. The ball is at the feet of the Tasmanian Government, not the Federal Government, at present. I hope that the Tasmanian Government will eventually make up its mind as to just what it wants to do.