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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (7 June) . . Page.. 1871..


MR GENTLEMAN (continuing):

nationally in the national mental health plan 2003-08. The budget has provided $3.1 million over four years for this purpose.

The move to increase the focus on mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention is driven by several factors, including a recognition that this burden cannot be met by providing treatment services alone. The budget funding will enable the ACT to implement a prevention and early intervention focus on mental health, as called for in the national mental health strategy, and is linked to the ACT government's election commitment to develop a mental health strategy for the territory.

The budget also provides funding to reduce the number of patients waiting for elective surgery; to strengthen the territory's avian influenza preparedness towards the introduction of a national bowel cancer screening program in the ACT; foster innovation, particularly in the crucial area of health work force recruitment and retention; and improve staff safety. The importance of an effective health system is why the Stanhope Labor government is committed to continuing to improve it. I am sure my colleague Ms Katy Gallagher will elaborate on this later.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (5.02): I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this motion because it is quite clear that Mr Gentleman does not understand the health system and how it is not working. He starts by saying it is self-evident of the government's commitment and how much they have made it better. All he has to do is go back to 31 May this year and read the release of the AIHW report to see that it is not clear. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says that, on any measure bar one, the ACT is doing worse than the rest of the nation. That is the independent judgment.

I know those opposite will say, "Yes, but that was 2004-05."But when you go to this year's budget you will see that it is not getting better. When you look at the statistics on the waiting list you will see that it is not getting better. When you look at the statistics just for May for-what are we calling it now?-load share bypass, it is not getting better. You can throw as much money as you like towards the problem, but if you do not have a strategy that works then it will not get better. That is the problem.

This government has relied on bumper surpluses and the squandering of cash across all its systems, and indeed in health, to make itself look good. But the reality is that health care for ordinary Canberrans and their ability to access the system is not getting better. The outcomes are not getting better. That is the problem.

Mr Gentleman said, "We are living longer. We live longer than anywhere else in the country. Therefore, that is because of the health system."Surely those who are living longer are people who are not getting well. They are not people who are getting into the system, so it is illogical to use that measure to say that we have a better system. You have to look at those who are affected, how they are affected by this system, and do they get the sort of care they deserve.

Let us go back to the AIHW report-acknowledging that it is for 30 June 2005. We see that the only upside is that the rate of hospitalisation for potentially preventable problems was 19.3 per 1,000 people in the territory, the lowest nationally. The Canberra Times report goes on to say that ACT public hospitals recorded the poorest performance


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