Senate debates

Tuesday, 1 December 2015


Northern Tasmania

9:35 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

Tonight I rise to speak about a very important local issue—that is, the need for a hospice in Northern Tasmania. I would like to acknowledge Barb Baker, who has been the champion of the Friends of the Northern Hospice group that has been pushing, for too many years now, without having the success that this project deserves.

Tonight I want to highlight, and it is not a new concept, unfortunately, is that those in opposition, like the current federal member form Bass and the current federal member for Lyons, particularly the current member for Bass, were publicly so supportive of this initiative prior to the last election. It is the case, too often, that now they are in government, they are just silent, absolutely silent.

The state minister for health, a Liberal minister, was also very passionate about this cause when he was in opposition. But to his credit, during the election campaign, the state Liberal opposition at that time committed $100,000 to conduct a feasibility study into the project. That is great. The problem is that all they were able to achieve was an online survey and a telephone survey—no public meetings, no real consultation with those people who need this service.

It is not about providing a hospice just for older people. Unfortunately, as we would all know in this chamber, there are too many young people who need these sorts of services, and not everyone is in the position where they have the opportunity to be able to die at home. That is not always the case. There is not always a loved one to help them. Even if there is a loved one who wants to keep them at home as long as possible, there are circumstances that can prevent this.

I am speaking about this tonight because the telephone and online survey that was conducted has now finished, but I want those people who were in opposition and who are now in government—that is, Michael Ferguson, the Minister for Health in Tasmania, and the member for Lyons and the member for Bass—to voice their concern, to work together to ensure that the Tasmanian community, particularly in the north of the state, will support this project. Unfortunately, it is warranted.

My colleague Senator Katrina Bilyk shares my concerns that we need to ensure that there is a 10-bed hospice in northern Tasmania. Ideally it would be on the grounds of the Launceston General Hospital, with ground floor access for everyone, so there could be a garden so that family members and friends could come along and support those who need the greatest amount of support in those very challenging times.

That leads me to what is a really hot political issue at the moment, and that is the effect that the GST is going to have on health services. It really saddens me to think that there would be a GST, a 15 per cent GST, on hospice services in this country. That would be absolutely devastating—when your loved ones and other individuals are facing their mortality, to then have to experience this unfair government's attack on the most vulnerable in our community by imposing a 15 per cent GST on hospice services.

We have in the chamber tonight a senator for Tasmania, the Chief Government Whip in the Senate, Senator Bushby. I am calling on him and his fellow Tasmanian Liberal senators to join with me to ensure that the federal member for Bass and the federal member for Lyons and the state Minister for Health in Tasmania—they are all Liberals—join together to ensure that northern Tasmania gets the 10-bed hospice facility that it needs. Why should people in Hobart have access to these sorts of wonderful facilities and yet in northern Tasmania, in Launceston, where Acting Deputy President Whish-Wilson and I are based, we do not have those facilities available to us? I am sure he joins with me, because anyone who has an ounce of empathy would know that this service is so desperately needed in northern Tasmania.