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Budget 2008: Flying Doctor turns 80 today: but Labor steals the birthday present.

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Warren Truss Leader of The Nationals Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Local Government Federal Member for Wide Bay


W o r k i n g h a r d , g e t t i n g r e s u l t s

Media contact: Paul Chamberlin 0419 233989 / 02 6277 4482

15 May 2008

Flying Doctor turns 80 today - but Labor steals the birthday present

The Royal Flying Doctor Service celebrates 80 years of magnificent service to Australia today, with millions of people owing their good health or lives to the men and women of the Service.

The Leader of The Nationals, Warren Truss, said incredible work had been performed over that time by dedicated doctors, nurses, other health professionals, pilots and administrative staff.

Eighty years ago today, the Royal Flying Doctor Service under the Reverend John Flynn leased its first plane from Qantas for a trial service out of Cloncurry. From 250 patients tended in 1928, the Flying Doctor now treats more than 250,000 patients in rural, regional and remote Australia every year.

“We all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Flying Doctor,” Mr Truss said. “The nation was built at least in part on the back of its remarkable actions over the past eight decades.

“Unfortunately, in the very same week that the Flying Doctor turns 80, the new Labor Government in Canberra has scrapped critical funding for the RFDS to expand its services out of Dubbo.”

Before the election, the Coalition Government approved and announced $550,000 in funding to expand the Dubbo base. Set up in 1999 to service much of western NSW, the Base dealt with 3000 patients last year.

Rural communities have chipped in with half the costs of expanding the base. The RFDS planned to have four doctors on staff, a second aircraft, a new medical wing and better airport facilities.

“The Coalition recognised the value of what the Flying Doctor was planning and found the money to help. But Labor killed the entire Regional Partnerships program in Tuesday’s Budget, thereby scrapping the Flying Doctors’ funding and further support for 115 other local community projects around Australia.

“This is heartless in the extreme and clearly shows the more than seven million Australians who live outside the major cities exactly what Labor thinks of them.

“Disgustingly, Labor frontbenchers like Transport Minister Anthony Albanese and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner - who live in inner city Sydney and Melbourne respectively - have spent the week in Parliament scoffing at various projects that have been funded under Regional Partnerships.

“These might only be comparatively small projects in communities a long way from where these two out of touch ministers live, but they mean a great deal to the people who have worked long and hard to get funding.

“If a national icon like the Flying Doctor is treated in this way, just imagine how the rest of country Australia is going to fare under Rudd Labor,” Mr Truss said.