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Monday, 21 October 2002
Page: 5476

Senator CHRIS EVANS (2:27 PM) — My question is directed to Senator Hill, Minister for Defence. Can the minister advise why the decision was taken to close No. 6 RAAF hospital in Laverton and to outsource all Victorian ADF health services? Doesn't this decision seriously reduce the ADF's health and aero-medical capability? Given the tremendous work performed by ADF medical personnel in East Timor and, of course, in recent days in Bali, and the increased deployment of Australian troops overseas, how can this decision be justified? What will happen to the highly skilled medical reservists who live in Victoria, given that all the ADF health services in that state will be outsourced?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I thank Senator Evans for his question. As I recall it, I think this is what might be referred to as an aged issue. What I can say to the honourable senator is that the ADF and the RAAF in particular responded magnificently to the crisis in Bali in providing not only the aircraft and crews but also the medical support to enable that evacuation to work so effectively. As I said last week, I am sure that all honourable senators would thank the ADF for its very professional, capable and sympathetic performance in relation to that mission. When you look at the issues of the hospital facilities that they have provided in Dili and other such capabilities, they also seemed to have carried out that function very professionally and very capably. In relation to the Laverton issue of reservists that is raised by the honourable senator, I will seek some further advice on that, but I think it was a decision that was taken some time ago.

Senator CHRIS EVANS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to his assistant minister's press release of last Thursday. If that makes it an aged issue, I am sorry, but we tend to find press releases come out late on a Thursday afternoon. That press release announced the outsourcing of all ADF Victorian health services to Mayne Health. Since then, a number of ADF personnel have contacted me about the effective abolishment of their jobs. When you were getting information, was it confirmed that a number of personnel who were assisting in the evacuation of the wounded in Bali had their jobs abolished as a result of Thursday's decision? Could you advise what steps you are going to take to ensure their continued involvement with ADF health services and how ADF health capability will be maintained under a privatised service, given that they will not be able to deploy overseas in the same way ADF personnel do?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I will look at that. As I recall the issue, Mayne Health were replacing another outsource provider. As the honourable senator shakes his head very confidently, I will refer to Minister Vaile for the details of the matter and will respond to Senator Evans in due course.