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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 16577

Press Conference Swan District Hospital Perth

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 20/05/2009

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 16577

PM: Can I begin on that question. I've just been talking to the Queensland Premier and there are risks of severe flooding in South-East Queensland at the moment. South-East Queensland in the last 24 hours has received almost half of its normal rainfall. There are quite a large number of people who are at this stage isolated in their vehicles, I'm advised.

I am further advised that there a number of school students that have been cut off as well. Local authorities in South-East Queensland have all activated their disaster management plans. The Queensland Government is monitoring the situation very closely. We are in close contact with the Queensland Government should there be any specific requests for assistance and this requires careful attention in the immediate period ahead.

JOURNALIST: Have they asked for any assistance?

PM: Not at this stage, not at this stage.

JOURNALIST: What sort of assistance would you be expecting to provide if they did?

PM: Normal disaster management arrangements would be implemented upon any request from the Queensland Government. I've just literally come from the telephone call from the Queensland Premier now. They are watching the situation very closely. The Queensland Premier just linked up with all the mayors in South-East Queensland on the unfolding situation. So I suggest we deal with that at the outset.

The other thing I would like to talk to you about is the reason that we are here at Swannies today in Perth. This is about investing in the future of this State's health and hospital infrastructure. As I've just said to these fine nurses and staff inside a little while ago, we are on about supporting jobs and apprenticeships and business today by investing in the sort of infrastructure we need for the future. That infrastructure includes rail, roads, ports.

It includes broadband, it includes solar energy. It includes the biggest school modernisation program Australia has ever seen, involving schools right across the state of Western Australia. It also includes investment in hospitals and medical research institutes. It involves here an investment of $180 million in the next stage of development of this hospital here turning into the Midlands Health Campus in the future.

What does that mean in practical terms for people of this community? It means significantly extending the services available to all residents in this wider region. Six new operating theatres, it involves also 22 new obstetric beds, involves also 90 additional multi-day beds for acute medical and surgical patients, as well as the doubling of the emergency department. These are the practical measures that we are taking, not just here, but in other parts of Australia as well, to partner with State Governments in order to invest in the health and hospital infrastructure our communities need for the future.

Talking to these fine nurses before, they are looking forward to being able to provide better services to the community of which they are a part.

More broadly, if I could simply make this point as well. On the investment in health infrastructure across the board, we are currently providing a range of additional investments across WA.

From the health and hospital infrastructure project in WA, in the 2009 budget we have $255 million over six years for a new rehabilitation unit at the Fiona Stanley Hospital, $180 million over six years for the development of the Midland Health Campus to replace the Swan District Hospital, $8.6 million over three years to expand renal dialysis services in the Kimberley Region. $7.9 million over two years to replace the current stand alone paediatrics ward as part of the redevelopment of Broome Hospital and $2 million towards four primary care projects in rural Western Australia. Now, that by way of investment is coming out of the Health and Hospitals Infrastructure Fund for the Budget that has just been released.

More broadly, we are investing of course in the Australian Health Care Agreement, a new record $64 billion agreement on health and hospitals funding over the next five years. That represents something like a 50 per cent increase over the health care agreement negotiated by the previous Australian Government. In the case of WA, therefore, our investment both in terms of the Health Care Agreement and in terms of the additional Hospitals Infrastructure Fund that I just referred to will make a significant difference to the future.

Finally, let me just say, what we are doing more broadly on the economy for WA as well. As I said, our strategy as a Government in response to the global recession is to support jobs, small businesses and apprenticeships for today by investing in the infrastructure we need for tomorrow.

Totally, by way of government investment in stimulus, the Australian Government has invested some $5.9 billion, including $3.5 billion for overall infrastructure development, here in Western Australia.

The largest school modernisation program the country has ever seen. Every primary school in Western Australia becoming a construction site, modernising the schools.

Investing in 20,000 new social housing, a slice of which will be built here in WA.

Also investing in energy insulation and energy efficiency measures including ceiling insulation in homes. And these particular hospital projects I mentioned today. All this is designed to cushion the impact of the global recession on the WA economy.

All this is designed to support jobs and families in the here and now. All this is designed to build this sort of infrastructure which WA communities need for the future. Over to you folks.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is it appropriate for taxpayers to be funding public servants' weight loss programs?

PM: I was asked about this in Adelaide a little while ago and my attitude is as follows: I would take a lot of persuading, a lot of persuading, to be convinced that such services represent the best use of the taxpayer's dollar and I will be asking further questions about this upon my return to Canberra.

JOURNALIST: Is it happening?

PM: We are seeking to establish the facts and as I said I think it would be odd and unusual in the extreme for that sort of expenditure to be justifiable. I await to hear all the details.

JOURNALIST: On swine flu, there's been some new developments today. There's a child in hospital, there's a number of children in isolation. Are we facing a second wave of swine flu?

PM: The Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, and the Chief Medical Officer today made a statement on the two most recent infections in Australia: as I'm advised, an adult women in Sydney and a young child in Melbourne. I am further advised that further investigations are underway by the relevant health authorities to detect whether any further infections have occurred and appropriate measures have been put in place to prevent further spread of the infection as well. The health authorities take any such development seriously and are deploying all necessary assets to deal with this challenge.

As the Health Minister and the Chief Medical Officer have said at the onset of this challenge some weeks ago, given the global nature of this particular phenomenon, it was always going to be a matter of time before this arose in Australia. The question practically for the health authorities is to deal with it efficiently, competently and effectively and I know that professionals involved are absolutely first class.

JOURNALIST: Is the three month pay freeze for MPs long enough?

PM: Just to make it clear that last year, as a result of a recommendation of myself to the parliamentary Labor Party, there was a freeze in place on MPs' salaries last year. I understand that there has been an independent decision by the Remuneration Tribunal to defer their decision on this matter until September and we will wait to see what they come up with.

JOURNALIST: We had a couple of bikies shot yesterday - drug related and probably gang related as well. It is going on all around the country. Is it time for a concerted national effort instead of all these splintered attacks against bikies?

PM: I've seen these reports in WA and they are profoundly disturbing. This violence, this unjustifiable violence has got to stop. Gang violence of any description is unacceptable in this country, Australia. Organised gang violence of the type that you describe is unacceptable in a country such as ours.

I've seen actions which have been taken in various states including by the South Australian Premier. I'm sure appropriate actions are being taken here in the West as well. But I am deeply concerned about how widespread this problem appears to be getting and we'll be looking further at what national responses may be necessary.

JOURNALIST: Is it possible to use the anti terror laws in that regard?

PM: Well, they have a particular definition in the Australian legislation and in the (inaudible) arrangements we have with the states, terrorism is a particular offence defined under Australian law. What we are talking about here are forms of, it seems, almost organised crime and therefore we need to look very carefully at the adequacy of our coordination measures between States and see what further measures may be necessary. This is sort of thuggery, this sort of absolute thuggery has to stop and it is time we, the various governments of the country, State and Federal, look at what further measures may be necessary.

JOURNALIST: On employee share ownership schemes, are there any unintended consequences of the $60,000 cap and are you prepared to change them following discussions?

PM: As we've said all along, our intention with these tough Budget measures is to restore the Budget to surplus in the medium term. What's our strategy? To support jobs, infrastructure, business and apprenticeship opportunities now by investing in what we need to boost productivity in our economy in the future.

That means taking some tough decisions on the funding of those investments now to cushion the blow of the global recession and that means Government stepping up to the plate now to fill the gap left by the private sector which is copping a buffeting because of the global recession.

That's one arm of our strategy. The second arm of our strategy is to return the Budget to surplus in the medium term and that requires taking tough decisions. We've announced those in the Budget - $22 billion worth - many of them are not popular at all but they are necessary in order to return the Budget to surplus in the medium term.

On the implementation of each of those measures, including the one that you've just referred to, we would always as we've done in the past, consult with the relevant industry groups on the implementation arrangements.

But the measures are important in returning the Budget to surplus in the medium term. That's why we announced them in the Budget - necessary in the national interest to do that, even though some of them may be unpopular.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that there could be some change to the Managed Investment Schemes and the regulations surrounding them?

PM: I think it is important to examine the details concerning that particular corporate event rather than to rush to immediate judgment, and I'm sure the relevant authorities will do so. And having said that folks, I've got to zip. See you folks.

Transcript 16577