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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 28 November 2018) . . Page.. 4931 ..

MR BARR (Kurrajong—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Social Inclusion and Equality, Minister for Tourism and Special Events and Minister for Trade, Industry and Investment) (10.42): I think we can all agree that health is a very significant priority for all Canberrans and, indeed, all Australians. People’s experiences in the health system in the ACT are generally very positive, and the feedback from members of the community about the hardworking staff within our health system is overwhelmingly positive.

It is interesting in this context that the number one priority of the current federal government when it was first elected and delivered its first budget in 2014 was to slash funding for health services. Its 2014-15 budget lowered rebates and co-payments for people seeking to see a GP, provided higher costs for medications and higher bills for specialists, increased thresholds in relation to the PBS safety net, left big holes in the Medicare safety net, resulted in longer waiting lists for public hospitals, lower rebates for private health insurance premiums and required more people to pay the Medicare levy surcharge.

The history of funding for our health system is one of the Liberal Party, at whichever level of government it happens to be in office, cutting health funding. And the consequence of the Liberal Party’s philosophy in action in government is to put less into public health. When the single largest funder of health in this nation, the commonwealth government, vacates the space, as the Liberal government has done consistently over the last three or four years, then there is no doubt that that puts pressure on state and territory governments, whether they are Labor or Liberal. That is why this Liberal Party, at a federal level at least, has managed to get an extraordinary coalition of opposition at a state and territory level, including from their own colleagues, in relation to health funding policy. And this is an important context in this debate in this nation.

There were consequences from the Tony Abbott-Joe Hockey budget of 2014, and those consequences are felt across the Australian health system. This is at the core of what you believe in in relation to properly funding public health, and it is necessarily a partnership in this nation between the commonwealth and state and territory governments. Next year we will have a clear choice, and one party, the Labor Party, will put more funding into our health system, and that is important. That is the context in which we have this debate about health services in the ACT.

I appreciate the opportunity this morning to update the Assembly on the achievements of Minister Fitzharris since the last time our local Liberals, our local branch of the conservative party in this nation, put forward another one of these political stunts. Since that time the minister has continued to actively address issues and to improve health services across our system. Let me be clear: Meegan Fitzharris has the absolute confidence of her colleagues and me as Chief Minister in her diligence, in her hard work and in her determination to grow our health services alongside our growing community. Minister Fitzharris has a strong focus on preventative child and population health. Not only is she building the health system we need now but she is focusing on improving public health outcomes into the future and ensuring that our health system meets the needs of a growing city and meets the needs of coming generations.

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