Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 4366..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
That report will help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Canberra in a number of ways. It will be given to all agencies and departments involved in policy and programs to provide a better understanding of the social and cultural circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Canberra. On the other side of the coin, it gives the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Canberra a tool to use for communicating with government agencies when pushing for existing and new programs and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
While this survey shows that indigenous Canberrans are experiencing significant disadvantage, the ACT is doing better overall at addressing these issues than almost any other place in Australia. Although we are not in a position to turn back the clock on the social injustices of the past, the government considers it is our collective responsibility to ensure these injustices are dismantled during our time in this place. As part of this process, we are replacing old programs with new, introducing policies designed to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the territory enjoy equitable access to service delivery in the future. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the territory would attest to the significant contribution that my government has made to addressing their needs and improving their condition. I believe it is quite a remarkable achievement in a short period of time.
Discussion of matter of public importance
MR SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Mr Smyth proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:
The management of the health portfolio.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (5.10): Mr Speaker, the management of the health portfolio was a drum that the Labor Party beat hard in the lead-up to the last election, claiming that the hospital was in crisis and that they were going to fix it. The simple solution, the very simplistic solution, put forward by the health spokesman then, the now Chief Minister, was that he would simply drop $6 million into the mix and all would be well with the world; the $6 million dollars would buy equipment and provide extra nurses and something like 2,500 additional operations.
When the Labor Party came to office, the latest figures that were available on, the waiting list show that, in September 2001, 3,488 people were waiting for elective surgery in the ACT. Let's just have that number in mind and work our way forward as to what has actually happened since Labor came to office. What has happened is that a great number of opportunities have been missed. It really gets down to: what did the ministers do to manage the health portfolio? In most cases the ministers did nothing or did nothing that was effective.
The first thing that the government did was to merge the hospital back into the health department. At the time, the government said that not only would this be good, not only would it make the system so much more effective, but in fact $200,000 of savings were forecast to come from the portfolio changes as a result of the Reid review. That was the claim by the then head of the health department, Dr Penny Gregory. We were actually