Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (6 June) . . Page.. 1759..
MR MULCAHY: My question is to the Minister for Health, Ms Gallagher. Despite your recognition that it is inequitable to charge medical students for parking at Canberra hospitals, your department is charging them rates of around $4 or $5 per day. This is an impost that will amount to $800 per year for each of these students. Why are you ruling out supporting the introduction of exemptions for these students?
MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mr Mulcahy for the question. As members would be aware, the government took a decision in last year's budget to introduce paid parking at both Calvary and Canberra hospitals. Over the past few months there have been negotiations and a whole range of exemptions which apply to that paid parking regime, which include staff who are employed by ACT Health, Calvary Health Care, the Little Company of Mary, the ACT government, visiting medical officers, InTACT-based staff at the Canberra Hospital, ANU medical school staff, cleaners, kitchen staff and those who provide an essential service to patients or staff at the hospital and its ACT Health co-located facilities, patients and visitors who are holders of healthcare cards and are required to attend multiple times per week, renal dialysis patients and hospital volunteers who are registered through the appropriate hospital mechanism and who are rostered to provide a service determined by the hospital and for which the person receives no monetary benefit.
At the moment, with those exemptions, 75 per cent of users of the car parks at those hospitals are exempt from paying for parking, which applies to a maximum of $5 a day. Seventy-five per cent of users of the car parks are currently exempt. To go on and on would make the whole introduction of paid parking at the Canberra Hospital, and the reasons behind it, including increasing revenue in order to invest in the health system, very marginal.
I have looked at the students concerned. I have taken advice on it. It is comparable with regimes that exist around the country. In fact, there are some hospitals which do not allow students to park on the grounds at all. We have taken the view that the exemption regimes, as they have been negotiated and as they are in place, will be the final ones which apply when paid parking comes into effect in July of this year. This is the decision the government has taken. It is a difficult one. I accept that there will be some discomfort on this when it is implemented in full. In light of the decision to implement paid parking, the exemptions that have been negotiated with the government have been sensitive. We have applied appropriate exemptions when we can. At the end of the day, paid parking is coming in in July, and students will not be exempt from those fees.
MR MULCAHY: Thank you, minister. How can you justify your lack of support and regard for these students when other workers, volunteers, some categories of patients and other disadvantaged people, as you have pointed out, are given exemptions?
MS GALLAGHER: The exemptions regime, as I have just outlined, has been negotiated primarily for those who are spending a considerable amount of time at the hospital. While students at different periods of time will be spending the day at the hospital, that time is in no way comparable to the time spent there by those who have been provided with an exemption. At the end of the day, whilst the students are not