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Tuesday, 17 June 2003
Page: 11704


Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) (6:47 PM) —I believe I only have about 2½ minutes to speak, so I might just reply to what Senator Crossin has said. It is always interesting to hear people make comments—you can always twist things to make them fit the story you want to present—but Senator Crossin failed to acknowledge that, since coming to government, the Howard government has almost doubled funding to Indigenous health services. As Senator Crossin knows, a significant number of people in the Northern Territory—especially in very remote areas like Katherine and a number of other areas which I will not go through but which I have visited—have had their health services significantly improved as a result of the coalition increasing the funding and almost doubling it.

It is very easy to come into the chamber and make quick, cheap points about what the Commonwealth is not doing without actually indicating what it is doing. Some of the other speakers here today—and maybe I should go into this debate in more detail tomorrow morning so that my speech looks a bit more coherent in one piece—have said that money has been taken out of the health care agreements. I absolutely refute that. The Commonwealth has in fact offered $10 billion more. That is a 17 per cent increase over and above inflation from the current health care agreements. How that can be taking money out of the health system beggars belief—a 17 per cent increase. It does not matter; the people on the other side still make the comment that it is taking money out of the health system. We actually gave the state health system a $2.5 billion windfall in the life of the last agreement. I have not heard one member on the other side get up and say that. They say we are taking money out when it is a 17 per cent increase over and above inflation in the next five years. How that is a decrease beggars belief. They do not mention that there was a $2.5 billion windfall to the states when we did not claw back funding, as agreed in the life of the last health care agreement.