House debates

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

National Health and Hospitals Network Bill 2010

Second Reading

11:09 am

Photo of Nicola RoxonNicola Roxon (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Health and Ageing) Share this | Hansard source

I would like to thank the member for Page and the very many members who have contributed to this debate. The National Health and Hospitals Network Bill 2010 is an important piece of legislation. It is an important part of our national health reforms and members’ contributions highlight how much these reforms mean to local communities. They also highlight how it is vitally important for us to make sure that we put quality and safety at the top of the agenda when we talk about delivering health services to our local communities. I note the opposition has moved a second reading amendment which tries to delay the passage of this legislation. We will not support this second reading amendment. We are not prepared to delay this important legislation further. The proposal from the opposition is that this legislation should not be considered until the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority and the National Performance Authority are debated by this House.

The opposition has already indicated that it opposes these bodies. This is despite the fact that Mr Abbott, the current Leader of the Opposition and a former Minister for Health and Ageing, has said that these very reforms are the types of things that would improve our health system across the country. It seems the opposition is once again playing its usual game of trying to hold the public to ransom by failing to deliver important health legislation. It is the same approach that the member for Dickson is taking with relation to be Australian National Preventive Health Agency Bill 2010to be debated later in this House. It seems the member for Dickson is determined to block every reasonable and sensible proposal for something the community and health experts across the country would regard as noncontroversial.

We really have to ask: how could the opposition regard this bill is controversial? This is a bill to make permanent the temporary Quality and Safety Commission, the very temporary commission which was set up with the support of all states and territories and the Commonwealth at a time when the Leader of the Opposition was the Minister for Health and Ageing. The logic and importance of having quality dealt with in our hospitals is not lost on the opposition. Nevertheless they want to play politics because they have no plans of their own, no plans for delivering better safety and better quality health care. It seems they have no plans for anything in health other than to block every piece of reform legislation the government puts before it.

I ask the community to consider this. One in 30 adults contracts an infection while in hospital, 12,000 of these are severe hospital acquired bloodstream infections and up to a quarter of these patients will die. That is, approximately double the number of patients die from hospital acquired infections as they do from deaths on our roads. We can do something about this worrying statistic. A national body dedicated to monitoring and improving safety and quality in health care can address this problem and can promote better health outcomes from our hospitals.

The Australian and Commission on Safety and to Quality in Health Care is not simply another layer of bureaucracy which wastes public resources, as the opposition would have us believe. For example, its recent release of the national hand hygiene guide and the Australian infection control guidelines will be pivotal in our fight against major health issues such as the hospital acquired infections I have just mentioned. Leaving the commission as a temporary advisory body hampers its ability to give independent and informed advice to all health care providers and thus drive continual quality health improvements for all Australians. Only its establishment as an independent and permanent body can best realise its full potential for ensuring patients safety.

I ask the opposition how they intend to explain to the public why such issues cannot be addressed in this rigorous and sustainable way. I cannot imagine that this is their new contract with Australia where they are going to work tirelessly to defeat every sensible proposal that comes before the parliament. They are determined to make this parliament not work. On the other hand, the government are determined to ensure that members have the opportunity to debate and vote on important measures such as this one. The government will bring legislation to establish the Independent Hospital Pricing Authority and the National Performance Authority before this House. However, we have made a commitment that we will continue to consult with states and territories on the terms of reference for these bodies and other technical matters, which is what we are doing. These bills will be brought before the parliament early next year.


There is no reason, however, why the parliament should not consider this legislation for this Safety and Quality Commission in the meantime—a body which is currently in operation as a temporary body and providing an excellent service for the Australian health system. As I mentioned before, it is a body that was in fact established in 2006 in its temporary way under the coalition government and the then Minister for Health, Mr Abbott.

The National Health and Hospitals Network Bill 2010 marks an important development in reforming Australia’s health system. By establishing a permanent independent safety and quality body, it formalises the government’s commitment to drive continuous improvements in quality and safeguard high standards of care for all Australians. We urge the parliament to support this legislation.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Dutton’s amendment) stand part of the question.


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