Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 3911 ..
MR STANHOPE: I thank Mr Smyth for the question. Let me complete some of the historical background to the question Mr Smyth asks. Waiting lists decreased in September. However, I did not get a question on the September waiting lists. Why did I not get a question on the September waiting lists? The September waiting list showed a fall. In Mr Smyth's little history lesson we also did not get any mention of what the waiting list was at the time when Mr Humphries was minister for health at the start of 1998. The waiting list at the start of 1998, when Mr Humphries was the minister for health, was 4,800.
Mr Smyth: I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was quite specific in asking what would happen from tomorrow through to the end of the year to bring down the waiting lists. History lessons are fine. We all know the history, but I am asking about the future and whether or not the government has a plan. I would like an answer to that question.
MR STANHOPE: When Mr Humphries was the minister for health at the start of 1998, the waiting list was 4,800. That is over 800 more than it is today.
Mr Smyth: I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. If I had wanted to know what Mr Humphries had done, I would have asked him. I am asking what the minister will do in the future. I know he has no answer, but perhaps he could attempt to talk about from now until the end of the financial year.
MR SPEAKER: Come to the subject matter of the question, Mr Stanhope.
MR STANHOPE: It is relevant that we keep these things in historical perspective. In July this year the waiting list was just 3,921. It dropped in August to 3,880. It dropped in September to 3,802. Over the last three months there has been a drop in the waiting list. In this fourth month, in this little historical period, it has risen. Why did it rise? It rose because Calvary closed its theatres to elective surgery over the school holidays, as did Canberra Hospital. Surprise, surprise, the waiting list has increased because both hospitals closed their theatres to elective surgery.
One of the reasons they did that was a directive from me that the hospitals are to live within their budgets. This government increased funding to health by 12 per cent in our first budget, following very significant funding increases in the second appropriation bill, which we passed immediately on coming into government.
It is good of Mr Smyth to touch on and note the significant impact of the second appropriation bill and of our budget-namely, that we were able to settle the nurses dispute, with very significant additional pay to nurses in the ACT, after a year of division generated by the previous minister in relation to nursing. We settled that dispute. We provided additional significant funds to oncology, as Mr Smyth acknowledges but without any credit. It begs the question whether Mr Smyth would have put the money we have put into radiation oncology into elective surgery.
Does that represent Mr Smyth's priority? What is Mr Smyth's priority? Government is about selecting priorities. Government is about acknowledging that there are a range of priorities. It is accepted that there are 14 or 15 priorities in health and in acute health care delivery. We acknowledge about 15 issues that are listed as priorities. I say here and