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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8597

Health Services

Mr HUSIC (ChifleyGovernment Whip) (14:32): My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Will the minister outline the investments the government is making into health services in Australia and how these compare with past investments? What reaction has there been to these? What is the government's response?

Ms ROXON (GellibrandMinister for Health and Ageing) (14:32): I thank the member for Chifley for his question, because he and the member for Greenway, who asked the previous question, have been absolutely passionate advocates of health services in their electorates, not just in lobbying and arguing for investments in their local hospitals but also in e-health, in the Medicare Locals and in obesity programs like the Stephanie Alexander kitchen program. All of these projects are rolling out in their communities as we speak.

It is not surprising that members on this side of the House have been pleased by, and acknowledged and seen the benefits of, our early investments when we were elected to office—a 50 per cent increase in health expenditure compared to that paid by the previous government. Of course, then there are the historic reforms negotiated by the Prime Minister—another nearly $20 billion that is going into the system, with $3.4 billion of that right now. It is hard not to make the comparison that all these extra investments in beds, in GP services and in extra clinics, compared with when you pull money out of the system, are delivering benefits to patients—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order!

Ms ROXON: I think the members opposite do not want to hear about the past. Let us just talk about the promises that were made at the last election, because the promises that the Liberal Party took to the last election actually included a whole new raft of cuts to health services.

Mr Simpkins: You haven't delivered on the superclinics yet.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Cowan is warned!

Ms ROXON: GP superclinics were to be cut, the after-hours GP helpline was to be cut, e-health was to be cut, funding for GP practices was to be cut and funding for activity based funding was to be cut. If these were the promises made at the last election, and now we know the Liberal Party is looking for $70 billion worth of savings—

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Sturt is now warned!

Ms ROXON: let me just take the House through what that would mean in health: $70 billion worth of savings would mean that we cannot pay at all a Commonwealth contribution for the next four years for any hospital service in the country. That means 40 per cent of all hospitals would close, 20,000 hospital beds would close—

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister is entitled only to answer for the responsibility she has in her portfolio. She is not responsible for opposition policy. She is out of order and should sit down.

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

Ms ROXON: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Obviously it is important for members of the House and the public to understand just how much money the Commonwealth does invest in various different health services. If people want to know, if you are trying to get to a total of $70 billion, the government would have to make a decision that not a single Medicare payment would be paid to any patient in the next four years. Or, as an alternative, what we could do is that, if you totally abolish the PBS and you totally abolish the private health insurance rebate, you still would only get to $58 billion. You still would not make the $70 billion that the Liberal Party are scratching around for. Last night, the Leader of the Opposition said to measure him on his record. His record in health was cutting services, and that is what he wants to do if he becomes the Prime Minister.