Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (13:53): Australians have known for some time that they cannot trust the federal coalition government when it comes to Medicare and the healthcare system. But in New South Wales this month they are discovering that the New South Wales coalition are just as bad. On the eve of a state by-election, we have the New South Wales government rolling out plans to privatise hospitals in Shellharbour, Bowral, Maitland, Wyong and Goulburn. This is a revisitation of the failed plan to privatise the Port Macquarie Base Hospital—a plan which was such a disaster that the New South Wales government had to take it back over.
Before the last election, Minister Skinner promised that a re-elected Baird government would give the green light to major regional redevelopments of Shellharbour Hospital with '$251 million in investment'. The parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra said that it was a dream comes true and that he could not be prouder. At no stage did they mention that their real plan was the privatisation of hospitals in regional Australia. I have to say that the residents in the Illawarra are very sceptical about this plan, believing it will lead to increased waiting lists and reduced staffing.
Normally, when have a tough policy to deliver you stand there and defend it; but not the Baird government. They do not even have the courage to stand a candidate in the Wollongong by-election. Well, Paul Scully will fight for the Wollongong hospitals and he will fight for the Illawarra.