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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 628

Ms O’NEILL (2:22 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. How is the government supporting our hospital system and patients following the recent Council of Australian Governments meeting?

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Nationals cannot be asked a question, so I think he can forget trying to answer questions.

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —We are clearly going to have one of those days when the volume is dialled up by the opposition because so are the divisions. Just remind me how it goes: the shadow minister hates the shadow Treasurer, they both think the deputy leader is useless and they all hate the member for Wentworth. I think that is how it goes.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister will come to the question.

Opposition members interjecting—

Ms GILLARD —On the question of health and a healthcare agreement, I thank the member for her question and for asking a question in the national interest. When we came to government the health system was showing the stresses and strains of the Leader of the Opposition having been one of the longest servers in the portfolio of the Minister for Health and Ageing that the nation had ever known. His legacy, when we came to government, was not enough money in the system, not enough doctors, not enough nurses and no reform. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition used to proudly give speeches about how one would not bother with reform.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will turn to the question. The Prime Minister is required to be directly relevant to questions under the standing orders. She will relate directly her remarks to the question.

Ms GILLARD —Having inherited this health system, the government stepped up to what was the underlying problem, which is health costs rising sharply every year—they rise greater than the CPI; they rise greater than the GST. With the federal government year after year under the Leader of the Opposition putting as a percentage less and less into public hospitals and with the rate of increase of the GST not keeping pace, inevitably the financing of state governments was being squeezed and this was not sustainable in the long term. Indeed, had this been allowed to continue without any reform, you would have seen a time when it would have taken all of state government budgets—

The SPEAKER —Order! The Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I listened to your admonition in the first part of question time about my not interjecting on the Prime Minister, but I put it to you that the Prime Minister was asked a question about the COAG health reform announcement and has spent the first half of her answer simply slagging off the Leader of the Opposition. If I am going to be called to order about using that expression, what are we supposed to do if we are provoked by the Prime Minister to the extent that she is provoking us?

The SPEAKER —I have been asked a question, but I do not answer questions on points of procedure. Under the rules and the standing orders, you sit there quietly because you are not allowed to interrupt. They are the standing orders. The Prime Minister has returned to the question. I am listening carefully. The Prime Minister will continue to relate directly her remarks to the question.

Ms GILLARD —Because of the pressure of the unsustainability of this, reform was sought by the federal government. Indeed, states and territories had been pleading for years with the federal government, with the Leader of the Opposition—but with those pleas falling on deaf ears—for structural reform. At the Council of Australian Governments meeting, which took place following the last sitting week, we have struck a new national agreement which delivers that reform—a new national agreement where the federal government and state and territory governments will step up as equal partners in growth. This is a major structural financing reform which will end forever the spectre that funding public hospitals could become unsustainable for state governments.

But with this increase in resources come new requirements for reform. We are going to make sure money goes where it is needed through a single national funding pool, more transparency than ever before, so Australians can see dollars in and dollars out in their healthcare system. We have used our market based tools to ensure that these reforms work effectively—an efficient price to be set so we see no more waste and less bureaucracy with eight bureaucracies heralded in earlier reforms not being proceeded with, empowered local communities through local hospital networks and a transformation in the role of local communities in our healthcare system. We are also stepping up to improve our primary care system, because everybody knows that if you can be kept well and not need to go to hospital that is best for everyone—best for the patient, best for the system. This is a new national reform agreement that will herald a new era of health care: more money, more doctors, more nurses, less waste, less bureaucracy and less waiting time.