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Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Page: 4211


Senator POLLEY (6:39 PM) —I would like to add my comments in relation to the heavy workload that all our committee secretariats have to deal with in this place and I would like to commend them for their work on this report by the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee on COAG reforms relating to health and hospitals. I would also like to thank the 37 contributors for their submissions and the witnesses who came before us.

But let us put on the record what this references committee was all about. It was a political stunt, because those opposite cannot deal with the facts. The facts are that when we came into government in 2007 the health system in this country had been neglected for over 11½ years. The now Leader of the Opposition has proven himself to be one of the worst ministers for health that this country has had to deal with. In relation to the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, I will quote from the former Chair when he came before the committee:

… it would be fair to say that we are all quite delighted that the vast majority of what we put forward—which represented, as I said, the thinking of thousands of people around Australia—was being acted upon.

I think the investment that has been envisaged is a very significant investment and similar to what we hoped for.

What better endorsement would you have for what the federal government has been able to negotiate with all the states and territories, with the exception of WA. I think that is really quite significant. I urge people to read this report. The government members—both Senator Cameron and myself—put in a dissenting report, because we believed that it was essential that the facts of the hearing were put on the public record.

Those opposite continually like to quote Catholic Health Australia. I would also like to quote from the evidence that was given before us. Committee witnesses such as Catholic Health Australia all reinforced the true fact and that is that the problems that we are facing in this country now with our health system have not been brought about because of any incompetence on behalf of our government. In fact, it has been a long, long road to get where we are. They said:

Why would we think that providing public elective surgery to patients within clinically recommended times is terrific? It is because we are seeking to ensure that all Australians, regardless of income level and regardless of their socioeconomic status, have equitable access to health care when they need it.

They also said, ‘after all that is part of our responsibility to provide the best possible health care for all Australians.’ There are so many elements. Whether you talk about aged care, mental health, e-health, it is there in this report. I urge you to read it to get the real facts as to where the opposition stands and why this country now is facing the dilemma and we are doing the reforms that are so badly needed.