Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 9 Hansard (20 August) . . Page.. 3326..
MR PRATT (continuing):
something that is partly constructive. The only problem is that they will not be providing any GPs to man those clinics or looking at how we as a territory can solve the problem of GP shortages to staff those clinics.
Mr Speaker, they only offer more of the same—the choked emergency wards; waiting lists; and the centralised system, which is simply grinding under the weight of community need. They refuse to provide any creative way to sort that out. What the ACT opposition offers here is a decentralised system to take the weight or the strain off the centralised hospital system. We are very proud of this policy, Mr Speaker.
Let me talk about CALMS. The CALMS initiative, which provides GP after-hours services, is a useful adjunct to the ACT health system. But it is a pay up-front service. What about the poor family that may have one child or even two children and does not have the cash flow to pay for those GP services in the middle of the night? CALMS does not work for them. They need the availability of bulk-billing after hours. That is where the ACT opposition steps in to rescue this government and its moribund administration of the ACT health system.
We will offer bulk-billing after hours. The bottom line for Canberrans who need GP services after dark is that there will be no out-of-pocket expenses for attendees at the new GP clinics which we are proposing to establish. The services will be bulk-billed to the ACT government. We are proud of the fact that we are doing this. Mr Speaker, the bulk-billing that we are talking about is fundamentally a bulk-billing service charged to the ACT. Why do we do this? We do it because the private sector cannot support bulk-billing clinics after hours; they simply are not in the business of being able to do that.
Secondly, the commonwealth subsidy is simply not enough to provide the after-hours bulk-billing services which we so badly need. We need these services decentralised, away from the centralised service. We need to get these services out to our communities, and that is why we are proposing services decentralised to Tuggeranong, Belconnen and Gungahlin. We are doing this so that families can get to those clinics. They do not have to travel all that distance to Woden and to Calvary. We can take the weight off the emergency ward waiting lists in hospitals.
It is an ACT responsibility to do something about delivering the sorts of services which are needed; so if the commonwealth subsidy is not enough, if the private sector cannot put in place these after-hours clinics, we will. We believe the ACT government has that responsibility.
As to the point about these clinics that we are offering up as unfairly competing with the existing GP services, that is simply not the case. We are not in the business of exercising competition with existing GP services. We have said that clearly. We heard this minister stand up here yesterday and mislead on this matter. She continually misleads—
MR SPEAKER: Withdraw that, Mr Pratt.
MR PRATT: Sorry, Mr Speaker?