Monday, 17 September 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is addressed to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Would the minister advise the House on discussions with the Tasmanian government on the Mersey hospital at Latrobe in Tasmania? Are there any alternative hospital policies, and what is the government’s response?
The member for Braddon was a champion local footballer and now he is the champion fighter for health services in north-western Tasmania—the best fighter for health services in north-western Tasmania that they have ever had in that area.
I say to the member for Braddon and to the House that the Commonwealth’s proposal for the Mersey hospital is certainly not about swapping one lot of public servants for another lot of public servants. This is about a better way of running public hospitals—a way of running them in response to local patients and local clinicians rather than in response to distant bureaucrats. People do not really care who runs public hospitals; they just want them better run, and that is what this Commonwealth proposal is all about—a better run public hospital at the Mersey in Tasmania.
I should point out to the House that the Tasmanian government is already spending the money that it will no longer need to spend on the Mersey hospital. I am pleased to inform the House that negotiations between Commonwealth and state officials are progressing well. But I do say to the Tasmanians that they should not hold up this agreement. They should not delay this agreement, because the Leader of the Opposition has opposed it from the start and, if he ever gets into government, there is no guarantee of any additional health funding for north-west Tasmania.
I have been asked about alternative policies. Funnily enough, it is another talkfest. If you look at Labor’s policy, you see that they have announced a national health reform commission, a health and hospital advisory group, a national preventative healthcare strategy supported by a task force, a national commissioner for elderly people and a preventative healthcare partnership with the states and territories, and they have called for a review of regulatory regimes for complementary medicines, a review of the Medicare schedule for midwives, a review of Medicare psychiatric consultations and a review of medical research ethics guidelines. But all the reviews in the world do not make a single policy. And you can have any number of talkfests, but all the talkfests in the world do not deliver a single extra doctor, a single extra nurse or a single extra hospital bed.
The Leader of the Opposition did, however, come up with one concrete policy. He said the other day that Labor would establish a $2 billion fund to improve public hospitals. He also said on that day:
We either have a solution for the total health system or we are simply cherry picking bits out of it to make a political point.
Since then he has done nothing but cherry pick. This fund has been raided on at least three separate occasions since then. He raided the fund to the tune of $220 million to set up alleged super clinics; he raided the fund for PET at Newcastle; he raided the fund for an MRI at Cairns; and I presume he is going to spend $450 million on aged care by raising the fund. When the Leader of the Opposition stands up and says that he has a $2 billion fund for public hospitals, that is a lie. It is an outright lie. What he has is a $1.3 billion health slush fund that is falling fast.
Whenever he stands up and says he has a $2 billion public hospital fund, it is a lie, because he has already raided that fund—$220 million for GP clinics, $450 million for aged care as well as sundry other electorally specific announcements. It is a $1.3 billion health slush fund and it is falling fast.
Mr Speaker, let me just make the point that these claims from the Leader of the Opposition are typical of the kind of slipperiness we get from this bloke, who never says quite what he means and is never exactly what he seems. The more people see and hear of this man, the more obvious it is that he is a phoney. That is why he can never be trusted with Australia’s great Medicare system.