Clinic benefits debatable
Wednesday, 18th August, 2010
Whether a GP Super Clinic would attract doctors to Broken Hill was on the agenda of yesterday's "Great Farrer Debate".
Liberal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley and Labor candidate for the seat Christian Emmery crossed swords in the ABC Radio Albury studio yesterday morning. The pair answered questions provided by listeners from across the electorate.
The first 30 minutes of their discussion was transmitted live over ABC Radio 99.9 for Broken Hill listeners. The station will broadcast the remaining 15-odd minutes this morning between 8.30am and 9am.
The debate underlined the decision facing Broken Hill voters. Ms Ley holds Farrer comfortably and is familiar with the issues facing the vast electorate. She asked voters to look at her party's record when they went to the polls.
She pointed to the Albury-Wodonga internal bypass, bringing drought relief support for farmers and a national water plan as achievements.
Ms Ley admitted she had been able to achieve a great deal more while the Coalition was in government, but had since 'stopped a lot of Labor's bad initiatives'.
Broken Hill, which is still somewhat of a Labor stronghold, has only known Ms Ley in opposition.
Mr Emmery, on the other hand, is a 20-year-old newcomer to politics. He has the courage to challenge the assistant Shadow Treasurer to a debate on the economy, but is inexperienced.
When asked to outline his vision for Farrer, Mr Emmery said he would make the seat marginal, which would attract more attention and funding. For voters watching Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott pour their energy into Queensland and Western Sydney, that may be enough.
Labor announced yesterday morning that Broken Hill would receive a $7 million GP Super Clinic if they were re-elected. The clinics are a cornerstone of Labor's health policy.
They seek to pull together a range of primary health services under one roof, improving care and providing more doctors for longer hours.
Mr Emmery was asked on-air yesterday where the doctors would come from.
"The doctors will come to Broken Hill. One of the things with a GP Super clinic is it trains doctors and nurses, the ones that we have promised in the next election for regional areas. These doctors will come from cities and they will be coming from immigrants that come to this country," he said.
It was "absolutely ridiculous" for Broken Hill people to have to go to Adelaide for health services, Mr Emmery said, and the Super GP Clinic would alleviate that.
Ms Ley asked if the clinic would have to wait for the other 30 clinics already promised by Labor three years ago to be built.
"We have a plan for health and it involves working with doctors, not necessarily putting up competing structures," he said.
Ms Ley said the Coalition would look to greater Medicare rebates and encouraging doctors to do more.
Putting up a super clinic would not necessarily bring new doctors to Broken Hill, she said.
Mr Emmery had called for the debate, and its focus on the economy. He said economic policy was the issue causing the most discussion around the electorate.
When asked if he was qualified to discuss such matters, the 20-year-old said it wasn't a matter of qualifications. He hadn't created the policy, he said, but he was there to defend it.
"I think it's more (about) comparing of stimulus and economic policy. I'm here to argue that what we have done has done good for Australia," he said.
Mr Emmery said Labor had taken the initiative to counter the Global Financial Crisis, with stimulus packages and strategies keeping the country out of recession.
Ms Ley said independent auditors and the Reserve Bank had found the stimulus didn't save 500,000 jobs, and that much of the money had not been rolled out yet.
Of the $16 billion allocated to the 'Building the Education Revolution' project, Ms Ley said three quarters of it had not been spent by the beginning of the year. She said that, if Australia's economy was on the road to recovery, it was time to stop the spending and get the budget back into surplus.
The candidates were asked how they would ensure farmers would received adequate compensation for the acquisition of their property.
Mr Emmery said he hadn't looked into that area, but that he would "try and get back to you".
Ms Ley said the issue was a terrible one for farmers, and that she was treating it thus.
When asked to sum up, and why they deserved votes, Mr Emmery cited an investment in infrastructure and sound management.
Ms Ley said voters should be alarmed about what a Labor Government would do, giving the example of putting Broken Hill's water supply in an aquifer without consultation.