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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (24 November) . . Page.. 2752 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

to recommend the closure of it, and the Government says, "We will accept your recommendation", and then blames the school board. That is not good enough. Minister, this is an important issue for the community that I represent, that Mr Hird represents and that you represent, indeed, and you will be letting them down seriously unless you can put up a better performance on increasing the enrolments there. We also made comments about Quamby and Marlow Cottage and on tuition fees for trainees.

On health, we commented on the possible privatisation of the hospital. We have heard in recent times that the Minister has said, "I will not play your rule-out game". Minister, until you do respond to the proposition about ruling it out, everybody is left with the alternative that it is your intention to privatise certain aspects of it and your secrecy about it raises cause for concern. So, we are calling on you again to rule it out. If you continue to refuse to rule it out, then we have no alternative but to come to the conclusion that it is your intention to do something about privatisation, and that is bad for the health system.

I know that Mr Rugendyke and Mr Hird have expressed a different view in relation to privatisation. I also know that an inquiry into waiting lists is being conducted and that both of those members are on the committee. I was not able to convince you not to put in a dissenting report. I hope that once you have had a look at the difficulties with the delivery of private health services and the conflict with the provision of public health services you will come to a better understanding of the issue. Let me just say this: If you look at the American situation, where health is provided predominantly by the private sector, you will find that health care costs are higher. The last time I looked at it, it was something like 13 per cent of GDP. It might be more than that now; it may be even higher. But it is 8 per cent in Australia and steady. That is because of the high public provision.

Unless we maintain that high public provision, we are headed down a path of high health costs and a lack of delivery to a large portion of the community, which happens in the United States. Again, these figures are probably old, but I recall that something like 40 million people in the US are not having access to health care as a result of the difficulties they are having with their health system. It is a health system which cannot provide for the community, but which takes up an excessive amount of the disposable income of American taxpayers and American families. We do not have those high costs here because we are able to contain them within the public sector. You ought to be cautious about your commitment to the private sector.

Labor has no illusions about the provision of private health care in Australia; it is alive and well. The providers will continue to complain as their businesses fluctuate because, as with any other business, they are lobbying for a better slice of the pie. But private health care should not be relied upon to deliver quality public services at a reasonable price. It has a place in the market and it will stay there. Labor and I support the private hospital sector in the ACT and Australia, provided that it does not impact on the

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