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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 89

Mr CAUSLEY (3:16 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Would the minister update the House on Commonwealth support for health services in New South Wales and, in particular, cancer services in my electorate of Page. Are there any threats to these services, and what is the government’s response?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I thank the member for his question. I regret to inform him that, despite $14 billion worth of Commonwealth funding under the health care agreements and despite almost $2 billion in GST windfall revenue over the last three years, the New South Wales government is still short-changing patients in that state. To give one example: the member for Gellibrand keeps saying that there is a dental crisis. She says that is why we need ‘Dentistry Gold’, at the cost of $4.7 billion every year. Do not accept what Labor says; watch what Labor does. The New South Wales budget allocated just $4 million more for public dentistry, even though people with no teeth wait up to 2½ years and people in severe pain wait up to three weeks for treatment at the Westmead dental hospital.

Above all, the people of northern New South Wales know that you cannot trust Labor with health care. In June 2004, on the strength of an $8 million commitment from the Howard government, the New South Wales Labor government promised a new cancer centre for Lismore Base Hospital. The New South Wales government promised that construction would start by the middle of this year. Now the New South Wales Labor government will not start construction until 2010 at the earliest, and the New South Wales budget delivered a paltry $145,000 for planning, not the $20 million or more that this centre will need.

If the Leader of the Opposition can call a national executive meeting to expel Joe McDonald, why can’t he call a Premier to help cancer patients? If the Leader of the Opposition can make 11 phone calls to the editor of the Australian to support a lie, why can’t he make a single phone call to Morris Iemma to expedite the construction of this cancer centre? If the Leader of the Opposition can phone-stalk editors to kill stories, using language that would make Dean Mighell blush, why can’t he phone-stalk a few premiers to support health services? This guy sends more text messages than Shane Warne. I reckon the editor of the Australian is entitled to ask to go on a do not call register to protect himself from harassment from the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Standing orders still matter: 62.

The SPEAKER —I point out to the honourable member for Grayndler that, as I understand it, standing order 62 is about people standing up and not moving quickly to their seats.

Mr AlbaneseStanding order 64.

The SPEAKER —I call the minister.

Mr ABBOTT —I just make the point that the Leader of the Opposition should be just as interested and active in the support of patients as he is in the support of his own shabby political interests. I make this point: the people of Australia are waking up to this guy. They are waking up to this guy and they are rapidly coming to the conclusion that they will not let him do to Medicare what people like Morris Iemma and Bob Carr have done to public hospitals in New South Wales.