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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 10 Hansard (5 September) . . Page.. 3218 ..

Minister for Health and Community Care

MR BERRY (6.39): Yesterday, I think it was, Mrs Carnell talked about a press release of mine which she said took the cake. Well, I have found a corker. It has the heading "The Honeymoon May Soon Be Over", and it talks about my former colleague Mr Connolly. Guess who it is from. Mrs Carnell. She talks about the then Opposition, the Liberals, asking the new Health Minister a series of questions about two important issues affecting Canberrans. She asks:

Why has the number of doctors at the Civic Health Centre decreased from four-and-a-half staff to only two? Why is there no female doctor on staff?

Why are new patients no longer being accepted at the Civic Health Centre? Why are existing clients having to wait at least a week before getting an appointment?

What did she do about it when she got into government? Not only did she fix up the doctors at the Civic Health Centre; she fixed them up at every other health centre that had salaried medical officers as well. I can tell you now that there is no point in going to the Civic Health Centre to get an appointment because Mrs Carnell has cleaned them all out. What a corker of a press release! But it gets better. She says:

The Opposition also asked about the Government's oft-repeated promise to establish a cardio-thoracic unit ...

For how much longer would 350 people have to be sent to Sydney every year for cardio-thoracic surgery? Why have no staff yet been recruited or any concrete plans put in place to establish the unit?

What does Mrs Carnell do with that? She promises the electorate that she is going to make sure they get a cardio-thoracic unit if they elect a Liberal government. In the first budget, $500,000 was put aside to establish the unit. What happened to the $500,000? It just evaporated in Mrs Carnell's budget turmoil in the health system. The budget-blowing Liberal Health Minister soaked up the $500,000. Not one jot of it went to the establishment of a cardio-thoracic unit. What will happen, I wonder, with the $4m or so that was set aside in the miraculous three-year budget to provide for the cardio-thoracic unit? I wonder whether we will see that again, or will that evaporate in the scheme of things as well?

Mr Speaker, this one is better than taking the cake. This is a corker. This is a press release where Mrs Carnell goes on about salaried general practitioners in government health centres, and we know the history of it. She knocks off the lot of them, wipes them out of all the health centres. What I did not mention a minute ago was that she demolished the health centre as well. Guess where the health centres are that are of most interest to Mrs Carnell. Belconnen, of course. Belconnen has been hit hard. But the classic, of course, is the cardio-thoracic unit. What a corker of a press release!

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