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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2891 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

The lack of access to bulk-billing general practitioners of people who are not on a high income-vulnerable people, people with psychiatric and drug problems, single parents, homeless people and families with several children-and who are unable to afford the up-front fee when going to a doctor is an issue that government has failed to address. It is of fundamental concern. if such basic primary health care is not available to people.

I understand that funding for GPs rests with the Commonwealth and we all wish that it would be more realistic about the level of the Medicare rebate. However, the issue for Canberra is what happens to the people who make up our community. If the government is committed to discovering what social sustainability might be, surely it must ensure that access to basic health care, supported accommodation, food services, information, the opportunity to participate and so on exist for everyone. To argue that there is nothing you can do about bulk-billing is a bit too much like washing your hands of the most basic level of support that the health department ought to deliver.

Participants in the first health summit learned that in 1996 the people who were in the 20 per cent of the population most disadvantaged economically carried 32 per cent more of the disease burden than the 20 per cent most advantaged. This means that the people least likely to be able to afford to pay up front for doctors are the people who will need the doctors more. The key question that this government cannot answer with the budget, but which we look for in its actions, is how well it works with those people most in need.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (8.41): Mr Speaker, I would like to make a small contribution to the debate and to respond to some of the issues that have been raised. The health budget we are currently debating is the largest commitment of funds to health by a government in the history of self-government. It is a very significant increase in funding. It is a greater increase in funding than has ever been experienced before in the ACT.

In this budget the Department of Health and Community Care is budgeted to earn $395.5 million in GPO in 2002-03. This is an increase of $56 million above the 2001-02 budgeted GPO figure, which after taking account of the merging of operating and injection funding into GPO and the transfer out of housing and disability service functions was $339.9 million.

It is interesting to compare this with the increase of $36 million which the New South Wales government is currently boasting it is proposing to inject into New South Wales metropolitan hospitals. We here in the ACT injected more into health and community care than New South Wales is doing as part of its election lead-up. It is a 16.3 per cent increase overall. It is an increase of $23 million which flowed from the second appropriation-on-passing of increased Commonwealth specific purpose payments, $8.7 million; an additional $4.5 million for new initiatives; $6.3 million for insurance payments; $7.3 million for salary and non-salary costs; $7.5 million in growth funding, and so it goes on.

If you look at the changes by individual outputs between the 2001-02 budgeted GPO and the 2002-03 budgeted GPO, after taking account of the merging of operating and injection funding and the transfer out of housing and disability functions, for output 1.1,

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