Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 26 June 2008) . . Page.. 2163 ..
MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (10.08): Mr Speaker, there are a number of initiatives in the health budget for this coming year that we certainly agree with. In particular, I mentioned at the budget breakfast that I see the Gungahlin health centre as being an important initiative for my electorate and certainly something that I am sure will be welcomed by many in the community. Gungahlin, in particular, is an area which is underserviced in a number of areas. We know that Gungahlin lags behind other parts of Canberra, and unfortunately it has been a long time catching up. Certainly that initiative is one thing that we see as positive.
We are certainly supportive of the principle behind the $90 million for the women’s and children’s hospital. We certainly will be watching closely to see what actual difference it makes in terms of extra facilities and improved outcomes for patients. The principle behind that is a good one.
Mr Speaker, I back up what Mrs Burke was saying—that is, we see more and more spending every year in health, but, on a number of key indicators, we still see the ACT health system unfortunately lagging behind. We see waiting lists that are simply too long and continue to be so. We hear from the government consistently about how much it is spending on the health budget. Of course, that grows significantly every year, as it does around the country, in fact.
Health is taking up a larger and larger proportion of the ACT budget as the population ages, but we do need to find ways of spending that in better ways. We do expect as a community that we would not be at the bottom end of indicators on a national basis on some of these key indicators. Waiting lists for elective surgery are the most obvious example of where the ACT health system is unfortunately still lagging behind. I look forward to the health minister getting up and telling us a bit about that.
It is a fact that we continue to lag behind on key indicators. It is not all bad; there are plenty of good aspects in the ACT health system, and there are plenty of good aspects to service delivery in our hospitals. I have spoken before about the first-class care that we have received when each of our children was born in the ACT, most recently last year, when my wife gave birth to our fourth child. The maternity services are top notch. We have always experienced great care and great facilities, so I certainly do not make a case that it is all bad in the health system or the hospital system. However, we certainly have concerns in a number of areas, and I do not think it is acceptable that in the national capital, in a city that is as healthy as general indicators show that Canberra is and in a city where we would expect service delivery at the top level in the country, we have key indicators lagging behind most other states and territories. That continues to be a concern to Canberrans.
The government always says how much it is spending, and it is, of course, welcomed that we are spending a significant amount on health, but we would expect that a large proportion of the ACT budget would be devoted to health. But it is not acceptable that that money is not being targeted well enough so that we are still lagging behind on key indicators. You do need to question some of the priorities in terms of how, over the past few years, we have seen health managed.
We saw the debacle of hospital pay parking—the idea of that short-term cash grab, which in fact ended up losing money. No doubt, that would be the only pay parking