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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5195

Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyMinister for Health) (12:57): There have been a number of questions about Medicare Locals. First, there was a question about the collapsing of several flexible funds and core funding into one, more flexible, funding pool. We have done this for the very good reason that Medicare Locals are supposed to make local decisions about local priorities and to have the flexibility to meet those demands.

An opposition member: It is not one flexible funding pool. It has all gone into core funding.

Ms PLIBERSEK: It is not all going to core funding. There are a number of flexible funds being combined with core funding. In 2013-14, core funding for the Medicare Local after-hours program, the Rural Primary Health Services program and the preventative health initiative are being consolidated into the primary healthcare initiatives through the Medicare Locals Fund, the flexible fund. What we will see is a total increase across the network in excess of $70 million. The flexible funding means that all Medicare Locals will receive increased funding. The average across Medicare locals will be a 20 per cent increase in funding.

Dr Southcott: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker Grierson: the question was about the national evaluation which the minister spoke about in November. The first question was whether the change to funding arrangements was as a result of the national evaluation.

Ms PLIBERSEK: It is not as a result of the national evaluation. The national evaluation is ongoing. If you were to look at the AusTender website, you would see, firstly, that it was advertised and, secondly, that it is ongoing. It is not very complicated. All you need to do is check the AusTender website and you will see that it has been advertised. It is expected to finish early next year. Consultations have already started. As part of those consultations, I expect many people associated with Medicare Locals to welcome the extra funding they are getting—on average, as I said, 20 per cent extra between this year and next. I also expect that they will express a great deal of concern about what the opposition have said on Medicare Locals—that they are just a bunch of bureaucrats—when we know that seven out of 10 of their staff provide frontline services. The member asked: 'What are frontline services?' Doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, Aboriginal health workers, nurses that deal with chronic issues, pain management specialists—right across the board these people are delivering frontline services. The last four-year funding from $1.3 billion to $1.45 billion is at risk when the opposition gets rid of Medicare Locals.

The member for Dickson, shadow minister Dutton, also asked about the national medical stockpile. There is no conspiracy there: we buy medicines with that $17 million. That is why it is called a national medical stockpile. We set aside medicines in the event that there is a catastrophic outbreak of something very nasty and we need to have medicines on hand to make sure that Australians are able to be treated very quickly. We need to stockpile some of those medicines because the unfortunate truth is that when something—

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The question has been asked.

Ms PLIBERSEK: You asked what it was for and I am telling you what it is for: it is for replacing medicines in the national medical stockpile. The reason we need to replace those medicines is because, in the event that Australia is faced with an outbreak of disease, it is very likely that Australia will not be the first or the only country facing that same disease. As we have seen with SARS and H1N1, and more recently with H7N9, the issue is that it is not just Australia that needs these medicines quickly. There is competition around the world for medicines that can prevent outbreaks of disease or treat outbreaks of disease. When we enter that international competition at a time when there is demand around the world, the danger is that we will be last on the list. We need to stockpile medicines to make sure we are protected from outbreaks of disease. That $17 million replenishes that.

The member asked about hospital data for 2011-12. I do not know why the member is asking about that in this budget consideration. That is information that is collected by the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority. They have the information that they need to calculate the efficient price because it is based on 2010-11 data.

I am sure Victorians will be very pleased that you have raised this: Victoria has not submitted data on the most recent quarter of October-December 2012, but this does not affect the calculation of the national efficient price. The Victorian health minister and the Victoria government have been spectacularly bad at providing the data necessary. The reason is that every time they provide data it shows they are going backwards. Their waiting lists are getting longer, their emergency department waiting times are getting longer—every time they provide data it shows that despite massive increases in federal funding on every single measure the health system that the poor Victorian patients are faced with is getting worse. I will let David Davis know that you are very concerned about the fact that he is not providing his data.