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Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Page: 4269

Mr JOHN COBB (9:41 AM) —I rise to outline to the House one of the most politicised funding decisions in the history of this parliament or any other in Australia. Australians living in rural and regional areas are up to three times more likely to die from some cancers within five years of diagnosis than those who live in urban areas. This is a fact that I am aware of, that people in my electorate are aware of and that the Prime Minister is aware of. The regional cancer centres of excellence program was meant to help rectify the situation. These centres were designed to provide better quality of care and better quality of treatment for regional Australians in regional centres. These centres were to make it easier on the patients and easier on their loved ones.

These centres have become political pawns for Kevin Rudd and Nicola Roxon. Under the government’s own guidelines for regional cancer centres, the proposed centres should service rural and remote populations in the Australian Standard Geographical Classification Remoteness Area locations RA2 and RA5, inner regional to very remote. Yet on 14 April the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health and Ageing announced that Gosford would receive $28 million worth of federal funding for a regional cancer centre of excellence. The people of Gosford and the Central Coast certainly deserve high levels of treatment; no one denies that. But Gosford has a geographical remoteness classification of RA1. By the government’s own classifications Gosford is a major city. This rural and regional health money is going to a major city right in the heart of the third most marginal seat in the country. Everyone knows about the three years of turmoil Labor has experienced in the seat of Robertson, and this is the Prime Minister’s sweetener.

Seldom before has this chamber seen a decision—on health or otherwise—based so unashamedly around politics. Gosford, an hour from both Sydney and Newcastle, has been deemed more in need of a regional facility than the whole area from Lithgow to Cobar in my electorate of Calare. Retaining the seat of Robertson has been put ahead of the health and wellbeing of regional Australians around the country. A decision like this is devastating for the community and disheartening for the medical professionals who work tirelessly in sometimes trying conditions in rural and regional areas. It sends a message loud and clear that this government simply does not care. I feel sorry for the families from Brewarrina, Cobar, Bourke, Orange, Bathurst and Lithgow, who will now miss out on having specialised cancer care of the highest quality in their electorate, in their own backyard. The submission from western New South Wales encompasses a holistic approach of care including family accommodation. A family from Cobar cannot drive to Orange for the day for treatment and then be expected to drive home. The western New South Wales submission covered 55 per cent of the land mass of New South Wales. It was truly a regional submission for regional funding. I implore the Prime Minister to relook at this issue in that light.