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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (3 May) . . Page.. 1116..

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mr Stefaniak for my first question as Minister for Health. I will repeat the answer from the Chief Minister, which is that we are not going to stand here and enter into discussions of matters that are currently being considered by the government in relation to the functional review but also in relation to the budget cabinet process. It is not something that we do any year. It is not something that other governments do either.

From the first budget since it was elected this government has prioritised health. In fact, I think the first appropriation was to fund nurses' pay increases. Health remains a critical area of service delivery for any government. Demand for health services is growing. It is increasing all the time and that is a challenge for governments, particularly when they are working within a particular finite financial capacity. This government will continue to prioritise health.

Health services are of critical importance to every single member of the Canberra community, whether it is babies, children, young people, adults or the ageing. Health services here have to be first rate. Governments have to meet the challenges that are presented by increasing demands being placed on the health system, and this government will continue to do that.

MR STEFANIAK: I ask a supplementary question. Minister, what consultations have you had with staff? Are you planning to alert all the staff working in the health system of the magnitude of the financial issues in the health portfolio?

MS GALLAGHER: Like any good new minister to any portfolio, I am having a range of discussions with people in my department and staff within the agencies. In fact, I am looking forward to getting out to the hospitals and other areas of health provision to talk about what is going on in order to fully understand the breadth of the issues of service provision across the health portfolio. It is part of my job to do that.

I will be talking to everybody. I will be talking to different stakeholder groups about their areas of expertise and speciality. That will assist me to get across the breadth of the demands in the health portfolio. We will talk about a range of matters. It is part of any politician's job to talk, but it is a very important part of my job to get across and fully understand the new portfolio that I am in charge of. That, of course, will include talking with staff.

Ministerial arrangements

DR FOSKEY: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Chief Minister. It concerns the recent ministerial appointments and related administrative arrangements. Could the Chief Minister please advise the Assembly of the benefits of fragmenting environmental and sustainability policy work between the Chief Minister and the minister for municipal services over the previous arrangement of a single Minister for the Environment?

MR STANHOPE: I thank Dr Foskey for the question. The previous ministerial arrangements in relation to sustainability vested responsibility for policy in relation to energy and water in the Chief Minister. That was the initial structure developed for the Office of Sustainability. The initial structure and staffing of the Office of Sustainability

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