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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4225 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

mortality and, in a debate like this about public health in the ACT, we should focus very strongly on that aspect as well. If we see health in a holistic way, I would also talk about policy related to work. To a degree that is out of the hands of government, but to a degree it is not.

If we are interested in public health and the health of the ACT community in the public service, let's have a look at how we are supporting workers. What time do we allow in people's lives to be with their families or to have recreational time? How many people in our community, public servants in particular, are overworked? How many people do not have enough work and are actually in poverty? You always have to bring poverty into any discussion about health in our community. Poverty is clearly linked to health.

I have heard the minister talk today about his desire to increase the number of allied health workers, as well as nurses and doctors. Let's look at allied health workers. Let's look at the therapists that work in schools, and let's look at the question of people with a disability if we are having a discussion about public health. I have had the conversation with previous governments over the years-it is not just with this government-about the deficit in the provision of therapy services for children and young people with a disability, and the call from government has often been, "We try, but we can't employ those people in those services."

It takes a deeper look at the problem to work out what the work force issues are. Is there a high turnover of staff in various areas of stress within the public service where people work in a preventative way. Family Services is another area. It is quite an inadequate response to be told by a minister, "Well, we tried, but we can't get the staff,"because you do not have to look that far. If I can find out-which I can easily, by just talking to people in the community-that there are work force issues around conditions and, if I can find out what is happening in workplaces that is very relevant to the question of turnover, then government should be able to.

Mental health is also extremely important, and I am glad Minister Corbell raised it. It is under a lot of scrutiny at the moment. The Mann-La Roche and Patterson reports have recently come out, and the Health Committee is taking an active interest in how the government responds to those reports in December. Once again, they're pretty focused-in the case of Mr Patterson's report, not entirely-on the acute end. That is important, but just as important are the support services that are available in the ACT to assist people before they end up in the psych unit or in need of acute care.

I will conclude by saying that public health in the ACT is an extremely important issue, and it is a good thing that Mr Smyth raised it. I would stress, though, that we need to focus on much more than the acute end of care in the hospital crisis, which I agree with Mr Corbell is to a large degree caused by federal government policy. Inadequate access to bulk-billing is clearly a social crisis in the ACT in terms of health, GP care, part of preventative health care and primary health care, and it has to be seen as very important in ensuring the health of people in Canberra.

MS MacDONALD (4.25): I rise today in support of the clear and rich picture of government achievement in health outlined today by Minister Simon Corbell. In the key areas-industrial relations, work force development, Commonwealth-state relations and improved health services-this government's record is strong and proud. The new

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