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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 152

Rural and Regional Health Services

Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (14:38): My question is to the Minister for Health. I must say that it is a real honour to ask the minister his first question. I refer the minister to the funding of chemotherapy services in rural and regional areas. Can the minister inform the House of any uncertainty that has been created by policy arrangements for the funding of these services? How does the government intend to address these uncertainties?

Mr DUTTON (DicksonMinister for Health and Minister for Sport) (14:38): I thank very much the member for Wannon. He was a champion of Peter's Project over the course of the last three years. That was a local regional cancer service designed to provide support for people who otherwise would have had to travel to Melbourne. He was a champion of that service. We announced the funding, and that project will be delivered by this government.

The other person to pay tribute to is the Treasurer, for his excellent summation of the way in which the Labor Party trashed the Australian economy and made it hard for Australian families. But the problem is that Labor's trashing did not stop there. Labor's trashing moved into the health portfolio every day that they were in government. The most vulnerable of Australians are those who are delivered services—in particular, chemotherapy services—in hospitals around the country. It was the Labor Party in government that said to the 150,000 people a year being delivered 832,000 infusions each year, 'We will not provide you with certainty of those services.' The Labor government changed the rules and created uncertainty for those most vulnerable.

Ms Plibersek: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Mr DUTTON: You are very sensitive, Tanya.

Ms Plibersek: The point of order is that the member for Dickson should tell the truth in the parliament.

The SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. There is no point of order.

Mr DUTTON: Nasty, Tanya. It did not take long to come out! So what did the previous government do?

Mr Shorten: I rise on a point of order, Madam Speaker. Could you please ask members of the government to refer to honourable members by their correct titles.

The SPEAKER: Will the Minister for Health kindly refer to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition by her correct title.

Mr DUTTON: I am happy to withdraw. I will aggravate her no further. The point is that there was a problem created by the previous government. It created uncertainty for those who are most vulnerable. That government created a problem because they ripped money out of chemotherapy services. And when they were made aware of the problem they did not fix it.

Ms Plibersek: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The SPEAKER: If the honourable Deputy Leader of the Opposition is going to raise again the point that she raised last time, that is not a point of order. Is there a point of order that you can name in the standing orders?

Ms Plibersek: He should tell the truth in the parliament, Madam Speaker.

The SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, and if you do it again it will be disorderly.

Mr DUTTON: Confronted with this problem, the former government did not fix it. What they said was, 'We'll provide six months of funding to chemotherapy patients.' That took it up to Christmas last year. They sat on it for six months. They provided great uncertainty for those patients—and not just those patients but their families as well. The most shameful thing was that there was not one dollar of provision made to provide those services from 1 January on. We put pressure on the government of the day. It was a problem of the government's own creation, but instead of fixing it they continued the uncertainty. I promise the Australian people and those patients this: this government will listen to their problems. This government will fix this problem. This government will deal with the difficulty that the Labor Party created. We will provide certainty to chemotherapy patients across the country and their families. Labor created a mess—not just of the economy but of health as well.