Page 1049 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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available to the public health system and by resources we mean the health work force that performs or supports, among other things, the procedures listed in this motion.

We also need to take into account that Canberra has a role in the region, and decisions made in NSW have an impact on how many people choose to come to Canberra for their health care, including for surgical procedures. We have to acknowledge that Canberra Hospital plays a vital role in providing services to a very large region, since it provides the most sophisticated medical services in the region. All of that said, I believe the ACT government could do more to improve our health system. Some examples include more support for multidisciplinary community health centres, which may include a GP; improving primary health care in the ACT and the surrounding region and, in the longer term, help reduce the need for surgery and a greater emphasis on a whole-of-government approach to health.

To this end, the ACT Greens support the cross-departmental approach to health and regular cross-agency health forums involving senior officials from relevant government departments and agencies and community sector representatives. The ACT Greens believe there should be a balance between health promotion, illness prevention, treatment and rehabilitation and that these funding allocations should be legislated. It must be mentioned here that our services to people with a mental illness are wanting, by anyone’s measure.

Finally, I want to reinforce my comment that citing these statistics is not enough to arrive at the conclusion that the minister has mishandled the health portfolio. Proof of comprehensive mishandling would require a comprehensive, can we say, holistic view of health and not a narrow look at some surgery. A comprehensive view of health would require a very careful choice, collection and analysis of statistics, used sparingly to help tell the story. I appreciate the analysis Mr Smyth has made of the statistics and note that my own office does not have the resources to do this work. We regret we have not had the time to contact health consumers to hear their perspective, noting that, while individual people may have spoken out through the media, the voices of health consumer groups might provide a more measured evaluation.

After hearing the speeches, I would like to do some of my own work to make a judgment one way or the other. I think the health of the ACT community is too important to be used as a political tool. I am wondering if the Libs would see it as in their interests to admit that we ever had a perfect health system—and I am not saying that we do, by the way. I am saying that in this case I see these arguments as political, rather than necessarily based on the concern of the health consumers. In the end, we know the government has the numbers to turn this motion into one that says the opposite of the one that has been put forward and I feel fairly sure that at the very least it will go down. However, this should never, ever be a reason not to raise important matters. I want to make the point that such matters should always be put here in order that we can discuss them—hopefully, constructively.

Just for the record, I indicate here—and I suspect people will already have guessed—that I am going to vote against the motion. That is primarily because I do not believe this should be couched in a motion of censure, but I would like all the qualifications that I mentioned above to be noted by everyone in this house.

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