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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 8646


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister Assisting on Queensland Floods Recovery) (15:05): On Monday, 29 October, Senator Nash asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing a question on the medical workforce. I seek leave to incorporate the answer in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—

Senator Nash asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing in the Senate on, Monday, 29 October 2012:

Does the minister agree that people studying medicine in Australia have a reasonable expectation of being provided internships in Australia in order to complete their qualifications?

Senator Ludwig — The Minister for Health and Ageing has provided the following answer to the honourable Senator's question:

The provision of medical intern training is the responsibility of state and territory governments. Under a COAG agreement, State and territory governments guarantee internships for domestic students.

My understanding is that students who come from overseas to study medicine in Australia are informed by universities that an internship at the completion of their degree is not guaranteed.

Despite this, the Gillard Government is concerned that up to 180 international graduates of Australian medical schools have not yet been offered internships in public hospitals in 2013. Australia needs more doctors to provide health services to the community, and short term cost cutting in public health systems shouldn't jeopardise the training of our future health workforce.

Overseas doctors make an important contribution to the Australian health system, so it is clear that we should be making the best use of those who have been trained in this country.

The Government is urging the states and territories to take action that will see all 2012 medical graduates placed as soon as possible in internship positions. The Government has offered $10 million to fund up to 100 internship places in private hospitals — well over half the expected shortfall in positions. We call on the states and territories to work in partnership with the Australian Government and commit to providing internships for remaining graduates of Australian medical schools next year.

The Government has massively expanded investment in medical training since 2008. The Gillard Government has provided about $1.2 billion to support the training of medical students in Australian universities and invested $1.06 billion in junior doctor, GP and specialist training for medical graduates from 2010-11 to 2014-15. This is producing world-class doctors, and increasing the number of Australian-trained doctors.

Senator Nash asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing in the Senate on, Monday, 29 October 2012:

Is the minister then aware that the Minister for Health, Ms Plibersek, said on ABC Newcastle that part of this is a good news story. Can the minister explain what part of sending Australian internships overseas is a 'good news story'? What is the point of training more medical students through Australian universities if they cannot finish their training in this country?

Senator Ludwig — The Minister for Health and Ageing has provided the following answer to the honourable Senator's question:

The Senator has answered her own question in acknowledging that we are now training more medical students in this country than ever before. Total medical graduates from Australian medical schools will more than double over 9 years from 2007-2016 (from 1860 to 3970). That's good news for Australia.

The Gillard Government has provided about $1.2 billion since 2008 to support the training of medical students in Australian universities, and invested over $1.0 billion in junior doctor, GP and specialist training for medical graduates from 2010-11 to 2014-15. This is producing world-class doctors, and increasing the number of Australian trained doctors. That's good news too.

It's also good news that this Government is willing to pitch in and help states and territories to find internships for 2012 medical graduates by offering to fund up to 100 internships in private hospitals. The only thing missing from this good news story is commitment by the state and territories to follow the Commonwealth's lead and support Australia's health workforce by funding the remaining positions.