The Government is committed to providing state of the art health and education services for the people of Canberra. As with previous budgets, these important areas of government service delivery are the two areas of highest funding and are continuing to grow. Health and education will always be our highest priorities and this Budget invests more than $350 million in new initiatives over the next four years. This brings health and education spending to around $2.5 billion in 2014–15—a record investment.
Investing in health
Commonwealth Government budget cuts have hit our health funding hard. In 2011, we,
along with other the states, signed the National Health Reform Agreement in good faith. On 13 May 2014, the Commonwealth unilaterally walked away from that agreement, taking with it its guarantees of the ACT being no worse off and minimum funding for growth.
While the Commonwealth Government has provided growth in funding for public hospitals, at a national level, of an average 9% per annum over the next four years, it has actually foreshadowed cuts to funding for ACT hospitals in 2014–15. The Commonwealth Government's abandonment of the National Health Reform Agreement has cut $248 million from what we expected to receive for our hospitals over the next four years.
We cannot turn our hospital services on and off like a tap. To sustain the level of care needed by our community, and to grow services in keeping with our population, we have taken the gap in funding left by the Commonwealth onto the ACT Budget's bottom line. We have done this because of our fundamental belief that the people of Canberra should not suffer reduced health services because the Commonwealth Government has walked away from its commitments.
In this Budget, initiatives that invest in the health of our community are worth more than $285 million.
More for our hospitals
This Budget expands the capacity for hospital based services in many areas. We will refurbish sections of the Canberra Hospital and Calvary Public Hospital to add over 30 new general inpatient beds. The number of intensive care unit beds at both these hospitals will also be increased.
New beds will also be opened at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children in several units, including neonatal intensive care, paediatrics and the birthing centre.
People with cancer will receive additional care with more medical and other health professional staff for the Canberra Region Cancer Centre.
We will fund an additional 500 elective surgery procedures per year and expand our emergency department capacity, to meet growing demand and reduce waiting times.
We are also adding infrastructure to the health sector, including a new, sub-acute hospital at the University of Canberra campus; a multi-storey carpark at Calvary hospital, to ease congestion on that site and improve access for patients and visitors; and a secure mental health unit.
More for community health
We have expanded our community based health services in this Budget. In recent years, we have built new community health centres at Belconnen and Gungahlin, and refurbished and expanded the centre in Tuggeranong. These were visionary projects, to provide the capacity that we will need into the future
to match our growing population.
This Budget, we are putting extra staff into the Belconnen and Tuggeranong Community Health Centres, and the new Walk-in-Centre at Belconnen. We will start to deliver the additional services envisaged for those centres. These services include breast screening, pathology collection, rehabilitation,
mental health services and some medical outpatient type services.
We will also hire more community nurses to expand services through the centres and in people's homes.
More to help in mental health
This Budget recognises the importance of treatment and support for Canberrans living with mental illness. We have expanded the services of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, with an emphasis on perinatal and infant consultation services. We have also expanded the Eating Disorders Program.
Additional and improved approaches to suicide prevention also feature in this Budget. We will provide the resources needed for ACT Health to implement changes to the Mental Health Act, which are currently before the Legislative Assembly. These amendments will, among other things, update the law to
take account of international advances in human rights, including the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
The Government is also turning soil on construction of the new Secure Mental Health Unit at Symonston. This will be a 25 bed facility for the appropriate accommodation of people with severe mental illness.
Investing in HealthIn 2014–15:
- Over 4,500 babies will be born in public hospitals
- 15,500 women will receive breast cancer screens
- There will be more than 99,000 admissions to hospital and more than 675,000 services provided through outpatients and Emergency
Investing in healthy lifestyles
The Government embraces the importance of lifestyle for health and has again invested in preventive health measures in this Budget. This is another area where the Commonwealth Government has walked away from its commitments by terminating its funding contribution under the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health. While this hurts us to the tune of around $7 million over the four year period, we are still making preventive measures a priority.
The ACT Government will have a strong focus on a whole of government effort to deliver these initiatives, driven by the Healthy Weight Action Plan.
Our efforts in this Budget lead with investment in a new Healthy Weight Initiative. This is a whole-of-government initiative to up the fight against obesity. It will include community programs and education activities; physical education for students; online resources for doctors and nutritional information
for supermarkets and shopping centres. An important part of this initiative will be the forming of partnerships with businesses to improve food choices on offer and educate people about healthy diets.
Our Healthy Weight Initiative goes hand in hand with additional walking and cycling infrastructure, and with funding in this Budget for many of our sporting facilities.
More than $10 million goes to sport and recreation, including;
- Funding to run the new Gungahlin Leisure Centre
- A Water Play Park at the Tuggeranong Lakeside Leisure Centre
- Upgrading of tennis facilities at the Lyneham Sports Precinct (bringing the Government's investment in this precinct since 2008-09 to $30 million)
- Design of the Narrabundah Ballpark Stage 2
- Continuation of the Active Kids Challenge
- $4.8 million for walking and cycling projects to promote exercise as a daily habit.
The Government has previously invested $11.7 million since 2011–12 in walking and cycling infrastructure—on top of what has been provided as part of new estates and new roads.
We have previously invested $71 million, since 2011–12, in facilities such as the construction of the Gungahlin Leisure Centre and Enclosed Oval, Narrabundah Velodrome, and various oval restorations. This funding is in addition to the existing sports and recreation grants, which provide over
$2 million annually.
Investing in Healthy LifestylesIn 2014–15:
- Over 77% of children will participate in organised sport outside of school and over 80% of adults will participate in sport and recreation activities
- Over 410 Km of on-road cycling paths will be maintained and 25 KM of new paths constructed
Investing in education
The Government believes a quality education is the foundation for future success in life. We believe all students in Canberra have the right to a quality education, no matter where they live or what their financial circumstances. We also believe that our community having access to quality education is the foundation for future economic growth and prosperity.
This Budget invests a record $1.1 billion to support our children's education and training, from early childhood education through to vocational and higher education.
This Budget contains funding of nearly $90 million to improve our education and training system and to cater for growing student numbers.
Early Childhood Education
This Budget invests in our youngest learners. We are continuing the Childcare Centre Upgrades program.
We are also improving teacher training, with Early Childhood Scholarships – Certificate III in Children's Services.
Primary and Secondary Education
Supporting our children to excel in primary and secondary education sets them up for life. This Budget continues our investment in modern and adaptive facilities, qualified and talented teachers and a state of the art curriculum.
Major projects over recent years have included new schools in Bonner, Franklin, Harrison, Kambah (Namadgi) and Gungahlin College, and major upgrades to Taylor and Duffy Primary Schools.
We are building a new school at Coombs and will also be doing the planning to modernise schools in the Belconnen Region.
This Budget also continues the investment in Smart Schools, which will upgrade ICT infrastructure and expand wireless access points in our schools.
Vocational, Higher Education and Research
Canberra has world class educational institutions and research bodies. We continue to invest in Canberra as an educational destination of choice.
This Budget funds the University of Canberra Public Hospital, which will not only result in better health outcomes for the community, but will also put Canberra at the forefront of health training and research.
Our funding for Study Canberra continues, to promote Canberra as an education destination. Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) will receive around $69 million from the ACT Budget in 2014–15.
This Budget also makes provision for a new CIT campus in Tuggeranong, providing greater educational choice for the people of Tuggeranong. A CIT campus modernisation strategy will be developed in 2014–15 to plan for the campus.
Investing in EducationIn 2014–15:
- 46,000 children will be educated in public preschools and schools
- 28,000 children will be supported for education in non-government schools
- 30,100 students will undertake vocational qualifications