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Tasmania dental petition launch.

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Shadow Minister for Health Manager of Opposition Business

03 July 2005


The Shadow Minister for Health, Julia Gillard MP has launched a petition calling on the Howard Government to restore funding to public dental and the Commonwealth Dental Scheme so that people living in Tasmania have access to the dental care they need.

Currently over half a million people are waiting for dental care in Australia as a result of the Howard Government axing the Commonwealth Dental Scheme in 1997. This ripped a $100 million dollars per year out of dental services.

Tasmania currently has the lowest practicing rate for dentists in the nation with 25.3 dentists per 100,000 people compared with the national average of 45. At last count there were only around 14 dentists working in public dental in Tasmania.

Despite the efforts of the State Labor Government, the national shortage of dentists, combined with the lack of a Dental School or training institutions in Tasmania has meant that the barriers to recruitment are great.

Many Tasmanians are currently waiting months and even years to see a dentist and the Howard Government’s token investment in dental care for the chronically ill under the Enhanced Primary Care Plans are doing nothing to reduce waiting lists.

The Minister for Health, Tony Abbott, has called the dental services a ‘nightmare’ and has even conceded that the Commonwealth Dental Scheme reduced waiting lists.

However, he has not done anything to address the critical need for dental care except try and blame shift to the States even though under the Constitution, dental services are clearly a Commonwealth responsibility.

It is time the Howard Government stopped trying to pass the buck and showed the national leadership necessary to get Tasmanians the dental care they need and deserve.

3 JULY 2005

For more information contact: Kimberley Gardiner 0401 533 002