Page 2049 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .

more for the government? I think that, in many respects, the government contradicts itself. Its economic white paper says that the government wants a larger private sector and reduced reliance on government employment; yet, in practice, the ACT government has been moving in the opposite direction.

I remind members opposite that big government is not necessarily good government. In the area of health, estimates show what a mess we are in in this area. ACT expenditure is significantly above the national average and, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the cost of ACT hospitals on a casemix adjusted separation basis is about 30 per cent higher than the national average. On that basis, Canberra’s public hospitals are spending $104 million more than the average of other similar hospitals in Australia for doing the same job. The Treasurer says it is generally recognised that health costs escalate seven to eight per cent each year but, of course, his budget includes provision for only about four per cent growth in health expenditure over the forward estimates period.

The government seems to show no sign of dealing with this contradiction. Indeed, the minister said he was working on the cost problem but could offer no plan for tackling the causes of inefficiency, and offered no hope of securing better value for the taxpayer’s dollar. It seems clear to all but the government that the budget provisions for the health portfolio will be exceeded perhaps by a substantial amount. Indeed, my colleagues and I came to the conclusion that the health minister has not the slightest intention of meeting the budgeted target, even though it is a directive that he is meant to adhere to. As far as he is concerned, the Treasurer can whistle Dixie.

I think we will find that the Treasurer will be tearing his hair out over this in the months to come because I did not sense any real commitment on the part of Mr Corbell to try and live within the budget that he has been set. We know, and he has acknowledged, that his public hospital administration costs are $14 million higher than other comparable hospitals in Australia. He has indicated—in Hansard of 19 May at page 304, for those who are keen followers of what I am saying—that he has no reason to dispute the figures he is citing. His chief executive said that the health department and the ACT Treasury are not relaxed about the matter, a clear indication that there is room for savings.

In fact there is no plan for achieving those savings. The government might say it intends to reduce these gaps in comparative costs, but it is not moving quickly to do so, and estimates has failed to show how it will do so. The one thing for sure that came out of estimates is that you cannot believe the budget. Health will blow its budget by a large amount. I am very confident in that prediction. I am not happy about that prediction but I believe it will be proven correct. I suspect the Treasurer knows I am right.

There are some issues with the main report. They talked about consultation. There are pages on this, Mr Speaker. I found your ruling that matters in private meetings are no longer off limits for the Assembly to disclose to be quite unusual. I do not wish to reflect on the chair but it surprised me. It may be that, in the future, thought will be given to that decision because I suspect that that is not the case. I do not intend to go down that road but I will say that the opposition members are concerned about the entire inclusion of this exercise on consultation.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .