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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 4329

Senator KROGER (2:26 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Ludwig. Does the minister believe that it is acceptable that last weekend there were no intensive care beds available across Victoria—in Colac, in Geelong, in Ballarat, in Warrnambool and in central Melbourne?

Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) —In terms of the intensive care availability across Victoria, I understand that the question from Senator Kroger is whether I believe or not that that was the case. I always prefer to inform myself about the level of these things rather than take it from the opposition that it is in fact the case, and that is a reasonable position to adopt.

Senator Kroger —Mr President, on a point of order: my question was not whether he believed it was the case. My question was whether he believed it was acceptable that there were no intensive beds available.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Ludwig, you have one minute, 28 seconds remaining.

Senator LUDWIG —What I can say in response to the question, of course, is that what this government has done—other than take a billion dollars out of the system, which the opposition did—is ensured that we have a COAG agreement with the states and territories to ensure that matters such as reducing elective surgery waiting times and providing funding for state and territory hospitals, which includes how they want to distribute within the hospital system, are addressed, unlike what the opposition did when they were in government. We have a healthcare agreement which delivers the $64 billion over five years. This is an increase of more than $20 billion. In fact, when you look at it in total it is a 50 per cent increase over the last agreement. So it is about ensuring that we support both state and territory hospitals, including those which you mentioned in Victoria. As for how the states themselves distribute that funding within the system, that is a matter which the overall COAG agreement seeks to deal with. The Commonwealth responsibility in this area is, as I have demonstrated, putting the $64 billion over the five years into the system. What we have already said is that, in terms of reducing elective surgery waiting times and providing support, unlike those opposite, who did not provide the assistance—(Time expired)

Senator KROGER —Mr President, I thank the senator for that response, but in my supplementary question I direct him to what the question was: is the government going to ensure that sufficient intensive care beds be made available in Victoria?

Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) —I thank Senator Kroger for her question. What I can guarantee is that we have a healthcare agreement which delivers $64 billion. That is what I can guarantee, unlike those opposite, who then took $1 billion out of the system. We are committed to ensuring that states and territories are funded for the health and hospital system. We will deliver $750 million to state and territory emergency departments, and the Victorian government will receive $181.3 million of that. The Victorian elective surgery lists commitment gives $34.2 million for in the order of 5,908 surgeries. This Commonwealth government is ensuring that we have emergency department funding and that we have elective surgery. We also are providing 75 GP training places in 2009 for Victoria. They will receive 17 to deal with the issues that you referred to. (Time expired)

Senator KROGER —Mr President, my further supplementary is: given that the Rudd government has not yet met its—

Senator Cameron —Eric, why won’t you explain yourself?

The PRESIDENT —Senator Cameron, it is disorderly to constantly interject!

Senator KROGER —Thank you, Mr President. Given the Rudd government has not met its commitment to fix public hospitals in Victoria by mid-2009—and I point out to the senator that I am not asking about elective surgery; I am actually referring to intensive care beds—will the government keep its promise to take over Victoria’s hospital system within the next five days?

Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) —In response to the question by Senator Kroger, it is worth again hearing about the $64 billion health agreement as well as the $872 million to prevent illness and stop people having to go to hospital in the first place. In addition there is $3.2 billion for the HHF. Of course, we have never been an apologist for the states and territories. The government will not always agree with specific decisions they make or their priorities. If you have questions about their programs or have a particular interest in a certain area, I suggest you ask them. But we do agree that there is a need to work together to create a better health system. I am sure those opposite would agree that one of the fundamental issues is that this government is working with the states and territories to deliver a better outcome in public hospital funding, which the previous government never did. (Time expired)