CANBERRA REPORT: New hospital should be near expressway

The NSW Government's reaffirmation of its determination to build a new hospital in Metford is bad news for residents of the Cessnock, Singleton and Muswellbrook local government communities. The plan makes no sense.

The original concept was to build a new hospital on the western side of Maitland; somewhere between Rutherford and Greta.

I know this because officials from Hunter-New England Health socialised the concept with me.

The plan would have placed the new hospital at the heart of our key points of population growth.

It was also to take advantage of the then planned Hunter Expressway and enhance the availability of services for Upper Hunter residents. 

But to the astonishment of many, along the way the NSW Government diverted from the plan and announced the new hospital would be built in Metford.

Yet years after the announcement, no money has been allocated in the state Budget.  

So we now have a planned hospital in the wrong place but no money to build it.  This means at least two things.

First, it means an identified need for a new hospital is not being met.

Second, it means investment in our existing hospitals is not forthcoming because uncertainty around the planned new hospital.

It’s the worst of all outcomes and unless the NSW Government backs down, we will all see serious shortcomings in our public hospital system in the coming years.

PENALTY RATE CUTS HIT THOUSANDS OF WORKERS

On July 2, penalty rate cuts kicked in for up to 700,000 Australians in the retail, hospitality, fast food and pharmacy sector – pay cuts that will continue every July 1 until 2020.

This means thousands of hard-working people in the Hunter will receive a pay cut because Malcolm Turnbull has done nothing to protect low paid workers. The parliament had the power to stop penalty rates being cut, but the Prime Minister refused to act.

At a time when wages are declining in real terms, there could not be a worse time to cut the wages of more than 11,500 workers in the Hunter electorate.

As an opposition, Labor has fought on behalf of workers to stop these cuts from occurring. As a government, we have committed to reversing these pay cuts and making sure it can’t happen again.

Labor’s legislation will reverse the recent decision to cut penalty rates and also change the law to protect the overall take-home pay of working Australians as a result of future decisions. I will continue to fight to protect penalty rates for workers throughout the Hunter every day until the next election.

Joel Fitzgibbon is the Federal Member for Hunter

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