Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 2 Hansard (23 February) . . Page.. 484..
MS BURCH (continuing):
Assembly that this government is around increasing social housing stock—that is, public housing and community housing. We will continue to do that under the commonwealth and ACT partnership, but we will continue to do it beyond that, which is quite a different scenario to when those opposite were last in government. They thought the answer to social housing was to get rid of the portfolio of 1,000 housing stock. Sometimes I think I should go back and look with interest at the impact of homelessness and other social problems when I think Mr Brendan Smyth was responsible for eradicating, getting rid of, 1,000 units out of our housing stock.
Ms Gallagher: Shame!
MS BURCH: Can I say: shame on anyone with a social conscience that did that.
MR DOSZPOT: My question is to the Minister for Health. Minister, I refer you to chapters 10 and 11 of the Productivity Commission's report on government services 2010 that was published in January of this year.
Minister, the report indicates in chapter 11 that the ACT has the lowest bulk-billing rates in the country. How long have you been aware of this, and what action are you taking to improve the bulk-billing rate?
MS GALLAGHER: I do find it interesting that the Liberal Party locally believe that the ACT government can improve the rate of bulk-billing when we have none of the levers. Indeed, I think Mr Hanson himself has agreed that we do not have the levers to improve the bulk-billing rates.
Mr Hanson: Where have I said that? I'd like to see that quote.
MS GALLAGHER: I will find it for you, Mr Hanson. We are going over everything you have said, because most of what you say is—
Mr Hanson: I certainly would agree that you don't have "all"the levers, minister.
MS GALLAGHER: You are very flexible with the truth—let us just say that—in some of the things that you go on and say. The bulk-billing rate in the ACT is the lowest in the country, I believe—47 per cent at this point in time, after a four per cent drop in the last full quarter—and that is cause for enormous concern. I think I could table in this place probably more than 10 letters I have written to the commonwealth about this, the low bulk-billing rates and the low GP numbers. I have met with the federal minister of this government and the previous government a number of times to talk about the issues faced here in the ACT and around our bulk-billing rate.
But I just cannot believe that the Liberal Party do not understand that the decision around whether or not a patient is bulk-billed can only be taken by the medical practitioner. They are the ones that determine whether or not to bulk-bill a patient. It is not something governments can control. It is not something we can increase—and I imagine, if we tried to influence it and direct doctors to bulk-bill, we would be in all sorts of bother. So I stand here and say to you that I have done absolutely everything I