House debates

Thursday, 30 November 2023


Gilmore Electorate: Infrastructure

12:35 pm

Photo of Fiona PhillipsFiona Phillips (Gilmore, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Quite frankly, I have had enough of the absolute rubbish coming from local Liberals with ambition to progress their own careers, with little care about the harm they cause to our community with their lies and scare campaigns. I've shaken my head through lies about the $40 million I've already delivered in the budget for Shoalhaven City Council to fix local roads. I was disappointed by lies about the impact of the federal infrastructure review on critical local projects—all going ahead, fully funded, unchanged. I've been appalled by the lies about the Illawarra offshore wind zone, a process started by the former federal Liberal government in the Illawarra Renewable Energy Zone, created by the former New South Wales Liberal government, now with seemingly appalled views and deliberate misinformation coming from former members of those governments. But this week has really taken the cake. Seat-shopping Andrew Constance walked away from his seat of Bega, wanted the seat of Eden-Monaro, had a crack at the seat of Gilmore—and lost—and has now failed twice to secure a Senate seat from his own party. He's now spouting absolute falsehoods about decisions made, while he was the member for Bega, by the former government when he was in cabinet.

I will set the record straight on the Batemans Bay hospital emergency department—a decision, I repeat, that the former member for Bega and his government made as early as 2020 and, to be clear, a decision the Australian government and I as a federal MP have no say in at all. The Liberals are trying to rewrite history and stoke unnecessary fear and anxiety in a vulnerable community for their own political gain. I won't have it. These men have zero regard for what is best for our community.

The community led a campaign for a level 4 regional hospital for the Eurobodalla, under the banner 'one Eurobodalla hospital', because the current facilities at Batemans Bay hospital and Moruya hospital no longer service the wider needs of the community. When we have local people forced to travel to Canberra or Sydney for cancer services, paediatric care, mental health services and intensive care, we have a problem. It took many years of campaigning led by the current fabulous member for Bega, Dr Michael Holland, to get the former government to agree to build a new hospital. It took even longer for them to agree to make it a level 4 hospital. It was the Liberals who stood in the way of the Eurobodalla Radiation Therapy Centre. They still don't think we need one, but I have delivered that funding and will work with the New South Wales government to see it happen.

The Liberals are saying there is some new announcement that the New South Wales government will close Batemans Bay hospital's emergency department, but in 2018, when presented with the 3,000-signature petition for a new—one—regional hospital, Andrew Constance said, 'It is a vision of mine to see one big regional facility.' In 2021 he announced a new HealthOne facility, funded by New South Wales government, to be located at the Batemans Bay hospital site. He said, 'The new health facility will complement the new Eurobodalla hospital'—not the Batemans Bay hospital, because he knew it would close. This week Mr Constance has said the HealthOne facility isn't happening. Clearly, he has been far too focused on his failed Senate bid. In a November statement, the local health district confirmed the Batemans Bay Community Health Centre is going ahead. Mr Constance said the Batemans Bay ED will close next month—not true.

It will remain open until the new hospital opens in 2025. He, and the facilitator of a community forum—another Liberal—have tried to score political points against me by lying about why I wasn't at the recent forum. I was here, in the parliament, and the organisers were told that in advance of the meeting. He also threw in a lie about the Moruya bypass; it is being delivered as promised. The Liberals just cannot be trusted.

We desperately need a new level 4 hospital for the Eurobodalla. The Liberals never wanted it, and they are still standing in the way. We don't have the resources for multiple EDs so close to one another, but this won't put the community at risk. The Batemans Bay urgent care clinic I have funded federally and the New South Wales community health centre will fill the critical care gap, covering more than 55 per cent of presentations to the Batemans Bay ED, with emergency patients treated at the new fit-for-purpose facility so that fewer people have to travel to Canberra or Sydney and so that we get the health services we deserve. Dr Holland and I will continue working hard to represent the best interests of our communities.