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Tuesday, 22 November 2022
Page: 3181

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (19:55): With an ageing regional population, my electorate of Gilmore on the New South Wales South Coast faces a number of challenges to access health care—so it is no surprise that improving access to local health services is a huge passion of mine. Local people deserve to have affordable access to health services without the need to travel. It isn't just my passion; we have a number of passionate local advocates as well. But tonight I want to focus on a couple of fierce advocates in the Eurobodalla. One such advocate was so passionate about improving our health services that he hung up his stethoscope, as it were, and replaced it with parliament.

I have fought long and hard with the local Eurobodalla community, like the ONE Eurobodalla team, and fabulous local doctor, advocate and now member for Bega Dr Michael Holland for a Eurobodalla radiation therapy centre in Moruya. The recent federal budget committed $8 million to finally make this a reality—a small portion upfront with the rest in reserve while we, sadly, try to convince the New South Wales government to get on board. I have been horrified by the reaction of the New South Wales government to our calls for this radiation therapy centre. Who knew that lifesaving cancer treatment could be so controversial? It's been an intriguing journey. Perhaps it goes to show why Dr Holland's predecessor failed to deliver this really important piece of health infrastructure over his many decades as the member for Bega—something he would now love to be conveniently forgotten. Well, I certainly haven't forgotten.

Straight after our commitment was announced, the then Liberal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said there was no need for Labor's commitment. His statement, as quoted on WIN News, was, 'This is already in train to be delivered jointly by the Perrottet and Morrison governments.' He went further to say it was 'already underway'. Interesting! Clearly, the former minister had missed something important because his New South Wales counterpart had the exact opposite to say: they weren't doing it. It so happens that that remains their position. Confused? Yes, me too.

While it was true the Liberals promised this centre in 2019, they never delivered it. The community is still trying to get the New South Wales Liberals, which the former member for Bega was part of as a cabinet minister, to deliver. Here we are, three years after their commitment, with local people still travelling hours for treatment—patients like Cathie Hurst, from Bingie, diagnosed with cancer in March 2021 and forced to choose between Sydney and Canberra for her treatment. It's 2½ hours to Canberra and more than four hours to Sydney to get radiation therapy—appalling!

I recently joined the new member for Bega to receive a petition with more than 5,000 signatures from local people crying out for this centre. The New South Wales minister for regional health now says, three years after the Liberals' promise, she will employ a consultant to discuss this with key stakeholders. What more evidence could possibly be needed at this point? We know the need and we know the desire, and we need to get on with it.

I was appalled when, just today, an article was published in the Daily Telegraph making some truly astonishing accusations. The article suggested our commitment to the radiation therapy centre was a 'defiant move' by a local doctor, Dr Holland, who has lived and worked in the community for years, who knows the health services in this community better than anyone. They tried to suggest there was something sinister. It is hard to believe what could be sinister about providing lifesaving cancer treatment to a region of 80,000 people. 'Defiant', they said, against a government that continues to fall back on reports and statistics. Cathie is not a statistic; she is a person. This is what she told the New South Wales parliamentary inquiry in October last year:

Travelling meant that I had to be prepared for whether I was going to vomit on a plane, have diarrhoea attacks or anything, which is highly embarrassing and concerning.

You get shaky just thinking about, can you get on the bus for that long, or the train, or whatever it was you were taking.

The difference between that and actually having a hospital or a facility in your region where you can drive yourself, have your 15-minute radiation treatment and come home—it would make all the difference to people.

If pushing for this critical service is defiant, then I stand defiant with Dr Holland and the more than 5,000 signatories to the community petition—defiant against a state government ignoring the health needs of our community. We will continue this fight because the people of the Eurobodalla deserve access to lifesaving cancer treatment close to home.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Claydon ): In accordance with the resolution agreed to earlier, we will now resume consideration of the National Anti-Corruption Commission legislation.