Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 19 October 2022) . . Page.. 3374 ..
members here would recognise that the impact of climate change does not respect state and territory borders, which is why it is critical that the ACT lends its knowledge and leadership to the national conversation, but also benefits from the critical mass that is delivered by national action. We also know that we need to continue our work locally to be prepared, leverage the lessons learnt nationally and internationally, and support the most vulnerable members of our community in responding to climate change.
My amendments reflect the opportunities that the new federal government presents to work collaboratively while providing leadership to protect our community’s health and wellbeing. So I welcome Mr Davis’s motion. I thank him, again, for his, and his office’s collaborative engagement. I thank everyone who has spoken on the motion today, and commend my amendment to the Assembly.
MS CASTLEY (Yerrabi) (5.59): I rise to speak about this motion in relation to our public health system and how it responds to climate change. The Canberra Liberals recognise climate change as a key public health issue and have consistently supported the ACT’s transition to 100 per cent renewable energy and transitioning to net zero emissions by 2045. The Canberra Liberals want to achieve sensible and sustainable solutions to reduce our emissions—solutions that will not penalise the most vulnerable people in our community, who can least afford it.
We have all mentioned the Black Summer fires. It was in January 2020 that we experienced the worst air quality since air quality monitoring started, more than 15 years ago. Canberra had the unenviable title of having the world’s most polluted air—more polluted than Deli or Lahore, when the opposite is usually the case.
Almost every unit at the Canberra Hospital was affected, with unhealthy levels of smoke detected throughout the buildings. Weeks into the bushfire crisis, hospital staff discovered sterilised equipment was contaminated and complained that the smoke was disrupting services and irritating workers. It is no surprise that some medical diagnostic procedures had to be cancelled due to the smoke impacts on equipment. MRI machines were rendered inoperable.
While Canberra Health Services say that patients and staff were not endangered by smoky conditions inside the hospital, the 2019-20 bushfire crisis highlights the intersection between climate and our health. Tackling climate change and protecting our environment is important for our health and wellbeing, but imposing extra regulatory burdens on a broken and already overstretched health system is not the way to go about it.
You only need to look at the headline in yesterday’s Canberra Times, “More forced to wait longer for surgeries …” to be concerned about the dreadful state of Canberra’s health and hospital system. The recently released ACT Health annual report reveals that, again, our health system has failed to achieve key targets for elective surgery and emergency department treatment. The number of people waiting longer than the clinically recommended time for elective surgery in the ACT has almost doubled, from 773 in 2020-21 to 1,364 last financial year. The government’s target, the target set by ACT Health, was 430. So the Barr-Rattenbury government is happy for 430 people to wait longer than the clinically recommended time for their