Thursday, 16 August 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is addressed to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Would the minister update the House on developments regarding the federal government’s proposal for a Commonwealth funded, community controlled hospital at the Mersey hospital in Latrobe, Tasmania? What alternative policies are there and what is the government’s response?
I do thank the member for Braddon for his question. It is very clear what is at stake here. On the one hand you have got the state government, which is planning to downgrade services at the Mersey hospital, and, on the other hand, you have got the Commonwealth government, which plans to preserve them, thanks to the advocacy of this great member for Braddon. Under the government’s plan, the Commonwealth will fund the hospital, the community will control the hospital and the hospital will deliver the same range of services as have been safely and effectively delivered at this hospital for many years. The Commonwealth’s plan is a $45 million a year addition to health services in Tasmania, and it will free up whatever the Tasmanian government is currently spending at the Mersey to improve services at other hospitals, such as Burnie and Launceston. This is a project of national significance. Having one level of government funding a hospital should end the blame game, and having a community trust controlling the hospital should stop or at least reduce the bureaucracy which so often strangles the delivery of public hospital services.
In accordance with the implementation plan released on Tuesday, I can today announce that the Chairman of the Mersey Hospital Community Advisory Committee is the Hon. Neil Batt, a former Deputy Premier of Tasmania, a former National President of the Australian Labor Party and a former chairman of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. He is an outstanding Australian who will do a very good job and who ought to be treated with respect by members opposite and by the Tasmanian government. He will be assisted by a deputy chairman, the Hon. Ian Braid, who is currently the Mayor of Kentish—which is served by the Mersey hospital—and a former Tasmanian government minister. I am pleased to say that these gentlemen will begin their important work early next week.
Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition belatedly accepted the need for federal intervention in the delivery of health services in north-western Tasmania. Today he floated his plan. According to the Hobart Mercury:
Labor leader Kevin Rudd is likely to promise a new hospital at Ulverstone ...
His long-term initiative ... is designed to fit in with the new Tasmanian Health Plan put in place by the State Labor government in May.
There is one massive problem with this: it denies the people of the Mersey region comprehensive general hospital services for the five to 10 years which it would take for any new hospital to be built. There is a choice facing this Leader of the Opposition. He can come back to the state government and prove that on this, as on so many other issues, he is a patsy for the Premier or he can back the Prime Minister and demonstrate yet again that there is no case to change the government of this country. The only game this Leader of the Opposition can play is follow the leader. The only question is: which leader will he follow now?