Monday, 25 October 2010
Questions without Notice
I thank the member for Corangamite for his question. I know that he is deeply interested in health services for his local community and I have had the opportunity in the past to visit with him the GP superclinic that serves his community. For members of the parliament who are interested in meeting the healthcare needs of their local communities, and I do hope that that is all of us, I want at this stage to draw the parliament’s attention to the fact that this week parliament will have the opportunity to deal with a piece of legislation which is the foundation stone of our historic health reforms.
When we came to government in 2007, we inherited a situation where Australia was short of doctors, it was short of nurses, and the federal government’s share of hospital funding had fallen from 45 per cent in 1996 to 38 per cent in 2007. That meant when you look across our health system we were basically short of everything that is needed to run a health system: doctors, nurses and money. A step at a time we have worked to address that situation. We entered into new healthcare agreements which increased by 50 per cent the funding flowing from the federal government to state governments. We have implemented measures to train more doctors, to make sure we are seeing more nurses and health care professionals generally available for our health system. Indeed, this morning I had the opportunity with the Minister for Health and Ageing to visit some young professionals getting clinical experience at the University of Canberra, and it was terrific to see them doing that work and getting that experience.
But to ensure that our healthcare system can provide the kind of quality and services that Australians expect for the long term we need to do more. We need to reform health care. We know our society is ageing; we know the burden of chronic disease is becoming increasingly heavy. If we are to meet those future burdens on the healthcare system, we need to have healthcare reform, which is why the legislation coming before the parliament this week is so important. It is pivotal to putting in place a situation where, for the long term, the federal government steps up to being the majority funder of hospitals—meeting 60 per cent of the efficient price of hospital services—and steps up to a similar role in respect of capital. The new legislation is pivotal to achieving a situation where the federal government steps up to 100 per cent of primary care. It is pivotal to achieving a situation where there is transparency about healthcare funding, both what flows from the federal government and from state governments, so we are no longer in a situation where people fear that an increase from the federal government is met with a matching decrease from state government funds. When the Leader of the Opposition was Minister of Health and Ageing, he used to sometimes muse on health reform and say that he was attracted to the Commonwealth taking a bigger share and ensuring transparent standards for Australian hospitals. He never got anything done, but he has the opportunity to do something now and that is not to stand in the way of this piece of legislation.