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Health Minister Confirms Rural Health Outreach Funding to End in June

26 April 2016
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Ms WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr FERGUSON

[10.32 a.m.]

The Liberal Federal Government has committed to slashing the rural health outreach program, which funds allied health in remote parts of Tasmania, by approximately two-thirds, from $3.9 million to $1.4 million on 1 July this year.  This will mean no allied health services on the Tasman Peninsula and severe cuts to east coast and Dover.  Will you now strongly condemn this cut and go further than a phone message and stand up for regional communities?  How will you ensure that Tasmanians living in regional areas get the essential services they deserve?

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question.  The Rural Health Outreach Fund that Ms Woodruff refers to is a continuing and longstanding program.  The funding she may be referring to is that which came under the Tasmanian Health Assistance Program which was funding to replace the money the Labor-Greens government were taking out of Health in the previous government. 

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  The House will come to order.  I warn the member for Franklin, Ms Woodruff, and the member for Lyons, Ms White, for constant interjection.

Mr FERGUSON - I understand the insecurity, particular of Ms White and those opposite, but the point needs to be made that the one-off, top-up funding that arose as part of the Tasmanian Health Assistance Program is the issue there.  I heard Ms Woodruff also say in her question that allied health services will no longer be provided.  That is a spurious claim. 

Ms Woodruff interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  I have just warned the member for Franklin, Ms Woodruff.  I will not warn her again.

Mr Bacon interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  That is not an invitation for members to keep interjecting, particularly when I am talking.

Mr FERGUSON - Madam Speaker, I am aware of the Australian Government's confirmation that the one-off nature of that funding will not be continued past 30 June 2016.  It was with that in mind that as recently as two weeks ago I had a discussion with my federal counterpart about a range of funding matters, including the time-limited ones.  Tasmania will be continuing to actively prosecute the case for our state to continue to get our fair share of funding out of Canberra.  We take a cooperative and a constructive approach which has already shown in the past to be the way to get outcomes; not by banging on tables.

Today we restate our commitment that we will not be closing rural hospitals.  We have made a commitment to building better health services in regional communities, unlike those opposite who had a red hot go at closing Ouse and Rosebery hospitals.  I do not want to prejudice discussions with the Commonwealth.  However, I want to make it clear that this Government is making record spending in health in our state through constructively working and prosecuting -

Ms O’Connor interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  I warn the member for Denison, Ms O'Connor, for constant interjections.

Mr FERGUSON - In prosecuting Tasmania's case, our Premier secured up to $54 million from 2017-20 at COAG, while helping to ensure that the proposal to allow states to individually levy income tax would not proceed because that would have hurt Tasmania.  This Government secured extra funding for the John L. Grove Centre.  Again, that was funding which was time-limited as a result of the decision by the previous state and federal Labor governments.

We will always advocate on behalf of our state.  The Tasmanian Liberal Government continues to be a record investor in health, spending more in our health system than any previous government.  We will always work cooperatively to get the best outcomes from Canberra.