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Thursday, 10 February 2011
Page: 486

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Ludwig. Given that Labor’s grand hospital plan is now in tatters, what part, if any, of the government’s assertion of federal funding and local control remains intact?

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —Can I say that we are very pleased by the strong interest shown by the opposition in the Health and Hospitals Fund. Can I also say that the area across all of the health and hospital funding is one that we do take seriously; it is an area where we have health reform going on. Of course, the opposition, during their time in government, would be familiar with what they called their hospital and health reform, because what it did was rip $1 billion out of the health system. What this government has been doing is addressing that by delivering a massive reform to the health system, which was never done by the previous health minister in the Howard government. We are delivering the My Hospital website. We are increasing hospital funding by 50 per cent and delivering 70,000 more elective surgery operations. That is what this government is doing in relation to health and hospital reform. We have agreed to new boundaries for local hospital networks that have removed the old area health services in New South Wales. We have given nurses and midwives access to—

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator LUDWIG —Of course the opposition do not want to hear what our hospital reform agenda is. Why? Because they have no alternative health and hospital reform plan. The only plan the opposition had was to remove $1 billion from the health system. What this government is addressing is the deficit that they left in the health and hospital area. We are addressing it by providing—

Senator Cormann —You are taking money out of the system.

Senator LUDWIG —If you go through this and compare it to the opposition’s, as I have indicated, they would have cut GP superclinics, cut GP after hours— (Time expired)

Senator Fierravanti-Wells interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! When there is silence you will get the opportunity, Senator Fierravanti-Wells.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order on both sides! The debate time is after question time if you wish to debate the issue.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. How many additional doctors and nurses have been delivered by the Rudd and Gillard governments? How much money has been wasted on the now-abandoned health plan?

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank the opposition for their misdirected question, because what it misses—

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Senator Ludwig, just wait a moment. When there is silence on both sides we will continue. I need to listen to the minister. Minister, continue.

Senator LUDWIG —What the opposition do not recognise and what has been refused by both the previous coalition government and this current opposition is that hospitals need extra funding but that extra funding must come with reform; otherwise, it will not be spent effectively. This government looks forward to further discussions with the states over the coming days. It is about providing extra funding for hospitals but it will be contingent upon improvements being made, including—

Senator Brandis —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The minister was asked for two quantities: the number of doctors and nurses and the amount of money that had been wasted. He has not addressed either of those issues.

Senator Conroy —Mr President, I rise on the point of order. Senator Ludwig was in the middle of a sentence on doctors specifically. For Senator Brandis wasting the Senate’s time, yet again, with a frivolous point of order, I think he should be sat down and the standing orders pointed out to him about repetition. If only he would have just listened; Senator Ludwig was in the middle of a sentence about doctors.

The PRESIDENT —There are nine seconds remaining to answer the question.

Senator LUDWIG —For medicine, we announced a $632 million package in March 2010 to deliver an extra 5,500 new general practitioners, 680 specialist places— (Time expired)

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. That obviously does not include ‘Dr Rudd’ in his little white coat. Given that the Prime Minister has declared 2011 the year of delivery and decision, how many more decisions will be made not to deliver promised programs?

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I take it that that was a question, Mr President. The opposition failed to deliver on their health promises. We have almost $20 billion in extra funding for hospitals that depend upon reform. What we have achieved already is the LHN boundaries, Medicare local boundaries, an announcement of new GPSC sites and new primary care infrastructure. We continue to roll out in this area to provide assistance. We have already, as I said, invested $1 billion in 2008 through the COAG partnership to support clinical training and to establish Health Workforce Australia to improve planning and to drive reform and to coordinate new support arrangements across the profession—all of that; yet the opposition continue to harp and not support hospital reform based on improvements in the health system. They continue to simply undermine the necessity for us to continue our reform agenda. When you look over the last three years, you see that we have provided training conditional— (Time expired)