Matters of Public Importance Health Funding - 23 June 2015


Senator SESELJA (Australian Capital Territory) (16:39): I am very happy to follow on from Senator Gallagher because she has repeated the falsehoods she made outside this place around health funding. The Department of Health has confirmed that Senator Gallagher was simply making it up.

Senator Wong: I know it's hard to cope with, but she beat you!

 

Senator SESELJA: Senator Wong may not want to hear this, but she was making it up. The current health minister in the ACT is also making it up, but he is making it up with a completely different set of figures. So let's start with the record. Today's The Canberra Timesreads: 'Canberra the worse for urgent case wait times.' That is what has been happening under years of ACT Labor.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Bernardi ): Senator Seselja, you know the use of props is not appropriate.

Senator SESELJA: This is not a prop, this is a piece of paper. But I will read from it. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has figures showing that the ACT had the lowest proportion of urgent patients treated on time—just 50 per cent within 30 minutes. It also revealed that only 61 per cent of overall patients who presented in emergency departments, in the ACT, were seen within two hours—the second worst in the country. Those figures are simply false.

Let's go to them. Let's go to the last Rudd-Gillard budget when it went to ACT Health hospitals funding, and compare it to coalition budgets, because the numbers that Senator Gallagher put out there are false. The Department of Health confirmed they are false. The $240 million she claimed last year was false, so let's go to the difference. The last Rudd-Gillard budget in 2012-13 had $202 million in funding for ACT hospitals. In 2013-14 they promised $233 million. The first coalition budget, in comparison, in 2013-14, was $271 million. That is a significant funding boost on what would have been there, on what was budgeted under the Rudd-Gillard budget. In 2014-15 it was $271 million. In the second coalition budget, delivering in 2015-16, we saw $321 million going onto $343 million in 2016-17.

One of the reasons the Labor Party cannot be taken seriously on health is that spokesperson after spokesperson comes here and makes up figures. We have heard it from senators opposite, right across the board. They are claiming these massive cuts when there are not massive cuts. There are increases in health funding. That is true in the ACT. Simon Corbell, the ACT health minister, came up with a different number. He claimed $600 million in cuts. Senator Gallagher claimed $240 million in cuts. Both of them were wrong. In fact, there was an extra $200 million for ACT health funding under this government than what would have been delivered by the previous government, had it continued. Yet they claim a cut. That is what we see across the board.

I will go back to some of the national figures. What I think most interesting about this matter of public importance is that the Labor Party—who have had such a bad few weeks—are not arguing against actual coalition policy anymore, they have taken to arguing against phantom coalition policy. They will make up a policy that we do not have and argue against it. That comes through in wording like we had today about 'the Abbott government's plan to rip funding away from hospitals'. That is absolute rubbish.

I will go to some facts. The total 2015-16 budget investment in health and sport increases to $69.7 billion. That is an increase of $2.3 billion or 3.4 per cent from the 2014-15 estimate. This compares with the originally forecast 2015-16 amount of $68.5 billion

We have a whole-of-government spending: Medicare, over $22 billion; primary and mental health, $2.4 billion; medicines, $10.1 billion. Let's look at this comparison: in 2005-06, the Commonwealth was spending $38 billion on health; in 2015-16, we are spending $69 billion, or an 85 per cent increase. So the economic vandals in the Labor Party who created the problem, who created the massive budget deficits, are now claiming that an 85 per cent increase in that time somehow represents a cut. We see it from those arguing it nationally and here in the ACT we hear it often.

I would say to the journalists who sometimes want to believe what the ACT health minister says, be it the current health minister in Simon Corbell or the former ACT health minister, that they should look at the figures. They should look at what the Department of Health has said on the record in relation to those figures. When I put the claims to them that there was a $240 million cut, they said that they had absolutely no idea where the former health minister had pulled that figure from. We can only assume that the figure was simply made up by Katy Gallagher, as she was then the health minister of the ACT. We can only assume—in fact, we know—that Simon Corbell's claims in relation to $600 million are similarly made up. He just made up a different figure. He just plucked out a different figure to justify the mismanagement of the health system by ACT Labor here in the ACT. We read about it again today in The Canberra Times. Canberrans have been experiencing it for more than a decade as we have consistently languished right at the back of the pack. Regardless of the additional investment from the Commonwealth, regardless of additional spending from the ACT government, we have continued to see some of the worst outcomes in the country.

To conclude, I think it is just a little bit embarrassing that the Labor Party is no longer arguing against our budget. I thought we might hear today about their vehement opposition to petrol excise increases, but of course we are not hearing that. They no longer have a position on that as they once did. They are no longer arguing against our budget; they are no longer arguing against actual policy. What they have resorted to through this MPI is to argue against phantom policies. They will make up a policy and then argue against it. I think that is pathetic. That is why, absolutely, the premise of this matter of public importance should be rejected. (Time expired)

 The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Bernardi ): Order! The time for the discussion has expired.