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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19259

Mrs MAY (9:55 AM) —I recently received a letter from the Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie, regarding the federal government's new health care agreement with the states. In his letter, Mr Bettie says:

We must work together on behalf of all Queenslanders to fight for our rights.

As a federal member, I say to you, Mr Beattie, that I fought for the rights of all Queenslanders and in particular for my constituents on the Gold Coast for their share of Commonwealth funding for health care. I received another letter from the Queensland state Minister for Health, Wendy Edmond, and she referred to `the lousy deal' being offered by the Commonwealth.

It is time to set the record straight. The Commonwealth government is offering record funding: $8 billion over five years for Queensland public hospitals. This is $2.1 billion more than the Beattie government received under the previous health care agreement. How can a $2.1 billion increase be a cut or even be considered a `lousy deal'? The people in my electorate of McPherson on the Gold Coast should know that this offer has been on the table since April and the Queensland government still has not signed. The Premier is not being honest with Queenslanders, nor is the Minister for Health. Both these people have a responsibility to tell the Queensland public what they will spend on public hospitals. For the first time, all states and territories are being asked to give a five-year commitment to their public hospitals and to match the Commonwealth contribution. Peter Beattie and Wendy Edmond are being dishonest and they are playing politics. Instead of wasting taxpayers' money by taking out one-page advertisements in the Courier-Mail, the Australian and all regional newspapers, the Premier should be signing the agreement—and signing it now. He should be putting his money on the table and signing up to an agreement that will deliver $8 billion of Commonwealth funding to the public hospitals of Queensland. He is posturing on this agreement and if he does not sign it will be the people of Queensland who will suffer.

To add insult to injury, the Queensland government has now slugged Queenslanders with another unfair tax—the Queensland ambulance levy. This new ambulance tax will be levied on all electricity accounts in the state. It is a completely unfair means of dividing the cost of the ambulance service. This approach is double-dipping. It is going to hurt small business and those businesses that operate from a number of premises. It is a lazy way of collecting the new tax. Make no mistake: this is just another new tax for Queensland. This new levy of $88 per annum levied on all electricity account holders will raise another $105 million for the Queensland government coffers. Even with that added money, it still cannot balance its budget. It recently brought down its third budget deficit. The people of Queensland deserve the truth and they deserve the Commonwealth funding for their public hospitals and health services. The premier should sign the agreement now.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—Order! In accordance with standing order 275A, the time for members' statements has concluded.