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Thursday, 30 September 2010
Page: 487

Senator MOORE (2:57 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Ludwig. Can the minister advise the Senate on any new funding avenues available for health institutions to access funding through the Gillard government’s health and hospital reform program?

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank Senator Moore for her question. I note that she has a keen interest in health and hospital reform. I am pleased to inform the Senate that the Minister for Health and Ageing and the Prime Minister have announced the next round of applications for the Health and Hospitals Fund, which is now open for rural and regional Australia. As Minister Roxon said today, this round of funding is worth a total of up to $1.8 billion and will accept applications up to 3 December 2010. This new allocation of funding will enable our rural and regional towns to invest in new infrastructure, including for mental and dental health and acute care facilities for regional hospitals, and can potentially fund new facilities to train medical practitioners that work in our regions. The funding will also support the clinical capacity of regional hospitals. This honours the agreement between the government and independent MPs. Minister Roxon has consulted with independent members and the regional development minister to ensure that this next round is targeted directly at regional healthcare needs.

Of course, with this new investment, our regional towns will be able to provide better health services to areas that have gone without for so many years under the Howard government. The investment in health and infrastructure will help support better health outcomes for rural and regional communities. The Gillard government is also committed to delivering superfast broadband to allow the development of e-health initiatives to help get expert advice in real time and, of course, is committed to the introduction of GP superclinics across the community. It is also to ensure that families can see a GP and get the allied health services they need. The national health and hospital plan is a $7.4 billion commitment by the Gillard Labor government to deliver better services to all Australians. (Time expired)

Senator MOORE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Thank you, Minister. Can you provide any information on the current level of funding under the landmark health and hospital reform program by the Gillard government?

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank Senator Moore for her question, her supplementary question and her continued interest in this area of regional health.

The Gillard government is taking decisive action to relieve the pressure on our public health and hospital system. Our plan will ensure that patients will no longer have to wait all night in a hospital emergency department, with the introduction of the four-hour rule. Patients will receive their elective surgery within the clinically recommended time, thanks to the national access target. We will open 1,316 new sub-acute beds, helping to take the pressure off hospitals, and this comes on top of the 2008 $64 billion healthcare agreement, which was a 50 per cent increase on the last agreement signed by the Liberal government.

We have taken this action in the best interest of Australia, both in our capital cities and throughout regional Australia. These commitments have been completely costed and funded, and will be rolled out to the benefit of the Australian community. (Time expired)

Senator MOORE —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate why this health and hospital reform is crucial to delivering health services to our communities across Australia?

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —The Gillard government’s health and hospital reform package is a crucial step forward in delivering much needed funding to Australia’s health and hospital system. Those opposite, of course, have opposed this move to deliver increased funding to the Australian hospital system. But this should come as no surprise, of course. As we all know, the record of the Leader of the Opposition—Mr Tony Abbott—on health and hospital reform as the previous Minister for Health ripped $1 billion out of the health and hospital system.

Of course, this was $1 billion that could have been spent on hospital beds and acute care facilities; $1 billion that could have been spent on training doctors and nurses, and funding X-ray machines and cancer clinics. We on this side are acting to deliver much needed health and hospital funding for the benefit of Australians.

Senator Joyce —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. My point of order goes to the truthfulness of the statement about Mr Abbott, because that is not the fact. It is not the truth.

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. That is not something that I can judge.

Senator LUDWIG —Those opposite are sensitive about ripping $1 billion out of the health and hospital sector. (Time expired)

Senator Chris Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.