Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 26 August 2008) . . Page.. 3580 ..
Abolition of provider numbers for a whole generation, 5 to 8 years of GPs, from all the universities in Australia (that is, a supply of approximately 6,000 doctors that have failed to get to general practice)
Reduced university intake for one or 2 years at a number of universities
Reduction in intake of overseas trained doctors with limitation for those doctors in “Areas of need”
He goes on to explain the service that Primary Health Care offers, and, from his point of view, the savings and benefits to taxpayers. His letter, whilst we might disagree with the decision he has taken about Wanniassa, does go to the issues around responsibilities for the provision of GPs, the ability to train, the ability to influence workforce and a whole range of things. For the political convenience of the time that we are in, Mrs Burke will blame it on the ACT government. But the issues are federal, and they need to be resolved federally. That is what we are doing—working with the commonwealth and the other states and territories as we negotiate the next Australian health care agreement.
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.24): I thank the committee for the report, and I congratulate Mrs Burke on the excellent idea to set the committee up, because, despite what the minister says, we did hear her saying, “There’s nothing I can do.” She said it several times in the media, and she said it several times in the Assembly. But in just one simple initiative, Mrs Burke came up with an initiative that has led to this debate today. As a consequence of the inquiry, in a very short time frame, a number of people were able to air their views. As a community, just as a minimum, that is the first thing and most immediate thing that you can do. Politicians can always provide a venue for people to come together in the hope that some ideas will come from it. Now, sometimes they do, and sometimes they do not. But you only have to look at the report to see that there are a number of recommendations from the committee about how we can progress this.
At the heart of the matter is how government has managed the whole health portfolio in the last seven years and whether the government has made Canberra an attractive place to be a GP, to be a medical practitioner. This is the nation’s capital. This is the capital city of one of the richest countries in the world, and for seven years we have had a government that has not been able to address the issue of GPs. That is in stark contrast to the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party, over the years, has always had ideas or sought out ideas on ways to address the shortage of GPs, which, in many ways, has led to the closure of the medical centre at Wanniassa. Those ideas are there on the table. We started the process of establishing the medical school. We have come up with a model for west Belconnen. I know that those opposite do not like it, but we have the GP clinics, if and when we are elected in October. We have worked out that, yes, when the market does not work, sometimes you have to pay incentives for people to come. The previous federal government knew that, and it has had a significant effect on the number of GPs going into rural Australia. By getting the numbers right here in the ACT, we can also have a significant effect by making sure that we get people here and we help people to set up.