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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 1889

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (11:36): I am very pleased to speak on this motion put forward by the member for Kingston. I would like to note in the time available paragraph one of the motion, which notes the importance of having a well-trained medical workforce, including doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, for the sustainability of our health system. To that I say 'Hear, hear!' But I ask this question: what was the previous Labor government doing over the last six years? We know what they were doing. They cut self-education expenditures. These were part of wider education cuts of about $2.8 billion by the previous government. They capped the amount that someone could claim as a tax rebate for self-education expenditures at $2,000. This had its greatest impact on those earning less than $80,000, as they were the people who made the vast majority of claims for self-education expenditure. Most of that self-education expenditure came from the front line of our health services. We know that it affected doctors and nurses right throughout our health sector. Why did the Labor government do this when they knew it had such a damaging effect on the services that we provide?

Last week, I had the great pleasure of having a discussion with the Chairman of the Board of Paediatric Surgery, a constituent of the electorate of Hughes, a Dr Anthony Dilley. He emphasised how damaging the cuts that Labor made have been. He explained that in his field the average trainee would spend up to $20,000 a year on self-education. What Labor was going to do was penalise and punish these people to pay for Labor's reckless and wasteful spending. And here we have the member for Kingston coming into this chamber and noting the importance of having a well-trained medical workforce. And yet she was one of the members of parliament who before the election was pushing to put a cap of $2,000 on self-education expenditure.

The coalition can proudly say that we are not going ahead with this change. We are going to scrap that cap to ensure that people out there can undertake self-education and try to improve themselves by putting their own resources into training to make themselves better. We are removing that cap. The coalition should be congratulated for that.

The coalition is also going further than that. We are committed to expanding the medical workforce in this country and we are doing it through a variety of measures. Firstly, we are doubling incentives for general practice teaching. Secondly, we are investing in rural and regional teaching infrastructure. The coalition government is going to provide at least 175 grants of up to $300,000 each. Thirdly, the coalition is investing in nursing and the allied health workforce. The coalition will provide 500 additional scholarships for nursing and allied health. These will provide up to $30,000 per scholarship. Fourthly, the coalition will provide an additional $40 million over the next four years to support up to an additional 100 intern places in non-traditional settings in private hospitals. These are the positive steps that the coalition is taking to clean up the Labor government's mess.

There is one other point that I would like to quickly touch on in the debate on this motion, which calls on the government to make money available. Any member of parliament from the opposition who comes in here and talks about the money that the government should make available should firstly explain to the Australian public the mess that they left, the absolute mess that this coalition government has inherited. We face a situation such that very soon this nation is going to be $400 billion in debt. Our interest payments on that debt are over $800 million a month. That is $800 million that comes out of the economy to pay the interest. That is the legacy of the previous Labor government. That must be acknowledged by any speaker on the other side before they come into this parliament asking for expenditure.