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Wednesday, 12 May 2010
Page: 3326

Mr SLIPPER (5:49 PM) —While I am not aware of what the Liberal candidate for Robertson has said in relation to the matter of this cancer centre on the Central Coast of New South Wales, even if the Rudd government has promised that this particular centre will be established by 2013, given the serial policy of breaking of promises we have seen from the Rudd Labor government in recent times, one could not be confident that the cancer centre would in fact be constructed by 2013; in fact, one could not be surprised if it was not built until 10 years time.

Having said that, I want to stress strongly that the provision of health services remains an issue of concern for the people I represent in the electorate of Fisher on the Sunshine Coast. We desperately need the Sunshine Coast University Hospital that was promised before the last state election by the Bligh Labor government. No sooner had they crawled back into office when they postponed the construction date for the Sunshine Coast University Hospital by a couple of years. This is at a time when the state government is seeking to massively increase the population of the Sunshine Coast through development without making sure that we have in place the infrastructure needed to meet the needs of such a dramatically growing population.

I have written to the Prime Minister and have not received a reply, and I have also written to the Minister for Health and Ageing. She has replied via her parliamentary secretary seeking that the federal government should step in and fund the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, given the fact that the Bligh Labor government has broken its promise to build the hospital by a certain date.

I am very disappointed that in the budget we saw last night there was no mention that the Sunshine Coast University Hospital would be funded. I suppose it is no surprise because, after all, the way this government has spent this country into deficit, it is simply broke. Not only do we have a situation where the future of today’s Australians is mortgaged; the future of Australians not yet born will be mortgaged for many years into the future.

Sunshine Coast residents will, however, welcome the provisions of the Health Insurance Amendment (Pathology Requests) Bill 2010. I support this bill in the context of complaints I have had from local constituents about the varying charging policies of pathology providers on the Sunshine Coast. There was a situation where a certain pathology provider had been bulk-billing services provided to patients but had then unilaterally decided to stop bulk-billing those services. Some constituents were left out of pocket as a result of that pathology provider’s change of policy. When people contacted me, I pointed out that it is not possible to determine from a government level whether individual pathology services choose to bulk-bill or not, but that clients of pathology services—constituents of members of parliament—are entitled to vote with their feet. I have advised constituents that they ought to shop around to ascertain which pathology services are bulk-billing and which are not. I am very pleased to report that, when people moved in the other direction, the pathology service which had stopped bulk-billing started bulk-billing again. I suppose that showed the strength of the market.

We on the Sunshine Coast are very fortunate to have a large number of pathology providers and a large number of centres where people are able to pass on specimens requiring analysis by pathology providers. This bill, the Health Insurance Amendment (Pathology Requests) Bill 2010, will mean that patients will be able to go to a pathology provider of their choice. I think this will make it easier for constituents to shop around in the event that some pathology providers choose to charge a very large gap fee for people needing their services.

The opposition is not opposing this bill and I think that is very much the appropriate way to go, but I just want to stress that we on the Sunshine Coast are very disappointed with the policies of the Bligh Labor government and the Rudd Labor government with respect to the healthcare needs of Sunshine Coast residents. We are a very important area. Our population will double over the next 10 to 15 years. Unfortunately governments are failing us in so many ways with respect to the provision of very necessary infrastructure. I noticed that last night’s budget made no mention of upgrading the Bruce Highway to six lanes all the way from Caboolture to the Sunshine Coast. There was no indication that we were going to receive the government assistance that we so desperately need in so many areas. It is as though we are a support-free zone as far as the Labor government is concerned.

When one looks at the budget, it is clear the whole thing was predicated on a great big new tax, the mining tax, which is by no means certain to pass through the parliament. It is by no means certain that the mining companies will stay in Australia. The Canadian government has even made overtures to these mining companies, inviting them to go to Canada. Mining companies can vote with their feet and they can move abroad and it could well be that this great big new tax is not passed into law. It could well be that, even if it were passed into law, the mining companies might not be prepared to continue to provide employment here. They might not be prepared to continue to have the level of involvement in Australia that they currently do. If you take away the rug—that is, the great big new tax of the Labor government—then the budget is entirely unfunded. It is another typical Labor budget which is simply a spend budget, another budget making the future of Australians even grimmer. It is important to remember that, when this government was elected to office in 2007, it inherited a budget surplus. Now we are almost the only Third World country where you can drink the water.

This bill of itself contains very positive measures. I support it strongly, but I just wanted to highlight the serial failure of the state and federal Labor governments to attend to the healthcare needs of residents of the electorate of Fisher on the Sunshine Coast. I commend this bill to the House.