Monday, 18 June 2007
Shortland Electorate: Survey
As we are approaching the end of the autumn session of parliament, I thought I would take this opportunity to share with the House an overview of the concerns that have been raised with me by constituents in the Shortland electorate this year.
Earlier this year I sent a survey to residents in the Shortland electorate and I have had an overwhelming response. I have received well over 3,000 responses to the survey. Later in the year I will provide the House with a detailed analysis of this survey, but at this stage I think I can say that health issues such as a shortage of doctors—little wonder, considering that doctors in the Shortland electorate in the suburbs of Belmont and Swansea have closed their books, as have many other doctors on the Central Coast—bulk-billing and Medicare, along with a federally funded dental health scheme and better aged-care facilities, figured as very prominent issues.
Not surprisingly, as I have already mentioned the shortage of doctors is a big issue. Because of this enormous shortage, one way doctors manage their workload is not to bulk-bill, and the Shortland electorate is one of those electorates where there is a very low bulk-billing rate. In addition, one of the first acts of this government was to close the Belmont Medicare office. The fact that we have a shortage of doctors and very few doctors bulk-bill also has enormous implications for the accident and emergency department at the local hospital.
The dental waiting list in the Shortland electorate is enormous. Some people have been waiting for over 10 years to get dental treatment. I think the government’s response to dental health has been abysmal. Once again, one of the first acts it performed after being elected in 1996 was to get rid of the Commonwealth dental health program.
The Shortland electorate is one of the oldest electorates in Australia. It has the 10th oldest population of all electorates, and it has a shortage of aged-care beds and a shortage of aged-care packages. There are some areas in the Shortland electorate that have no aged-care packages whatsoever.
Constituents in the Shortland electorate also rated highly their concerns about the government’s workplace changes, petrol prices, interest rates and education funding, along with jobs and protecting the environment. In other words, they gave the government an F in these areas. Of great concern to residents in the Shortland electorate are the workplace changes—the implications that AWAs are having and the fact that penalty rates, overtime, pay and conditions are being affected. These concerns were expressed, along with the fact that petrol prices are increasing and interest rates have gone up four times since the last election. They were also concerned about the general cost of living. Each and every day people are paying more for everything they buy.
They are concerned about education, particularly access to TAFE and the funding of our schools, along with the skills shortage and the fact that it is very hard for young people to actually access apprenticeships in an area that has a very strong commitment to and connection with apprenticeships. Climate change and the shortage of water, particularly on the Central Coast of New South Wales, are also issues of great concern to the people I represent in this House.
Another concern is the cost of living and the gap between those who are wealthy and those who are battlers, which is 80 per cent of the population. They are doing it really hard. Television, radio and mobile phone reception was another concern. It is abysmal in parts of the Shortland electorate. I have also received ongoing complaints about access to broadband.
The people of Shortland have not been duped by the government’s decision to come to the party on so many issues just before an election. The people of Shortland are good people. They are understanding and patient people, but they are very disappointed with a government that only thinks about them when there is an election around the corner. It is the only time that this government pays attention to the people of Shortland. It is a strong community, as was demonstrated in the recent storms. (Time expired)