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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (13 November) . . Page.. 3598 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

A big factor driving whether GPs will come back to bulk-billing is the premium. But if you accept that, then nothing will happen and nothing will change. We certainly did not accept that. That is why we implemented the GP clinic trial. That is why we implemented the nurse practitioner trial. We were keen to make sure a medical school was established in the ACT. State or territory governments can do a number of things to influence how GPs operate and to maintain the number of GPs.

Most of the issues have been canvassed here this evening. Like Ms Dundas, I am concerned that the government is not willing to tell us what they will do by way of a strategy with time lines. I am disappointed that the motion by Ms Tucker will be watered down.

Let us take the government at their word and see what they come up with at the end of December. It will be interesting. The activity of this government is quite important. The GP trials were finished a long time ago, and we are yet to find out what the government will do on them. In their campaign they promised after-hours GP clinics. We are yet to see those. They are certainly not in this budget, as we have made abundantly clear. We treat that as a broken promise. I suspect it is a promise that will never be fulfilled.

The nurse practitioner trial is well and truly over, and the assessment should be well and truly over. We were promised a report. We are yet to see that report. That is the hallmark of this government in regard to health.

I have some personal disappointments. For five or six years several of us have been trying to get a GP at Lanyon. It is beyond my ken that we cannot get a GP to come to an area like Lanyon. You would think that an area with 12,000 people in a wonderful city like Canberra would be the ideal place for a doctor to set up. We have to work out what keeps doctors out of the metropolitan fringe.

I welcome the announcement in the federal budget this year of funding for a scheme to assist GPs to set up and remain in the metropolitan fringe areas of our capital cities. But the disappointment for me, as I have said in this place before, is that Canberra was not included in that. When I spoke to the federal health minister's office, they said, "We have done the numbers. We have done the surveys. Your need is not as bad as in other areas."We would all like to see need fulfilled where it is greatest. But that does not disguise my disappointment that we may have to wait some time before we can get assistance for the Lanyon Valley.

But there are things the local government can and should do. I do not believe there has been enough commitment to health by our part-time Health Minister as I characterise him. I will continue to characterise him as that until such time as we get a full-time Health Minister. We should have a full-time Health Minister, a fifth minister, and soon.

That notwithstanding, the government has given a commitment that they will report by the end of the December 2002 sittings. That is only four weeks away. I look forward with great interest to what the government will do and what innovation they will bring to this problem. Many things can be solved at the territory level.

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