Adjournment Debate - Queensland Public Hospital

March 21, 2018









It's pretty clear from what we have seen from those opposite that a scare campaign is underway. I'd normally try and expect better from Western Australian senators, as we see from the current Acting Deputy President, Senator Sterle. But it really is disappointing that we see Senator Brockman following the path of the Prime Minister. The best the government can do in regard to this issue is mount a scare campaign, lame one that it is. A scare campaign is all that it is. The Prime Minister was out there doing that today in New South Wales.

But what I wanted to talk about and what today really highlights is just what the priorities of this government are. We know that they're pursuing a scare campaign on this issue, but they're also running around behind this scenes in this place at the moment trying to secure their ideological agenda around tax cuts for big business. On the one hand they're running a scare campaign about Labor's fair and responsible measures around tax and then, on the other hand, they're going around the crossbench trying to get the numbers to pass a bill that would result in tax cuts for big business. They're hoodwinking the crossbench, saying they'll provide a letter from the Business Council of Australia to provide some certainty to them. It's just absolutely ridiculous.

When you look at what Labor has been talking about today and what the Labor leader has been up to compared to what the Prime Minister has been up to, Labor has been highlighting the health cuts that are coming from this government. What this government has put to the state governments around COAG would result in a $710 million cut to the health budget between now and 2020. That means for Queensland a $160 million cut. This would have a devastating impact on the Queensland community.

This is also on top of what is looming around the GST cuts as well, which we know would have a devastating impact when it comes to health and education. But this is the government's priority. So, at one level, it's focusing in on tax cuts, whilst at the same time it's cutting funding to health. We know what the government did in regard to education. We know what they have done in regard to infrastructure. But this is the focus that we are seeing from them. This means a $160 million cut to Queensland, which would result in 240,000 emergency department visits being cut at a time when a record number of people are actually presenting.

But the real concern for me is in regional Queensland. We know that the health outcomes in regional Queensland are not as good as those in the capital cities, so any cut that is made to the health budget has a devastating impact in regional communities. People there are already having to travel long distances for treatment, especially for specialist treatment. The fact that there are more cuts to those regional areas looming is going to have a significant impact. So it was absolutely the right call for federal Labor leader Bill Shorten to be highlighting today these cuts in Central Queensland, including Gladstone. What Malcolm Turnbull's cut would mean for Central Queensland is that $6.1 million would be cut from public hospitals. This would mean $950,000 cut from the Gladstone Hospital. This would means surgeries would be delayed, nurse and doctor numbers would decline and emergency department wait times would increase in Central Queensland. This is what we are seeing in regional Queensland. This is the pursuit of those opposite, whilst at the same time they are pursuing tax cuts for big business. We will absolutely campaign strongly on this issue, and we are determined—and this has been a Labor mantra—that your Medicare card will be worth more than your credit card. We absolutely want to ensure that everyone in Queensland has access to the best possible health care that they can afford. We will continue to highlight that.

This also goes to what we have seen consistently from the Liberal and National parties across Australia and particularly the Liberal National Party in Queensland. We know that from their time in government in Queensland, from 2012 to 2015. Queensland is only just starting to recover from the cuts they made to health now that we've had three years of a state Labor government. But the work that they have done in Queensland has had to be on their own because they haven't had support from the federal government to boost that funding that they need.

Once again, we will continue to highlight the priorities of those opposite compared to our priorities. It becomes clear that we want to ensure that big business pays their fair share of tax and that the health outcomes for everyone in Queensland and across Australia are equal. We also want to do the same with education. We will stand proudly by our record while campaigning across Queensland communities to ensure that they understand this.