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Transcript 17129

Prime Minister Transcript of doorstop interview Melbourne 14 March 2010

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: 14/03/2010

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17129

PM: It's good to be back in Melbourne, and you've much balmier weather here today, let me tell you, than the nation's capital, so it's also been good to spend some time with John Brumby, talking about the future of the health and hospital system.

We've just had a good, positive, constructive conversation, and I'm sure we're going to be having more of those in the period ahead between now and the Council of Australian Governments meeting which will occur in April.

The Australian Government is determined to ensure that we provide for a strong economy for working families, we also deliver for the basics for working families. Those basics include an education system and our health system. That's why we believe that working families across Australia want to see improved health and hospital services, they want to see more hospital beds, they want to see more doctors and nurses.

They want to see, also, the end of waste and duplication and overlap between the Commonwealth and the state governments. That's why the Australian Government has put forward our plan for a national health and hospitals network which is funded nationally, which is run locally, in which the Australian Government, for the first time, takes on the dominant funding responsibility for the future of the public hospital system.

I've been encouraged by my meetings over the last three days with three premiers on how we're negotiating the future. I have had meetings over the last three days with three premiers on the future of our health and hospital system and I've been encouraged by the determination reflected by all those premiers so far on how we can bring about better health and better hospital services for the future.

Of course, the challenge we now have is to agree on the path, the precise path, to get there. There's going to be a lot of discussions, a lot of negotiations, between now and the Council of Australian Governments meeting in April to bring that about. So, much work still to be done, but this meeting today with John has been a good meeting, as have been the meetings in recent days with the Premier of Queensland and the Premier of New South Wales.

There is much more still to be negotiated. Our discussions focussed on areas such as the future of local hospital networks, the future funding of the system, and also the future operation of the governance of the system, as well. We'll work through those through both our treasury officials, our central agency officials, and of course the Premier and I will be meeting again in the future as well, prior to the COAG meeting.

Over to you, folks.

JOURNALIST: Have you managed to persuade John Brumby of the merits of federal funding. He's been one of the more critical (inaudible)

PM: Look, I think it's fair to say that all premiers that I have spoken to so far have raised different questions about what we have put forward. We have a period of time ahead of us to sort through those one by one, but I believe working families across Australia want us all to work together to deliver this arrangement for the future which has better health and better hospitals for all Australians - and so far it's been a good set of discussions, but, you know, a lot's still to happen.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it's reasonable for the states to pass something without having seen the Henry tax review?

PM: The point that I've made in recent days elsewhere in the country is there'll be no net negative financial impact for any state or any territory as a result of the Government's decisions in response to the independent review on taxation. This, properly, therefore, is a debate about the future of the health and hospital system. That's why I've been pleased to be in Melbourne today talking with the Premier of Victoria; pleased to have been in Brisbane yesterday, talking to the Premier of Queensland; and the day before in Sydney to talk to the Premier of New South Wales and I'll be elsewhere in the federation in the period ahead.

JOURNALIST: Did John Brumby predict today that he wants to be in a situation where (inaudible)

PM: We spoke quite a lot about funding. We spoke quite a lot about governance of the system. We spoke quite a lot about how we would build a system which delivers better health and better hospital services for the good people of Victoria in the future.

On each of those elements, including funding, there'll be more discussions to be had, in particular by the heads of treasury. It would be wrong for me to say that everything with all the states has been resolved over night - of course that's not the case. This is a big change. We're proposing the biggest change to the health and hospital system since the introduction of Medicare nearly 30 years ago.

Therefore, it's quite reasonable for states and territories to raise questions on the detail for the implementation. We are doing that. We are working our way through it.

JOURNALIST: Did you agree to the Premier's demand for $1.2 billion worth of extra funding immediately, not in four year's time, and do you still think Victoria's kidding itself about the quality of its health system?

PM: Can I just say that on the delivery of funding to the health system here under the Australian Healthcare Agreement which my friend and colleague Nicola Roxon, also from the great state of Victoria, negotiated with her state counterparts a year or so ago, right now we have flowing through to Victoria something in the vicinity of a $5.1 billion funding increase which began last year, which flows this year, goes next year and a couple of years after that.

On top of that, we're also investing here in Victoria, for the first time in a large-scale, in the capital needs of the system. Go out there past the University of Melbourne, look at the Parkville Comprehensive Cancer Care Centre which will be built soon - $426 million of Australian Government funding in direct partnership with the Victorian Government to build that centre for servicing all Victorians.

So, there is money flowing through the system now, both in terms of recurrent funding, in terms of capital funding, but we're talking about the long-term future, and the Premier of Victoria is right to work with us, ask questions, obtain answers to those questions about how this long-term reform would be done on the ground.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of Julie Bishop's comments that this is all designed to fail so that you go to the next election with the same (inaudible)

PM: Can I just say that my long-term ambition has been to fundamentally reform the health and hospital system for Australia because our view as a government is that unless we fix the long-term funding of the system and deal with the challenges of waste, duplication and overlap within it, ultimately, the system - which is now at tipping point - could ultimately break. That is why we are engaged in this debate.

The previous federal government had 12 years to fix and reform the Australian health and hospital system and didn't do a thing. Can I also say that in that period of time Mr Abbott, as health minister for four or five years, ripped $1 billion out of the public hospital system of Australia. That's the equivalent of more than 1,000 hospital beds. He put a cap on GP training places. He also was part and parcel of a government which saw the abolition of the Commonwealth dental scheme providing public dental care for hundreds of thousands of Australians.

On the question of health and hospitals, then, I certainly welcome a debate with Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party - for 12 years they did nothing other than take money out of the system.

JOURNALIST: How do you respond to claims of the Victorian Government that the reality of this scheme won't help somebody who's sitting on the waiting lists of Victorian hospitals right now, and will do nothing for them for four or five years?

PM: On the question of elective surgery waiting lists, right now we are providing, nation-wide, funding in the vicinity of $600 million or $700 million to assist in bringing down elective surgery now. So, for example, in Victoria that results in an allocation of some $70 million; for example, 5,000-6,000 elective surgery procedures have already occurred as a result of direct Federal Government funding in the last year or two.

Secondly, a lot of that funding is also going to enhancing elective surgery operating theatres in hospitals like Royal Melbourne, hospitals like the Monash Medical Centre, Sunshine Hospital, as well as hospitals at Geelong and Frankston, where extra operating theatres are being added, so in answer to your question, I think we've already got our sleeves rolled up right now, but looking to the future, there's a whole lot more to be done. That's why I welcome the discussions with the Victorian Government on that.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, just a separate matter, if I may - the Queensland Government has come out and said that it would be a good idea to lower the blood alcohol level to 0.02, but that all the states have to get involved. Do you think that 0.02 blood limit for driving is a good idea throughout Australia?

PM: Well, I've always been deeply concerned about the impact of alcohol on the road toll. On the details of that, though, can I say this is best deliberated on between the transport ministers of Australia, state and federal, together with the health ministers. I'd much rather this was done in a systematic way.

JOURNALIST: Can you at least describe the discussions of the day robust? Are you closer together? Are you-

PM: -Oh, look, these were good discussions, they were positive discussions. We went through a list of specific questions and provided answers where we could and agreed that officials would now work on those areas of detail which still need to be worked through. This is the proper way in which our federation should work .We've put forward a big plan for the future of health and hospitals for Australia: a national health and hospitals network funded nationally, run locally; for the first time, the Australian Government taking the dominant funding role for the future of the public hospital system.

Because it's a big change that we propose and because we think working families want the system to deliver better health and hospitals for the future it follows logically that state governments are going to have questions to ask, and our job is to work through those between now and when the Council of Australian Governments meets.

JOURNALIST: Will you need to with him again, John Brumby, again?

PM: I said before in my comments that I look forward to meeting him again before the Council of Australian Governments meets, as I've said the same to the other premiers. These are big proposed changes. It's right and it's normal and it's, frankly, the necessary thing to do, to work through outstanding areas requiring clarification and disagreement point by point.

JOURNALIST: How do you rate the Victorian Government (inaudible) in comparison to (inaudible) in other states?

PM: You know something? If you're in the business of working your way through a complex negotiation, starting to rank state and territory systems service by service, accident and emergencies, elective surgery, re-admission rates, palliative care arrangements, it differs from state to state, so I'm not in the business of providing aggregate ratings of one state against the other, including my own home state of Queensland.

JOURNALIST: Are you surprised by the push back from the Victorian Premier over the last week? Some of the comments made were very pointed to about the health care-

PM: -It's important that we work our way through each of the areas of outstanding disagreement. As I said, the Australian Government has appreciated the discussions we've had so far with Victoria and with the other states. As I've said, in three days I've met with three premiers and I'm encouraged so far by the positive attitude to delivering better health and better hospital services to working families.

Can I just conclude one other point, which goes to another debate on paid parental leave, and I neglected to mention this before.

It is very important, when we look at Mr Abbott's new great big tax on everything, that high-income earners would get $2,800 a week and low-income earners would be paying higher grocery prices and higher petrol prices. Let's be very clear about what Mr Abbott is putting forward.

The alternative, the one which we've put forward already to the Australian people, is that we would have paid parental leave in for working families at an affordable, properly costed level, starting from 1 January next year. That's the difference.

Having said that, folks, I've got to get back to the nation's capital. Parliament resumes tomorrow. Got to run.

Thank you.

Transcript 17129