12 October 2011
Andrew outlines his concerns with the performance of the State Labor/Green Government regarding Health cut backs.
Mr WILKIE (Denison) (09:54): I take this opportunity to highlight the dire situation facing many of my constituents, and indeed all Tasmanians who rely on the public health system and who no longer have faith in their state government. The Labor-Greens government in Tasmania has recently announced it will cut the budget for elective surgery, reportedly to the tune of $21.6 million. Moreover, the federal Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, has added that the state could lose millions in federal funding if it does not meet elective surgery targets.
The waiting list for elective surgery in Tasmania is some 7,700 people and rising. With this list including operations such as hip and knee replacements, would-be patients are often rendered immobile and left in chronic pain, sometimes to wait years for assistance. Now they will have to wait longer. It is no wonder many people give up work or develop an addiction to prescription pain medication, a sorry side-effect of waiting lists which stretch beyond hope and an indictment of a state government which has virtually abandoned its fundamental responsibility for public health care. All this against the backdrop of other unacceptable waiting lists which are literally killing people waiting for surgery.
No Australian government should default to cutting front-line health services just because their budget is in a hole. To do so demonstrates financial mismanagement, public health policy incompetence and a complete misunderstanding of the public interest. Moreover, it shows no concern for the hundreds of health and admin professionals set to lose their jobs or being in fear of doing so.
I am proud to have secured $340 million towards the rebuilding of the Royal Hobart Hospital. It is now beyond belief that, in light of the imminent improvement to infrastructure, the Tasmanian Labor-Greens government is so quick to dodge intelligent budgetary restructuring and instead to go straight to cutting services. The Tasmanian government’s approach to managing its self-inflicted budget black hole is cause for us to consider alternatives to the current arrangement. It is more evidence that eventually the federal government must take an even greater role in public health care and, inevitably, take over the national public hospital system entirely.
Despite the Tasmanian government’s efforts there is simply no way to make the situation in my home state look pretty. Years of financial mismanagement and policy incompetence, Premier after Premier, Treasurer after Treasurer, health minister after health minister, have let us down—and now the sick and the most disadvantaged members of the community are set to pay the price. This was avoidable and now is unforgivable. I condemn the lot of them on this matter. Thank you.