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State Budget 2016: Health System Gutted of Funding

31 May 2016
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Ms WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr FERGUSON

[10.28 a.m.]

In the policy and parameter statements in budget paper 1 for this year, 2015-16, there is a policy item -

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  Members should be silent while the member is asking her question, especially the two members who are under a warning.

Ms WOODRUFF - for Tasmanian Health Service additional funding of $10 million.  There is a $20.9 million payment also made to the Tasmanian Health Service under the parameter statement.  When that $30.9 million in additional payments is added to the total THS budget for 2015-16, it means that in 2016-17 there will be $18.5 million less than in this current year.  You have cut the funding to our hospitals by $18.5 million.  In real terms, when wage drives and basic equipment price increases are accounted for, this will be close to an actual cut of $50 million.  You promised to fix Tasmania's health system.  How are you going to fix the health system you pushed to the brinks of collapse by ripping more money out of it?

Ms O'Connor interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  I warn the member for Denison, Ms O'Connor.  The minister has not even addressed the question and there are already interjections.  Need I remind the House that if this behaviour continues I will have no hesitation but the suspend it?  I will have no choice, and I do not think you want that today.

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Franklin for her question.  Having put in the hard yards to get the state Budget back on track, the Government is now in a position to invest additional funds into health, not to cut health as you have falsely asserted.  I also heard language suggesting that the Government is reducing funding and reducing employment.  That is not true at all.  In fact, Ms Woodruff and the Labor Party are now running a narrative of fewer nurses, as I think I heard today.  These are false statements.  The additional funding is extra money for the health budget.  This $50 million for our health system in last week's Budget is over and above the extra $100 million allocated in last year's Budget.  Only the Greens would assert that an extra $50 million is less money for the health budget. 

There is an interesting opportunity here for some scrutiny of what Ms Woodruff has asserted.  I did note in her question that Ms Woodruff referenced a $10 million figure from budget paper No. 1 but did not reference the table.  I do not know specifically what figure she is referring to.  I could speculate that it may be the additional funding that the Treasurer allocated to the THS earlier this year.  The Government is supporting the health system with extra money and that is a good thing. 

I would like to say that this Government is a record investor in health.  Last year I was able to say that for the first time the health budget over the forward Estimates has gone over $6 billion.  This year across the forward Estimates period there is a new record of $6.4 billion.  This is more than $800 million that we have spent in the last four years of the Labor-Green government.  That is $800 million more money in the last four years of this government than was spent by Ms Woodruff's party's government. 

There has been a significant increase in frontline staffing.  That is a good thing. 

Ms O'Connor - You have gutted frontline staffing.

Mr FERGUSON - I just heard Ms O'Connor say that we gutted the health system.  Nursing staff in the THS have increased by more than 80 FTEs.  That is in this financial year alone.  That is not fewer nurses; that is more nurses providing front line services to our community.  There have been significant funding increases and this is deliberately targeted at rebuilding our health system that was left broken by the previous government.

Green members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order.  Interjections will cease.  As I have stated to members, it is very generous to be allowed to ask questions on the Budget, particularly when you have committees all next week.  So at least have the decency to listen to answers.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker.  I am genuinely seeking clarification from you.  It is a long-standing practice of this place that question time after the Budget is dedicated to Budget questions and I am surprised to hear that is even in question.

Madam SPEAKER - It is not in question.  I am reminding members how lucky they are of that long-standing precedent that you be allowed when a matter is actually listed as an order of the day.  It is the one exception that we allow but I am not going to have that questioned and I am not going to allow unruly behaviour when you have all week to debate the Budget and all week to ask further questions.  Yet you are behaving in the manner that you are behaving today.

Mr FERGUSON - I am thankful for the opportunity to answer this.  The Greens have asserted that there is less money for health.  Do they stand by that?  Do the Greens continue to assert that there are fewer nurses in the health system?  They have gone very quiet.

Importantly, our extra funding is deliberately targeted at rebuilding our health system.  It includes funding for our one-health system reforms.  It includes funding for our Patients First plan for emergency care.  It includes funding for Rethink, which the Premier mentioned earlier this morning, our long-term plan for mental health, with an extra $3 million.  There is an extra $2.6 million in addition to the education system's $2 million for our work in preventive health.  Our health investments are genuine.  They are real money and real extra resources.  They are focused on keeping Tasmanians healthy and delivering timely, high-quality care across our health system for Tasmanians in all parts of our state. 

The Greens are asserting falsehoods.  The preamble to Ms Woodruff's question which talked about budget cuts is obviously not true.  We have taken health funding to a new record of $6.4 billion.