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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10082

Health Care

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (14:58): It gives me great honour to ask what I think will be the last question of this session. I wish you all here in this chamber a very merry Christmas. I'm delighted to ask a serious policy question for the last question of the year. My question is to the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, representing the Minister for Health.

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator REYNOLDS: Yes, it is a serious question of policy.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator, please resume your seat. Order on my left! The clock wasn't reset. I was keeping count myself. I don't need instructions on how to count from you. I could barely hear Senator Reynolds asking the question. Senator Reynolds, please continue your question.

Senator REYNOLDS: As I said, my question is to Senator Fierravanti-Wells, representing the Minister for Health. I'd like to know if the minister can advise the Senate how the Turnbull government is investing in a better health future for all Australians.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (14:59): I thank Senator Reynolds for the question. I have been very pleased in recent weeks to be regularly apprising the Senate of the Turnbull government's many investments in a better health future for Australians. We will invest over $6 billion over the next five years on medical research alone. Yesterday's announcement of $640 million for the National Health and Medical Research Council is only an example of this. On top of that, we've been making announcements particularly in the area of medical research in the last two months, drawing on the $100 million in the medical research future fund, not forgetting our commitment to regional and rural areas, with the appointment of the National Rural Health Commissioner. Of course, those opposite wouldn't even know where regional and rural areas are in the country. Contrast that with Labor's record in health. You cut medical research, you paused the indexation of MBS fees, you cut billions from pharmacies and medicines, and your so-called health reform was just an absolute shambles—10 bureaucracies—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Fierravanti-Wells, please resume your seat. A point of order, Senator Reynolds?

Senator Reynolds: Yes, I'm sitting right behind the minister and I'm having great trouble listening to her answer. I would ask that we listen in silence.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Reynolds. I will ask those on my left interjecting to allow those in very close proximity to Senator Fierravanti-Wells to hear the answer, and then we will be able to conclude question time.

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: I'll take the interjection from Senator Wong. Kristina Keneally may not be interested, but some Australians are interested in what we are doing about health in this country. I was talking about Labor's track record in health: 10 bureaucracies and a 27 per cent increase in bureaucrats. You cut billions of dollars from private health insurance. You only delivered half of those GP superclinics. Remember the GP superclinics that didn't exist? You totally ignored regional and rural areas, and all that you could offer the people of Australia was 'Mediscare' and 'Medifraud'.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Reynolds, a supplementary question.

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (15:02): I thank the minister for that response, and—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! Senator Collins and Senator Polley, you've got a very loud voice. You're gifted with a voice, Senator Collins. I couldn't hear Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS: Just wait for it: there's more great news on health I'm sure you'll be happy with. Can the minister please outline to the Senate what these significant investments mean in practical terms for the health of Australians?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (15:02): For example, a recent $640,000 project grant to Macquarie University is seeking to protect the cells that die in the retina—just one piece of very good medical research which will help glaucoma and blindness. Another study funded by the Turnbull government at Macquarie University, at a cost of over $1 million, looks at future demands of maintaining quality aged-care services. Both these examples are in Bennelong. They reflect our commitment to and support for health investment in Bennelong, but they also demonstrate the work and the commitment that John Alexander has made to the people of Bennelong and that he will continue to make to the people of Bennelong. They do not deserve Kristina Keneally.

The PRESIDENT: Final supplementary question, Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (15:03): Yes.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! There's only a minute to go. Order on my left!

Senator Polley interjecting

Senator Fierravanti-Wells interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senators Polley and Fierravanti-Wells!

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! People seem to want to stay in the chamber longer than is necessary.

Senator REYNOLDS: It's a question worth waiting for, Mr President. Is the minister aware of any threats to the Turnbull government's effort to keep Australia at the forefront of domestic and international health care improvements?

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (15:04): Yes: those opposite. The most recent example of this was Kristina Keneally criticising the hardworking staff of the Medicare office in Bennelong. Our Medicare staff do a great job. Perhaps those opposite don't really care about that, but they actually work very, very hard, and Australians rely on them.

I would call on Kristina Keneally to apologise to the staff at the Medicare office in Top Ryde. She lied about their work and she lied about waiting times just to get a cheap headline in the local press. This is another demonstration of her lack of judgement. She was not fit to be the Premier of New South Wales. She was put in there by Obeid and Tripodi, and she exercised very bad judgement as the Premier when Sam Dastyari was appointed Secretary-General of the ALP. She is an opportunist and is not fit to be the member for Bennelong. (Time expired)

Senator Polley: A point of order: could you remind the minister that she should be using people's proper titles when she's speaking.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Fierravanti-Wells, if you didn't use the parliamentary expression, I'd ask you to withdraw it. I did not hear it as there was a little bit of noise in the chamber.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: I referred to Senator Dastyari as simply 'Sam Dastyari', which we hope he will be one day.

The PRESIDENT: I don't think the use of someone's name is unparliamentary. Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: For the fifty-sixth and last time this year, I ask that further questions be placed upon the Notice Paper.