Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN
Your Health minister lurches from one self-inflicted crisis to the next. Yesterday we saw on full display his arrogance as he dismissed Frank O'Keeffe with a wave of his hand. Do you agree this mess in the health system and erosion of public confidence is in significant part because your minister does not listen and has ignored the voices of clinicians and hospital staff ever since you gave him the job?
Absolutely not. Madam Speaker, I reject each and every one of the assertions made and the claims put by the member who asked the question and commend the minister, Mr Ferguson, for the exceptional job he is doing in a difficult portfolio that was in an absolute mess when we came into government just four years ago, but which has been substantially improved in the four years we have been in government. It is a result of -
Opposition members interjecting.
Member for Franklin - Mr O'Byrne
Madam SPEAKER - Order. I made a ruling before that if anyone breached my last ruling they would be spending some time outside. Mr O'Byrne, you have the honour of being the first person to take a coffee break and you can come back into the House at the end of question time.
Mr O'Byrne withdrew.
Mr HODGMAN - Thank you, Madam Speaker. I want to put some facts out there for members in this place and anyone else who may be unaware of the progress that has been made in just four-and-a-half years.
We have opened over 120 hospital beds, put on more than 600 extra FTE frontline health staff, and delivered record low elective surgery waiting lists, the lowest in Tasmania's history. We also have the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment back on track, on schedule to open on time. Labor talked about this project for 10 years and could not even lay a brick on. We are now progressing the redevelopment that will in many respects alleviate the strains our health system experiences and provide what many in our community are asking for: more investment into beds, more health professionals to work and support the health system, and more capacity for our health system to treat Tasmanians sooner. That is exactly what we are endeavouring to do.
The other side of the coin, which should not be forgotten is, that under Labor and the Greens, hospital beds - in fact entire wards - were closed, 900 nurses lost their jobs, $50 million was pruned from the elective surgery budget, and $500 million was cut from the Health budget. That was instigated by the former health minister, aided and abetted by the Leader of the Opposition, Ms White, and the budget cuts committee. They promised a new Royal Hobart Hospital. They talked about it and spent millions trying to come up with a plan to build a new Royal Hobart Hospital. They said it would be delivered by 2016 under them, but they failed to even start the rebuild that we actually commenced in 2014, which is on track.
Madam Speaker, this is the progress we have made and it is the result of a Health minister who does, in fact, listen to clinical experts and specialists. It was this minister who commenced the most extensive consultation process around our health system back when we came into government in 2014, developing the white paper, which was the result of extensive consultation right across the state, dealing with difficult issues, listening to what clinicians, nurses and health professionals had to say and, as a result, we have developed a comprehensive plan to get our health system back up on its feet and performing well.
Since then, not only have we redeveloped the Royal Hobart Hospital but we have also saved the Mersey, which was at risk under Labor and the Greens. They wanted to give it away but we have taken responsibility for it and with the support of the federal government we have been able to save that hospital. We have invested more into it and the North-West Regional and Launceston General Hospital, opening some of those wards that the member for Bass and former health minister, Michelle O'Byrne, shut down. They are some of the things that we have done in addition to appointing more staff and opening more beds. During the election campaign and this year's Budget, we are going to deliver the most significant investment, the biggest injection into our health system ever, to make sure Tasmanians can get the health system they deserve.
Opposition members interjecting.
Mr HODGMAN - It was the Leader of the Opposition who expressed no confidence in herself by dropping the Health portfolio.
Member for Bass - Ms O'Byrne
Madam SPEAKER - Order. I suggest that Ms O'Byrne also has a coffee and a deep reflection until the end of question time. Thank you.
Ms O'Byrne withdrew.
Mr HODGMAN - Thank you, Madam Speaker. It should not be comfortable for the former health minister to listen to the facts about what happened to our health system when Labor and the Greens were in government, and what we have done to repair it ever since.
When you talk about confidence in people to run Tasmania's health system, Mr Ferguson embraces the challenge and is prepared to listen, make tough decisions and argue hard and strongly for more investment by this Government and the Commonwealth, which we are doing.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition declared no confidence in herself by giving up the portfolio which she said was the most important thing for Tasmania. I am not surprised, after the embarrassing spectacle we saw that really demonstrated how out of their depth they were when they had seven versions of a health policy, during just one election campaign, that did not stack up. It did not add up. Tasmanians voted no confidence in Labor and we will not be distracted by those who have had their time and failed. We will get on with the job of delivering.