Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (7 June) . . Page.. 1844..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
place could deny that we have the best health system, comparable to anywhere in the world, here in the ACT. The government recognises that. For the first time our expenditure in health will be over three-quarters of a billion dollars going to providing the best services to people in the community, ranging from community health to acute care, and addressing areas of significant need in the community.
We feel that the initiatives in the budget have been targeted to the areas of most need. We have prioritised health. We have considerably increased expenditure in health. It is an 8.9 per cent increase, and we will continue those increases of up to $200 million over the forward estimates.
This has been a very responsible budget across the board, but in relation to health it is acknowledged that there is growth and pressure and that this needs to be met. In the future we will need to look at how we contain our costs, how we bring our costs down towards national benchmarks-not to meet national benchmarks, but towards national benchmarks-and that work will be done over the next five years. I look forward to managing this changed process in health. There is a lot of good news in health at the moment and this budget will build on that good news.
MR SMYTH: I ask a supplementary question. Minister, with higher superannuation payments totalling $16 million, higher insurance premiums totalling $6 million, lost revenue of $11 million and additional wages of $3 million, a total of almost $36 million, will you now confirm that real spending on health services has not increased?
MS GALLAGHER: No, I will not confirm that real spending in health has not increased. The reality is that the money is there. It is clear. It is in the budget papers. $751.2 million is expected in 2006-07, providing significant increases to the health budget and significant increases in service delivery areas. This budget includes an extra $61 million; 20 additional beds; an additional 350 operations; enhanced emergency department services and a very significant investment in cancer services, including a third linear accelerator and more staff in the oncology area.
What part of that indicates to you that there has not been an increase in spending on health? All of the areas that you named are costs to the health budget and are linked to service delivery because they are linked to staff costs, and staff actually provide the services. Not only are there the areas that you have selectively decided to quote from, but there are all the other initiatives as well. There is significant investment in the health portfolio.
Mr Smyth has not been given an opportunity to slam the health budget, because he simply cannot. The money is there. It is targeted to areas of need, areas that Mr Smyth goes on about all the time.
Mr Stanhope: But which he did not fund in government.
MS GALLAGHER: Exactly. This government, by December this year, will have funded 106 additional beds. The 100 beds that Mr Smyth always goes on about-we have done it! There are an additional 20 beds in the package that was announced yesterday, so we are actually moving way past you. The areas that you are on about all the time, elective surgery, waiting lists, demand in the emergency department, have all