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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4228 ..

MS MacDONALD (continuing):

initiative, as we all should. It will make a real contribution to ACT Health's capacity to address problems like breast cancer.

This government has committed itself to being open and accountable, and this minister is delivering. Through a variety of mechanisms, consumers and community groups are able to participate in and shape public debate and policy development. The ACT Health Council was constructed as a multidisciplinary body, and these can be tricky to manage. My feedback is that this council is now beginning to deal with some major issues affecting health in the territory and to provide government with the kind of advice it was hoped it might provide. One of the central tasks facing the council at its next meeting is to review the government's progress in achieving the strategic goals outlined in the health action plan. I look forward to seeing the results.

Mr Deputy Speaker, Minister Corbell is not so naive as to suggest that things are finished. There is, as he stated, always more that can be done in health and there are always areas of shortfall. That is a given with any area of health in this country. However, this government can review its first two years in charge of the ACT health system with pride.

In my capacity as a member of the Health Committee, I organised on its behalf last year some visits to ACT Mental Health Services, and I would like to state that, in comparison with services that I have seen through personal family experience in Sydney, ACT Mental Health Services provide a fairly high level of care. There is always more that can be done and always more that needs to be done, but I believe they provide a very high level of care.

I heard Mrs Burke say earlier, "What's the ACT Labor government doing about mental health?"On that tour last year, Mrs Burke, I continuously asked in all areas that we visited-and we visited approximately half a dozen areas to do with mental health-how long the service had been in operation. Virtually every time I asked that question the answer was that it was a new service that had been started under the ACT Labor government. Mr Deputy Speaker, I commend the ACT health service.

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member's time has expired.

MRS BURKE (4.36): I rise to speak in support of this matter of public importance today. Sadly, the government's absence during this debate shows where this matter ranks in their minds. It is deeply concerning that we seem to be spending many more dollars on health in the ACT, but ordinary Canberrans who access the health system are not getting anything extra in return for the additional dollars spent.

I am pleased that Mr Corbell has said that there is more to Health than hospitals-so have the Liberal opposition. In recent weeks various problems have been highlighted by the Liberal leader, Brendan Smyth, in the Health portfolio area. Let's run through that list. The list of concerning and bad news includes four beds closed at the Canberra Hospital's oncology unit at the weekend, due to insufficient staff to maintain adequate service, and the Canberra Hospital being forced to issue a media statement advising the community that there are delays for people waiting for non-urgent treatment in the Emergency Department, partly due to a shortage of nursing staff.

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