Tuesday, 16 May 2023

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Federal health funding

Emma KEALY, Mary-Anne THOMAS

Federal health funding

Emma KEALY (Lowan) (14:26): My question is to the Minister for Health. Last week’s federal Labor budget slashed $810 million from Victorian health services next year. Why has the minister caved in to federal Labor and not fought harder for Victoria’s fair share of health funding?

Mary-Anne THOMAS (Macedon – Leader of the House, Minister for Health, Minister for Health Infrastructure, Minister for Medical Research) (14:26): I really welcome this question because it provides an opportunity to outline to those on the other side of the house the way in which the federal budget works and the way in which indeed the funding that was provided to Victoria for COVID worked. If the member had actually read the budget papers properly and had bothered to understand the detail, she would know that there was an allocation for COVID that had been provided and that in fact it had already been determined by the previous Liberal government that it would be taken out of state governments’ funding.

There are a couple of things that I would like to say in relation to this. One is that we welcome the federal government’s investment in health. For the first time in almost a decade we have a government that wants to partner with us, a government that actually wants to work to fix the great problem of our time, which is primary health care – Medicare. Medicare has been completely broken, and this is after almost a decade of neglect. Not once did the member get up and ask a question about Medicare – not once – and yet what we saw from the previous Liberal government was year on year of neglect, to the point where our government has had to lean in to a federal government responsibility. We have been pleased and proud to do that with the establishment of 25 priority primary care centres, but we make this point: primary care, Medicare, is and always has been a federal government responsibility. The promise of Medicare is that it is free, fast and local, and as a government we will continue to advocate to the federal government for more.

Let me make this point: we have got a reform agenda when it comes to our healthcare system. We stand by our healthcare workers. We work with them, not against them like those on the other side did. We will never go to war with our healthcare workers, and we will continue to fight for more funding for our hospitals. The current funding agreement is one that we will continue to advocate to change because we want to see a 50–50 funding agreement for health care. But again, and I will finish on this note: not once did we get a question when the Liberals were in power and they neglected Medicare. It has been broken in this state, and we will work with the –

Emma Kealy: On a point of order, Speaker, it is not a time for the minister to attack the opposition. Perhaps she can speak more to the question, which is explaining why the $810 million cut from their federal Labor mates is okay for –

The SPEAKER: Order! I have heard the point of order. The minister has concluded her answer.

Emma KEALY (Lowan) (14:29): $810 million represents 139,000 elective surgery cases, which would clear the backlog due to COVID closures. What is the minister going to do to reverse this savage cut by federal Labor to Victorian health funding?

Mary-Anne THOMAS (Macedon – Leader of the House, Minister for Health, Minister for Health Infrastructure, Minister for Medical Research) (14:30): I have made the point before and I will make it again, because it seems that the member for Lowan is having difficulty in understanding. The funding was for COVID specifically, and it was announced by the former Liberal government that it would be ending – the former Liberal government, who neglected their key responsibility, which was primary care. Our government is investing in primary care. What is more, we have a $1.5 billion COVID catch-up plan when it comes to dealing with planned surgery. We have got $12 billion which we are delivering as part of our pandemic repair plan, and under our government we will work with our healthcare workers to –

Emma Kealy: On a point of order, Speaker, on relevance, the question was specific: what is the minister going to do to reverse the savage cut of $810 million – 139,000 elective surgery cases?

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! Member for Lowan, there is no point of order. Order! Leader of the Opposition! Member for Lowan, a point of order is not an opportunity to repeat the question. The Minister for Health has concluded her answer.