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Transcript 17221

Prime Minister Transcript of doorstop interview Canterbury Hospital Sydney 16 April 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: 16/04/2010

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17221

PM: It's great to be back here at the Canterbury Hospital with my friend and Ministerial colleague Warren Snowdon. I used to work here as a 17-year-old, and I began my working career as a wardsman here at this hospital, and so in those days I remember very much what it was like to mop floors and to wheel patients around on trolleys and to do all the other sorts of things that wardsmen did in those days, including rapidly wheel a defibrillator from one end of the hospital to the other. Times, thankfully, have changed since then. There have been many improvements in the health and hospital system since the mid-1970s, but you know something? Coming from a family of nurses myself - my mum was a nurse, my brother was a nurse, my sister is a nurse, my sister-in-law is a nurse - and speaking to the nursing professionals here today, they are all saying loud and clear to me that some fundamental change has to happen in the system, fundamental change.

Over the last nine months or so I have visited 30 or 40 hospitals around the country. I've conducted consultations with about 21 of them, sitting down for hours on end with doctors and nurses and health professionals, hearing their ideas for the future of the health and hospital system, and that's what brings me back to Canterbury today - again, to talk to patients, doctors and nurses about what they need for the future.

What people across Australia say is this: our doctors, our nurses, our allied health professionals, are doing a fantastic job. It's just that there aren't enough of them. What they're saying is that our doctors and nurses and allied health professionals are going over and beyond the call of duty, often working in conditions where they don't have enough equipment to do their job, enough beds in hospitals to their job properly.

That's why the system needs fundamental change, and that is why the Australian Government is putting for the new National Health and Hospitals Network - funded nationally, run locally, with the Australian Government, for the first time, being the dominant funders of the public hospital system of Australia, all to deliver more hospital beds, more doctors, more nurses.

You know something? The blank-cheque theory of health policy has failed. The time for real, practical reform of the health and hospital system has come.

Blank cheques given out to states don't solve the problem. What deals with the problem is fundamental reform to get rid of duplication, overlap and waste - and then to grow the system. That's our approach.

Over to you, folks.

JOURNALIST: Any last words for the New South Wales Premier and Cabinet this morning?

PM: Well, they'll go through their own processes. The Australian Government has been very clear about its plan. We are providing a new National Health and Hospitals Network, funded nationally, run locally, and for the first time the Australian Government taking from the shoulders of state governments the burden of the dominant growth in the system for the long-term future. It's a huge change, so that if you are a state government anywhere in Australia, that means that you should have more resources to deal with the challenges of transport infrastructure, congestion, the schools and the other responsibilities of state governments.

It's not just a reform to the health system - it's a broader reform to the future of the federation.

JOURNALIST: Does the New South Wales support, given how the other states are lining up at the moment, are they the swing state?

PM: Well, I've had many good discussions with Premier Keneally. I'm sure she and her cabinet will make their best-informed decision. Our plan is clear. We've put forward a comprehensive plan for the future. As I said, the days of writing out blank cheques for state governments for health and hospitals, I think, has passed. The Australian people want two things - fix the system to get rid of duplication, overlap and waste, and then fund the system for long-term needs; for hospital beds, doctors and nurses. That's our approach.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, is in-principle support from the states enough next week?

PM: We are looking for an intergovernmental agreement. I've been very clear about that. Let's not shilly-shally around this. No ifs, no buts, no maybes - we want an intergovernmental agreement for a new National Health and Hospitals Network. I think the Australian people have grown a bit tired of more and more excuses for delay. They want their elected political leaders to get on with the business of fundamental health and hospital reform. That's our plan. We spent 18 months developing it, 6 months road testing it with hospitals across the country. We released it six weeks ago. We've announced how we would grow the system. It's all there in black and white.

The time for delay and the excuses for delay, I believe, has passed. We must get on with the job of delivering better health and better hospital services for the people of Australia.

JOURNALIST: Is there a political win for the states if it doesn't get up? They say they stood up to you, held firm to their convictions, whilst you can say 'I did all I can. They rejected my proposal and what you've got is what you're government has given you.'

PM: We've been absolutely consistent from day one. We've said we'll develop a new plan to ensure that we have better health and hospital services for all Australians. We said how we'd do it - by establishing an independent reform commission. It worked for a year and a half.

We said we'd then develop a plan in consultation with the hospital system ourselves. We've done that.

Our plan is out there in black and white, our new National Health and Hospitals Network. I would appeal to each of the premiers and chief ministers to put the national interest first, and to put the people of Australia first, in delivering better health and better hospital services for their people.

You know, it seems that Mr Abbott and Mr Brumby believe in this blank cheque theory of health policy whereby a blank cheque to the states fixes the problem without reforming the system to get rid of the waste. Well, you know something? I don't think that's acceptable, and I just don't think it's what we'll be able to deliver. I don't think that sort of approach delivers the sort of reforms that the Australian people are looking for.

You see, next Monday at COAG in Canberra we don't want just to see a blank cheque for the states. We want to see a reform plan for the state health and hospital system and a plan for funding them for the long term. That's what it's all about.

JOURNALIST: There's a suggestion today that in New South Wales that your plan may force some specialists who work both in private and public hospitals to scale back their public work and focus more on private care. Is that going to be the case, and if it is, what's your response to that?

PM: You know, between the time that we released this National Health and Hospital Network plan six weeks ago, we have had claim and counterclaim, we have had scare and fear campaign number one, number two, number three, anything you'd care to think of, and it seems that there's a whole sort of industry out there which wants to delay reform, find an excuse for not acting, can I just say we don't accept that as an approach.

The time for action is now. We have a plan for action which is clear cut, and I couldn't have been more clear cut with the premiers about the need to do two things - fix the system to get rid of duplication, waste and overlap and then have the Australian Government fund the future growth of the system to deliver more hospital beds, more doctors, more nurses.

Next Monday in Canberra we don't want simply a plan for another blank cheque for the states. We want a plan for the reform of the system and future funding growth for the system.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, John Brumby, all his public comments have been critical of the plan. Do you have any reason to believe at all that he will change his mind by Monday, and if he will come on board?

PM: Well, that's a matter, of course, for Mr Brumby. I would urge Mr Brumby and the other premiers to be positive in embracing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to fundamentally reform the health and hospital system.

Mr Brumby and Mr Abbott seem to be saying that the present system is just fine - just hand over another blank cheque to the states.

That is not our approach. We say for the future you need to reform the system to get rid of waste and then fund the future growth in the system for more hospital beds, doctors and nurses. It's clear cut.

How Mr Brumby plays this is a matter for him, as it is for the other premiers. We could not be clearer about our plan for the future. It's there in black and white, and we've been talking about it up and down the country - hospitals, town meetings, conferences like this in most of the regional centres of Australia. Warren here has been down the centre of Australia in the last week. We've had other ministers of the government across the west and in South Australia and we've had the Federal Health Minister in Victoria, and I've been down the coast of Queensland, down the coast of New South Wales - the overwhelming message right across country Australia, regional Australia, rural Australia and the big city hospitals is get on with the business of reforming the system now so that we fund our future growth properly.

JOURNALIST: New South Wales, it seems to be dependent, it might be a yes for an extra $500 million for New South Wales. Will it boil down to extra dollars here, there, to get them on board?

PM: I've said very clearly - we've put forward a comprehensive plan for the future of the health and hospital system and there will be no blank cheques to states and territories on a same old system as the past. You just can't do that, and having said that, folks-

JOURNALIST: -Oh, just quickly, your son announced today his engagement. That's something you'd be very proud of, no doubt?

PM: Well, he's a born romantic. Takes after his father - no, just joking. He's a really excited young man, and we, Therese and I, are absolutely delighted for he and for Zara, his fiancée. They haven't set any wedding dates yet that I'm aware of, but Therese is already making plans.

JOURNALIST: Did he best your proposal to Therese?

PM: Can I say, back in the early '80s things were a bit different, so we were at a quiet restaurant somewhere in Canberra. He proposed to his fiancée, Zara, on the Charles Bridge in the middle of Prague with a big rock - at dawn, I'm told. That's what I call a serious romantic. Unfortunately I'm not quite like that.

Ok, folks.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, (inaudible) what were you talking about (inaudible)

PM: Just about, first of all, where she came from in China and that she'd been in Australia since '97, loves the country and was praising the local hospital services that she'd received here and the fact that people have been very kind to her. So, she's an old lady and didn't speak much English, so, I hope everyone understood what I was doing.

Transcript 17221