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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3812 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

travelled interstate to seek treatment. Clients were travelling as far afield, in some instances, as Brisbane. The majority went to Sydney, and some took to Wagga.

The reduction in the waiting list that I described as a significant achievement for Canberra Hospital was, indeed, that. Three reasons have been advanced for the reduction of the waiting time for radiation therapy at the Canberra Hospital. Firstly, new equipment, which is government funded to the tune of $3.75 million, had been installed and come on stream. That was two multileaf collimators, which enhance the linear accelerators and are a vital part of the treatment provided to cancer patients.

They are now on stream, they have been installed and calibrated, they are operational, they provide for ease of operation for radiation therapists and they reduce the demanding nature of the work. It is sometimes demanding for radiation therapists to deal with clients that require these services. That was the first part of the response, the result of a $3.75 million investment by this government in advanced oncology and radiation equipment.

The second reason for the reduction in the waiting list is that, over recent months, we have managed to increase the number of radiation therapists from 12.3 to 15.5 full-time equivalents in an establishment of 20. We still have 41/2 full-time equivalent vacancies, which are funded positions. This is not a question of our not being able to fund positions. The positions are funded; we simply cannot fill them. That has been the situation for a number of years now. We have not had our complement of radiation therapists at the Canberra Hospital for some years.

One of the reasons for that is that radiation therapists in the ACT, until recent times, were almost the worst paid in Australia. That disparity was under your government, Mr Humphries, and I am happy to confirm that. My understanding is that radiation therapists in the ACT under your government were paid 26 per cent less than their colleagues in New South Wales and 30 per cent less than their colleagues in Victoria.

The Liberal Party's contribution to dealing with radiation therapy and people with cancer in the ACT was to pay radiation therapists-at least, in relation to New South Wales-26 per cent less. No wonder we couldn't attract and recruit radiation therapists when all they had to do was cross the border to get a 26 per cent pay rise.

The level of hypocrisy shown by the Liberal Party in relation to this issue is staggering. That situation was rectified by this government in the last round of negotiations. It does not deal with the pay scales of other allied health professionals. That is another issue the government is now struggling with.

The third reason for the reduction in the waiting list-and each of these issues was dealt with in my press release; I do not know how fully they were covered by WIN television, but they were all dealt with in my press release-which the Leader of the Opposition refers to and which we were open in acknowledging is that, as a result of the blow-out to 10 weeks, a significant number of clients sought treatment elsewhere, as one would expect. It is a matter of great regret that they did.

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