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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 2668 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

Yes, it is likely that overturning the Government's position will cost the Territory some money. No doubt it has been very difficult for those working in the bureaucracy - and I regret this - but it is absolutely critical that we support primary health care. It is something that many people in the community feel very strongly about.

If Mr Moore and Mr Osborne had thought the issue through a bit more, perhaps we would not be where we are today. Unfortunately, they did not. They voted against keeping the salaried medical officers. Bulk-billing may well be a possibility in the health centres, and we believe that the Government ought to be given that option. While it has been unsuccessful so far, perhaps more effort needs to be made. Letting the premises free of charge may be one option. Advertising more widely may be another.

I note that Mr Humphries stated that Labor had done far more than the Liberals in "destroying the nature of health centres". The Greens do not want to see the nature of health centres destroyed by anyone, and it is an alarming admission that that is what they are doing. It is absolutely essential that we have strong community primary care facilities. We must look at the long-term benefits of preventative health care. It is cheaper and less painful for everyone - the Government and the community - that way.

Mrs Carnell claimed that the $9 that the patient pays is affordable for most people. This is indicative of Mrs Carnell's understanding of what it is like to be on a low income. It appears that she does not have any idea. In practices that do not bulk-bill the patient will have to find not $9 but $30 up front. For some, that is extremely hard; and, for many, it is impossible, especially if you have more than one child sick at the same time. There you are looking at an amount which puts a substantial hole in your weekly income and actually makes it very difficult to pay for your food. If you do not have the money in your purse, you cannot pay; you cannot get the service.

Another example of preventative health care that I will mention - it is ironic, given that we will be discussing ozone issues later today - is that we are all being encouraged to regularly check for skin cancers. If a low income earner has to pay $30 up front for this check, this is a massive disincentive. I am sure that Mrs Carnell is only too aware of the high cost in human tragedy of advanced skin cancers. Those cancers can often be prevented at little cost, with no tragedy, if intervention occurs at any early stage. I only mention that as an example. Obviously, it is right across the board with health.

I heard Mr Humphries say that there needs to be a better way to deal with community health. We are very happy to hear Mr Humphries make this statement, and we would be happy to work with the Government to seek to develop a better model, one that it feels could work better. However, I cannot see how closing health centres will facilitate such better development. Until ideas for the alternative model that Mr Humphries mentioned are shown to the Greens, we will not support further dismantling of the present system.

On the issue of casual staff at Jindalee, which is in paragraph (2) of the motion, our understanding was and is that long-term, regular casual staff would be cared for, not just those who are automatically cared for in the triple R award. Obviously, the concern was for those whose security was not covered by that award. I believe that it is

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