Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Questions without Notice
My question is to the local member for Griffith, the Prime Minister. Can you explain why a newly trained GP who wants to set up shop in my less affluent Hastings Valley communities receives no incentive to do so, yet by comparison this exact same GP can set up shop on the more affluent Hastings Street in Noosa and, for doing so, will receive a $60,000 incentive from government? If there is no logical explanation to this GP version of the ‘Battle of the Hastings’, in the interests of better, fairer and more equitable health care in this country when will you change this flawed national policy?
I thank the honourable member for Lyne for his question because it goes to the whole question of the proper provision of GP services right across the country. We on this side of the House, the members of the government, support a universal healthcare system which does not discriminate against people on the basis of how much money they have and should not discriminate against people on the basis of where they live. That is a fundamental principle of social justice and we believe in it. That is why, on this side of the House, we pioneered universal health insurance with Medibank. That is why after the other mob got rid of Medibank—
Yes. That is why after they got rid of Medibank we brought in Medicare, and after 19 attempts by those opposite to sink the stake through the heart of Medicare they finally tapped the mat—sort of—and allowed Medicare to continue. The reason I have made those introductory remarks is to say that on the question of universal provision in the healthcare system we have a 20- to 30-year track record of standing behind this deep principle.
On the question of differential incentives across Australia—and I obviously do not know the circumstances as they apply to the two Hastings concerned—my discussions with the Minister for Health and Ageing, Minister Roxon, have focused in large part on the proper provision—
Opposition members interjecting—
No, actually it is not even relevant to this question. My discussions with the health minister have focused not just on the undersupply of GPs and nurses nationwide but the equitable distribution of training places across the nation as well. For example, when we were in Launceston the other day for community cabinet, the minister announced a number of additional GP training places for the country. That is one part of solving the problem, to make sure you have got enough flowthrough from the training institutions of Australia in the first place.
I take the interjection from the member for Hume, who sat there as a member of the government for 12 years. What did that government do about the proper provision of GPs to country areas across Australia? Absolutely nothing! Are you seriously suggesting that the GP distribution across rural Australia was better a year or two ago relative to what it was 12 years ago? We all know that this is a national problem requiring a national solution. Part of the solution lies in increasing the number of training places for GPs in Australian tertiary institutions, and that was the announcement made by the minister for health in Launceston at the community cabinet just recently. Part of it also goes to providing proper incentives and equitable incentives across the country to locate GPs in rural and regional areas. My commitment to the honourable member, because he properly seeks to represent his constituents in Lyne, is that the health minister and I will work with him on dealing with the challenges of proper GP delivery in his area.