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Thursday, 24 May 2018
Page: 4615

Mr SNOWDON (Lingiari) (15:52): That was an astounding contribution by the Minister for Health—

Ms Flint interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The member for Boothby is warned.

Mr SNOWDON: Sadly, he was unprepared to own up to the truth or the facts as they were outlined by the shadow minister for health, the member for Ballarat, who, as you well know, Minister, is very accurate in her depiction of your funding arrangements and is very accurate in making very plain your cuts to the hospital system. I know it. I feel it in my communities. And I see it because of the reliance of people in rural and remote parts of Australia on the hospital system. And I know that you think you care, but you don't act as if you do. I think you have got real issues around making sure that the hospital systems are funded properly. You're not prepared to accept the evidence that you've cut $715 million from 2017 to 2020.

In my electorate, Mr Minister, that means $3.2 million from the Alice Springs Hospital, $350,000 from the Tennant Creek Hospital, $450,000 from the Gove District Hospital and $620,000 from the Katherine District Hospital. I'm not sure if you've ever been to any of those hospitals. I suspect you probably haven't. But I know the quality of work they do and the work they provide for our communities. I know how important they are in addressing issues to do with closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health because of the nature of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in my communities and how much they rely on the secondary and tertiary care provided by these hospitals. And you, Mr Minister, seem to be not alive to the contributions they make or to the importance of improving their opportunities to provide further and better health care to those people.

Just so you recall: for people who live in remote and very remote areas of this country, mortality rates are 1.4 times that of metropolitan centres. For coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in all areas, the mortality rate is 1.2 to 1.5 times higher than in cities. And diabetes in very remote areas is 2.5 to four times higher. These people rely on the health services that are available to them. In this case in Alice Springs, for example, we've got tremendous physicians, great people doing top work. But they rely on the funding we make available to them, and you, Mr Minister, have decided by the decisions you've taken that the work they—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I recommend that the member address his directions through the chair.

Mr SNOWDON: The work that they do is not valued sufficiently by you to make sure that they get the infrastructure they require. Let me give you an indication of work which is being done in the Katherine Hospital. Minister, you may be aware that in 2012, for the first time, a physician started work at the Katherine Hospital. As a result of that physician starting work at the Katherine Hospital, 10,000 bed days were saved in the Darwin hospital. Those sorts of improvements in health outcomes for people in my community are very important. You might laugh at them and you might not take any notice of them, but they are extremely important.

What you say to the Australian people is, 'Look, we're doing more for Australians through the health system and the hospital system than was done under Labor.' That is simply not true, and you know it. The changes you have made to Medicare are impacting on the whole of the Australian community, and you know that as well. So not only are you impacting on the primary healthcare of people across the community but you're also impacting negatively on secondary and tertiary care in those communities.

I was going to come to the issue of Closing the Gap and talk about this budget in terms of the follow-up and support for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, which was, of course, introduced by us in a bipartisan way in 2013 to last for 10 years. We are five years on, and an implementation strategy which has been developed and supported by us has yet to be funded, Mr Minister. So I'm wondering: how seriously are you taking this Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, if you're taking it seriously at all? We know you've provided no funds for it. We know you're not taking it seriously, and it's very clear that your priorities are elsewhere, rather than looking after the health system of Australians wherever they might live.

The minister at the table, who is about to speak, understands regional communities and understands the importance of regional hospitals to regional communities. He ought to understand, if he does that, the negative impact this government's cuts are having on those regional hospitals, whether in the communities he comes from in northern New South Wales or in my communities in the Northern Territory. (Time expired)