Labor’s mismanagement of health sector Matters of Public Interest

I rise to address this matter of public importance on Labor’s waste and mismanagement and the chaos caused in the health sector, especially through retrospective funding cuts. I would firstly like to rebut a couple of the comments that many of the government members have made. They have been trying desperately to paint the Howard government as a government that did not care about health and did not fund it. It is interesting that the Museum of Australian Democracy has fact sheets on different prime ministers, where they highlight just half a dozen of their key achievements. Guess what one of those half-dozen key achievements was for Prime Minister John Winston Howard AC: record health funding of $47.6 billion in 2006-07. And just in case you think this might be some kind of conservative think tank, there are four ex-members of parliament on their advisory council, two of whom are Labor, one of whom is a Democrat and only one of whom is Liberal. So it is hardly a partisan body that would be favouring the conservative party. But they put down as one of the key achievements of the Howard government record health funding.

The government members have been saying today, particularly during question time and during this MPI: ‘Who, us? Would we cut health funding? Never!’ But if you look at the analysis of the health provisions in the 2012-13 MYEFO—conducted not by the Liberal Party but by the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute at the Australian National University—you see that in their introduction they bell the cat on this. They say:

The hidden disaster in the 2012-13 MYEFO is the hit (unacknowledged by anyone in the Government) taken by preventive and public health. We know that $1.5 billion over four years … has been cut from the National Health Reform (NHR) funding.

So do not come and talk to the coalition and say that we are saying things that are unfounded. Go and look at independent experts who have studied this in detail, look at their pronouncements, and you will see that they have indicated that the government has made these cuts.

This matter of public importance that was raised by Senator Fierravanti-Wells talks about waste, mismanagement and chaos. In South Australia we know too well about Labor waste in the health area. There were 64 GP superclinics promised at a cost of $650 million around the country. In Modbury in South Australia a clinic opened right next door to areas that were well served by existing private practices: no GPs. President of the AMA Steve Hambleton hit the nail on the head when he said that this is a big waste of government money.

I come to mismanagement. People in South Australia, particularly those in rural areas, know only too well that Ms Roxon, in 2009, got rid of the Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Area way of allocating funding and brought in the Australian Standard Geographical Classification that saw places like Hobart considered more rural and remote than parts of South Australia. Large parts of our population lost out on funding to provide accident, emergency and after-hours health.

In terms of chaos, which is the point of this MPI, retrospective funding cuts hurt. We have seen in Victoria that the state Liberal government has taken this government to task and challenged them about their $107 million. The problem for people in South Australia is that we get a double hit of Labor’s waste, mismanagement and chaos because not only do we have a federal government that has cut funding to the tune of $31 million from South Australia’s health budget, but we have a Premier, Mr Weatherill in South Australia, who does not stand up for the state. In fact, when questioned in state parliament about this, rather than say, ‘You’re right; perhaps I should go and challenge the federal government,’ he tried to indicate that perhaps the Victorians were not doing what everyone knew they were doing.

Now that New South Wales and Queensland are also challenging, he still has not taken his federal counterparts to task. So Mr Weatherill must step up to the plate and fight for South Australia to reclaim that $31 million, as opposed to just rolling over, because the consequences for the South Australian public are extreme. The long-promised outpatient facility at the Lyell McEwin Hospital has been scrapped to save money. There have been other delays at Modbury, and at Flinders there were six ambulances left waiting on a ramp, just last week, on a day when temperatures peaked at 40 degrees. The health outcomes for the people in South Australia are suffering as a result of Labor waste, mismanagement and chaos. They get a double hit. They get a hit from this Gillard government and, as I have just shown, independent external commentators are highlighting the cuts to the health budget but the Labor state Premier, Mr Weatherill is not fighting for the people of South Australia.