Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004-2005 Week 1 Hansard (8 December) . . Page.. 161..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
groups. If you have a close look at it, in fact this commissioner is responsible to the Chief Minister. We will have an enormous amount of dialogue with that commissioner; we need the independent advocacy role. No, Dr Foskey, I will not be picking up those particular powers at this point.
However, can I say this also: these commissioner positions-and there are a number of them; the Commissioner for Children and Young People is another-are a response to community concern. We would hope that, as these positions are bedded down, perhaps their powers and authorities might change over time. We will just have to wait and see.
DR FOSKEY: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Minister, can you provide to the Assembly a list of the functions recommended by the working group for the disability commissioner, and the government's response to each of those recommendations?
MR HARGREAVES: Not at the moment; I do not have them about my person. We will have a look at them and see what the status of the document is. If there is no difficulty in providing them to the Assembly, I will do so with some speed.
Hospital waiting lists
MR MULCAHY: My question is to the Minister for Health. The health department's budget has increased from $431.5 million in 2001-02 to $612.9 million in 2004-05. In relation to waiting lists, I ask the minister to comment on the fact that on page 36 of the Auditor-General's report there is the significant finding that waiting times for elective surgery are generally worse than those in other jurisdictions in Australia, and have become longer in the past two or three years. In light of that increased outlay, could the minister explain why this serious deterioration has been allowed to happen?
MR CORBELL: I thank Mr Mulcahy for his question. The budget for ACT Health is not spent solely on elective surgery. If it were, then, of course, Mr Mulcahy's question might have a point. The fact is that the budget for ACT Health is spent on a broad range of activities. First and foremost, of course, is wages. We, as the government, have to work to make sure that our healthcare professionals-whether they are nursing, medical, specialists or allied health staff-have appropriate rates of pay that keep the territory competitive with their counterparts in other jurisdictions. We now have a very strong wages agreement in place with the ACT nursing work force, recently negotiated by this government without dispute. I also indicate that the government is the first government since self-government to have re-negotiated and issued new VMO contracts without stoppage by VMOs. We have a strong record of managing the industrial framework without unnecessary disruption. Of course, a significant element of the $160 million increase is down to wages growth, something that the previous government simply failed to address, hoping that someone else would come in and pick up the pieces at some later point.
Of course there are other things that the budget has been spent on. For example, Mr Mulcahy fails to mention that, whilst our waiting list figures do not rate as well as we would like them to against national averages, our emergency department response times rate amongst the best in country-in fact, the best in the country. There is a range of measures that can be taken into account when you look at measuring the performance of