Page 2916 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 12 October 2022

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My hope and expectation—and enthusiasm—is to see that perhaps maybe by the end of this parliamentary term we will reach that Greens policy commitment of doubling funding for the alcohol and other drugs sector. The reason I flag that is of particular importance. As we know, the inevitable consequence of the hopeful passage of drug decriminalisation through this place will be an increased demand on those alcohol and other drug services. That is not a bad thing; that is a good thing. We should be excited about that and we should be preparing the sector and our community for that, because the inevitable consequence of removing the prejudice, the stigma and the discrimination away from the criminalisation of drug use will be that more people who have been suffering in our community for a very, very long time will hopefully come out of the shadows and be able to access services. The challenge for us is making sure that those services are there for them in community when they need them and that they are well funded by experts.

The funding in this budget goes a long way to doing that. I want to be the eternal optimist, but I do have some reservations about whether we have appropriated enough to potentially meet that demand. One of the challenges is that we really do not really know what the demand will be. We frankly do not have a full read of the picture of just how many in our community have been suffering for months, if not years, with their drug or alcohol addiction. Hopefully the policy shift that this Assembly is on track to make will draw a light on that problem. Our challenge is to make sure that those services are there.

In summary, the Greens support the appropriations for the health department in this budget. I think there is an opportunity in future budgets—once we have gone through this very ambitious building and infrastructure phase, particularly with the Canberra Hospital Expansion project and the inevitable planning for the north side hospital—for a body of work to be done. I am interested in participating in that body of work to ensure that, as a community, we are thinking very deliberatively about keeping people out of hospital in the first place, keeping people out of healthcare settings in the first place and keeping our community from getting sick in the first place. This budget goes a long way to doing that, but I do think there are some opportunities for us in the future.

MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Families and Community Services and Minister for Health) (11.02): I thank Ms Castley and Mr Davis for their contributions. In relation to Ms Castley’s comments, I would note that, yes, I have been health minister for three years. In that time there have been three shadow ministers for health, and we are yet to find one who can read a budget paper or understand how the health system works. Knock yourself out, Ms Castley, in trying to achieve that goal; your predecessors did not.

I rise today very proudly to set out for members how the 2022-23 ACT budget delivers on our ambitious and comprehensive plan for our health system, with record investment delivering more services, more healthcare workers, a pipeline of world-class infrastructure and, of course, nation-leading community-based health services.

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