In my role as Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, I have the opportunity to visit regional and remote communities right around the country.
In just the last few weeks I've visited Launceston in Tasmania, Lismore in New South Wales, Colac in Victoria, and Cairns in far north Queensland, and the message that I'm hearing from local people is loud and clear. We just don't have health care workers where people need them.
Just last month, the Royal Flying Doctor Service released their Base Line Report, and what it showed was that, women living in the most remote parts of Australia have a life expectancy of 19 years shorter than their counterparts living in big cities. This is just unacceptable – 19 years shorter – and we are determined to turn this around.
But this didn't happen by accident. It's the result of almost 10 years of neglect by the former government compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. And we must turn this around and we are determined to turn this around.
Already, Minister Mark Butler has released the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce Report, which shows us the best ways to boost affordability and access to primary care, boosted by the $750 million Strengthening Medicare Fund.
We're working with regional communities across Australia including Tasmania, to introduce the Single Employer Model to encourage junior doctors into primary care, into careers in general practice, in regional and remote communities.
And we're wiping the HELP debt of doctors and nurse practitioners who live and work in the most remote parts of Australia.
We are determined to turn this around. We are determined to bridge the health divide between people living in the city and people living in the bush.