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Health ads another Beattie smokescreen-Neville.

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Paul NEVILLE MP Health Ads Another Beattie Smokescreen - Neville Thursday, 9 February 2006 Queensland Premier Peter Beattie needs to get on with fixing the State’s public health system and stop trying to duckshove issues to the Commonwealth or hide problems with spin, according to Member for Hinkler Paul Neville. Mr Neville outlined the hypocrisy of Premier Beattie’s recent print advertising spree in Federal Parliament today, and condemned him for spending taypayer’s money on spin rather than fixing the health system. The full Hansard of Mr Neville’s speech follows: Mr NEVILLE (Hinkler) (12.24 pm)—In typical Beattie government fashion, the spin-doctors have been out to try to justify the state government’s position on health. In recent days, Queensland’s print media has been inundated with halfpage and fullpage ads on behalf of the Beattie government—paid by the taxpayers, I might add—in an effort to try to shift the blame for the state’s decaying health system onto the Commonwealth. This is after Peter Beattie said he would take full responsibility for the state’s health system. Let us look at the true situation. Since the coalition took office in 1996, Queensland’s population has increased by 21 per cent. Over the same time, medical graduates in Queensland have increased by 25 per cent. By comparison, under the Hawke and Keating governments, between 1983 and 1995 Queensland’s population grew by 30 per cent. But, to that government’s shame, over the same period the number of medical graduates decreased by 6.3 per cent. Mr Beattie’s ads fail to take into account the vast increase in medical school intakes since the year 2000—notably, Mr Deputy Speaker Lindsay, in your own electorate. Since then, Queensland has gained three new medical schools—Griffith University, James Cook University and Bond—providing 160 publicly funded places. Alongside of that, the University of Queensland is turning out 243. So, as I speak, there are more than 400 publicly funded first-year medical students in Queensland universities, in addition to another 65 privately funded ones at Bond University. The coalition is also working on getting more doctors into country areas. Only last week, I welcomed a group of 15 medical students to their third-year clinical studies in Bundaberg under the mentorship of Dr Denise Powell. We are also providing nursing and allied health scholarships to encourage young people to practise medicine in rural areas. Queensland will also reap more than $8 billion from the Commonwealth between 200308 from the health agreement, which will fund about 50 per cent of the hospital system. On top of that, Queensland will receive more than $7½ billion in GST revenue this year.

Despite the record amount of Commonwealth funding going into his Treasury, Mr Beattie has chronically underfunded his own health system. For instance, according to the Productivity Commission, the Queensland government has spent just $440 per head of population on health since 200304, less than any other state. According to elective surgery figures released yesterday, the Beattie government is failing to reduce the length of waiting lists in public hospitals. The number of people waiting over 30 days for urgent category 1 operations, which includes cancer and heart procedures, increased by a massive 544 per cent in the last three months of last year compared with the same period 12 months earlier. In the same time frame, the number of people waiting more than 90 days for semi-elective surgery—category 2 operations, to treat things like severe pain, fractures, blocked arteries, some types of tumours, bowel surgery et cetera—increased by 281 per cent. The current doctor shortage is a very difficult situation, but it does not justify the appalling culture of maladministration, secrecy and intimidation in the Queensland health department. It could not have come out more clearly than in the two royal commissions into the Bundaberg Base Hospital. However, events in Caboolture, just to the north of Brisbane, prove that nothing has changed: staff were threatened in the last fortnight with disciplinary action if they use the word ‘closure’ in respect of the failing emergency department at that hospital, which services the northwest corner of Brisbane. Queenslanders will only receive a good public health system, the one they deserve, once Mr Beattie gets serious about breaking down this entrenched culture of secrecy and maladministration.