Page 3368 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 20 August 2008

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I contribute those thoughts to this debate and I welcome the motion brought by my colleague Mrs Burke.

MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for the Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Housing and Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (4.34): I rise to speak in support of the amendment moved by Ms Gallagher. I would like to make two things clear up front. The first one is that I do not intend to respond to any interjections from those opposite. I have given an undertaking to examine my innermost heart, to embrace Zen and not to rise to the bait of those opposite. I shall lead by good example so that they can see how it is done.

The second thing is that we need some perspective about this. From what I understand, what Mr Seselja is proposing appears to be the old community health centre by default. In the 1980s, I was the executive officer in this town for the community health division of what is now the department of health. I was responsible to an officer whose title was “community physician”. That officer had responsibility for everything in the ACT outside hospital, other than mental health services, and it included all of the community health centres.

This was a Whitlam initiative, you may recall. Many health centres popped up around the countryside. They were good in the days of universal health care; they were very good. But they were very expensive indeed. For nine-tenths of the time, people got a long consultation because it was free and because the medical practitioners decided that that is what they could do. There was no business-type imperative.

What ensued was that the medical profession moved on. The ACT got out of that system and leased out its medical suites—sometimes to the same doctors and sometimes to others to operate private practices from. I can remember just after coming into this place having a chat with the then president of the Division of General Practice around the environment of general practice—what it was all about and why it was not providing services to people in Canberra. The reason that I was given was that people had forgotten that doctors do not go into it for esoteric reasons. Some of them do. I know one GP who lives in Curtin and operates around there; he is a magnificent GP. But there are not very many of them. Most of them are businessmen.

I can remember one particular doctor. You would remember him—Jamie Cookman. You would remember Jamie Cookman from when you were minister for health. Jamie said: “Look, people have got to wake up to themselves. These are small businesses; they come with attendant practice costs and all the rest of it.” I think what this stuff here is trying to move back has moved on. I do not think the time has come to move back; we need to be moving forward. That is what Ms Gallagher is doing with nearly a billion dollars worth of funding going into the health system and trying to encourage the private sector, the private GPs, to provide an even better service than the one they do now.

I do not have any difficulty in seeing my GP. My GP is a private practice GP and he is a brilliant general practitioner. I have just come back from the hospital. I thank members for their forbearance in my absence today and the pair that was graciously given for my absence; I appreciate it very much. I have just come back from a unit of

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