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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20504

Mr ZAHRA (2:16 PM) —My question is to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, and I refer to her announcement last year about outsourcing the health care of our troops in Victoria to the Mayne Group Ltd. Can the minister confirm that, after nearly 12 months of fruitless negotiations, the Mayne Group Ltd is pulling out of the deal, having also indicated its withdrawal from Puckapunyal? Hasn't the minister's own department warned, `Defence will now have major problems providing health care in Victoria'? Minister, despite repeated warnings from the ADF and the department, why has the government gone ahead and jeopardised this vital defence health capability?

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Melbourne is warned.

Mrs VALE (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —I thank the honourable member for his question. On 1 September the Mayne Group Ltd did notify Defence of their withdrawal from negotiations as the preferred tenderer for the provision of defence health services in Victoria. This was a disappointing development. The benefits of this contract were expected to include a more rational and productive use of ADF health assets. It was expected to include some significant cost savings and, more importantly, it would release more uniformed personnel to the sharp end of our defence forces. Despite the opposition's opportunistic claims, the decision of Mayne Group Ltd does not reflect a bungled attempt to outsource health services in Victoria, nor has this process degraded the medical capacity of our services to our personnel.

The government remains committed to a policy of market testing services, such as non-operational health support. This is only done where it is appropriate to do so. This policy has already seen a significant increase in the delivery of uniformed personnel to the sharp end of our defence. I also assure all Victorian based ADF personnel that they will continue to have access to the top-quality health care that they deserve. I am now considering a number of options for future health care delivery in Victoria. In the meantime, I can guarantee that the services will continue under existing arrangements.

Mr Kelvin Thomson —Mr Speaker, pursuant to standing order 321 I ask the minister to table the document from which she was quoting.

The SPEAKER —Was the minister quoting from a document?

Mrs VALE — Yes, I was quoting from a confidential document.

The SPEAKER —My next question to the minister was going to be, `Was the document confidential?' She has indicated that it was.

Mr Zahra —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table a Defence document highlighting concerns over the impact of the failed bid to outsource health services.

Leave not granted.