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ABC News 24: 9am News -

View in ParlView

Subjects: Health announcement; Debate; Climate Change; Population; Electoral Reform.

PM: Can I say it's great to be in Tasmania today, it's great to be in Launceston. I'm joined here
by the Minister for Health Nicola Roxon. I'm also joined by a man who's absolutely no stranger to
this hospital that we're in, our Labor candidate for Bass, Geoff Lyons. And I'm joined by my Senate
colleagues, Senator Helen Polley, who has served on the board of this hospital, and also my Senate
colleague and ministerial colleague, Nick Sherry. And... we're ok? A little bit of a musical
backdrop today!

We're here today to talk about the choice that Australians face on the 21st of August in health.
And of course there is no more important issue to the Australian community than health care. So the
choice on health matters here. It matters in this community, it matters in Tasmania, it matters
right around Australia. And clearly, one of the things that Australians worry about is what would
they do if they had a health emergency in the middle of the night and needed to rush to their local
hospital. What would happen when they got there? And the reality is hundreds of thousands of
Australians experience that fear, that anxiety, in our country every few months. We all know that
we live with that sense that we might need our local hospital and its emergency department.

So today I'm here to announce new investments in emergency departments here and right around the
country. New investments in the form of new doctors and nurses. I've had the opportunity today to
meet with some wonderful staff in this hospital, and we'd like the wonderful staff here and the
wonderful staff in hospitals around the country to be joined by new doctors and new nurses.

So today I announce that if re-elected, we will invest to support the training of up to 2,000 new
emergency nurses over the next decade. And the first 300 of those will receive their additional
scholarships in just a few months, starting on the first of January next year. And today I announce
we will support 1,000 student nurses over the next decade to get vital experience in emergency
departments. And the first 100 of these 1,000 student nurses will start getting that experience
next year.

And I also announce today that we will support over the next decade 270 additional doctors for
emergency departments. They're specialist emergency doctors, trained with the skills they need to
do this important work. And the first 27 of those doctors, those 27 additional training places,
will be available next year. And then, of course, there are the all important support staff that
work to support our doctors and our nurses. And today I announce that we will provide 1,000
scholarships over the next decade, with the first 100 starting on the 1st of January next year to
help those all important support staff get new skills and new training so they can work better with
the doctors and nurses that they support. And I also announce that we will be investing in
upskilling local GPs and doctors in outer suburban and rural hospitals to help them keep their
skills in emergency medicine current so that they are able to assist with emergencies in their own
local community.

I think this is an important step forward. It's an important step forward for our emergency
departments right around the country. More doctors, more nurses trained with the skills they need
to work in emergency departments. And of course, we care about the kind of facilities that doctors
and nurses and support staff in emergency departments are working in. And that's why we've already
committed $750 million to assist with modernising emergency departments right around the nation, so
the places that doctors and nurses work are able to offer the model of care that they want to offer
today. And these investments also join our commitment for the 4 hour access target in emergency
departments, giving patients a sense of when they will be seen when they go to the emergency
department - a change that we are supporting with $750 million worth of new investments.

Now this is good news for hospitals but we also know that in order to take pressure off emergency
departments, we need to make sure that people can see a GP in their community. Unfortunately, on
too many occasions, people who have the kind of health concerns that a general practitioner could
help with actually go to the emergency department because they don't think there is anywhere else
to go. That's why our investments in GP Super Clinics and upgrading doctors' practices around the
country are so important. And our investment in a GP after hours hotline so, if you're concerned,
you can ring the hotline in order to find a GP, rather than queue at the emergency department if
your health concern is one that a general practitioner could help you with.

This comes on top of our commitments to train 1,300 new general practitioners and 3,000 new nurses
to make sure we've got additional health workforce meeting health needs. Now, I said on the 21st of
August, people face a choice. A choice between these new investments, a choice with going forward
with these new investments in our emergency departments and care in our communities, or going back.
Back to the days of healthcare cutbacks when we saw $1 billion taken out of our public hospitals.
Back with cuts to GP Super Clinics. Mr Abbott has said he would end our GP Super Clinics program.
Mr Abbott has also said he would end our GP hotline program - the hotline number you would ring to
get a doctor if you needed one. And, of course, he's also said he would end our investments in
electronic health records, which are so important to the new ways that doctors and nurses want to
work, and the new ways of providing patient care.

So 21st of August is a choice: a choice here, a choice right around the nation and a choice on
health. And on that choice on health, I'll just ask the Minister to make a few comments.

MINISTER ROXON: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Obviously I'm very excited to be here with my
colleagues, with Geoff - someone who's worked at this hospital for more than 17 years - to be able
to talk about health investments. The announcement today is a vital investment in the human
infrastructure: the doctors, the nurses, the allied health professionals, the support staff.
Investment in the human infrastructure that follows our investment in capital infrastructure,
particularly in emergency departments. And, of course, you know here at Launceston Hospital that
there are very significant investments, combined investments from the Commonwealth and the state,
which mean that a new emergency department is being built, a new medical acute unit is being built
to help the flow through emergency departments. And making sure, as we've met nurses that are
training as we've walked around the ward today, making sure we can train the future health
professionals in top quality emergency department care, as we do across the rest of the system, is
a vital part of our announcement today.

But I think the Prime Minister is also giving us a very clear choice. The other components of the
health system - investing in GPs, investing in GP Super Clinics, the after-hours services - these
are all to be cut if Mr Abbott becomes the Prime Minister. Many people here in Tasmania, where
there has been a shortage of GPs, would remember that Mr Abbott capped GP training places at 600.
That meant that when we came to office, only 16 GPs were being trained in Tasmania in the year we
took office. Next year, that will be nearly doubled. 27 GPs training for investments we have
already made to make sure that people can get health care that they need, closer to home when they
need it. So this is a very important part of our investment in the future workforce of Australia,
in our hospitals but also in making sure we get the care outside our hospitals right. And, of
course, in Launceston an important part of that is our integrated care centre investment. And I
might ask Geoff, who has been intimately involved with those two projects just to say a few words
on those projects.

PM: You might just want to explain the connection to the hospitals as well as what you're doing
now.

GEOFF LYONS: I was a business manager at Launceston General and I did the media for a period of
time. Now I'm the Labor candidate for Bass for the next federal election. This is really about
people. We have great infrastructure going on at the LGH, we have great people and we're going to
do more about training but really, it's about the people of the community and how we support them.
And this infrastructure and this people training is going to allow better care of the public,
better care of the people. And I certainly don't want to go back, I would rather go forward with
Julia Gillard.

PM: Thanks very much.

JOURNALIST: This was all announced in the wake of COAG and the national health reform. Is this
really just about you trying to put your face on what Kevin Rudd had worked so hard to achieve?

PM: The announcement we're making today about additional emergency doctors and nurses is a new
announcement. Yes, it's building on earlier good work, which has been led by the Minister for
Health and, of course, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd played such a big role at the Council of
Australian Governments meeting. But we are building on that today with a new announcement about new
doctors and new nurses in emergency departments. We got to have the people there with the skills.
We want them to be working in good facilities. That's why we've invested in capital in emergency
departments around the country, including here. And we want to make sure that the times and targets
are clear for patients. That's why we've invested in the 4 hour access target, and we want to take
that bit of pressure off and that's what our investments in GP Super Clinics and the after hours
hotline are all about.

JOURNALIST: Just to clarify...

PM: Just to be clear, this is a new announcement with new money. Of course it is subject to our
rules that every spending announcement we make during this campaign will be offset, so at the end
of the campaign not one cent has been added to the Budget bottom line, and the Budget will return
to surplus in 2013.

JOURNALIST: Studio audiences last night gave you a victory in the debate. Why won't you debate Tony
Abbott again? Are you scared?

PM: I've debated Tony Abbott and had a lot of discussions with Tony Abbott over the years and I
think it was a good discussion and debate last night. And obviously Australians in their lounge
rooms watching it will judge what they thought of the debate last night.

Now what I will be doing in the campaign is doing things like I have done today, being out, talking
to people, and making announcements about the future that matter for hard working Australians and
their families. And there's nothing more important than making sure if you had a health emergency,
that you could go to an emergency department with the staff, the doctors and nurses that you need,
that's what today's announcement is about.

We'll just go here and here.

JOURNALIST: A lot of people were saying that your effort was a bit boring last night, do you find
that a bit offensive?

PM: I'll allow others to judge the debate. It's in the hands of the Australian people to make their
judgments, but I will say this - I am never going to be bored, never going to be bored talking
about a strong economy that gives Australians the benefits that come with having a job. The simple
benefits and dignity of work. I'm never going to be bored talking about the health care that
Australians need. I'm never going to be bored talking about giving our children the opportunity of
a first class education, every child in every school. They are the big questions for Australians,
the big questions for our way of life and so we are talking about one of those very big questions
today. What happens when you have a health emergency, who do you see and we are talking about new
doctors and nurses that will join the hard working and excellent staff that already work in our
emergency departments.

Yes over here and then we will go to the back.

JOURNALIST: A new announcement, new money, yet the statement says that it's $96 million provision
for in the 2010-11 Budget. Surely if can't be new money if it was being accounted for in the May
budget?

PM: Obviously this package is being announced today, so the allocation is being confirmed today.

Sorry I did say I would go to the back and then I'll come here and then I'll go there. We will do
our fair system, there we go.

JOURNALIST: Is it good enough that your government is not going to fund changes to radar systems at
airports in Tasmania until the end of the year? People could die in that time.

PM: Minister Anthony Albanese has been working on this, he has received recommendations from the
Civil Aviation Safety Authority and he actioning those recommendations. And those recommendations
mean that every flight coming into the airport here will be supervised by an air traffic
controller.

Now we did say we'd go here and then there, yes. Oh and Ben, sorry Ben.

JOURNALIST: I'm just wondering what you would say to people who had been supporting Labor who are
now thinking about supporting the Greens.

PM: My task is to be talking to every Australian, men and women, about the big questions for our
nation, the big questions that take us forward. And so today we are talking about one of those big
questions, health. Over the course of the campaign I have been talking about education, about the
benefits of a strong economy bringing the budget to surplus in 2013, about climate change and you
will obviously hear me talk about a series of other important questions between now and election
day. People will make their judgments. There is a real choice, here today we are talking about one
of those real choices, going forward with our investments in health or going back to the days of
cutting health back. No more GP super clinics, no more GP after hours hotline, no investments in
e-Health. Ben?

JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, we haven't seen Tim out on the campaign trail, where is he? Will he be
campaigning with you and do you think Mr Abbott was having a bit of a chip at you last night when
he harped on being such a family man?

PM: No I didn't and you know the debate is there for Australians to judge.

Obviously for my partner Tim, he views his job as being supportive of me and he is very supportive
of me. He is not a Labor party official or a candidate, or a Minister, so you won't see him out on
the campaign trail in that sense. But obviously Tim will be supporting me during the campaign. He
has been doing it so far.

Right we said we would go over here and then we will come back. Yes, we will go to our local
friends.

JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee that health networks won't be centralised in capital cities and in
Tasmania in particular, that will happen in the north and the west?

PM: What I can say about local health networks is we are not making this decision in Canberra. This
decision is being consulted on in local communities. But as the national government, we are
certainly reserving the right to take a long hard look at any local health care network boundaries
that appear to conflict with a community consensus. So that's the approach that we are taking.

We'll go here.

JOURNALIST: You were hugely popular with women, but you didn't resonate well with the men and your
personal satisfactions rating and preferred Prime Minister ratings fell substantially today. Do you
need to do more to attract the male vote and what do you attribute you personal fall in popularity
too?

PM: Well I suspect I am going to disappoint you and number one I am going to say the debate is
there for Australians to judge and number 2 I'm not going to comment on opinion polls and we will
see. I predict a million of them between now and election day, but I will tell you what I have
always believed and what I've always believed is this was going to be a tough, close contest. It is
a tough close contest and it will be a photo finish on election day, and Australians will need to
make a choice on the 21st of August to make a choice in a tough close contest.

Yes?

JOURNALIST: Will we see you having a few more beers during the campaign, trying to please the men?

PM: Thank you for the campaigning advice, but I'll keep doing what I'm doing now.

Yes?

JOURNALIST: I know you don't want to talk about opinion polls, but the one out today after one week
of campaigning, did show the gap narrowing. Are you happy with your first week of campaigning, are
you going to do anything differently in the next four weeks to try and convince voters to back you?

PM: The judgment here is for the Australian people to make and they will make it on the 21st of
August. My job as Prime Minister, supported by my fantastic Labor team and our local candidates
like Geoff, is to be out there talking to the community about the important questions for the
future of this country. Talking about what takes us forward, prosperous Australia, a strong
economy, a Budget in surplus, investing in the jobs of the future, like the National Broadband
Network and there is no better place to talk about that than Tasmania. Getting Australians
additional access to the health care services that they want and that's what we are talking about
today, an emergency department in a time of need. Of course talking about fantastic schools, making
sure every kid gets a great quality education, talking about sustainability - a sustainable
Australia not a big Australia - and our policies and plans to support that sustainability, talking
about tackling climate change together and of course talking about keeping our borders strong.
These are the big questions, these are the big questions I will continue to be persuading
Australians about during the campaign, the judgment is theirs.

Ok we will go here and come back through. Yes.

JOURNALIST: In the debate last night regional Australia didn't get a mention, are regional areas
not important?

PM: I think regional Australia did get a mention, in this sense that I talked during the debate
about a sustainable Australia and of course sustainability is sustainability for all of the country
and it is very important to our regions. One of the policy measures I have announced during the
campaign, and it is a modest measure, to make a bit of a difference, but one of the measures I have
announced is our program to work with regional cities that want to grow, that have got jobs and
want to develop affordable housing for the new people who want to go and live there, that's
important. And I would say when we are talking about health, about health workforce, emergency
departments, access to a GP, great schools, these are all things that matter to regional Australia.

We will go here and then we'll come back along.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister very close to Bass, if not in Bass, is a wind farm planned which has
been stalled for some time. Is there anything in your climate change policy which would bring that
project forward?

PM: What I can say generally about our climate change policy is we are huge supporters of renewable
energy. I am committed to making record investments in solar and renewable technology and I am
committed, as well as those record investments in the new projects that will generate this new
clean green energy, I am committing $1 billion to build the transmission lines that will gets this
energy from where it is generated into Australian homes. And we have our Renewable Energy Target to
make sure that in terms of the energy mix used by Australians we are seeing more come from
renewable energy. But I would ask people to think about this, when we are looking at renewable
energy generation, whether it is solar, whether it is wind, whether it is tide, whether it is hot
rocks, often that happens in quite remote parts of the country. Which is why the billion dollars in
the transmission lines to get it into homes is so important. And just before we take another
question. Just on your question about regional issues, I'll just let Nicola comment on the
distribution of the places we have announced today which is important too.

ROXON: I just thought it might be interest to you that of these additional nursing and doctor
places to have specialists in emergency departments, 50 per cent of those will be allocated to
rural and regional Australia. And as the Prime Minister mentioned in her opening comments, we are
also particularly supporting a number of the GPs and nursing staff in very small communities who
often also service the local hospital, making sure they are trained up and have the skills that are
needed as emergency medicine changes, as the diseases people are presenting with change, is very
important and part of us building on our ambitious health reform agenda and delivering across all
of the country in important areas like emergency care, whether you live in the middle of a CBD,
whether you live in a regional centre like Launceston, or whether you live in a very small
community in other parts of the country, that is vital and part of our investments that we're
announcing today.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister says it's all new money but Sandra says the funding that says $96
million for these initiatives is provisioned for in the 2010-11 Budget. Is it new money or it is
already allocated?

PM: Sorry I've confused you and then I'll let Nicola comment as well. Your earlier question to me
was 'wasn't all of this announced at the time of COAG'? and the answer to that is no. This is new.
It is beyond what was announced at the time of COAG. Provision was made for it in the Budget and we
are announcing the measure today. So between the two questions I acknowledge I may have put that...

JOURNALIST: You did say before that this was new money and you would have to find cuts for it...

PM: No sorry. I want to just be clear about this and the two questions together may have confused
you. You asked me was this all announced at the time of COAG. No, this was not announced at the
time of COAG. It is new. The Government made provision for this in the Budget but we are announcing
it today. Obviously for everything we announce in the campaign we've got a rule and that rule is -
nothing we announce during the course of the campaign will add a cent to the Budget bottom line.

JOURNALIST: When can we expect to hear more from you about mental health and dental health or could
people advocating their causes stop holding their breath?

PM: I'll let Nicola say something too but obviously there are important issues in health. Mental
health is a very important question and we've made some investments, some very important
investments. Building on the model of care that Pat McGorry has done such a good job, such a good
job in pioneering in this country and indeed in other places around the world. So mental health is
very important. I'll have something more to say about mental health during the course of the
campaign.

JOURNALIST: And what about dental health?

PM: Dental health is one of Nicola's special passions given her battles in the Senate so I might
let her answer that question because she's got a very interesting tale on it.

ROXON: Thank you very much. Obviously with dental health we have been concerned. We campaigned very
strongly at the last election and in fact have been campaigning for almost all of the history of
the Howard Government. The Prime Minister when she was the shadow health spokesperson campaigned
against what was a very cruel cut from the Howard Government closing the Commonwealth Dental
Scheme. We see hundreds of thousands of Australians waiting for dental care because of the Liberal
Government's decision to cut that program. We went to the last election promising to re-establish
it and we have been blocked in every direction by a Senate who does not support these investments.
The Liberal Party slashing money when they first elected. The Liberal Party taking no action in
this area for 12 years and then stopping us in the Senate from delivering what was committed to at
the previous election and of course we believe we had a clear mandate to deliver. We still want to
introduce that Commonwealth Dental Scheme. That's the first step that we believe needs to be taken.
It targets the most disadvantaged. And we are very focused on making sure we continue to have a
mandate to take those steps. Here in Tasmania public dental has been under pressure and it would be
a way for us to invest more in public dental services and is something that we are very focused on
doing.

Can I just also add on mental health. Of course there was some good news announced yesterday. The
next 10 HeadSpace services across the country were announced. Of course this was part of the COAG
agreement that we committed to another 30 sites, 10 including one in Tasmania in Hobart, means that
every capital city across the country will have a HeadSpace service within the next 12 months and
of course there were other regional investments as well. And it just highlights that although there
is plenty more to be done in mental health we are getting on with the job of providing services.
Those investments will provide more than 20,000 young Australians with the mental health care
support that they need and of course we look forward to working with the community to build on
those investments.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister university Vice-Chancellors are very concerned by Tony Abbott's
announcement yesterday to target student visa numbers in his immigration cuts. Do you share those
concerns, they are warning that that could really demolish their industry and therefore affect
staff numbers at universities and across the board courses. Do you agree with that concern and what
do you say to those universities that say, you know, lay off?

PM: Well I'd say the following things. Firstly I believe what Tony Abbott announced yesterday was a
trick. I said that in the debate last night. What Tony Abbott has announced as his policy is what I
as Prime Minister am already delivering. Now this is I think the problem for Tony Abbott when he
just plucks numbers out of the air and he isn't specific and clear with the Australian people about
immigration numbers. On international education generally, can I say this. When we came into
Government we inherited, left over from the Howard Government of which Mr Abbott was a senior
Minister, an international education sector that had some fantastic providers. Some great
universities doing amazing work. Some great vocational education and training providers. But the
truth is we also inherited an industry that had some shonks in it and there was a big problem with
regulation. Now we have moved to address that. We've cracked down on the rorts. We've particularly
cracked down on the product people are selling in international education through education agents
and others really being a visa rather than education in this country. So we've sorted that out. Now
I think the problem here for Tony Abbott is it's not surprising to me, like stakeholders, like
universities, would be anxious and concerned when Mr Abbott appears to just be plucking figures out
of the air, isn't clear about what he's promising and really, underneath all of this is one big
trick.

JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard (inaudible)

PM: Alright, we're being very generous today, very generous.

JOURNALIST: You quoted a BIS Shrapnel report last night where, using it as the basis for your
claims of trickery against Tony Abbott, saying that the numbers are going down anyway. They've
forecasted that. But there's some figures that the Opposition's saying you missed from the BIS
Shrapnel Report is that by 2014 those numbers will go up to 220,000 and 2014, 220,000, by 2015,
250,000, so by not setting a specific target like the Opposition is doing, the numbers are going to
go up again even though you're saying they're going down now?

PM: Let's be clear about what I've said and about what Mr Abbott's said. Mr Abbott created
headlines in yesterday's newspapers with claims effectively that he was going to halve immigration.
He was going to take immigration from 300,000 to 170,000. Now of course what he was doing was using
figures from 2008. Not acknowledging that immigration had already fallen to 230,000. Not
acknowledging that the net overseas migration numbers were projected to be 175,000 and then
145,000. So Mr Abbott, out there, claiming as his new policy something that I'm already delivering.
What I am saying for our future is we need a sustainable Australia, not a big Australia. That
requires us to think about, to work through policies, about everything that protects our Australian
way of life. What I believe people want to see us take to our future is our Australian way of life.
That's about being able to get a job. It's about being able to aspire to afford a home. It's about
good quality services and we're talking about good quality services here today talking about
emergency departments. Governments will set immigration numbers year to year. As a Government we've
set immigration numbers from year to year responding to economic changes. With a sustainable
population policy in this country for the first time we would set those numbers knowing what our
sustainable population policy was you would be able to look at sustainability too.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister can you just tell us what your views on fixed four year terms and will
you commit to a referendum on it?

PM: No I won't. No I won't. This is something that I think people can have different views on and
have the different views on in the community in different states. I've got no plans for any
constitutional changes or referendums about the term of the Parliament or how the term of the
Parliament relates to the term of the Senate. We have three year terms. We're fighting an election
obviously about the next three years and I've got absolutely no plans or intention to put a
referendum to the Australian people to change those arrangements.

Thanks very much.