Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 20 August 2008) . . Page.. 3312 ..
how are you going to do it? Mr Seselja says: “We’re not going to do that. We’re not going to have commonwealth money to establish these clinics.” Okay, so you are not going to have bulk-billing centres, because of course that is commonwealth money, Mrs Burke, for those of you who do not understand how the commonwealth system works.
Mrs Burke: You are so condescending and patronising, aren’t you?
MS GALLAGHER: Well, Mr Seselja said they are not relying on commonwealth funding, so if they are not relying on commonwealth funding, how are you going to fund it? Where are you going to steal the doctors from? Why are you setting up processes in competition with private industry and, more importantly, why are you spending in excess of $30 million on the private health system in the ACT when the public health system needs the attention of every member of this Assembly? The people of Canberra will ask you that: why are you doing it?
DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.26): When one looks at the Liberals’ motion, one sees that it is quite a reasonable motion; and when one looks at Ms Gallagher’s amendment, one sees that it is quite a reasonable amendment.
The fact is that there probably is not a really huge amount of difference between Liberal and Labor on health, but health is one of those issues which, as we know, is so important to Canberra voters that the Liberals have chosen to mark out their ground, to put up what I believe to be a populist idea which most people will not inquire into very deeply. Unfortunately, we know that most voters do not ask: “Well, where’s the money coming from? Where are the doctors coming from?” Most people, unfortunately, do not ask those deep, probing questions, the answers to which provide the arguments against the Liberals’ proposal. It looks nice on paper. We are all worried about our health. I am sure the advisers have told Mrs Burke and Mr Seselja that this is an election winner. Indeed, there is a lot that is good about the Liberal proposal. Let us have a look at those points.
This debate has been occurring in the Assembly for pretty much all of the time I have been here, but we really prefigured this debate yesterday, to some extent. We know that the closure of the Wanniassa medical centre was a trigger for this debate because it showed how much the provision of medical services in the ACT was out of our control. To me, that problem goes back a lot further than the Stanhope government. Certainly, the closure of the community health centres by Mrs Carnell had a great deal to do with it. I do not believe that that problem can be mended by the limited proposal that the Liberals have put up today.
It is simply the case that health is a big business now. Its providers are looking at their bottom line, which is an economic one. They are not looking at the social benefit. I am afraid that those things—community wellbeing and inconvenience to patients—are not actually figured into the decisions of the people who run our corporate health centres. That means the government has an important job in providing those services that are actually based on social need rather than on financial need. I am afraid that, in this modern or contemporary economy, the role of governments more and more has been to pick up those bits that the private sector does not touch because they are not profitable enough. That is a really big problem for governments, and I acknowledge that. I do not think the answers are quick, simple and knee-jerk.