Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 3210..
MS MacDONALD (continuing):
their practice and to administer most medications. ACT Health has also provided 12 scholarships each year to nursing staff who are in the final stages of completing higher degrees-that is, masters or doctorates. These scholarships allow for six weeks paid leave, and the first three were awarded in semester 1 of 2006.
Mr Speaker, addressing shortages within the medical profession is not a simple task, and many measures and initiatives need to be implemented to ensure numbers increase to meet the demand of our community. It is evident from the numerous and varied initiatives and programs that have been implemented that the ACT government is committing to ensuring a sustainable health work force into the future. Through this commitment, the government is ensuring that the ACT will have a significant number of medical professionals who will be able to service the ACT community now and into the future. Mr Speaker, I commend this motion to the Assembly.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (12.16): Mr Speaker, yet again Ms MacDonald has put a motion to this place that looks to be important-I think it is something to increase her profile-but which, upon analysis, is simply shallow, incorrect and lacking critical detail. It is the sort of thing we have come to expect from Ms MacDonald. Ms MacDonald says that she wants to note the importance to the ACT community of investing in health education to meet the increasing demand for medical professionals. I think her motion should use the words "health professionals"because either we are only talking about doctors or we are talking about all professionals.
She goes on to say in paragraph (2) of her motion that the Assembly "recognises the Stanhope Labor government's continued commitment to investing in tertiary health education". Let us look at the Labor government's commitment to investing in tertiary health education, and where better to start than the government's own annual reports. Each annual report of ACT Health contains a section on training and development. The statistics for 2004-05 show that the government spent $1,082,907 in sessional salary costs on training and development. This accounted for some 44,000 hours, and about 16,275 staff attended various sessions.
The numbers for 2004-05 are good and admirable. But when you look at the annual report for 2005-06, which we have just received and which Ms MacDonald has failed to read, as she so often does, what has happened to the numbers? Remember that we spent $1,082,000 in 2004-05. How much was spent in 2005-06? The amount dropped: $761,998. There is a reduction of 30 per cent in salaries. That is not a commitment to increasing; that is not a commitment better addressing the shortage. The number of session hours dropped from 44,000 to 37,000 hours, a reduction of 14 per cent. Indeed, the number of participants dropped from 16,000 to 9,200-a 43 per cent drop. Ms MacDonald, if you are going to come in here and move motions that say we have a continuing commitment, you need to do the analysis and you need to do the work.
If we look at table 3 on page 54 of ACT Health's annual report for 2004-05 we find that, all up, $1,737,672 was spent on education, training and development-again, an admirable sum of money. What was it in 2005-06? It was $1,752,467, an increase of some $10,000 or $12,000-an increase of 0.8 of one per cent. But that is not the real measure. If you look at the amount as a percentage of the all-up health budget, you see an enormous decline of nine per cent because $1.7 million over the total health budget in 2004-05 of $636 million means, of course, that 0.273 of one per cent was devoted to