Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 131 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
These people cannot always access public transport to do it. They need a doctor within their midst. They need a doctor's surgery, a bulk-billing GP service in the Lanyon marketplace. The government has been trying its best to argue the toss with the Commonwealth, but to no avail. That is because the Commonwealth do not recognise that there are areas within Canberra that desperately need medical services close by.
I wish the Assembly to extend its support to Minister Corbell when he goes to the health ministers meeting and fights on our behalf, like the devil we all know he will.
MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (10.47): I am glad Mr Hargreaves finished on the needs of the people of Lanyon because I want to quote back to him something from his own election platform, called ACT Labor's plan for rebuilding the ACT health service. It said that, if elected, Labor would look at the GP trials that we were conducting at Canberra Hospital:
Labor will consider the outcomes and perceptions of these trials, and address any problems arising. Labor will look at whether there is need to extend this initiative to providing after-hours GP clinics also in the southern suburbs of Tuggeranong and in Gungahlin.
So when Mr Hargreaves was framing this motion today, I wonder whether he went back and checked page 8 of Rebuilding the ACT health service. I wonder whether he knocked on the door of the current health minister and said "Has this been done? When will this happen? If it hasn't been done, why hasn't it been done?"This government went to an election with rhetoric about how it would address the shortage of GPs, and it has done nothing in the local sense at all.
It is true that there is a decline in the number of GPs; it is true that bulk-billing rates in the ACT are at a historic low. We do not have to go into those details. They are well summarised in the government's report to the Legislative Assembly for the ACT, Bulk-billing services: general practitioners, which was tabled in December last year. I hope Mr Hargreaves has read it.
It is also true that the Commonwealth has not been as helpful as it could be. I believe that our request to be treated as a regional district of work force shortage should have been accepted. I said that when the issue came up at the last budget, and I still believe it. I have spoken to the minister's office to say to them that they need to do something to re-assess where we fit into the scheme of things. I also believe that the Commonwealth is engaged in some pretty ordinary stalling tactics.
If you have been to ministerial conferences-as you have, Mr Speaker-you will know the argy-bargy that flows between the states, the territories and the Commonwealth and how that game is played out. The Commonwealth's attitude to the problem has led to some needless in-fighting and pettiness. I hope that all nine jurisdictions will get on and try and work out a better way of dealing with this.
To blame the federal government's private health insurance rebate for the problem is, even for Mr Hargreaves, drawing a very long bow. This part of the motion is typical of the government's attitude to the problem: "Blame somebody else. We've been inactive, but it's somebody else's fault."