House debates

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Questions without Notice


3:06 pm

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. What increase in funding has the government provided to the nation’s public hospitals and how is this an important reform on past practice?

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

I thank the member for Calwell for her question. She is another member vitally interested in health reform for the future to make sure that the next generation of Australians are going to be able to have and to continue to have the health services to the quality that they deserve. The Rudd government is investing more in our public hospitals than any other Australian government. In the last two years we have been working hard to rebuild after a decade of neglect, and particularly neglect of public hospitals, by the former government and of course its then health minister, now the Leader of the Opposition.

Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition called these days the good old days for our hospitals. Let us just have a think about those good old days. In the last decade while the opposition were in government, to the period 2007-08, hospital admissions grew by a million people, and emergency department presentations grew by two million. What was the Leader of the Opposition’s policy response in those good old days when we saw this enormous growth? It was to rip a billion dollars out of our public hospitals and blame the states for all of the problems it caused. In fact, according to the Leader of the Opposition, the good old days were so good that there were not any major problems to fix. I would like to read to the House a very short quote from a speech called ‘The trouble with reform’, a speech given in relation to the health system in 2005 by the Leader of the Opposition when he was the health minister. He said:

No-one should fret over an “unreformed” Australian health system.

And this gem:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

So no wonder he did not even bother to turn up to the debate on health in 2007: he simply did not think there were any problems to fix. We on this side of the House take a very different view from that of the Leader of the Opposition. We do believe the health system needs reform. We do not believe that the Australian public should risk letting the man who ripped a billion dollars from our public hospitals be the Prime Minister of this country. He has a track record which we are prepared to line ours up against at any time. Have a look at just one example. A $600 million investment in elective surgery has already delivered relief to more than 60,000 patients across the country. Currently, 125 hospitals are building new operating theatres and renovating or buying new equipment. I would like to read out a couple of examples, and perhaps members opposite will want to comment on them. There is $11 million for a 63-bed interim care facility in Carrara. A $1 million investment in the Flinders Medical Centre for an extra operating theatre and equipment—perhaps the member for Boothby would like to tell us that that is a waste of money. It is something that their government never did. Busy emergency departments have received $750 million to help relieve the pressure on them; 37 emergency departments around the country are undertaking projects to boost capacity, restructure services and put on more staff.

The member for Bowman is being unusually quiet. That might be because $18 million is going to the Redland Hospital, in his electorate. I do know that the member for Solomon is usually not a quiet member. He would not be on this because he has been delighted to welcome the $4.3 million going to the Royal Darwin Hospital. All of this is helping to deliver on our promise to fix hospitals. Not one of these projects would have been delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. Not a single dollar would have been put into these projects for the four years that the Leader of the Opposition was the health minister and for the 12 years that they were in government.

Do not forget, though, that for all this time Mr Abbott thought that nothing was wrong. He did not really even bother to take a health policy to the 2007 election. There was a decade of massive demand growth in our health system and all it was met with was that famous swagger and a shrug of the shoulders of the man who thought there were no problems to fix. We are prepared to debate his legacy with our record on any day and at any time, but he will have to turn up.