Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 146 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
Mr Speaker, my amendment seeks to address issues raised in the debate by a number of members. As Minister for Health, I am very happy to outline the territory government's response to these issues, to demonstrate how we believe we can best address the issues of decline in bulk-billing, the shortage of GPs and pressure on emergency departments at our hospitals.
Mr Speaker, I am prepared to do that only once I know what the Commonwealth is prepared to put on the table for the territory. Under funding arrangements, the Commonwealth has responsibilities to fund primary care and GP services-and to support access to GP services.
It is essential for the Assembly to recognise that the government must keep all of its options open, not commit to particular courses of action as we negotiate with the Commonwealth on what they are prepared to pay us to pay to services in the territory to support primary health care.
My position-and the government's position-is that we will outline our response to best address these issues once we know what the Australian Health Care Agreement says, and what the Commonwealth is prepared to provide to us.
The Australian Health Care Agreement negotiations are under way at the moment. Even if Senator Kay Patterson does not want to meet with us, they are nevertheless under way. Once they are finalised-which I would anticipate to be around mid-year, depending on the Commonwealth's timetable-it will be very much driven by the Commonwealth's position. The government will then be in a position to respond on these issues. That is the purpose of the amendment, and I seek members' support for it.
MS TUCKER (11.45): I understand Mr Corbell's argument for this amendment to be that he wants to wait until he knows what the Commonwealth is offering before he says what the ACT would do to pick up any slack, and that there could be a difficulty if the ACT government is taking an initiative at that point in time.
It is a difficult situation that we find ourselves in because there is a fundamental failure of essential service provision in the ACT right now. We have had this for far too long. Whilst I understand what Mr Corbell is saying and I will accept this with the amendment that Ms Dundas was going to put-changing the words to "calling on the government", to give the Assembly a clear outline of a strategy to deal with the issues after they have the information from the Commonwealth-I am concerned about the situation in which we find ourselves. I think that, when the ACT government comes back to this place-understanding that it depends on what the Commonwealth does-it must have a clear strategy with time lines and targets.
It is not okay to be getting documents like the one I got back as a result of the motion in November. It was inadequate. We were trying to get something to happen differently for people in the ACT who do not have very much money and therefore cannot access doctors. That is the bottom line.