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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5204


Mr SNOWDON (LingiariMinister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Minister for Indigenous Health and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of ANZAC) (13:35): I thank both the opposition and the member for Newcastle for the questions. I am aware of the time. I will very quickly give a brief summary of what we are doing and allow Tanya, if you do not mind, to refer to the dental question.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms O'Neill ): The Minister for Health.

Mr SNOWDON: She is also Tanya. We have done a great deal, as you rightly pointed out, in terms of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, and we are very proud of what we have done. But, as you also alluded to, there is still a lot more to be done. I think that is a shared view across the parliament.

We have made huge strides over recent years as a result of the commitment of both former health ministers and former prime ministers—Minister Roxon and Minister Plibersek, Prime Minister Rudd and Prime Minister Gillard—to support us in our ambition to close the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We have done that in partnership, in part, with Aboriginal community controlled health organisations as well as private sector practitioners and hospital services, but also, at least up until now, in partnership with state and territory governments. Previously, as you would know, through the COAG process there was commitment of $1.6 billion, and $805,000 of that came from the Commonwealth. That money expires at the end of this year. You asked a question about the $777 million over three years. That is an ongoing measure as part of our ongoing commitment. I do not have the annual break-up of that fund for you, but in total it is actually quite a deal more than $777 million, because it is for the three years to June 2016, and when the flow-on from MBS and PBS are taken into account the Commonwealth contribution will be $992 million over three years. That is a significant increase over what we have done previously.

The current NPA is at $201 million a year; the new NPA will be over $330 million a year. That is a dramatic increase in Commonwealth commitment to the NPA process. To date we have only had the Victorian government respond to our invitation to sign the new NPA. We have asked each state and territory government to respond positively. We are in negotiation with all but Western Australia, who have refused to talk to us, effectively saying that they are not prepared to talk about a new NPA around closing the gap. That is a shame, and it will mean that people in Western Australia will have fewer resources than they might otherwise have for the purposes of Aboriginal health in that jurisdiction.

You asked me about renal disease. If you do not mind I will respond to this, because it is a very important question. You asked about the commitment of money. The money is committed. It will not be going back to anywhere. It is there for the next financial year. We are intent on making sure that we expend that money to improve primary health outcomes for people with renal disease.

Unfortunately, we have had no success in working with the Northern Territory government. We offered them the resources to build accommodation for renal patients, which is very much overdue and required, in Tennant Creek and Alice Springs. Our requirement from them was the ongoing recurrent funding, which we estimated to be less than half a million dollars a year. We were proposing to spend $13 million. They said, instead, 'We don't want the money.' They have done this, by the way, in a number of other areas, including with the Health and Hospitals Fund for accommodation in Katherine and Gove. Now, of course, they are also trying to garnish or sequester—whatever word you want to use—Health and Hospitals Fund investment of around $18 million into the Royal Darwin Hospital for patient accommodation. They now want to use that as a penal settlement.

Frankly, it is not good enough, and I would say to the opposition: if you are in discussions with the Northern Territory government, you might say to them, 'This is not an appropriate way to behave, and you ought to do yourself and your community a favour and make sure you provide reasonable accommodation for all those patients travelling to Alice Springs, Darwin, Tennant Creek, Katherine and Gove who require care, and make sure you do it now, because what we're seeing as a direct result is people dying.' We are committed to assisting and working with the South Australian, Western Australian and Northern Territory governments on this issue of renal care, but it requires cooperation. (Time expired)