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Transcript 17671

Transcript of interview with John Faine, ABC 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: 14/02/2011

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 17671

HOST: Julia Gillard good morning to you.

PM: Good morning Jon.

HOST: Congratulations on striking a deal on health or is it: why have you backed down on Kevin Rudd's supposed deal on health?

PM: I went into the meeting with my colleagues from States and Territories yesterday, wanting to get a better deal for patients and wanting to get a better deal for every patient in the country, a truly national health deal. I went into that room yesterday having said to my colleagues that I didn't want us to continue a political debate about financing and the GST, I wanted us to focus on health reform, and that's what we've done and we've walked out of that room with an agreement that gets more money into hospitals, that will mean more beds with more transparency than we've ever had before and more local control.

HOST: But have you got an agreement or just an agreement for an agreement, the devil's in the detail is what all the Premiers are saying?

PM: I've got a signed agreement, signed by every Premier and Chief Minister, and to take an example Jon, I'm passionate about transparency, I believe Australians should know where the dollars come from in their health system and where they go to, we've got an agreement from yesterday for a national body, a national pool, so we will have more transparency than ever before, the agreement requires that that will be made into law, we agreed that yesterday. Yes of course, there are some details to work through, the composition of who's on the board that governs that body for example, but yesterday signed by everyone, we will have it, it will be brought into existence, it will be brought into law.

HOST: Prime Minister what will change from the point of view of the patients, the consumers, the users of the health system?

PM: Well some very important things will change, for patients, what they will see in their health system is they will see more local control through local hospital networks, communities want to have a say about their healthcare system. They will see more doctors and nurses in the system, we're training 1000 new nurses a year, and 6000 more doctors to the end of the decade.

HOST: We'll see more bureaucrats too won't we?

PM: We'll see less bureaucrats under this model than under the model agreed last year-

HOST: But you've got another layer of decision making, how can there be fewer bureaucrats?

PM: Well Jon, last year the agreement was to create a new bureaucracy in every State and Territory as well as a national pool, I have swept away all of those new bureaucracies in States and Territories.

HOST: So Kevin Rudd's model was for even more bureaucrats than your model, but your model is, is it not, for more bureaucrats than we have now?

PM: My model's for more transparency Jon-

HOST: And that means bureaucrats, people who count stuff?

PM: But Jon in using that term you're obviously trying to imply somehow this isn't worthwhile, and I'm going to fundamentally disagree with you on that. You transform public services when you have more information about them, central to this reform agenda is having an efficient price, so we are not wasting money, we're not giving a big blank cheque and then saying do your best, we are actually defining what is an efficient price for a service and through the transparency, we will be able to see hospitals that are doing well and being even better than the efficient price and we will be able to see hospitals doing badly and fix that underperformance.

Transparency matters because it changes delivery, transparency matters because it drives improved services. Jon you asked me what else people will see, people will see Medicare locals co-ordinating care in their community. The burden of disease is chronic and complex conditions, people need to see a doctor of course, but they also need to see other health professionals and at the moment people can struggle to get the right package of care that they need, people will see a GP after-hours access line, getting help in the middle of the night when your child's sick has been a big problem for people. People will see tele-health, using the power of the National Broadband Network and new technology, and people will see more beds Jon, and more elective surgery. We're already in the process of delivering 1300 new beds, we've delivered 70,000 more elective surgery operations and that's just a start.

HOST: Surely for a Labor government the gap between rich and poor ought to be an issue, what is there in this package that changes the outcomes for people who can't afford private health?

PM: Jon you're absolutely right, that is front and centre of what I think about, the equity of the package. First and foremost people without means rely on our public hospital system-

HOST: Which is getting worse and worse all the time, I had some experience this summer of our public hospital system, the wards aren't as clean as they should be, the staff are rushed off their feet, people are left to their own devices half the time, it's not a happy picture.

PM: Not it's not been a happy picture Jon and I can explain why is hasn't been a happy picture; healthcare costs rise and they rise quickly. States and Territories have been trying to keep their public hospitals up to standard and up to scratch as healthcare costs have risen quickly, and as money going into the healthcare system from the former Howard Government, indeed when Tony Abbott was Health Minister, was going down as a percentage of public hospital costs it was going down. So the burden was falling increasingly on States and Territories and it was going to get harder and harder.

Yesterday, through this agreement, we fixed that. We have agreed that the Federal Government will step up and be an equal partner in the growth of health costs. Now that is going to make a huge difference, the single biggest claim of the States and Territories all of these years has been ‘we can't keep making our budgets work if year after year we are the level of government with the burden of healthcare cost growth on our shoulders.' Yesterday we fixed that, the Federal Government will be an equal partner in paying for growth.

HOST: Alright well we'll be speaking to the Premier Ted Baillieu to see how enthusiastic he is from Victoria's point of view a little later this morning. The latest opinion polls, the Age/Nielsen poll published today Prime Minister, has your disapproval up four per cent, you're primary vote down three per cent, not a happy picture.

PM: Well we've got a lot of hard work to do Jon, we've got a lot of hard work to do and that's what we were doing yesterday. Australians are rightly looking to me and looking to the Government to deliver, they want to see change, they want to see improvements. As a citizen yourself you've said you've had experience with the public hospital system, and you're just one of millions and millions of Australians with that kind of experience. People want to see change, want to see improvement and that's what we delivered yesterday, a better deal for patients.

HOST: Well you might be concentrating on the fine detail of government, but the art of politics is a lot more than that isn't it, and it would seem to be that whatever it is that you've been doing doesn't work.

PM: I think ultimately people judge their governments by what is changing in their lives and what government is doing to work with them and to improve things. People will see improvements in our healthcare system, and that will be important to them.

HOST: Have you had the trainer wheels on?

PM: I'm not sure what you mean by that Jon.

HOST: Well there's a lot of commentary, and I'm sure you follow it just like the rest of us do, people saying ‘oh look, you know, Julia Gillard hit the ground running da da da da da', and then people saying ‘oh look, inexperience is showing in the way that she's dealing with some of the issues that confront the government.'

PM: Well I don't worry with much of that Jon, I'd have to say, what I worry about day to day is getting the job done, making a difference for Australians, so when I walked into that room at the Council of Australians Governments yesterday, I wasn't thinking about what people may or may not write in newspapers, I was thinking about how long someone waits in an emergency department, how long a pensioner waits on a list for a hip operation, and what we can do to make a difference for that, we made a big difference yesterday.

HOST: Do you feel Prime Ministerial?

PM: Jon I am conscious of the obligations and responsibilities of this job, and every day I get up and set about doing it to the best of my ability, I've got a very clear agenda for the future of this nation, a very clear agenda about what I believe in, I'm passionate about making sure every Australian has the benefits of opportunity, a fair nation doesn't unfairly deny a child a chance in life, we are changing that, to change that we have to support families and support them with the services that they rely on, health is a big part of that and that's what was driving me yesterday when we went into that room to see if we could get a national deal, something that had eluded the Federal Government and properly funding health for years and years and I say again, under the Howard Government, if you want to chart the percentage of money going into public hospitals, the line on the chart was only going in one direction and that was down. We needed to fix that and we have done that yesterday.

HOST: The other political drama and before we move on I want to ask you about the Victorian flood compensation package in a moment as well, but the other subtext in all of this of course is the relationship you have with your predecessor, with Kevin Rudd, and here you are now trashing another one of his signature pieces.

PM: Well what I'm doing is working through, as a I did yesterday, with Premiers and Chief Ministers, to get a deal for the whole of the nation. The reality is Kevin worked very, very strongly on health reform, he was the first Prime Minister to step up to the problem we had with financing in health and that was if you just sat back and didn't do anything ultimately the cost of hospitals was going to break State budgets. Kevin looked at that problem, unlike Prime Ministers in the past, Prime Minister Howard assisted by Health Minister Abbott who made that problem worse, Kevin said how can we fix this, and he worked hard on health reform. But the place that he got to was where we did not have a national deal and where we were talking about the GST and healthcare financing rather than focussing on what was going to give more beds, get more elective surgery done, it meant people waited for less time, that they had more information about what was going on. We needed to get a health deal which improved health services and that's what I secured yesterday, a deal for right round the nation, so whether you're in Melbourne, or whether you're in Broome, or whether you're in Hobart or whether you're in Darwin, this health arrangement that we struck yesterday will make a difference for you.

HOST: Prime Minister the Victorian flood relief package, according to today's Herald Sun front page, will total $500 million. Where did that figure come from?

PM: The $500 million is a pre-payment Jon. Just like we've agreed to make a advance payment to Queensland so they can get on with the job up there, I want to make an advance payment to Victoria so they can get on with the job. That won't be the total amount of money that's paid, the damages assessment is more than that, the damages assessment is in the order of more than a billion dollars, but getting money quickly means people can get on with things quickly and I want to see the rebuilding that Victoria needs happen as fast as possible.

HOST: I'm just about to speak to Christine Assange next Prime Minister, she is the mother of Julian Assange, who is either the most dangerous man in the world or the most heroic person in the world depending on your perspective. You condemned him as soon as Wikileaks started embarrassing both American and its allies around the world, she says that the Australian Government ought be protecting her son and helping him rather than condemning him as you did.

PM: The Australian Government is helping her son as an Australian citizen, Mr Assange-

HOST: How?

PM: Well by providing consular services Jon. When Australians get into trouble overseas, our diplomats, our embassy staff go and help them. That happens right around the world-

HOST: It's of little help to him, but you were quick to condemn-

PM: Jon, Jon look I'm not going to let you say that, that is not fair and that is not right.

HOST: Do you reject your condemnation of him when he was-

PM: Well Jon let me finish because I'm not going to let you leave the impression with your listeners that somehow Julian Assange is being assisted in a lesser way that other Australian citizens. Julian Assange is receiving exactly the same assistance we would give any Australian in any part of the world who was caught up in legal proceedings, exactly the same assistance.

HOST: Do you regret condemning him out of hand when this matter first boiled over last year?

PM: I've got a view about Wikileaks as grossly irresponsible, that's my view. I also have a view as Prime Minister that it's my job and the Government's job to support Australians overseas who get into trouble, we are doing that with Mr Assange just like we would with every other Australian citizen who for whatever reason faced a legal problem overseas.

HOST: You and others were quick to say you thought he'd probably broken laws, there's been no law that anyone can find here, in the US, or anywhere else in relation to Wikileaks that he's alleged to have broken. Was that all quick to, wrong to rush so quickly to judgment?

PM: Well the point I've made Jon is clearly some laws have been broken in the taking of confidential information-

HOST: Not my Wikileaks or Mr Assange, maybe by others, Bradley Manning in particular?

PM: Correct, absolutely, so at the heart of this we would not have had this information available to Wikileaks-

HOST: So you convicted the wrong person.

PM: Well Jon if I can finish my sentence, we would not have had this available, this information available on Wikileaks if there hadn't been an illegal act in the first place. Then, of course, there's what view you take of it and I understand people have got different views, but my view is that this is irresponsible, and I will continue to hold that view. Now that is a different point from saying what do we then do to support an Australian citizen who is in a legal problem overseas. We support Mr Assange in exactly the same way we would support any other Australian citizen in a comparable difficulty.

HOST: Thank you for your time this morning.

PM: Thanks Jon.

Transcript 17671