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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 17495

Transcript of joint press conference, Melbourne

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 08/12/2010

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 17495

PM: Can I start by saying it's a great pleasure to be here at St Vincent's and I thank everybody for having hosted and shown us around. I'm joined by the Minister for Health Nicola Roxon. We're here in Melbourne looking out on a grey and rainy day so I did want to start by acknowledging that right around the country many Australians are battling with floodwaters. There are problems in Queensland, in New South Wales, in Victoria and in South Australia. Some areas of disaster have been declared in New South Wales and Queensland and as result the Commonwealth is providing disaster relief payments. We are obviously working with State Governments and emergency services around the country, continuing to monitor situations closely and standing by ready to assist as communities and individuals battle impending floods.

As Prime Minister I do want to say to those community members that our thoughts are with them and that the Federal Government will provide the assistance necessary as we deal with floodwaters and lots of rain in many parts of the country.

I also want to send my congratulations to all of the emergency services personnel and volunteers who do such remarkable work in these difficult circumstances. And while in four States we are seeing a lot of rain and a lot of water, we should remind ourselves that over in Western Australia farmers are still facing a heartbreaking drought and our thoughts are with them as well as they continue to battle with drought and its effect on their farms.

Can I turn now to saying something specifically about health and the visit here at this great hospital today. As a Federal Government we announced that we would provide $600 million to assist Australians to get elective surgery. We know that too many Australians have had to wait for elective surgery procedures, we wanted to make a difference to that so we announced a $600 million plan.

Now part one of that plan was the funding of 70,000 more elective surgery procedures. Part two of it was providing more resources to 120 hospitals around the country to make a difference to their facilities. And I'm here today with the Minister for Health to announce part three and that is the payment of $108 million in reward money to states and territories.

We didn't want the extra 70,000 elective surgery procedures to be a one hit wonder, we wanted higher levels of effort, more elective surgery to be provided over time. So we said to states and territories that we would provide reward money if they did provide extra elective surgeries to their citizens and states and territories have risen to that challenge and I congratulate them.

As a result we are able to make available this $108 million in reward payments.

For Victoria this means an extra $27 million. Victoria well and truly exceeded its target and I congratulate all of those involved in hospitals in Victoria, all of the staff in achieving that result.

Now what this shows in a really practical way is what health reform can achieve, what the Council of Australian Governments can achieve, what working together between Federal and State Governments can achieve for people who need healthcare, and when it comes right down to it our health reforms are about more doctors, more nurses, more beds in hospitals, more Australians getting the healthcare they need.

Our hospital reforms for Victoria would mean an extra $4 billion of resources for hospitals. Yes, as part of these reforms, the Federal Government would take back a share of Victoria's GST, but the extra amount available to Victoria would be $4 billion, that is more money would come into Victoria for health than has been retained by the Commonwealth in GST.

This is an important reform for Victoria, an important reform right around the country. I will continue to talk with Premier Baillieu and to work with his new Government because I believe here in Victoria and right around the nation Australians want to see the Federal Government working with State Governments to deliver real change like more doctors, more nurses, more beds, more healthcare services available for Australians.

Can I conclude by saying COAG is dealing with a number of important reform agendas, health is one of them. Another very important reform agenda is education and today in Canberra Education Ministers are meeting and discussing a broad range of issues, but most particularly the national curriculum.

Education Ministers will deal with this issue in detail today but Education Ministers are working their way through in this meeting so that the national curriculum will be a reality in schools.

Coming out of today's meeting we will see states and territories working with the Federal Government to deliver the national curriculum from 2010 on. This is an important reform for Australian schools and Australian students - a national, high quality curriculum being taught in every school.

I'll turn now to the Minister for Health for some comments.

MINISTER ROXON: That you just some brief comments. It's great to be here again at St Vincent's, of course this is one of Melbourne's leading hospitals and it's provided, despite it being a non-government organisation, it plays a vital role in the public service delivery of health services for Victorians. The Prime Minister and I met today two patients who've had their elective surgery undertaken as part of a program under the Victorian Government, funded by us and run jointly, which allows people waiting on public waiting lists to be able to get their surgery undertaken here at St Vincent's and I think this is an example not just of a partnership between State Governments and the Commonwealth, but also between the public and private sector.

Our reforms want to be able to make the most of the capacity across the whole health system and this is an example of how that's been done well. The Prime Minister has outlined our determination to be able to work with the new Victorian Government to ensure those benefits continue to flow to the community in Victoria, and an example is that the Brumby Government committed as part of their implementation plans for COAG, a $4 million investment here at St Vincent's, to be able to upgrade the intensive care unit and the higher dependency unit, providing more than 20 extra beds. We hope that the new Government will look at those sorts of benefits and work with us to implement this plan, because we believe it has a lot to offer not just for Victorians today, but for generations to come.

PM: Thank you we're happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: I had an initial discussion with Premier Baillieu by telephone shortly after the Victorian election.

I said I would like to meet with him to talk about a number of things on the COAG agenda. Premier Baillieu understandably said that he wanted to get his feet under the desk, get his office set up and be fully briefed on these questions. I spoke to him before he had even made the transition into working from the office of the Premier. So I well and truly understand that and I'm looking forward to that discussion at the appropriate time and of course we will have, I have written to my State and Territory colleagues including Premier Baillieu indicating that we will have a COAG meeting in the new year on the 14th of February.

JOURNALIST: On the leaked US diplomatic cables, it seems the US Government agrees with you that under Mr Rudd Australia had lost its way. Are you still confident that Mr Rudd is the right person for Foreign Minister, given the United States has called into question is judgement on foreign affairs?

PM: Well firstly I'm not going to comment on the content of any cables, I've made that clear about the Wikileaks matter and I won't be commenting on the specifics of any cables that are released through Wikileaks. On the question of Kevin Rudd, Kevin Rudd is doing a fantastic job as Foreign Minister. Kevin Rudd is a man who throughout his adult life has devoted himself to expertise in foreign policy, he's bringing that expertise to bear for the Australian nation and doing an absolutely first-class job.

JOURNALIST: You can't just push those cables away though, they're out there, they're causing embarrassment worldwide, so could that cause problems in having Kevin Rudd being the front person for (inaudible)

PM: Certainly not and on the cables, let me say, people are going to talk about individual cables, I understand that. But what we're seeing is a grossly irresponsible release of thousands and thousands of cables and I am not going to be drawn and the government is not going to be drawn into commenting on confidential cables released through Wikileaks.

JOURNALIST: Were you aware that Mr Rudd had this reputation with diplomats?

PM: Well I'm not going to agree with the premise of the question. We're talking about one cable, obviously there are hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables drawn up by countries around the world as a normal part of diplomacy, year in and year out. It would be foolish indeed to extrapolate from one cable a whole attitude. The alliance between Australia and America is strong. When I met with President Obama I described our two countries as great mates. That's what we are, that's what we'll continue to be.

JOURNALIST: Do have concerns about other countries about (inaudible) approach to the world?

PM: That's a laughable question, absolutely not.

JOURNALIST: It does seem to be more though than just the one cable. Are you at all confident that (inaudible) assessment of Australian foreign policy under your leadership are any better than (inaudible)?

PM: The thing you should judge foreign policy on is outcomes and let's look, standing here in this great city of Melbourne at outcomes. The incredibly successful AUSMIN meeting we had here, out annual strategic dialogue with the United States, Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defence Gates, in Melbourne and obviously delighted to be here to participate in an annual dialogue that had real outcomes about further cooperation in our defence and security relationship, including further cooperation dealing with the new threats of our age, some threats in space, space junk and threats with cyber terrorism and cyber security.

These are the outcomes of foreign policy, as Prime Minister I've had the opportunity to attend a number of meetings including the East Asia Summit where we realised Australia's vision of having a piece of regional architecture, a meeting where leaders went which brought around the one table the President of the United States, with the Leader of China, with the countries of our region, talking across strategic issues, defence questions and economic questions. These are real foreign policy outcomes, good for this country.

?JOURNALIST: Do agree with Ambassador Beazley's position that Australians would side with Americans, with America in any conflict?

PM: It would be irresponsible for me to deal with hypotheticals about conflicts and I'm not going to do so.

?JOURNALIST: There's been a view that political correctness gone mad in (inaudible) taking decorations down (inaudible)

PM: Always very delighted to see Christmas decorations, I was actually commenting to the friends from the hospital as we moved around, I didn't quite break into song, but I did use the expression that it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas when we saw so many Christmas decorations.

I think Christmas decorations are a wonderful and joyous thing they should be where ever people want to have them, including schools and school buses.

JOURNALIST: On the Murray Darling Basin Authority, would you consider reforming the Water Act?

PM: There's not need to reform the Water Act. The Water Act enables us to deliver a plan for the future of the Murray Darling Basin that optimises across environmental outcomes, economic outcomes, social outcomes. What that really means is a healthy river, food production and viable regional communities.

The Water Act is constructed to enable optimising across those three, that's what Minister Turnbull, Malcolm Turnbull said when the Howard government legislated the Water Act and we are pursuing this reform agenda to its conclusion and we will stay on track for delivering those reforms in the timetable we've already outlined.

JOURNALIST: By tweaking that question though couldn't you just remove any uncertainty whatsoever (inaudible)

PM: We're very confident that the Water Act enables us through the Murray Darling Basin Authority, and we do need to remember of course it's an independent authority, but the Water Act enables the Murray Darling Basin Authority to produce a draft plan for consultation and then a plan for the Minister and the Minister will of course then bring the plan to Parliament, enables that to be done optimising healthy river, food production and viable regional communities.

?JOURNALIST: Another Labor MP had quit in NSW, are you worried about the party down there?

PM: That's a matter for the NSW State Government.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, again on the Wikileaks cable, it is disappointing to see evidence that Australian diplomats were making disparaging comments about the then Australian Government to the Americans and can you give an assurance that none of the diplomats that have been named in the cables will suffer any repercussions?

PM: I'm not commenting on the contents of cables. We select our diplomats on the basis of competence and their ability to represent Australia and I've got every confidence in the diplomats we've selected and of course our diplomatic relationship, our alliance with America is incredibly strong and I'd refer people to the AUSMIN meeting here, to my own discussion with President Obama, two countries, great mates, working together on a shared agenda in so many areas, defence, strategic geopolitical agendas around the world.

?JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MINISTER ROXON: Well I can absolutely clarify it, there's no uncertainty from the government's point of view. GP Super Clinics must include GPs, that is part of the requirement for every contract we enter into. The report I think is quite misleading and actually actively wrong. We have made an offer to establish a Super Clinic in Rockingham, we are conducting those negotiations right now with the division of GPs. They know that that offer requires GPs to be part of the clinic, if they chose not to follow that course then of course we would negotiate a contract with another provider. So I think there's a little bit of positioning going on in those negotiations.

This was a commitment that was made at this recent election, so we're actually in a very good position that we're negotiating a contract with them right now that would enable services to be provided in the Rockingham/Kwinana region of Western Australia.

So we need to be very, very clear here, the GP Super Clinic program is about getting more GPs closer to people's homes, where they need them and encouraging GPs to work with other health professionals, nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists, podiatrists and others. Is it not about providing services without GPs, although of course there are many, many more services that are being provided now in multidisciplinary teams to enable the best type of care that can be provided to local mums and dads not having to run around with their kids between lots of different services and getting more of their care in the one place.

Transcript 17495