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Wednesday, 21 August 1985
Page: 81

Senator COLSTON —I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. My question refers to nurse education, specifically the Commonwealth offer to the States of a per capita sum of $1,500 per annum, plus the payment of the tertiary education assistance scheme allowance, as an incentive to the States to proceed with the transfer of nurse education from hospitals to colleges of advanced education. Will the Minister advise the Senate of moves in the various States to take advantage of the Commonwealth offer? Has the State Government of Queensland not accepted this Commonwealth offer and has that State Government thus shown a lack of interest in the upgrading of nurse education?

Senator GRIMES —As Senator Colston said, the Queensland Government does not seem to be very interested in this matter. I was an observer at the last Health Ministers meeting and it was interesting to see the difference in attitude between the Queensland Minister and the Ministers of the other States, including the Tasmanian Minister, who shares his political philosophy. Given the size of the transfer of nurses to college education-some 18,000 students will be involved eventually-there will be a considerable impact on health care in this community. There will also be a considerable impact on the educational sector. Because of this impact co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth is important. Despite the fact that nursing education has traditionally been a State government responsibility, the Federal Government has been careful to proceed in a way that we believe will enable us to co-operate with the States and have a sensible transfer in this area.

In general, the States have responded in the same vein. New South Wales has all its first year nursing students in colleges of advanced education now. Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia have commenced taking additional nursing students in their college courses. The Australian Captial Territory will commence the transfer in 1986, I think. The Northern Territory intends to commence in 1987. Tasmania's timetable is still under consideration, but the State Government in Tasmania has agreed with the Commonwealth Government on how we proceed. The difficulty there, as Senator Walters and others will know, seems to be a matter of differences between the north and the south of the island rather than any differences between the governments. Negotiations will continue with the States on the transfer arrangements. These negotiations have been made more complex by the need for suitable arrangements between the health and education sectors at the State level and by the existing nursing shortage which occurs in some States. Queensland has simply rejected the Commonwealth's offer. It is seeking total Commonwealth funding, which is typical of the approach of the Queensland Government. It is an example, as Senator Colston said, of the low priority the Queensland Government has given and continues to give to nurse education and, in fact, has given and continues to give to its public hospitals system in general.

The transfer of training will produce savings in the hospitals. All other States are prepared to use these savings for the education of nurses in colleges. All the States, except Queensland, are operating in good sense and with a sense of co-operation with the Commonwealth Government. Clearly, the Queensland Government has some hang-up about changes in nursing education, despite the fact that changes in medical technology and health care require alterations such as this to the nature of nurses' education. We hope that the Queensland community in general will not miss out on benefiting from the advances which will take place in these changes in education, but I think that will depend largely on either a change of attitude by the Queensland Government or a change of government there.