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Thursday, 14 February 2008
Page: 395

Ms ANNETTE ELLIS (3:16 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Since 3 December last year, what has the government done to help build a better health system for a modern Australia?

Ms ROXON (Minister for Health and Ageing) —Thank you for the question. I know the member for Canberra has had a great interest in health issues not just in this region but across the country. I am very pleased to be able to say that, since the election of the Rudd Labor government, we have been incredibly busy in the health area. In less than 100 days we have put in place some of the infrastructure for reforming our health system to build a modern Australia. That is something that the previous health minister was decidedly against—any sort of reform was a dirty word—and I note that the new opposition spokesperson on health has not yet rebutted that view. So, as far as we are aware, it is only this side of the House that is interested in reforming our health system so that we can deliver for a modern Australia and for working families. We have not just put the infrastructure in place; we have also delivered on practical reforms. With respect to elective surgery waiting lists, there is money to provide 25,000 procedures across the country. The 25,000 people who will have their hip replacement done or their cataract surgery done will be able to live their lives free of pain because we are the first Commonwealth government to put money into elective surgery. That is something the previous government never did.

Opposition members interjecting—

Ms ROXON —Interestingly, the members from Queensland are interjecting. Perhaps the members from Queensland want to explain why they do not think we should give Queensland $27 million to undertake 4,000 procedures for Queenslanders who live in the electorate of the members who are interjecting. You do not want the people who are waiting for knee surgery, cataract surgery or hip surgery to have their procedures done? It would be interesting if the members opposite objected to the government paying for 25,000 people to have their elective surgery done across the country. Perhaps they want to stand up and say why they are against families in their electorate getting assistance from the federal government, when they know full well that the previous government ripped $1 billion out of the public hospital system. The Leader of the Opposition, even with this background in health, the member for North Sydney and the member for Warringah all stood by in the previous cabinet and let that $1 billion be ripped out of our system. So don’t all come in here and complain about us, piece by piece, trying to fix the system and the mess that you left.

Opposition members interjecting—

Ms ROXON —Interestingly, the members from Victoria are also interjecting. Perhaps the members from Victoria would like to stand up and say—the member for Casey is welcome to; he has a very good hospital in his electorate—why they do not want $34 million paid to Victoria for nearly 6,000 procedures to be undertaken for people in their electorate.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Honourable members will cease interjecting. I suggest the minister just ignore them and not encourage them. The interjectors should just sit there quietly.

Ms ROXON —In addition to the $150 million already being delivered to undertake 25,000 procedures across the country, in the space of three months I have met four times with my state colleagues to bat out and negotiate health reform. Interestingly, that is already double the number of times that the previous minister met in a whole year with the state health ministers. I am sure that the former Minister for Health and Ageing is well aware that in three months I have already doubled the work that he did in a whole year.

Importantly, there are a number of other very important initiatives that have been undertaken. I think members, despite their interjections, will share with me my pleasure in Labor having already instigated our home nurse visiting program for Indigenous mothers. This is something that we supported and that the previous government was committed to. It is being extended massively by this government with a $260 million commitment to investing in early childhood health and development for Indigenous children. It is really important and we have hit the ground running with it. On top of that, we have already implemented initiatives to attract more nurses into our hospitals. All of these are things that the previous government neglected. We are proud that we are up and running on these initiatives. All of us will benefit from an improved health system that will be developed under a Rudd Labor government so that we ensure we have the modern health system that is needed for a modern Australia.