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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 638

Mr ABBOTT (3:00 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I ask the Prime Minister: will she inform the House why she claimed in her year of decision and delivery speech last November that the Commonwealth share of hospital funding will increase to 60 per cent and that the GST will be taken from the states but then dumped these changes within three months? How can what was right then be wrong now? Hasn’t the year of decision and delivery become the year of backflips and broken promises?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —We know that maths was never the Leader of the Opposition’s strong point, so let me explain to him the reforms that I have entered into and why I have entered into them. They provide to the states and territories the same amount of growth money as would have been provided under earlier reforms. That means that we will be an equal partner in growth: fifty-fifty for the future. Of course, it will be in the interests of the Commonwealth to properly fund primary care to keep people out of acute hospital beds because we are equal partners in growth.

I can understand the Leader of the Opposition’s naivety about all of this—because he never did it as health minister over five long years—but to strike a national health agreement with profound reform consequences requires you to get agreement from the states and territories. It was clear that we did not have agreement from Western Australia, and, following the election in Victoria, it became clear we were unlikely to hold agreement from Victoria. So in those circumstances I made a decision about how we could deliver national health reform and growth money with the key reform elements in place and get a national agreement.

I knew it was not going to be easy, but at the Council of Australian Governments meeting I did it. I did it in the nation’s interest and in the interests of every Australian. Profoundly I did not want someone in Perth or someone in Broome to have different healthcare arrangements to someone in Brisbane or someone in Cairns. I did not want people in Brunswick to have different healthcare arrangements to people in Burnside in South Australia. I wanted people around the nation to benefit from more money in hospitals, from more doctors, from more nurses, from more transparency, from more local control and from more efficient pricing. I wanted them to benefit from that, and I wanted them to no longer have to tolerate the waste, the waiting times and the bureaucracy that have been characteristics of the system today. In those circumstances, I moved to the agreement that I struck at the Council of Australian Governments meeting.

Let us just for one moment consider the alternative. Presumably the Leader of the Opposition remains committed to the things that he did as health minister: a declining percentage of hospital funds, GP cutbacks so that there were always GP shortages, never training enough nurses and $1 billion out of public hospitals—these are the things that the Leader of the Opposition stood for as health minister. If the Leader of the Opposition no longer stands for those things, wouldn’t you think that, having been opposition leader for this amount of time, he would have a comprehensive healthcare plan? After all, of all the areas of public policy that he should have a grip on, health should be the one where he has the best grip—five years as minister. But what do we see from this Leader of the Opposition? Negativity, carping and no plans. We will get on with making a difference for people around the country, and you get on with your whingeing because you are incapable of anything else.