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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 06 Hansard (Tuesday, 19 September 1995) . . Page.. 1520 ..


What is more, the only reason the numbers are even close to the numbers in 1994-95 is that Mrs Carnell has factored in an extra $8m for cross-border health receipts. It is not because she has reduced the cost of running the hospital but because she has increased the amount of money she hopes we are going to get from New South Wales. That is a particularly interesting piece of figuring. Not very long ago she was telling us that we had a budget deficit blow-out because we would not get the money out of New South Wales; yet now we are being told that the panacea for our problem in the health system is that we are going to have additional money in cross-border payments. What was a budget blow-out last year is going to be the panacea for the Woden Valley Hospital budget this year. Similarly, in the overall health budget we see once again the same pattern of expenditures being stable across the years: $255m in 1994-95, and at the end of 1997-98 there is still $255m. How is this miracle being achieved of not actually reining in the expenditure but still having the bottom line the same as it was when Mrs Carnell arrived? By adding in our $8m cross-border health receipts and by the sale of assets. We have a $20m sale of assets in the health bottom line. The savings in the health system are in the sale of assets and in a rubbery figure about cross-border receipts, not in savings in the hospital system.

If the Treasury officials and the health officials whom Mrs Carnell is already paying spent more time figuring out how to get efficiencies in the hospital system and less time doctoring up the numbers with asset sales and cross-border health receipts figures in order to bring the bottom line down, perhaps we would be getting somewhere with the cost of the Woden Valley Hospital. Instead, we are going to spend another $700,000, bringing to $1m the total expenditure on consultants to fix up Woden Valley Hospital, and at the end of this process, at the end of this three years, the expenditure will have risen from $171m to $176m. So our $1m outlay is yielding us an additional $5m of expenditure - not a real triumph in terms of public sector accounting.

When Mrs Carnell commissioned Booz Allen to figure out how to save $26m and now is saying that she does not want to cut the health budget at all, you have to ask whether she has given Booz Allen the right job to do in the first place. One cannot help feeling that Booz Allen might have been assisted in this task if they had been given the task of figuring out how to spend the existing budget differently, instead of being given the task of how to sack workers, how to reduce the number of people employed in the health system, only to be told by Mrs Carnell that that is not really what she wants to do. She wants to respend all the money she saves. We are spending $1m to increase expenditure in the hospital system by $5m - $1m to get a health system where the only thing that is bringing the bottom line down is cross-border health payments and asset sales - and Mrs Carnell asks us to believe that this is good value for money. It seems to me, Mr Speaker, that we could make our most significant contribution to the bottom line in the health budget, not by spending another $700,000 so that Booz Allen can come up with more recommendations to do things that Mrs Carnell has in the meantime decided we do not want to do, but by putting that $700,000 back into the bottom line - we would at least be able to show for our efforts a $700,000 saving in the health budget - and charging the management of the hospital, who are paid to manage the hospital, to work with the unions, the doctors and the staff in the hospital to bring about changes in work practices, as Labor was doing when it was in power.

MR SPEAKER: The discussion is concluded.


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