Territory Stories

Debates Day 4 - Friday 23 June 2006



Debates Day 4 - Friday 23 June 2006

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Parliamentary Record 8


Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Friday 23 June 2006 2636 not so easily fooled the next time around, and will bring this government to account. There was a classical case - and the member for Nelson mentioned it - of the Ombudsman, who is a woman. The Office of the Ombudsman is not adequately resourced. When you have an impartial officer of the government not adequately resourced to provide all the necessary services that are required of that office, then we have a problem. To my specific question whether she had negotiated for better funding for her office with the Chief Minister, who was her direct minister responsible for her office, she said she did not, but in fact, she had negotiated with Treasury. When I further pursued the Ombudsman why she did not discuss the matter with the Chief Minister, to quote her very pointed comment: It would have been a futile exercise. For an Ombudsman to say that with the Chief Minister sitting next to her tells me volumes. This Ombudsman is so frustrated that she cannot perform the functions that she was engaged to perform by this Legislative Assembly. That, to me, tells me that this Chief Minister is not interested in open and transparent government; she is interested in micromanaging her appearance to the electorate, and she would do anything she could to withdraw resources from the people who make her accountable in the most objective manner. Yes, members opposite can use political spin and all that, but you would expect somebody like the Ombudsman and you can add the Auditor-General to that list to be the people who would do these things objectively. It creates a problem. Regarding health, obviously, the radiation oncology unit is still not committed we do not know how far progressed the governments negotiations with the federal government are. I am glad that, at long last, the Minister for Health has commenced negotiations with the federal government to finalise the detail of the $13m on offer. I say again that, had we commenced this two years ago when the report was first tabled, we would now have a radiation oncology unit up and running. I also come back to the point about the fact that the minister has had this report in his hands for two years. I would have assumed that he or his advisors would have read that report two years ago and would be fully across the issues detailed in the report. One of the most significant issues, I believe, is the one about the hardship that patients with cancer suffer when they have to travel under PATS. It is two things: (1) is the level of subsidy that PATS provides, and (2) is the lack of flexibility that PATS demand of patients when they provide travel assistance. Normally, when you are told that you have to go down to Adelaide, for instance, to receive treatment, you would think that the patient needs a few days to prepare themselves, to get their family organised and leave their home, whether it be in lock-up state or to have somebody house sit. But no, PATS demand, We will set the date for you and then you have to go there with very little notice. However, worse than that is that, having completed radiotherapy treatment - people here might not know - your body goes through a dramatic change, you suffer from intense nausea, if not vomiting, and frequently you can also get bowel disturbances, such as severe diarrhoea. They expect and insist a patient who has received the final course of radiotherapy then travel back to their home town in the Northern Territory within a day of that, which is so unreasonable. These patients are not well and they have to travel as a seated passenger in a commercial aircraft. It is very unfair to the patients. Also to provide meagre subsistence subsidy is just not on. It costs you more than $30 to stay in a motel and to purchase a meal. While $30 does assist it does not go anywhere near paying for a quarter or half of the cost of a motel room for a night. Then, spouses who travel with the patients are not provided with any assistance whatsoever. When you are travelling down for the treatment of a life-threatening disease, you want to have at least a loved one with you to support you. To see that this is not possible because of the rigidity of PATS is just not acceptable. I believe the minister needs to consider this closely. I also say that the minister knew about those hardships for two years. He sat back and he allowed it to happen. He allowed it to happen until the eve of this estimates, when he said: Oh, I will put $0.5m into PATS and help it out a little. What do you say of a person who knows about a particular effect on a cancer patient, and ignores it completely - I do not know for what reason? I cannot understand it, and I wish the minister would explain his thoughts, and explain clearly why he did what he did. If he could not deliver the radiation oncology unit, he could have at least put the money into PATS two years ago. He could have done that, and it would have made life a lot easier for cancer sufferers. But no, he did not. I also remind the minister that cancer patients have limited time and the longer he delays on the original quality service the more distress you put them through. I am going through the portfolio not in the order that they appeared in estimates but as they appear here on the sheet. One of the things that I queried the Minister for Family and Community Services about was about child protection. She has not adequately explained why there are so many

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