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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4281 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

$200 million. The ACT government already spends $415 million a year on health services. Mr Smyth's proposal is that we increase health expenditure by 50 per cent in 18 months.

Mr Smyth wants us to increase the expenditure on health from $415 million to $615 million in 18 months. He is happy to commit to figures and targets for which he is not accountable. He makes no effort to identify where the money would come from. He does not say what services we should stop funding in order to meet these targets. Does Mr Smyth think that we should close our schools? Does he think we should increase the rates? Does he think we should double car registration charges?

For a Leader of the Opposition to put his name on this sort of proposal is completely irresponsible. The proposals are nothing but a shallow stunt which send alarming signals about Mr Smyth's leadership of the Liberal Party. Either he is playing cheap political tricks by demonstrating his complete and total inexperience or, even worse, he is showing that the Liberal Party has learned nothing about responsible fiscal management and has not yet understood why it was ejected so clearly and forcefully from government 12 months ago.

With this sort of performance from the new Leader of the Opposition, the people of the ACT have no reason to expect any improvement in the Liberal Party's capacity to manage the finances. It is an appalling, shallow, irresponsible stunt of the worst order.

MS DUNDAS (5.07): Whilst I do not agree with every aspect of this motion, I do agree with Mr Smyth that the health action plan is lacking clear targets of the kind contained in this motion. Everyone here agrees that the reforms of the health system are intended to create better health outcomes for the community.

Yesterday, I supported the Health and Community Care Services (Repeal and Consequential Amendments) Bill to abolish the purchaser/provider system for the ACT public health service. I have no doubt that the government, the health department and our hospital management teams have the clear intention of improving communication, quality and efficiency for the benefit of all ACT residents.

I have no doubt that progress has already been made towards achieving those goals and will continue into the future. However, since the health action plan we are debating identifies no targets for improvement, it might be difficult for anyone outside the health system to decide whether gains have been made as a result of the current government's reforms. The action plan also appears to overlook some of the key concerns in the community, and I am not yet confident that these shortcomings will be adequately addressed in the future.

For example, I had hoped that this health action plan would outline the government's plan to address our general practitioner crisis, but it did not. In the key areas of access to bulkbilling, after hours access to GPs and escalating medical indemnity insurance premiums there was nothing more than a promise to do more talking and more thinking, a common answer of this government to issues put to it. We will think more and we will talk more, but where is the action and where is the leadership? Mr Smyth's motion does tackle the areas I have raised which we know are of critical importance to the community.

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