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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13201

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (18:19): I speak in support of the Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012. The member for Shortland went through the changes to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991. She also mentioned the Industrial Chemicals (Notifications and Assessment) Act of 1989 and the changes that have been made to that. I have no intention of also dealing here with the Health Insurance Act 1973 amendments which recognise the ability of specialist trainees of any recognised medical college to perform certain procedures under direct supervision in private settings.

I, like the previous speaker, the member for Lyne, want to deal with the issue of the name of the Medicare Locals. Medicare is a name and a brand which is accepted widely and respected widely by the Australian public. Indeed, a system of universal healthcare coverage is something that this side of politics is very proud of. We fought election after election in relation to it. It was former member of parliament Bill Hayden, when he was a minister in the Whitlam Labor government, who fought strenuously for Medicare's forerunner, Medibank, only to have the whole system corrupted under the previous Fraser Liberal government when they came to power. Medibank was nothing like what it was proposed to be under the Whitlam Labor government; it was supposed to make sure that all Australians could get access to decent and humane health care and that decent health care was not the province of the rich but available universally to all of us, young or old, rich or poor and whichever state or territory we lived in.

Medicare was brought in by the Hawke Labor government and has been accepted grudgingly and with difficulty by those opposite, but I am pleased to say that in recent years they have accepted that Medicare is something that the Australian public wants. I was pleased to see a brand so well respected and, indeed, loved by the Australian public used in this regard when we came up with the idea of the Medicare Locals. In fact, I have an electorate where there are two Medicare Locals. I will speak about those in a minute.

What this legislation does in terms of the Human Services (Medicare) Act 1973 is enable the Medicare Locals and other bodies seeking to use the term 'Medicare' to apply for authorisation to use the term without breaching the act and remove the requirement that the Attorney-General's consent be obtained before offence proceedings can be brought. This legislation permits that branding so widely respected in our community to be used by those Medicare Locals.

We had a troubled history in my community with the Ipswich and West Moreton Division of General Practice. Indeed, the Brisbane south division effectively had to be brought in to make sure that the Ipswich and West Moreton Division of General Practice could run in collaboration, that it was administered properly and that the primary healthcare services offered through that division were to the benefit of the people of the Ipswich and West Moreton region. I am pleased that the then CEO of the Brisbane South Division of General Practice, Vicki Poxon, subsequently became the CEO of the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local. I will mention her again shortly.

I have another Medicare Local covering my area, and that is the Metro North Brisbane Medicare Local. I am pleased with the work they do. I note that they have been recognised for the work they do, particularly in offering a certificate IV course in partnership with Healthfirst Training Australia, a registered training organisation, providing nationally accredited qualifications in health training. They were recently awarded the 2012 education and training provider award in the category of the Health and Community Services Workforce Innovation Awards. They have been honoured in that way for what they do. I want to pay tribute to the CEO of the Metro North Brisbane Medicare Local, Abbe Anderson, for the work that she does. Like Vicki, Abbe has had a lot of firsthand experience in the health field. She was a medical assistant in the United States and she has really championed the introduction of primary health care in Australia, particularly in the Metro North Brisbane Medicare Local.

That Medicare Local covers the Kilcoy area. The rest of my electorate comes under the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local, which goes into south-west Brisbane, covering the Lockyer Valley and also the Scenic Rim areas. It covers the whole of the Somerset, the whole of Ipswich and areas around Oxley, Inala, Durack and the Centenary Suburbs around Brisbane. I am so pleased about the work that they are doing, and I can see that locally on the ground—for instance, the work that was done in the Metro North Brisbane Medicare Local, particularly in the Kilcoy forum which they held on 4 October. They got together the leading citizens of the local area, not just politicians—the mayor of the Somerset region and a number of councillors were there—but lots of local doctors, nurses and community organisations, and took feedback from the local community.

The two Medicare Locals in my area are part of the network of 61 Medicare Locals across the country. The Metro North Brisbane Medicare Local was created on 1 July 2011. It was established by GPpartners Ltd, a division of general practice located on the north side of Brisbane. It has two offices—one around North Lakes and one around Lutwyche—and it covers up to the rural part of Kilcoy.

What I was so pleased about was the forum that was held there. In a region that covers 871,000 residents, 272 general practices, six public hospitals and 95 residential aged care facilities, they took the opportunity to go to Kilcoy, which is right up in the far north of my electorate but also in the far north of the area. So they were clearly there to hear the views and to take the pulse of the people in that area, and that is in fact what they did. The forum was called Taking the Pulse. I have the report that they provided, and the feedback from the area really showed the challenges and the local knowledge and awareness. This is just another demonstration of what this federal government wants to hear: the local response, local ideas, local problems identified with local solutions being offered to the government and certainly to the Metro North Brisbane Medicare Local.

Partnerships are clearly being made with organisations like Kilcoy Country Companions, a local organisation that provides assistance to so many people, and the Connecting Kilcoy Community group. So many other local organisations were there, including the Kilcoy RSL, which is where the forum was held. There were many other organisations there, including local pharmacists, local general practitioners and other interested parties. I look forward to the Metro North Brisbane Medicare Local acting on those recommendations and the issues raised.

I want to also mention the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local and the work they are doing in my area and in a number of federal electorates, including those of the member for Wright, the member for Moreton and the member for Oxley. One of the things that I was pleased about was the need for further after-hours services in the Brisbane Valley, particularly around Fernvale. The Medicare Local partnered with Stellar Medical Centres and the principal GP, Dr Paul Crowley, to extend after-hours services at the centre in Fernvale from 6 pm to 10 pm weekdays and on Saturdays from 8 am to 12 noon. This will make sure that non-critical conditions, illnesses and other problems, particularly for the burgeoning population in that area—the young families with children, people who are busy during regular work hours—and people who are concerned that their condition or illness may deteriorate over the weekend can also be covered. Non-critical conditions, of course, do not just afflict people from nine to five. Colds and flus, injuries and illnesses can afflict people on weekends and after hours. That is an example of how they have done great work in partnership with a local general practice, Stellar Medical. I was pleased to open that after-hours service on 7 June this year.

I also note the work that West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local are doing with their regular email, the Practice Pulse. This terrific organisation offers a lot of information by way of email—about PPP programs, about programs to help local doctors, about e-health records and even about how practice receptionists are urgently required, and there is a whole list of other areas about which they have sought and provided information and run fora. I was pleased that they have partnered as well with headspace in Ipswich Central, which will be operated by Aftercare and will open in January 2013. West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local will be a significant partner of Aftercare in supporting the headspace program, which will help young people between 12 and 25 years of age in the whole of the Ipswich and West Moreton region. I have congratulated Aftercare. They have met with me on many occasions to indicate what sort of work they are going to do. They are pleased with the work they are conducting with the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local.

Some of the highlights for the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local include the after-hours service they are providing at Fernvale, in consultation with Stellar Medical; the Mind Health and Wellbeing Program in Ipswich that they are providing; their community advisory group, which I am pleased to say that many leading people in the West Moreton region and Ipswich are members of; their website, which, as I said, has been particularly helpful—they have a successful patient feedback website, including patient opinion, which I think is particularly innovative, and I have met with them to talk about that; and the opening of the youth program headspace, as I mentioned. Already we have seen about 400 people in our region receive free mental health services thanks to the Access to Allied Psychological Services, or ATAPS, program, which they assist, particularly through Artius, who run that program in consultation and associated with UQ Health Care, the GP superclinic at the University of Queensland Ipswich campus. But they have not forgotten the rural areas. I am particularly pleased with the great work they are doing in the rural areas. Recently, the Minister for Health joined the member for Oxley and I at the Springfield office of the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local for an interactive tour. I was pleased to see the emphasis not just on urban areas like Inala but also on rural places like Gatton and Fernvale. I am pleased with the work they are doing in that regard.

I want to make reference to the CEO, Vicki Poxon, and the work that she has done. Vicki has indicated that she will be relocating to Melbourne. She has been a terrific ambassador and has worked very hard to overcome the challenges faced by any start-up organisation. She has a new and expanding team and she has been acting like an Aussie Rules ruck rover in many ways, in the way she has conducted herself. I have always found her to be a very committed and community minded individual with a huge passion for health services in the region. Under her guidance, the Medicare Local has established a great foundation in the local area. They have been very active in the community, including attending the DisabiliTEA that I had in Brassall Shopping Centre and the recent forum we had with the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, at the Cabanda Aged Care facility in Rosewood, where they were getting people to complete Taking the pulse forms. I was pleased to see Tanya McKenna, a teacher at Ipswich State High School, arranging for young people from Ipswich State High who were attending our DisabiliTEA to complete those Taking the pulseforms as well as the senior citizens and older Australians at Rosewood. Congratulations, Vicki. You have done a great job as the first CEO of West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local. I am sure that Dr Kay Pearse, the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local board chair, and the committee will find a suitable replacement, but you go with our love and respect. Thank you for the great work you have done in the whole region.