Senate debates

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

COVID-19: Hospitals

3:22 pm

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I think that my friend and colleague Senator Smith from South Australia is being somewhat unfair to the minister in suggesting that the minister did not answer the question which Senator Smith put to him. I was listening very carefully, and Senator Colbeck did, in fact, answer the question.

I'll just reiterate a few of the points which Senator Colbeck made in responding to the question from Senator Smith. First, Senator Colbeck referred to the record funding which the federal government has provided to the public health system across this country since the coalition government was elected. That's on the record. The federal government has provided record funding to the public health system across each and every state in Australia, and it's disingenuous to imply otherwise. Just to underscore that, the Australian government is continuing its record investment in public hospitals, which includes funding under the 2020-25 National Health Reform Agreement and the National Partnership on COVID-19 Response, with a total investment of $135.4 billion over five years. Let me just reiterate that number—$135.4 billion.

There is no doubt that there are issues in many of our public hospitals across Australia. There's an issue, certainly, in my home state of Queensland, in terms of ambulance ramping, but I think it's a bit disingenuous to throw bricks at the federal government in that respect, because the federal government does not run public hospitals under our federation system. Those public hospitals are run by the states. And in my home state of Queensland all the objective evidence is to the effect that our public health system is not being run at an optimal level. I believe one of the reasons for that is that the Labor Party in my home state of Queensland doesn't leverage off enough the opportunity for our private sector and our public sector to work together to meet things like waiting times and ambulance ramping. It's a real issue in my home state of Queensland, and a great concern is what is going to happen as we move through the next phase of dealing with this COVID pandemic. I've got friends who have been long-term paramedics working in the Queensland Ambulance Service, and they tell me that they've never seen morale so low as it is under the current state Labor government, so there are real issues that need to be addressed. But Senator Colbeck did address those questions when he answered the questions from Senator Smith.

Senator Colbeck, as well as referring to the national funding provided by the coalition government for the public hospital services of our states, referred to the additional $6 billion in funding to support state and territory health systems to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks. So the funding has been there from the federal government, but the federal government doesn't run our public health system; those hospitals are actually run by our state governments.

The second point I'd like to make in terms of this contribution is that I think Senator Polley was quite unfair to Senator Colbeck in terms of his answers to her questions regarding aged care and the rollout of the vaccine across our aged-care services. I want to reiterate these figures. These are important figures. The vaccination rate of workers in our aged-care sector continues to increase. As at 31 August, 82.9 per cent of aged-care workers had received one dose of the vaccine. Over 82 per cent, 82.9 per cent, had received at least one dose, and over 61 per cent had received two doses. Over 61 per cent had received two doses, so the vaccination program is going well in terms of making sure our aged-care workers are fully vaccinated.

I think also, and Minister Colbeck made this point as well, it has to be recognised that the medical advice changed earlier this year, and the program had to pivot so that we weren't vaccinating aged-care residents and aged-care workers at the same time.


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