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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 6525

Health Care

Ms BRODTMANN (Canberra) (14:58): My question is to the Minister for Health. Would the minister update the House on the government's plans to invest in frontline health services for families across Australia? And, are there any obstacles to these services?

Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyMinister for Health) (14:58): I thank the member for Canberra. We had a terrific launch a few days ago of a website that informs all members about the work of the Medicare Locals in their electorate. We had a terrific doctor from Tuggeranong, from the member for Canberra's own area, Dr Rashmi Sharma, who came along to talk about what the Medicare Locals are doing in her area, providing after hours services to frail, aged people, people whose normal doctors are unavailable, sending a locum doctor out to visit that person in their home to make it a little bit easier for them to receive the care they need.

There are terrific examples like this all over the country, and members will have received over the last few days information about their own Medicare Local: over 3,000 front-line health workers around Australia; $1.8 billion invested in front-line services, with examples like the expanded after-hours service in Western Sydney run by the Nepean-Blue Mountains Medicare Local, a healthcare outreach service for homeless people run by the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local, and the provision of free vaccines by the Central Adelaide and Hills Medicare Local at recent children's expos to make sure we keep boosting those rates of immunisation. Unfortunately, we have a situation where the opposition, like with most of the things that we have been discussing today, said no to Medicare Locals and then afterwards said: 'Oh, we don't really know what they stand for. We'd like some more information.' We have had the Leader of the Opposition on the record saying he does not know what Medicare Locals are. So I am going to table the Sydney North Shore and Beaches Medicare Local pamphlet that shows the 26 front-line health workers and what they do in his electorate. We have the member for Dickson, who is also on the record saying that he is suspicious of Medicare Locals; he wants to kill them off. There are GP after-hours services, immunisation drives, suicide prevention, aged and palliative care, with 83 front-line services in the Metro North Brisbane Medicare Local.

Ms Macklin: He just wants to get rid of it.

Ms PLIBERSEK: He does. He wants to get rid of it. He wants to get rid of all 61 Medicare Locals and the $1.8 billion worth of primary care services they provide. But perhaps I should not be surprised because I was very interested to read in the Australian Financial Review recently that Health will not be a high priority for the member for Dickson's party in this year's election. He says in this article, 'I've played a team game in opposition and on occasion that comes at a personal cost, which I have been happy to do.' He is happy to put politics ahead of patient care—and I table that article too. We need to have a debate in this country about health services: a party that invests in front-line services and the party of Medicare that has always stood for equal access to necessary health services versus a party that has cut to the bone, that killed Medicare once and that would kill Medicare again if they had half a chance.