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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 1892

Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (11:47): I would like to congratulate the member for Kingston for bringing this fine motion to the House. I think one of the most important issues for each and every one of us in our electorates is health and making sure we have the health workforce that is needed to provide the services that the people we represent in this parliament need. Health is such an important issue; there is not a sector of the community that is not affected by health.

I was absolutely horrified to learn that the Clinical Training Fund had been frozen. I had that feeling that it was back to the future because back in 2006, when the now Prime Minister was the health minister, we were constantly fighting issues just like this. We needed to raise the then minister's attention to the issues when we tabled the Beyond the Blame Gamereport at the end of 2006—one, I might add, that he never responded to and probably never read. That report highlighted how important a skilled workforce is to address the health needs of the Australian community. The then health minister and now Prime Minister ignored that report and ignored the call to make sure that we had the trained workforce.

No-one who served in the parliament when the Prime Minister was the health minister would ever be left doubting his commitment to health. It was non-existent. Under him, bulk-billing rates fell. Now they are back up to a record of over 80 per cent but, at that particular time, under 60 per cent of services in the electorate of Shortland electorate were bulk-billed. He did not invest in training more GPs and nurses; whereas when Labor were in power we invested in training more doctors and nurses. We understood that to deliver health services on the ground you had to have a well-trained, well-funded health workforce. You do not get a trained health workforce by freezing the Clinical Training Fund. All that does is lead to a situation where there are insufficient funds to train those doctors who undertake training in our fine universities.

Each and every day we hear of hospitals and communities looking for doctors and for nurses. Unless they can receive proper training, unless the funds for clinical training are released, we are going to have situations like we have had over the years under those on the other side of this House. Back in 2006 there were a wide range of occupations where there were no health professionals available. They were not trained. The only way to address the issue was to bring doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and allied health professionals in from overseas. When Labor were in government we decided we would make that commitment to our health workforce—and making that commitment to having a trained health workforce meant that you had to invest some money. We saw that as a priority, particularly, as has been mentioned in this debate, because we have an ageing population. With an ageing population you have more chronic diseases and greater demands on the healthcare system. It really pointed out to this side of the House that health and health workforce training was a priority.

I have to congratulate Health Workforce Australia on the fine work that they have done. And I would like to finish by saying to those on the other side of this House: it is not good enough—Australians demand a trained health workforce and they demand the right to be able to go and see a health professional when they need to.

Debate adjourned.