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Transcript 41532

Radio interview with Jacquie Mackay, ABC Capricornia

Photo of Turnbull, Malcolm

Turnbull, Malcolm

Period of Service: 15/09/2015 to 24/08/2018

More information about Turnbull, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 29/03/2018

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 41532

Subject(s): Royal Flying Doctors Service; Health Funding; Rookwood Weir; Jobs

JACQUIE MACKAY:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcome, what are you announcing later today?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, an additional $84 million, which is going to enable the Royal Flying Doctors Service including the service operating out of Rockhampton, to deliver mental health services, more mental health services and indeed dental services.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service is one of the most iconic medical services, emergency services ever established in Australia, by the Reverend John Flynn. Of course, they provide vital healthcare services to over 335,000 people each year and there’s about 30 people working in Rockhampton on the surface. It’s a national service and with two King Air aircraft there, there will now be, across the nation, an additional 50 psychologists and mental health nurses able to provide additional service to ensure that people in remote and regional Australia have access to the best medical and health care.

JACQUIE MACKAY:

That’s tremendous that we’ll see that extra service offered through the RFDS but it just goes to show though that we struggle still as a country to get health professionals out into our regional and rural areas.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you know Michelle Landry is passionate about this issue and she has talked to me and the Health Minister about doing more to encourage doctors to work in regional Australia. That’s vitally important and we provide a lot of incentives to do that. But there are communities that are very small, with 50 people or less, or 100 people, and they are never going to support a full time medical clinic. That’s why are regular visit, it might be a weekly visit from the Royal Flying Doctors Service is so important. You know about half of the 335,000 plus people who have been supported and helped by the Royal Flying Doctors Service are Indigenous Australians and they’re very often living in very remote communities. So there are always going to be a need for the Royal Flying Doctors Service. Michelle and I have talked a lot about this, about the importance of getting the NBN right and particularly the satellite service which has really improved now. That’s going to be a very big part of it too, making sure that you take advantage of the opportunities of telehealth. I was just talking to Martin Laverty the CEO of the Royal Flying Doctors Service about that.

So we’re doing everything we can whether it’s technology, whether it’s the funding to make sure the Royal Flying Doctors Service continues to deliver outstanding care to Australians who down live in our towns and cities.

JACQUIE MACKAY:

Of course Labor is claiming that your Government is cutting health funding for the states. The state government says that it owes hospital funding. In offering money to RFDS, are you just robbing Peter to pay Paul?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that is completely and utterly untrue. Absolutely untrue. Let me give you a couple of facts - we were just talking about Queensland, you mentioned the state government – the Queensland Labor government cut hospitals by $63 million in their last budget. Under the new hospital funding deal that we’ve offered to the states and which New South Wales and Victoria have already signed up to, the Commonwealth funding for Queensland hospitals would increase from $20 billion in 2019/20 to more than $27 billion in 24/25. That’s a funding increase of more than 34 per cent. So actually, we’ve got record funding, record funding increase for hospitals right across the country and of course in Queensland.

JACQUIE MACKAY:

We’re also, here in central Queensland, still waiting to hear what will happen with that long talked-about Rookwood Weir. The state Government has announced they’ll pay half of the $352 million needed, will the federal Government match it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, sorry, the Rookwood Weir you mentioned just then?

JACQUIE MACKAY:

Yes, that’s right.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, look, okay, the Rookwood Weir. We’ve had $130 million on the table for years now. We couldn’t persuade Annastacia Palaszczuk to be interested in it, but what we want to do is make sure it goes ahead. Now there has been a business case done, which the federal government funded. It’s been presented, it suggests the cost is higher, at around $350 million. What we’re doing is examining that through Infrastructure Australia, we obviously want to make sure that the numbers, the analysis and the calculations are correct. But we’re very committed to the project going ahead and clearly we’ll do the homework, Infrastructure Australia will do the homework and report to us. Look, I’m glad that Annastacia Palaszczuk has now decided that Rookwood Weir is an important project. Michelle and I were flying over there some time ago and trying to encourage the Queensland Government and  for a very long time they showed little or no interest in it at all, so.

JACQUIE MACKAY:

When will we hear about this issue? Because it’s only another $40 million. If the Government is prepared to put up $130 million, what’s another 40?

[Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER:

I assume you’re saying that tongue-in-cheek.

JACQUIE MACKAY:

I am, rather.

PRIME MINISTER:

$40 million when it’s other people’s money, taxpayers money, is a lot of money. I think you understand, you’ve provided the answer in a very ironic way, for why we’re looking at it carefully. Because it is a lot of money. We have to spend taxpayers money to the best effect and make sure we get value for that money.

JACQUIE MACKAY:

We have also, here in central Queensland, just finally seen the end of the industrial dispute at the Oakey North Mine. There were those who say though that the Fair Work Act is broken if allows workers to be locked out for such a long time and for such a dispute to just go on and on. What’s the answer to this and also, the increase in casualization that we’re seeing across all industries?

PRIME MINISTER:

In terms of casualization, that’s not right. The rate of casuals has been the same for a very long time so that’s not true, just as a matter of fact. In fact what you’re seeing is the strongest jobs growth – 420,700 jobs created in Australia across the last 12 months – the highest jobs growth in our history. You’re starting to see part time jobs being shifted to full time jobs. You saw that particularly in the last monthly jobs figures, where there was 47,000 fewer part time jobs and 64,000 more full time jobs, so you’ve got a net increase of 17,000 jobs. But it was that shift from part time, to full time. I’ve seen this from particular businesses, you know, I was at a specialty steel manufacturer in Wollongong in New South Wales a little while back. You know, they had part time, casual work, people who had been working casually, part time and they’re being moved onto their full time staff. Because the business is improving and they’re getting that economic growth. I mean this is one of the consequences of the company tax cuts that we have already legislated, which of course benefit small and medium businesses up to $50 million turnover, which are overwhelmingly Australian-owned family businesses. There are many in Rockhampton and indeed – not in Rockhampton, in Mackay, in your part of the world, you’ve got DGH Engineering which is a very successful engineering, fabricating company which is going to be part of the supply chain for the new Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles which are going to be made, built in Queensland.

JACQUIE MACKAY:

What about the whole issue of having those who have been in casual work or who have been under contracts for a certain length of time, being converted into permanent workers? So that they can plan for their futures, so that they can put money into superannuation and look ahead to a bright future, rather than necessarily an uncertain one?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sorry I just missed that last bit?

JACQUIE MACKAY:

Yes, an uncertain future for many people, if they are facing casualised jobs.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, it is important to ensure that everybody has access to great job opportunities. Many people of course, it suits them to work part-time, but the fundamental proposition that you are making which is that more and more people are working casually, is not right. The percentage of people working casually or part time has been consistent for a very long time. So this is a line that’s run by the unions and run by Labor, it’s actually factually not correct.

JACQUIE MACKAY:

Malcolm Turnbull our Prime Minister is with us this morning on ABC Capricornia, just in case you have just joined us and don’t recognise his voice - which is highly unlikely - but we are very pleased to have him on the line with us this morning in central Queensland.

Youth unemployment, is a big issue obviously, those figures just came out yesterday about such high unemployment for those who are young in the bush. What do we do to make sure that they have future?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, we need to have stronger economic growth. That’s what we’re delivering. Do you know that in the last year -I mentioned there was 420,700 jobs created - in excess of a 100,000 of those were created in Queensland. Do you know as of the end of the last calendar year, 42,500 of them were people between the ages 15 and 24, which is the youth underemployment definition.

So that’s very encouraging, because Queensland has had and still has high youth unemployment.

But the critical thing is that there are more opportunities. Now, we have specific programs, one is the PaTH program which again, has been very successful in Queensland. This is one where there are incentives provided for employers to give a start - initially as an intern, there is training involved and so forth - for people that have not been able to get into the workforce and who have been on Newstart for a while, haven’t been able to get a start for whatever reason. So it’s just to get them into the workforce and I have seen some great examples of young people who have had the benefit of that and they’re on their way. They are trainees, or they’re apprentices and they’re getting started.

So that’s been a successful program so far, but we will continue doing everything we can to make sure that more young Australians get into the workforce and do not get into that pattern of being unemployed and not having that experience of going to work. It’s critically important that everyone is able to do that. As John Howard used to say, the best form of welfare is a job.

JACQUIE MACKAY:

The other big concern I know for our seniors particularly in this region, is that of the health insurance payments which are just increasing all the time. What do we do there, to make sure that it remains something that people who get older, find that their health needs increase, can actually afford to get that covered?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes well, for older Australians that is a critically important thing to make sure that they have access to health insurance. With what you are raising there, there is a good example of an older couple I was talking to in Port Macquarie just a few days ago, who would lose, because of Bill Shorten’s grab at their franked dividends. They’ve got their modest savings, a lot of them invested in Australian shares which pay franked dividends. They would lose $3,500 a year, which they believe, they felt that the only way they could offset that, was by dropping their private health insurance. So we do everything we can to ensure that private health insurance is affordable. But obviously when Bill Shorten is going after self-funded retirees, going after their savings, picking their pockets, reducing their ability to pay private health insurance, or their electricity bill or the groceries - 

JACQUIE MACKAY:

However Bill Shorten also wants to cap the premium price rises, what would your Government be prepared to do?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the reality is that the industry has said, if you cap it for a couple of years, all that’s going to do is result in a massive increase once the cap is lifted. You run the risk of course, that you start putting some of the smaller funds out of business.

The way to ensure private health insurance premiums are affordable, is to put downward pressure on the costs of the services they deliver. You can see that we have been done that with devices, prosthesis and so forth, that’s got to be the focus.

On that, last year we announced the largest reforms to private health insurance in 40 years. So we’re doing everything we can to put downward pressure on the cost of private health insurance.

Again, you cannot believe anything Shorten says about health.

He accused us of going to sell Medicare at the last election, remember that? He said we were going to sell Medicare.

He said we were going to privatise Medicare. Complete nonsense, a massive scare campaign. Has anything changed? People are going to the doctor, covered by Medicare. Bulk billing is at an all-time high. He says we are cutting hospitals, look, as I said earlier, in the five years to 2019/20 Queensland will get $20 billion of funding from the federal government. Over the next five years to 2024/25 Queensland gets an extra $7 billion, giving them $27 billion. So in those two five year periods, you’ve got an increase of $7 billion. That’s what we are offering. So we’re not cutting hospital funding, we are increasing it, substantially.

Now, you raised with me Shorten alleging that we are cutting hospital funding. Completely untrue. Those are the figures. Over two five-year periods, up to 2019/20 it’s $20 billion for five years. The next five year period on offer, it’s $27 billion. That’s a big increase.

JACQUIE MACKAY:

Prime Minister, I know you’ve given us a great deal of your time. Just a point to leave you with this morning, one of our callers has rung in to tell you that she gets $127 a fortnight in carers allowance to look after her husband. He has Alzheimer’s and she says it’s definitely not enough. It’s only enough to get a very small amount of groceries to get every week. So perhaps a point to leave with this morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, thank you very much and I hope your caller is listening. Just to say to her, thank you for the love and support she is showing her husband. I can understand that’s a very tough situation and she’s showing great love and great loyalty. I want to just applaud her for that.

JACQUIE MACKAY:

And perhaps consider them in the budget.

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course, the Budget is always focused on looking after people, we started off talking about the Royal Flying Doctors Service. For people who are living in remote places, we are using every technology. We are using the King Airs that are based in Rockhampton and around the country. We are bringing in psychologists and mental health nurses, more dentists. Making sure that those people living hundreds and hundreds of miles away from cities like Rockhampton or Mackay let alone Sydney or Brisbane, making sure they get access to great medical services.

JACQUIE MACKAY:

Thank you for your time this morning Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank so much.

[ENDS]

Transcript 41532