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Thursday, 17 March 2016
Page: 3618


Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (10:41): At the end of last year I was devastated to learn that the Turnbull government planned to close the Belmont Medicare office. At that time I wrote to the minister, and I met with the minister last month. I was horrified with the response I received from the then minister. He showed a total disregard for the people that use the Belmont Medicare office.

Belmont Medicare office has a history. It was closed by the Howard government in 1997, and Labor reopened it when they were in government in 2009. It is in an area where there are a lot of elderly people. There is quite a considerable distance between the two closest Medicare offices. People from Belmont, Swansea and Gwandalan to the south will have to travel to Charlestown, which is some 11 kilometres away from where the Belmont Medicare Centrelink office is. The government is trying to sell it as a collocation of Medicare and Centrelink. There is a collocation of Medicare and the NDIA at Charlestown already, and there is a collocation of Medicare and limited Centrelink services in the Belmont Medicare office.

Over the last three weekends I have been collecting signatures on petitions. We have put in about six hours of collecting signatures, and during that time we have had almost 2,000 signatures. The principal petitioner is Deirdre Ham from Belmont. There has been overwhelming support from the community. Last Friday we held a rally and a march in Belmont. On Friday morning we had over 100 people turn out to march from Cullen Park in Belmont to the Medicare office, and we had a mini rally where we talked about the issues around Belmont Medicare office. The people of Belmont are really angry with this government, as are the people of Swansea. They expected better. The expect a government that will deliver services and make services accessible.

An interesting figure to note is that approximately 40 per cent of all incoming calls result from failure of online services. The aim of this government is to get people online. There are elderly people that rely on the service in Belmont and the government is trying to force them to use online services, but it really will not work for them. Whilst the people that enter Belmont Medicare office now are greeted by somebody with an iPad, if they choose to go to the counter there is no-one at the door greeting them. Then they are recorded. But they also have computers there for people to use—and the staff will help them. That will not happen if the Belmont office is closed. The Charlestown office is a lot bigger and busier. As I have already stated, it will be hard to travel to Charleston, particularly for those with a restricted driver's licence. This will affect not only those who use the Medicare office but also doctors. I have had considerable feedback from local GPs that they are very disturbed about the fact that the Belmont Medicare office is closing. It is a lose-lose situation for everyone. I have an appointment with the minister this afternoon and I will be asking him to reconsider his decision.

I would like to thank my staff. They have done a wonderful job in relation to this and they have done a wonderful job working for me over a very long period of time. I value their contribution. I value the contribution of all those dedicated Labor Party members and volunteers who have worked for me over the years. I value the contribution of my family, who have supported me in everything I have done. In particular, I thank the voters of Shortland for voting for me on so many occasions and electing me to this parliament. I am not certain what will happen after today. Maybe this is my valedictory speech.

I seek leave to table two petitions I have received, which I believe are in order, in relation to keeping the Belmont Medicare office open.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave is not required, but the documents will be forwarded to the Petitions Committee for its consideration and will be accepted subject to confirmation by the committee that they conform with standing orders.