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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (29 June) . . Page.. 2953..

MR PRATT (continuing):

a long way out. They are on the periphery of ambulance response time frames. But that is another issue I will raise again later in the emergency services debate.

MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism, Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming, and Acting Minister for Planning) (9.26): I thought that there would have been some members who would have leapt up and spoken for another 10 minutes. First of all, I apologise to the house for the absence of both the Minister for Health and the Acting Minister for Health. It is a little unfortunate and does not help the debate, but, unfortunately, that is just the way it is.

Mr Wood has to attend a ministerial council in Tasmania and Mr Corbell is off. Although I sat back and listened to the debate, I wondered right from the early days about the appropriateness of a total focus on waiting lists and not on throughput and performance. It is something that we in opposition lived by; therefore, we cannot complain too much if we have to debate the waiting lists. I do understand that there is a dynamic that works that says that the more you take off waiting lists, the more will be added to them. There is a demand out there that is probably even greater than the official waiting lists, which are broken down and managed by the surgeons themselves.

I will not get much further into that debate. Suffice it to say that, if we want to be honest, I think that any debate on the health system in the ACT has to take into account the throughput of the hospitals and the increasing cost of provision of service. We all know now that there is a different index of cost escalation in the health area than there is anywhere else. As a government, we would like the situation to be better. We will continue to work to make it better.

The subject of nurses is a mixed question. It is amazing the difference three years can make. About this time three years ago the government of the time were refusing to deal with nurses and, in fact, had struck the funding for the nurses EBA that was under negotiation completely out of their budget. So three years ago we were debating a budget that had in it no salary increases for nurses.

I think we need to look at workloads for nurses and also at productivity. The statistics for nurse productivity in the ACT are not good. A lot has been said on this matter and there has been a lot of emotive talk. I have been warned by my confederates here to tread carefully because this is almost sacred ground, but I do believe we need to examine the way we use and manage nurses. Whenever there is a problem with productivity, the first place you should look at is management. That ought to be happening.

In relation to mental health-these are matters that Mr Smyth brought up in particular-I have not got the figures or the detail at my fingertips that the health minister would have. I understand that under the previous government the real reduction in funding for health was quite substantial. For the opposition to be in here today decrying the efforts of this government, given the resources that we have put into mental health, beggars belief. But that is the game we are playing. We do seem to have a level of debate now where quite a number of people just seem to be in denial of reality and where we have come from.

The situation at RILU-again, I do not have absolute detail on this-is of great concern. It is a great concern that all of a sudden there is the heralding of micromanagement from

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