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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Page: 1174

Mr SECKER (4:30 PM) —I rise in the House today to speak about two issues that are especially important to me as they involve my home town and my family. The first is the Keith hospital. Keith is my home town and I spoke in this House earlier this year about Keith because the township’s childcare centre closed. I rise today to speak about the closure of the hospital, because it is certain that the hospital will close if the state government does not back down on its funding grab and its commitment to cut 60 per cent of the funding for the Keith hospital.

The Labor state government is out there telling everyone that the Keith hospital is a private hospital, as if it is some sort of profit-making hospital. That is not the case at all. In fact, it is a community run hospital. There is a big difference. It was built in 1954 by the community, not by the state government or the federal government. It was built by the community and it has remained outside the state government bureaucracy. That is the only difference. The minister is also wrong to suggest, as he has in some comments, that somehow the nurses at the Keith hospital are paid more. In actual fact they are paid less. They are paid eight per cent less because they are committed to keeping their hospital going.

Keith hospital have had the funding equivalent of three beds stripped from them by the Labor state government. This is a hospital to which both Liberal and Labor federal governments have committed just over $1.3 million in recent years, as well as having done a lot of fundraising in the local community. So you would think it would be in the best interests of the federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, to keep Keith hospital open. I note with interest however that, in a state Labor government seat, McLaren Vale hospital, another so-called private hospital under the same criteria that the minister talked about, receives 10 beds that are fully funded. So why, I ask, can the state Labor government not see fit to fund the Keith hospital for a mere three beds per year when they can fund the McLaren Vale hospital? If the Keith hospital closes, which it will—it will close within nine months if this funding is not at least kept at parity—there will not be a hospital for the 200 kilometres between Bordertown and Murray Bridge. I think the locals are talking about erecting signs as you leave Bordertown and Murray Bridge that read: ‘Please, don’t get sick, because there will not be another hospital for 200 kilometres.’ A community meeting is taking place tonight in Keith, there is a petition going around, Facebook groups are asking the government to support the hospital and I will continue the fight to keep this very worthy hospital open.

The second thing I would like to speak about is Mary MacKillop’s canonisation on Sunday. I would like to acknowledge that my eldest sister, Sister Genevieve Secker, is a nun in the order of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart—or ‘Joeys’, as they are affectionately known—the order founded by Mary MacKillop. Whether you are Catholic or not, it really was a magnificent event. Mary MacKillop—now St Mary—was a remarkable woman and the Sisters of St Joesph deserve recognition too for their dedicated work. I spent Sunday for the celebrations in Penola, a small township of about 1,000 people in my electorate of Barker. Penola is where Mary MacKillop started her first school, run by the order of the Sisters of St Joseph. It was a Catholic school for the underprivileged. Certainly on Sunday, I can assure the House, the community was really alive. I suspect there would have been over 10,000 people there, so you can really see how people have taken the town to their hearts. Most will remember that Penola was devastated by a tornado a few months ago. I commend the extraordinary efforts by the community, the local council and the state government to get everything re-built and ready for the influx of visitors last weekend. Mary MacKillop’s canonisation is admirable not only because it recognises her miracles but because it highlights her story and her hard work, which ensured all children, rich or poor, could receive schooling. Perhaps something that can also be considered a miracle is the quality of the wine that comes from the Penola region!