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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 4324 ..

MR CORBELL: It is because we want more doctors. I know that that is a difficult concept for the opposition to understand, but we want and need more doctors in Canberra. For the first time in a long time, the government is taking steps to get those doctors to come to Canberra.

What Mr Stefaniak should understand is that we have to present Canberra in a light that makes it attractive to GPs, so they will come to Canberra. Because of the federal government's policies on bulk-billing, or lack thereof, quite frankly, highlighting bulk-billing would not act as an incentive that would attract doctors to Canberra. You ask any doctor what they think about bulk-billing and they will tell you that it does not meet their costs, so why would you highlight bulk-billing when you are trying to attract GPs to Canberra.

Bulk-billing will only be addressed through effective federal reform of Medicare. What we have seen announced by the federal government in the last little while is nothing more than a policy which is designed to make Canberrans and all Australians pay more for primary health care from their GPs. It will mean more Canberrans paying more often to access their doctors.

The government's focus is on advertising to attract GPs to Canberra. We have been successful, through the negotiations on the Australian health care agreements, in getting significants parts of the ACT-Belconnen, Gungahlin, Weston Creek-Stromlo and Tuggeranong-designated as outer metropolitan for the purposes of the federal government's incentives program. This gives doctors incentive payments to relocate to Canberra.

Now, in conjunction with the Division of General Practice and the AMA, we are advertising nationally to let doctors know that we have these incentives and that we want them to come to Canberra. We want them to consider Canberra a great place to live, a great place to work and a great place to provide a doctor's practice. We need that because, over the past seven or eight years, we have seen a massive decline in the number of GPs in our city.

What did the previous government do to deliver a solution? It did nothing. It did not focus on primary care, it did not raise issues about access to GPs, it provided no particular policy strategy to address the decline in general practitioner services or to address the decline in bulk-billing. However, we are responding to this fundamental need so, just recently, we have advertised in the Australian and we will also be advertising in two key medical journals, the Medical Observer and one other, which are read by thousands of doctors around the country. The purpose of that is to ensure that doctors know about the incentives program, and know that they can come to Canberra and that they should consider it if they are looking at relocating their practices.

That is why we are doing it: we want more doctors, Mr Stefaniak. I would have thought you would want the same.

MR STEFANIAK: Minister, won't you make the problems with bulk-billing worse if you encourage doctors who do not bulk-bill to set up practices in Canberra?

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