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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Page: 1369

Senator RONALDSON (Victoria) (18:12): I rise tonight in relation to document No. 9, this report of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency. I want to talk about a health matter tonight, and the health matter I want to talk about is the action of the Gillard government in relation to hospital funding not just in Victoria but around the country. Last weekend we saw a contemptuous attempt by this government to pull the wool over voters' eyes through a series of advertisements in Victorian newspapers claiming that Labor was 'injecting $107 million into Victorian hospitals'. The ad then went on to say, 'This will reverse cuts made by the Victorian government.' That is a blatant, outright lie, and the truth is that it is not extra money that the Gillard government suddenly found; it is $107 million that was snatched out of the budget last November and that they are reinstating. So this notion that they are injecting $107 million is a blatant lie, and the statement that it will reverse cuts made by the Victorian government is also a blatant lie.

It was clearly shown by the Victorian state government and other states that the federal government's data methodology was flawed and that the impact of that on Victoria's and other states' hospital services was quite dramatic. To say that they will put an extra $107 million into the hospitals as if it were new money is simply not correct.

I want to mention some comments by my Victorian state counterpart, the member for Western Victoria, Simon Ramsay, who last week called for a Senate inquiry in relation to the blatant misuse of taxpayers' funds by the Gillard government for these misleading full- and half-page advertisements. As Mr Ramsay said, 'There has been a total fabrication of the truth.' I have colleagues from Tasmania, South Australia and New South Wales who I know are equally aggrieved about these hospital funding cuts. It is only Victoria that has been so-called rescued by the Gillard government to protect some marginal seats; that is the only reason this has been done. But it is being done on the back of a blatant lie that it was new money when it was not. It was money that had been ripped out of the Victorian hospital system by this government, and they were forced and shamed into returning it.

If you look further, from 1 July 2013 a further $368 million will continue to be cut from Victoria's hospitals over three years. The impact of this in those fantastic regional cities of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo is quite dramatic. In the seat of Corangamite, the Liberal candidate, Sarah Henderson, is working very hard for her community to fight these sorts of cuts. Back in December Ms Henderson said:

These cuts are absolutely heartless because they’ve been made by Labor in the hope that it will achieve a phony surplus.

The impact on Barwon Health and Colac Area Health have been quite dramatic. In Bendigo, the Liberal candidate there, Greg Bickley, was spot on when he said last year:

These cuts were, as I said early in the year, disgraceful and callous.

The Liberal candidate for Ballarat, John Fitzgibbon, quite accurately said:

This is a major embarrassment for the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and for the Health Minister.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing is, of course, Catherine King. Catherine King saw what these cuts were doing to Ballarat electorate hospitals and she did nothing about it. She refused to go in and fight for her constituents, and for that she stands utterly condemned. (Time expired)