Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (6 December) . . Page.. 2712 ..
MRS CARNELL (continuing):
That $600,000 is being moved from a service that is duplicated by the Commonwealth. With 450 private GPs in this city, we have nine CMPs in our health centres and seven private doctors in our health centres. That $600,000, I believe strongly - I do not know about everyone else in this Assembly - can be used very efficiently to improve the health status of this community. That is the job I believe I have as Health Minister, and I think this Assembly should support me in it because, if we continue to fund services that are duplicated by the Commonwealth or are the responsibility of the Commonwealth, the sky is the limit. We have people on waiting lists for nursing home accommodation. I do not think that is acceptable, but the Commonwealth has set a limit on the number of beds we can have. Does that mean we should say, "Because the Commonwealth are not doing their job, we will build a few nursing homes and fund them totally."? Is that what it means? If we did that, if we duplicated in areas like that, there would go the Adult Dental Service, an area we are at least half responsible for, and on it goes.
There are very definite health responsibilities set between the Commonwealth and the State, and I want to carry out our responsibilities well. I want to make sure that our money is spent as well as is humanly possible on the things that we - not just I as Minister, but this Assembly - are responsible for. That is what this move is about. We are trying very hard to do what this Assembly said we needed to do, and that is have 100 per cent bulk-billing doctors. At this stage we cannot find any. We will advertise nationally as the next step.
Mr Berry: Why did you pay the other ones out, encourage them out?
MRS CARNELL: We will do all those sorts of things. Why did we do it? Because I want to spend that $600,000 on things we are responsible for. I think this Assembly should take a deep breath here and look at what responsibilities we have as an Assembly, what responsibilities the Federal Labor Government gives us in this Assembly, and make sure that we spend the meagre health dollars we have on the areas we are responsible for.
Getting back to the motion, I am more than willing to continue to try to get 100 per cent bulk-billing doctors into our centres. Maybe we will have to discount rent even further than 30 per cent; maybe that is the next step in the whole proposal. The more logical approach would be for this Assembly to say that, as long as the people who really cannot afford it, that is, people with health care cards, people on low incomes, people on pensions, are covered in our health centres by bulk-billing doctors, not necessarily 100 per cent bulk-billing doctors, we as an Assembly have ensured that services are available where they are needed out there in the suburbs at the grassroots, instead of just playing politics on an issue that is extraordinarily important.
I suppose the thing that really offends me, Mr Speaker, is that those opposite, as Dr Wardman said in his letter to the Canberra Times, allowed this whole situation to happen by stealth. In other words, they allowed doctors to go on leave without pay for long periods of time. They were never replaced, as Dr Wardman says. Locums were