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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 631

Mr SYMON (2:32 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. How will health reform improve the funding and efficiency of the health system, and how have these reforms been received?

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I thank the member for Deakin for his question, particularly because I understand it is his birthday today. I wish him happy birthday as well.

But more importantly than the member for Deakin’s birthday is that the electorate of Deakin, along with every other electorate across the country, is going to benefit from our new National Health Reform Plan, which is a truly national agreement. Our plan is going to produce a sustainable, efficient and improved health system.

As the Prime Minister has already said, the Commonwealth is stepping up to 50 per cent growth in the system. So in electorates like Deakin, which is fast-growing and where there is a high reliance on our health services, having the Commonwealth sharing the growth, and having that money following where the population is and where the services are needed, is vitally important for reform.

Of course, the importance of this reform has been backed up by the response that we have seen from clinicians and health experts, who have been calling for these reforms for well over a decade. As the Prime Minister mentioned, the Leader of the Opposition ignored those claims from stakeholders; but let me just give you a brief taste of some of the responses to our plan, because it has been so widely supported.

Andrew Pesce from the AMA:

We will have a national health system that is transparent, economically responsible and geared to providing the best possible outcome for patients.

Stephen Leeder, an academic leader in this area says the package:

… sets up a structure that should enable basic patient care to be better, especially for people with long-term problems.

John Deeble, the architect of Medicare says:

I think Julia Gillard’s is a pragmatic solution.

And even Alan Kohler says that this deal:

… should be used as a template for everything else states do, including education and public transport.

Of course, the Liberal Party have absolutely no plan to tackle this problem, but they will have a choice when the legislation comes before the parliament whether or not they will support these important changes.

We know the Leader of the Opposition to date has opposed everything we have done in this area. But the time will now come that he has to make a choice whether to support this or not. In fact, we know he opposed this deal before the meeting was even finished. He was out there giving a press conference on Sunday afternoon, saying it was a bad deal before he had even seen what was in the agreement. That is absolutely a measure—

Mr Dutton —So did you, Nicola!

Mr Laming —So did Kevin!

Ms ROXON —Perhaps those who are interjecting opposite have not had a chance yet to see the Essential Media Communications research report that was actually just given to me after we came into question time and which says that 67 per cent of the population approve of our health deal. Interestingly for those who are arguing opposite—particularly the member for Dickson, who is always more focused on internal Liberal Party matters than others—62 per cent of Liberal voters support this package, just not the Leader of the Opposition or the health spokesperson.

The time will come very shortly when the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Party will have to make a decision whether they are going to simply continue to oppose every health reform that will deliver for patients or whether they will act in the national interest to back this plan which clinicians and experts across the country, and every state and territory leader—including two Liberal premiers—think is a good deal. The time has come for the Leader of the Opposition to support this health reform.