House debates

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Matters of Public Importance

Rural and Regional Australia

4:09 pm

Photo of Cathy O'TooleCathy O'Toole (Herbert, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the member for Hunter for bringing forward this very important MPI, because it gives me an opportunity to read off a litany of evidence that shows very clearly that this government hasn't got a clue about regional Queensland, especially Townsville. Townsville's unemployment rate has almost doubled under the LNP, under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments. When Labor left federal government in 2013, our unemployment rate was lower than both the state and national averages. Now Townsville's unemployment rate is higher than the state average and almost double the national average. Under the previous Labor government, manufacturing in Townsville soared. When Labor left federal government in 2013, more than 8,400 people were employed in manufacturing. But under the Abbott and Turnbull governments manufacturing nosedived, with job losses of 3,000.

In Herbert the number of apprentices and trainees has almost halved, 46 per cent in fact, since the LNP took office. That's 1,557 fewer apprentices and trainees because of the LNP's $3 billion cut to TAFE. And now Townsville is experiencing massive shortages of skilled tradespeople. The LNP's changes to early learning will mean that 2,484 families in Townsville will be worse off to the tune of more than $2,000.

The LNP's Medicare freeze has hurt Townsville badly. The LNP's freeze is forcing out-of-pocket medical expenses to rise and therefore forcing fewer people to see GPs. The high cost of medical services has stopped seven per cent of North Queenslanders accessing health care when needed in the past year. Six point five per cent of people in the north over the age of 15 have reported delaying or not going to a specialist, GP, imaging or pathology service between 2016 and 2017 due to cost. The northern Queensland region had the 10th highest rate of people delaying medical care due to the cost in that 12-month period. The median out-of-pocket cost in the year was $142 per patient. This is not the fault of GPs. It is the LNP government's fault. The researchers named the LNP policy causing the detrimental effects, finding the variation in the amounts patients spend out of pocket on health services was influenced by factors such as availability of bulk-billed services and non-hospital primary and specialist services subsidised by Medicare. The Medicare freeze has negatively impacted Queenslanders more than overall patients in metropolitan areas, who are less likely to have out-of-pocket costs than their relatives in regional areas.

What has the freeze led to? More people being admitted to hospital. Recent reports show that in the Townsville hospital the emergency department is treating an average of 55 people per day for minor ailments that they should be having seen to at the GP clinic. Twenty-six per cent of patients—that's 6,475 people over the last six months—are presenting at the Townsville hospital with minor ailments like coughs and colds, all because this out-of-touch LNP government would rather give tax handouts to big business and the big banks, as opposed to funding our hospitals. That is a disgraceful list of priorities. The cuts to health don't stop there. The architect of the health cuts has also cut $9 million from the Townsville hospital. That's on top of the Medicare freeze. What does that mean for our regional hospitals? It means a loss of four beds, 12 fewer doctors and 25 fewer nurses.

But the LNP's demolition of regional Queensland doesn't stop at health. There are cuts to our universities. The architect of the cuts, former Treasurer now Prime Minister Scott Morrison, signed off on $38 million of cuts to Central Queensland University. He signed off on $36 million of cuts to James Cook University. These cuts have seen Townsville's 14 JCU staff lose their jobs and the loss of an arts degree.

Then there are the LNP cuts to the National Partnership on Remote Housing. This has seen seven jobs lost on Palm Island and some of those apprenticeships. In fact, they have entirely cut this program from Queensland because the LNP doesn't understand remote Queensland at all. The LNP Morrison government does not work for regional Queenslanders. They work for their banking and big business mates in Sydney.

Only Labor will fund hospitals. Only Labor will fund our schools. Only Labor will fund TAFE and universities. It will only ever be Labor that will get Townsville back on track, delivering jobs and apprenticeships and providing the infrastructure that we need to kick off our economy.

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