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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 2667..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

It is becoming more and more obvious that Mrs Carnell's primary goal in health is more throughput in the system. Her argument goes something like this: We have more and more people going through our hospitals and, therefore, a better health system. A good hospital system is an important aspect of the overall health system, but surely stopping people going there in the first place should take priority. The provision of decentralised affordable health services is an essential element of keeping people out of hospital. It must also be the most important part of any strategy to stop the big blow-outs in the health budgets. Prevention is cheaper and less painful than cure.

As this Government has committed itself to ongoing implementation and evaluation of "ACT Health Goals and Targets", it would be a good idea if policy decisions were consistent with the report. In the introduction to that report it says:

The primary health care sector is the central function and main focus of the health system, and the principal vehicle for the delivery of health care services. As a structure, it involves those health services that are generally "the first point of call" into the health system, and they are based in the local community.

The ACT has the lowest number of bulk-billing practices per capita in Australia. We also have the lowest number of practices per capita that charge the standard fee or below. Yet this Government and the previous Government have done little or nothing to rectify this situation. A family of four on around $27,000 a year will not be entitled to a health care card. Unless your doctor bulk-bills you will be paying the standard fee or more, as only 62.9 per cent of practices in the ACT charge the standard fee. A family on around $27,000 is not caught by the safety net. No-one seems to care too much about these people or have ideas about how to help them - neither Labor when in government, nor this minority Liberal Government. Under Labor, we acknowledge, health centres suffered greatly, losing half of their salaried GPs.

The Greens will be supporting this motion. It is essentially the same motion as we have had on the notice paper for some time; but Labor, for its own reasons, wanted to move it ahead. We are supporting this motion because we are committed to the concept of high-quality health care being available to all members of the community. We support the concept of a universal health care system and we believe that it is the responsibility of this Government to do its utmost to ensure that the mechanisms for high-quality health services are at least maintained, if not improved. What is the value of a universal health care system? It is that it covers all income earners, including low income earners. Who are the low income earners? We know that there are many more than those who have health care cards.

The Liberal Government believes that it has a mandate to make changes willy-nilly. It does not. It is of no use threatening the crossbenches when they challenge the Government's agenda if the Government has failed to consult on policy options prior to implementation or to show any alternative models to what it claims is not functioning.

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