Mr HAYES (Werriwa) (4.15 p.m.)—I congratulate the member for Hindmarsh for bringing
this motion to the attention of the House. I could not agree more with his sentiments—perhaps
taking a slightly different view than the member for Gwydir on this subject. Electorates like my
own are currently paying the price for the cuts to doctor training that were introduced in 1996,
the year that this government took office. Werriwa currently has a ratio of population to fulltime
equivalent GPs of 1,700 to one—that is, 1,700 people for every full-time equivalent GP.
This is in contrast to the Department of Health and Ageing recommended acceptable levels: a
ratio of around 1,200 to one.
Recently, the shadow minister for health, Julia Gillard, visited my electorate with me at Carnes
Hill. We were presented with a petition from over 1,000 residents from that one suburb calling
for more doctor training. Since that time, I have been receiving many petitions in my office
dealing with the same subject. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Graham Conroy
for his efforts in collecting those signatures. As a resident of that area and someone who is
particularly concerned about the state of health and the provision of GPs—like the concerns of
many other people in Carnes Hill—he has made it his task to go out and have this discussion
within his suburb.
Constituents in my electorate are paying the price of GP training places that were reduced to
400 when this government took office—and it put that in as a first-order priority after the 1996
election. Nearly half the households in my electorate—and, I assume, in many other growing
and younger electorates—contain couples and dependent children. These families are now
concerned that they will not have access to medical care when they need it and when their
kids need it.
What is worse, the cuts to the health programs keep coming under this government. In the
last budget alone, the government decided that that it would slash the More Doctors for Outer
Metropolitan Areas program by $1.5 million. This program has already assisted two doctors
relocating to my electorate of Werriwa. But, instead of using it to encourage more doctors to
relocate to the outer metropolitan areas of Sydney, this government has decided to cut the
program. It is clear that health simply is not the priority of the Howard government.
This government will say that the problems it faces in health care are all the fault of state
governments. The member for Gwydir is no different. That is precisely what he was trying to
argue in his contribution to this debate. The blame game is not what the residents of my
electorate want to hear. They want to know that, when they need it, they will have access to
health care and that their family will have access to proper health care when it is needed. They want to know that, when they are sick or when their kids are sick, there will be someone
available to help them.
I welcome the fact that the University of Western Sydney will have its medical school up and
running very shortly and will be training students in the outer metropolitan areas of Sydney. I
am confident that the school will produce excellent doctors, as the staff who are involved with
the school—people like Professor Neville Yeomans, the head of the school, and Dr Andrew
McDonald, the assistant professor, who is also head of paediatrics at Campbelltown Hospital—
are highly dedicated and will work hard to produce their best efforts when producing doctors
for our area, for outer metropolitan Sydney. But they know that this will not resolve our
immediate problem. They will not be able to produce doctors for a number of years. Add to
that the fact that a recent survey from the medical profession reports that many GPs are
saying now that doctors should specialise rather than go into general practice, and that
obviously paints a very grim picture for health care provided by our system.
The government boasts that it is spending record amounts on health, yet the budget document
says otherwise. It is cutting the PBS. It will only fund bulk-billing initiatives for a further two
years. It is wasting money on advertising to prop up private health insurers, and additional
funding for medical research that is promised now appears in the budget to be conditional on
the sale of Medibank Private. What is worse for people in my electorate is cutting the More
Doctors for Outer Metropolitan Areas program. This is a disgrace, and it reflects the attitude
that is being exhibited by this government.