Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 152 ..
MRS CROSS (continuing):
At the moment, we are discussing the Smyth amendment. That relates to Tuggeranong and Gungahlin, and correlates well with the ALP platform position on health, in establishing two after-hours GP clinics in the southern suburbs of Tuggeranong and Gungahlin-funny, that! What is the problem? I support this amendment.
MR CORBELL (Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (12.07): Mr Hargreaves is a passionate advocate for his electorate. The government is conscious that we have a very hard-working and dedicated member in Tuggeranong who knows the issues well. He knows the personalities, and will always be a strong advocate on these issues in this Assembly, in the party and in the government caucus room.
Mr Speaker, Mr Hargreaves is right in asserting that Mr Smyth's claim is somewhat misleading. The Labor Party's policy referred to the southern suburbs of Tuggeranong, not to Tuggeranong per se. I think that is the point Mr Hargreaves was seeking to make.
As I outlined earlier in the debate, the government is going to be addressing the issue of the establishment of after-hours clinics. Our policy says we would prefer to see those clinics located at public hospitals, because that is where people are going if they cannot get to a GP. At the moment, as members should be aware-and as Mr Smyth should be aware-you cannot locate bulk-billing services on the campuses of public hospitals under the Medicare agreement. They must be absolutely free.
To address this matter, the government will be working through this issue as part of the Australian Health Care Agreement. As I have outlined in the letter I tabled earlier today, signed by all state and territory health ministers, we believe the issue can be addressed by getting the Commonwealth to agree to at least trial the location of GP clinics on public hospital grounds or, alternatively, to permit emergency departments to bulk-bill patients who are in category 4 and 5 classifications.
That is the way the government is addressing the implementation of that commitment. It is a rational and informed approach, and Mr Smyth's hysteria on the matter will not see the issue better addressed. That is the government's response on the matter.
Mr Speaker, in relation to the need to extend the service to Tuggeranong and Gungahlin, as Mr Hargreaves has pointed out, there is difficulty in getting GPs into Canberra at all, let alone into Tuggeranong and Gungahlin. Again, the government's response in attempting to honour its election commitment is to engage, through the Australian Health Care Agreement, in negotiations on measures to, first of all, recognise the circumstances of the ACT and ensure that the Commonwealth provides the necessary incentives for doctors to come to the ACT, in the same way that they are providing incentives for regions in exactly the same circumstances as the ACT, but which happen to be seen as more politically important.