Labor books venue for health debate, but Courtney dismisses idea

Labor health spokesman Bastian Seidel (left) wants to debate Health Minister Sarah Courtney, and has hired out a Launceston venue for that purpose.
Labor health spokesman Bastian Seidel (left) wants to debate Health Minister Sarah Courtney, and has hired out a Launceston venue for that purpose.

 Labor has booked the Invermay Bowls Club for the purpose of holding a debate between its health spokesman Bastian Seidel and the state’s Health Minister Sarah Courtney, a move the Liberals have dismissed as redundant.

Dr Seidel, the member for the upper house seat of Huon and former president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, challenged Liberal leader Peter Gutwein and Ms Courtney to a public debate on health last week but said there had been no response.

“I think every Tasmanian knows why the Liberals will not debate me despite health clearly being the biggest issue in this election,” Dr Seidel said.

“They are ashamed of their record of seven years of chaos and dysfunction in our hospitals.

“Tasmania’s health system is in crisis and it has happened on the Liberal Party’s watch.

“The state’s health system is the worst in the nation and people are dying.”

Dr Seidel said the Invermay Bowls Club was booked for 1pm on Thursday and that he hoped to debate Ms Courtney then.

He urged members of the public who had been “failed by the health system” to attend and tell their stories to the minister.

“The people of Tasmania want the debate, I want the debate, but Sarah Courtney and the Liberal Party don’t want to be accountable for their health failures,” he said. “So I’ll make it easy for them – I’ll travel up to Launceston on Thursday so Sarah Courtney can make no excuses not to turn up.”

“I look forward to Sarah Courtney’s RSVP, but I won’t be holding my breath.”

Ms Courtney said there were already three debates scheduled between Mr Gutwein and Labor leader Rebecca White.

“It’s clear Dr Seidel thinks his leader is not capable of prosecuting Labor’s case,” she said.

“Between RACGP Bastian Seidel and Bastian Seidel the politician, he might just be able to debate himself – particularly when it comes to the Mersey hospital which he has previously said should be closed, as well as birthing services in the North-West which he recently back-flipped on.”

Both the Liberals and Labor have unveiled sweeping health policies this election campaign.

The Liberals have pledged to slash the state’s ballooning elective surgery waiting list, with a total investment of $156.4 million. They’ve also promised to deliver a co-located private hospital next to the Launceston General Hospital and to undertake the first significant upgrades to the North West Regional Hospital in decades.

Meanwhile, Labor has committed to upgrading 35 ambulance stations and employing more than 150 paramedics, an additional 90 community nurses, 85 nurse practitioners, 30 mental health workers and 60 allied health practitioners.

Under the party’s health action plan, it says it will ensure all rural hospitals provide 24/7 emergency care. Labor would also employ more than 70 additional specialist doctors and 150 additional nurses.