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Tuesday, 16 August 2011
Page: 8189


Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (17:49): I rise to support the government's National Health Reform Amendment (National Health Performance Authority) Bill 2011. One of the Gillard government's top priorities is health. We continue to invest in and fund healthcare services so Australians have the best health care no matter where they choose to live. As members of this place are aware, McEwen is a very diverse electorate, and I am fortunate enough to represent rural areas, farmlands, new growth suburbs, small towns and highly populated suburbs. McEwen is an example of how, no matter where you choose to live, the Gillard Labor government is investing in healthcare services for all. When you travel across my electorate you see the ongoing investments in health care and health services by this Labor government. Unlike the Liberal Party, we do not discriminate by postcode; we believe that all Australians have a right to affordable and accessible health care.

I am delighted to speak on this bill, which will go to strengthen and build on this government investment in health. The passage of this bill will establish a national performance authority under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. The performance authority will be a statutory body which will come under the National Health and Hospitals Network agreement. The performance authority's function will be to monitor and report on the performance of local hospital networks, public and private hospitals, Medicare Locals and other healthcare service providers. The authority will deliver clear and transparent performance reporting against a new performance and accountability framework to provide Australians, for the first time, with information about the performance of their health and hospital services in a way that is both nationally consistent and relevant. Not only is the authority a key to the government's health reform agenda but it will ensure the production of clear and transparent reporting of every local hospital network and the hospitals within it through routine and regular hospital performance reports. This builds on our establishment of the MyHospitals website, which compares the performance of emergency departments and elective surgery in public hospitals around Australia for the first time. The Gillard government is investing $16.4 billion in the health system and imposing tough national standards to make sure that money goes where it should and in turn delivers the funding that our hospitals need.

The new health reform deal, which the performance authority will go towards strengthening, will deliver a better deal—a long-term solution and a deal that will last, not just a short-term fix—for Australian patients. The Gillard government is continuing to invest in our health services to ensure that all families, no matter where they choose to live, are able to access the services they require.

Recently I was pleased to announce as part of our 2011-12 federal budget that Kilmore and District Hospital will receive $10 million. Never before has the hospital received money of that magnitude from the federal government, but our government is committed to making sure that all people get access to good quality healthcare services. This funding will go to the redevelopment of the theatre suite and the day procedures and recovery unit; the expansion and enhancement of the acute inpatient facility to provide expanded acute care services and increase the number of acute care beds from 30 to 60; and the construction of a new outpatient facility to deliver comprehensive, integrated primary health care. This is fantastic news for my community.

The Baillieu Liberal government made an election commitment to also provide $2 million to Kilmore hospital. But, unfortunately, in the state budget this commitment was not funded. It was not delivered on either, despite the state government saying that in their first budget they would deliver on all election commitments—except, apparently, for their commitments on health. I will continue to put pressure on the Baillieu government to ensure that they keep their promise to the people of McEwen.

In this government's responsible budget, which will get us back in the black by 2012-13, we have seen a great investment in health. This is particularly the case in my community, and for that I would like to thank the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Minister for Health and Ageing and everyone that has been involved in understanding the importance of health care and its funding in my community. Locally, this builds on the government's $3.5 million commitment to building GP super clinics in Wallan and a GP super clinic in South Morang.

Those opposite opposed these measures, but who is surprised by that? The Leader of the Opposition ripped more than $1 billion out of hospitals in just five years. In 2003, he cut $108 million. In 2004, he cut $172 million. In 2005, he cut $264 million. In 2006, he cut a further $372 million. In 2007, his final year as health minister, he cut more. In 2007, the Leader of the Opposition was more focused on his own re-election than on getting health policy right. In July 2007, he would not start negotiations on the coming Australian healthcare agreements because he prioritised his own re-election over the health of Australians. On Lateline on 24 July 2007, the now Leader of the Opposition said, 'The important task at the present time is to get re-elected and that is where my energies are focused.'

Things have not changed; he is still the same. Without any real plans of his own, the Leader of the Opposition continues to oppose everything in the hope that one day he will become Prime Minister. He says he has a plan to get us back into surplus, but he will not say how he will do it. In fact, this week we learned that there is a $70 billion black hole in his costings, which would be a further burden for this nation to bear. He has nothing to say, but he likes telling people anyway. On all the big calls, such as the historic health reform deal that he opposed, the Leader of the Opposition gets it wrong. When it comes to mental health, the government is delivering a $2.2 billion comprehensive package focusing on early intervention and coordinated care—the largest ever package in mental health. The Liberal party would fund mental health by cutting essential services such as GP super clinics, e-health and the after-hours GP hotline.

Federal Labor has increased hospital funding by 50 percent. There are 1,300 new sub-acute beds and support for 2,500 new aged-care beds. On the other hand, when the Liberal Party were in office, they ripped $1 billion—which is equivalent to 1,025 beds—out of hospitals. The Gillard government is training 6,000 new doctors by 2020. This includes a doubling of the number of GP training places to 1,200 a year by 2014. But the Liberal Party wanted to put a cap on GP training places, and, at the end of the Howard government's 12 years of nothing, six in 10 Australians lived in an area with doctor shortages. That is an absolute disgrace. Under this government, more than 70,000 surgery procedures have been delivered in the last two years, slashing hospital waiting lists. Under the previous Liberal government, there were 88,630 Australians who had to wait longer than clinically recommended for elective surgery. Federal Labor is delivering 22 regional cancer centres and 44 McGrath Foundation specialist breast cancer nurses.

Compare that to what happened when the previous Liberal government were in power. There was no significant investment in rural cancer infrastructure, despite rural patients being up to three times more likely to die than their city counterparts within five years of their diagnosis. I think it is important that we look at the history—if you want to look where they are going, just look at where they have come from. Those opposite talk about the great old days of the Howard government, but it was not great if you needed health care; in fact, it was absolutely appalling. It appears that in Victoria the apple does not fall far from the tree and that they will continue down that path.

Australia's healthcare system is one of the best-performing systems in the world, and we are very fortunate to have well-trained doctors, nurses and medical staff. Patients are already seeing results from the Gillard government's investment in health. Extra beds have been delivered and new doctor training places are opening up this year. From 1 July, patients will begin to see the training of the 6,000 further doctors, the delivery of 1,300 more sub-acute beds and strict deadlines for emergency departments and elective surgery waiting times. Patients will get more information, and there will be tough national standards such as a four-hour emergency waiting time. However, we believe that we must continue to support and invest in our healthcare system to make sure that it remains the best in the world. We need to reform the system in order to meet the demands of an ageing population and increasing rates of chronic disease and to take advantage of improvements in medical and other technologies. The National Health Reform Amendment (National Health Performance Authority) Bill will go to strengthening the National Health and Hospitals Network agreement and building on this government's health reform agenda. There are endless reasons as to why we must improve our healthcare system, and this bill is one of the many measures we are taking to ensure patients get the best care when they need it.

This week we find the opening of the Northern Hospital, the one that the former Kennett government were threatening not to fund. I am sure, Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou, you would know the PANCH hospital well—a 500-bed hospital closed by a Liberal government. Then they opened the new one, the Northern Hospital, and they brought out 180 beds and said, 'Wow! Look at us. We have just opened an extra 180 beds in the northern suburbs.' I am sure even if they counted their numbers they would figure out that is still a shortfall. It is a shortfall that we have to continue to keep working on and delivering on.

Unfortunately, again, a Liberal government are now refusing to upgrade the emergency ward in the Northern Hospital to upgrade the training places and facilities. It is an area that has thousands upon thousands of more people moving into it and they want to cut back on hospital health care and services for the people of the northern suburbs of Melbourne. It is an absolute shame, but what it shows is the consistency of Liberal governments in cutting health care. They do not care about it. They are not interested in it—they never have been. The leopards over on that side will never change their spots.

I am very proud to support this government's National Health Reform Amendment (National Health Performance Authority) Bill because it continues to deliver on this government's commitment to bring better health care to people, no matter where they live.