Carbon Tax: Impact on Health Services

Written on the 14 August 2012

I am very pleased to rise to speak this afternoon on Mr Davis's motion.


I remind those opposite what we are debating here this afternoon. In the last two contributions I have not heard very much in the way of either relevance or reference to the motion that Mr Davis moved in the house, which is:


That this house:
(1) calls on the commonwealth government to provide full and timely compensation to Victorian health services and health providers for the significant cost impacts on public and community health services of the commonwealth's carbon tax; and

(2) notes that when other commonwealth taxes such as the goods and services taxes were applied that health services were exempt, and the same principles should apply to the carbon tax.


As this chamber knows, the commonwealth's proposed carbon tax legislation will have a significant impact on Victoria. The nature and impact of the carbon tax, particularly on health services, need to be properly explained to Victorians. I believe it is of significant importance that Victorians know the full details of the carbon tax and its impacts, and that is why we are here talking about Victorian health services and the fact that the commonwealth government is ultimately not providing any compensation in this instance to the Victorian patient.


I want to speak about Mr Jennings's contribution, which was a bit of a rant, I have to say. I did not hear him mention the patient once in his contribution -- --


Mrs Peulich -- He was overacting. He was engaging in his favourite pastime.


Ms CROZIER -- He was overacting. He must have had a good break, I think. But there was no reference to a single patient in his contribution. I will come back to Ms Hartland's contribution in a moment. There was some significant discussion by both speakers in relation to the Sinclair Knight Merz report entitled Impact of Carbon Pricing on the Victorian Health-Care System. I turn to the executive summary of that report, where it states that the Department of Health engaged SKM 'to assess the total financial impact to itself of the federal government's proposed carbon pricing scheme'. It goes on to list the main service sectors at which it was looking. Ms Hartland and Mr Jennings are not here anymore, but I will continue -- --


Hon. M. P. Pakula -- I am here.


Ms CROZIER -- Thank you, Mr Pakula.


The main service sectors that the study looked at were public hospitals, public health-care capital works, on-road and air ambulance services, class A cemeteries and the supply chain.


All of those elements are very important to the delivery of health services to this state. There has been a lot of debate around the carbon tax. Whether you believe in climate change -- as Ms Hartland clearly does, from what we have just heard throughout her 15-minute contribution -- or you do not, there is no doubt that this carbon tax is going to have a significant impact right across the economy and, importantly, right across our health sector.


Before I get back to the main purpose of this motion I will briefly refer to an article in the Australian on 30 March this year in which the outgoing Future Fund chairman, David Murray, is quoted as saying that the carbon tax is 'the worst piece of economic reform I have ever seen in my life'.


I do not know if you can call it reform, but nevertheless it is rather regressive. The Productivity Commission also pointed out that no country currently imposes an economy-wide tax on greenhouse gas emissions or has in place an economy-wide emission trading scheme. I raise these two points because they are having major economic impacts that


go to the heart of what this motion is about -- that is, compensation to our public health services.


Those who will pay will be Victorian patients. In my electorate of Southern Metropolitan Region many patients access the Monash Medical Centre in Clayton. The carbon tax will increase its annual power costs by almost $660 000. That money will come off its bottom line, and it could be better utilised in operation and service delivery or to employ more nurses, doctors and administrative staff to assist patients in that health service.


Health services, certainly the major public hospitals, are very energy intensive. In an emergency department, an intensive care department or a special care nursery there are monitors and electrical equipment -- highly energy-intensive equipment -- that need a lot of either gas or electricity, as the minister pointed out.


If compensation is not delivered to our health services or that money has to be found or come off an individual hospital's bottom line, that will have a direct effect on the delivery of services.


Ms Hartland says it is only 0.1 per cent of the budget, but when you add up every single health service in this state, whether it is a large public hospital, a small community health service, a bush nursing hospital or the air ambulance or road ambulance services, there is going to be a cost. The carbon tax will have an impact on their service delivery. Somebody has to pay, and that will have an impact on Victorian patients and the ability to service those patients when they arrive at Victorian health services.


The carbon tax will not only go to that; we are also looking at construction costs in relation to new hospitals -- --


Hon. M. P. Pakula -- So your billions of dollars of cuts will not impact on services, but the carbon tax will?


Ms CROZIER -- Mr Pakula, this is a carbon tax that you know is going to hurt -- --


Hon. M. P. Pakula -- The carbon tax will impact on services, but your billions of dollars worth of cuts will not?


Ms CROZIER -- No, it is going to hurt across the economy. I am now going to turn to the construction of hospitals. The comprehensive cancer centre and the Bendigo hospital are both using large amounts of cement, aluminium and other construction materials which will also be hit by this carbon tax. There is no denying this is going to hurt health services across the supply chain and in the delivery of services. I know we have already had a debate on food.


This report highlights some areas that are going to be impacted, including hand washes, office requisites, intravenous and dialysis fluids, medical gases and continence management products, all of which are supplied to health services and will be impacted by this carbon tax.


The fact that there is no compensation provided by the commonwealth shows that our Victorian-based Prime Minister does not care for Victorian patients. She is not standing up for them, unlike the Victorian Minister for Health, who has argued that there should be compensation. It is extraordinary that our own Victorian-based Prime Minister says she cares when in fact she does not.


Mr Barber interjected.


Ms CROZIER -- Mr Barber might well say 0.1 per cent; Ms Hartland gave that figure as well.


In her contribution to the debate she spoke about dengue fever and gastroenteritis. I am not taking away anything from those people who are experiencing dengue fever and gastroenteritis, but I would say they are not the main issues being presented to our public health services. There are many more cases involving accidents and illnesses that our health services look after and care for on a daily basis. Ms Hartland spoke about climate change and its health impacts into the next 100 years. That is all very well, but I am talking about what is going to happen to Victorian patients today, tomorrow and in the next few years. The federal government is not sticking up for Victorian patients, and it is not providing adequate compensation, if any, for the impacts of the carbon tax.


I reiterate that I support Mr Davis's motion. The federal government needs to look more closely at the impacts of the carbon tax.


We know Victoria is going to be impacted first and foremost because of our high energy brown coal reserves which deliver electricity to supply our economy -- our services, our businesses and our homes. The federal government should take Victoria's circumstances into consideration. I commend the health minister and the Premier for taking this issue to the federal government and arguing for a better deal for Victoria's patients. The federal government simply does not care at all.Carbon Tax: Impact on Health Services (14.08.2012)

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