Rebecca White MP | Labor Member for Lyons
Just weeks after dismissing Labor's push to regulate e-cigarettes the Liberal Government has embarrassingly announced they have released a discussion paper on e-cigarettes and that they are seeking public feedback on whether to regulate them
Health Minister Michael Ferguson sheepishly made the announcement during Budget Estimates.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said the announcement proved Labor has correctly identified concerns about the potential harm e-cigarettes can cause and that the government needs to take action.
"Here was Minister Ferguson, fresh from dismissing Labor's policy on e-cigarettes, announcing an almost identical policy could soon be adopted by his own government.
"Just a few weeks ago the suggestion to regulate e-cigarettes was described as nanny statism at its worst by Mr Ferguson.
"Of course Labor welcomes the change of heart from the Government but it must be seen for what it is, an embarrassing backdown."
Health Minister Michael Ferguson has extraordinarily confirmed that staff cuts mean funding allocated to elective surgery cannot be spent.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said the revelation is startling evidence of another broken promise.
"At a time when waiting lists at the Royal Hobart Hospital have blown out by more than 40 per cent, the Liberal Government is sitting on promised money for elective surgery,” Ms White said.
"The reason that more than $4 million will go unspent this financial year is a lack of staff available to perform the surgeries.
"The cruel irony is the Liberals’ cuts to our hospitals to pay for their promises mean they can't actually fulfil their commitment to elective surgery.
"Today's confirmation would be very hard to swallow for people desperately waiting for elective surgery procedures.
"It's not good enough for the Minister to say the money will be allocated down the track, it should have been already spent as they promised."
A $300,000 program set up by the Minister for Human Services to support people at risk of homelessness has failed to help even one person.
Shadow Human Services Minister Rebecca White said it has taken ten months for Minister Jacquie Petrusma to set up the Tenancy Guarantee program because she failed to adequately consult with the sector before announcing it last year.
The program was funded under the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness to assist those families at risk of homelessness to access private rental with the assistance of a bond guarantee from Housing Tasmania.
“In Budget Estimates today the Minister revealed that in the time it has been operating 39 people had been assessed for support and that 15 were deemed eligible,” Ms White said.
At a time when public housing wait lists are blowing out by 43%, the Minister for Human Services Jacquie Petrusma has failed to justify a massive underinvestment in affordable housing during Budget Estimates.
“The Government has found $2 billion for infrastructure projects across the state and has a further $220 million sitting in its coffers but the Minister for Human Services has been unable to secure one extra cent to build more affordable housing properties,” Shadow Human Services Minister Rebecca White said.
“The existing funding to build all the affordable housing properties in this financial year was secured under previous state and federal Labor governments.
“With nearly half a billion dollars in extra GST coming to the state it is clear that this government lacks compassion for those Tasmanians who are facing a cold winter ahead.
“It seems that the Hodman Liberal government regards the welfare of people less than the opportunity to cut a ribbon on a new road.
“If the government had its priorities right it would acknowledge there is a serious problem with the availability of affordable housing in this state and invest in it as a matter of priority to create jobs but most importantly, put a roof over the heads of Tasmanians in need.”
Concern about the Government’s newly announced THS governing body is growing with key stakeholders not given a seat at the table.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said there’s no one representing the Royal Hobart Hospital, no one representing nurses and no one representing health consumers and the community.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear the Health Minister has got it badly wrong,” Ms White said.
“Health experts and their representative bodies are right to point out the deficiencies of the governing council.
“There was always a clear expectation that there would be fair regional representation on the governing council but for some reason there is not one member with clinical experience from the south.
“It begs the question, who did the Minister actually consult with when deciding the make-up of the council.
“For the Royal Hobart Hospital not to be represented at a time of major change is a huge oversight.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White has raised in Parliament the inadequate treatment of a patient recovering from neck surgery.
The 59 year old man from George Town was forced to travel home from the Royal Hobart Hospital on a bus, despite notes from the neurosurgery department explicitly advising against it.
“Four days after surgery he was told there was no longer a bed available for him and he had to travel back to Launceston on a Redline Bus,” Ms White said.
“His hospital notes explicitly warned against travel on public transport.
“The surgery on the prolapsed disc in his neck meant he was advised against sitting for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
“It’s completely unacceptable that the travel arrangements provided for him directly contradicted the hospital’s own medical advice.
“This is a sign of the enormous stress the health service is under after facing a $210 million budget cut last year.
The Budget papers reveal that the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment will not be completed until June 2019 despite the Minister for Health continuing to state that the project is on time.
“The Minister has repeatedly stated that the RHH redevelopment will be completed in 2018 but today he has been exposed,” Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said.
“The capital investment program for the RHH redevelopment for the financial year 2015-16 is just $28 million when in last year’s Budget papers it forecast $136 million would be spent this year.
“The inability of the Minister for Health to deliver the project on time makes a mockery of his claim that he has ‘rescued the Royal’.
“In addition to this, the budget for Health and Human Services still contains $110 million in savings that will need to be found.
The cuts from last year’s Budget have not been reversed, which means there is more pain to come for frontline health services.
The Budget also predicts that ambulance response times will continue to increase across the state which indicates the cuts will continue to impact service delivery.
The budget for Human Services reveals more people are expected to join the public housing waiting lists which have already blown out by 1000 people under Jacquie Petrusma.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White has welcomed the belated funding announcement for the John L Grove Centre in Launceston.
“The funding uncertainty has dragged on for far too long but the commitment from the Federal Government is welcome,” Ms White said.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White today called on Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey to explain his comments about ice abuse in Tasmania.
The Federal Treasurer told 2GB host Ray Hadley during a discussion about ice - “I was in Northern Tasmania and it was Friday lunch time and I’m wondering why all these kids are in the mall and some of them were just off their dials.’’
Ms White said the Treasurer needs to provide context to his comments.
“If the Treasurer saw young people he believed were affected by ice, who did he notify at the time?,” Ms White said.
"It is unconscionable that the Federal Treasurer saw school aged kids who he suspected to be on ice and did not report the matter to authorities.
“Both Bass MP Andrew Nikolic and Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten have told the media that the ice claim wasn’t raised with them.
“Why wait until you’re being grilled on Sydney radio to make a claim like this?
“Ice is a significant health and social issue for Tasmanian communities and should be treated seriously by the both the Tasmanian and Australian governments.”
Andrew Nikolic’s comment of “Was he getting his places mixed up?” confuses the matter further.
“Mr Hockey and Mr Nikolic need to explain exactly what they saw, where they saw it and what they did about it,” Ms White said.
"Or is it the case that Mr Hockey is simply making things up and casting aspersions on Tasmania’s young people?"
Health Minister Michael Ferguson’s blatantly negative response to Labor’s sensible preventative health policies suggests he is happy to allow e-cigarettes to be sold to children.
Shadow Health Minister Rebecca White said Mr Ferguson’s bizarre position is not only at odds with health experts, but with Liberal governments in New South Wales and Western Australia which have banned the sale of e-cigarettes to children.
“Mike Baird believes it’s not good policy to sell e-cigarettes to minors but Michael Ferguson doesn’t see any need for change,” Ms White said.
New South Wales Health Minister Jillian Skinner said: “There is no conclusive evidence that e-cigarettes help people to quit smoking but there is concern that e-cigarettes pose potential risks to children, which is why the Bill we introduce today is so important.”
“The Liberal Government’s response to our policy announcement is irrational and shows that they have absolutely no commitment to preventive health.
“Our policy made no mention of introducing any new taxes but that didn’t stop Michael Ferguson making things up.
“Labor is willing to work with the Government to produce better health outcomes for young Tasmanians but the Liberals are only interested in politics.
“The two policy initiatives announced yesterday are in line with the views of the Cancer Council and Heart Foundation, but still the Liberals were willing to condemn them.
“If Mr Ferguson is genuine about wanting to improve the health of Tasmanians he should support our sensible policies.”