Monday, 21 June 2010
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing. Will the minister update the House on the implementation of the government’s election commitment to deliver more elective surgery to patients? Are there any impediments to this performance, particularly in North Queensland?
I thank the member for Leichhardt for his question, because I know that as a Queenslander he is particularly interested in the outcomes of our early investments in elective surgery and what they have delivered across the country. It is not surprising to me that those opposite, particularly the member for Dickson, have not asked this question, because the previous government’s record on investing in elective surgery was the grand total of zero dollars. Never in their entire time in government did they invest a single dollar in elective surgery, despite the large numbers of people waiting for surgery.
I have released today the latest report of the Elective Surgery Waiting List Reduction Plan. It shows that since our election an extra 76,774 elective surgery procedures have been performed across this country. That is over 70,000 working families, mums and dads, grandparents and others who are having their hip replacements done, who are not waiting as long for their ear, nose and throat surgery and who are having cataract surgery done, all because this government was prepared to invest in elective surgery—something that the previous government never did. If we compare, in fact, the first nine months of 2009 with the same period in 2007, when the Leader of the Opposition was the health minister, 35,000 extra patients received elective surgery because of the blitz money that came online immediately when we were elected to government. What we see now is that the percentage of patients being treated within clinically recommended times has risen from 79 per cent under the Liberal Party to 86.3 per cent now. Of course, we know that there is much more to be done. That is why we have introduced, as part of our national health and hospitals reform plan, a commitment to lifting that over time to a 95 per cent target and making sure that if people are not seen within the clinically recommended time then they are able, under an elective surgery guarantee, to have that procedure undertaken somewhere else.
I was asked specifically about the issues in Queensland and whether there are any impediments to this good news. Of course, the largest impediment to the ongoing benefits flowing from the national health and hospitals reform investments is the Leader of the Opposition. His record is one of pulling a billion dollars out of hospitals, and now the investments in Queensland will be at risk if the Leader of the Opposition is elected as Prime Minister. I am sure that the member for Capricornia would be concerned about the $76 million being invested in Rockhampton Hospital. I am sure that the member for Brisbane would be concerned about the more than $100 million being invested in a new oral health centre in Brisbane. I know that the member for Leichhardt, who is not here today, would be worried that the—
Opposition members interjecting—
Of course, it is a major mistake to confuse the member for Herbert with the member for Leichhardt. One who has not been protecting the interests of his community—the member for Herbert—and one who has been arguing for investments in health which have been committed and are starting to deliver in Cairns. In fact, the report that was released today makes clear that the additional surgeries undertaken in Queensland were only possible because our investments allowed seven major hospitals, including Cairns hospital in the member for Leichhardt’s seat, to expand capacity. Ipswich, Mackay, Nambour, Princess Alexandra, Royal Brisbane, Women’s, Toowoomba and Townsville—all of these hospitals are expanding.
We have not heard a single thing from those opposite, even from the Queensland members who stand to benefit from these investments, on how they will make sure that they are protected from the knife that Mr Abbott always wields when he gets to be in charge of health expenditure. One billion dollars ripped out of our hospitals and now we have these investments at risk. He has already promised in the budget reply that more than $800 million will be ripped out. The member is in such intense discussion now, because he does not like looking at me when I talk from the dispatch box for some reason, and will not even commit to extra investments in primary care. The member for Dickson has promised to rip nearly half a billion dollars out of diabetes initiatives.
We just ask, simply: what is next? What expenditure in health is free from the razor gang that are in cahoots over there because they do not like listening to these success stories when 76,000 extra people have been assisted by our investments and many, many more thousands stand to benefit in the future, so long as Tony Abbott does not wield the knife that he wielded when he was the health minister.