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(generated from captions) for Darwin. Mostly fine the midday markets And a final check of interest rate rise: still digesting that 0.25% That's the news for now. at 7 o'clock. Our next full bulletin Coming up on ABC TV, at the National Press Club. Health Minister Tony Abbott

Good afternoon. I'm Paul Lockyer. International Pty Ltd Captioning and Subtitling Closed Captions produced by

This program is captioned live.

Today at the National Press Club,

the Federal Health Minister Tony

Abbott. In his almost three years

been at as Health Minister, Mr Abbott has

been at the centre of the political

brawl over the veilability of the

abortion drug, RU486 and also at

forefront of policies to take the abortion drug, RU486 and also at the

heat out of the health portfolio

before the last federal election.

Live from the National Press Club

Canberra, Health Minister Tony Live from the National Press Club in

gentlemen, Abbott. (Bell gongs) Ladies and

gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome

today's National Australia to the National Press Club and

today's National Australia Bank

Address. It is a great pleasure to

welcome back the Minister for

Health, Tony Abbott. He was just

reminding me that last time he was

here was during the election

campaign and the debate on health

policy then. But we have an

addition to our usual agenda for

event today. We have today addition to our usual agenda for the

annual announced most of the results in our announced most of the results in

annual awards for excellence in

health journalism. We will have an

addition to those results in just a

moment, but just to say that - I

would just like to say to you that

the principal sponsor of the awards

is Medicines Australia and I would

like to invite John Young, who is

chairman of that organisation and

fieser also Chief Executive Officer of

fieser Australia to say -- of

Pfizer to say something about the

awards. Thanks, Ken. It is a real

pleasure to be here and to welcome

you all of what is undoubtedly

becoming a major health event in it

country. It is a particular

privilege to welcome the Minister

for health and ageing, bolt Abbott

who will giving today's keynote

address. Minister, we

address. Minister, we know you are

extremely busy and we are very

grateful for you for taking time

a hectic schedule to celebrate high grateful for you for taking time for

achievement in health journism. I

we are all here today because I

think for most aurns, there is no

more important issue than their

health. Through reporting, it is

that most of us learn about health

to issues which are of most importance

to our community. I would like to

take this opportunity to thank and

congratulate the category winners,

the nominees, the judges and the

National Press Club for hosting

today's awards. I would also like

to congratulate the winner of the

health journalist of the year award

in advance of the Minister's

announcement. Medicines Australia

is proud once again to be the

primary sponsor of the National

awards and on behalf Press Club's 2006 health journalism

awards and on behalf of our

industry, to thank you again for

opportunity to be involved in these industry, to thank you again for the

extremely important awards. So on

that note, I would like to hand

to you, Ken. Thank you. APPLAUSE. that note, I would like to hand back

Thank you very much, John. I

explain to the broadcast audience Thank you very much, John. I should

that the awards are conductd in

categories which were announced that the awards are conductd in four

just a few ministers ago and those categories which were announced here

individual winners were Tony Wright

of the 'Bulletin', for the best

article on health science and

innovation. Jill Margot from the

'Australian Financial Review' for

the best dum tri-series. Karen

der of 'The Age' in Melbourne for the best dum tri-series. Karen naid

the best news story in this field,

and John Krohn of the Australian doctors'

doctors' monthly magazine, Focus sc,

sc,. From those four, the judges doctors' monthly magazine, Focus

selected one who wins the health

journtist of the year award, gets

extra $5,000 in addition to the $1, journtist of the year award, gets an

$1,000 for each of those categories extra $5,000 in addition to the

and gets a week's study in the

United States. I would like Tony

Abbott to tell you who it is.

A most

A most meritorious winner in a

strong field is Jill Margot.

APPLAUSE

On grat lagses. Thank you so much.

Well done. Are you going to say

anything? Well, I will try to say

something again. Thank something again. Thank you very

much for this award. I'm just

astonished. The series was about

prostate cancer which is the most

common cancer in Australia, apart

from skin cancer, and is a very

serious and concerning business for

men, and it's concerning because so

much is not known about the disease.

Prostate cancer really is a good

years behind. Our understanding of Prostate cancer really is a good 20

prostate cancer is a good 20 years

behind our understanding of breast

cancer. And for many men faced

a diagnosis, they have a lot of cancer. And for many men faced with

to do because of all the a diagnosis, they have a lot of work

uncertainties in the field. So I

write about prostate cancer on an

ongoing basis and often when I do,

people around me groan. They say,

"Oh, no, not again!" But I persist.

The I must say I'm absolutely

delighted and pleased to have been

awarded for it. Thank you very

much. APPLAUSE

Thank you, Jill and congratulations.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, time

today's address. Please welcome Now, ladies and gentlemen, time for

Minister for Health, Tony Abbott. today's address. Please welcome the

APPLAUSE. Thanks very much, Ken.

Thanks very much, ladies and

gentlemen. If I could begin by

again congratulating the winners of

these awards. A special tribute

ought to be paid to Jill, to Tony,

to Carol and to

to Carol and to John, and I'm very

happy to be able to pay it as

someone who was a journalist before

he was a politician. As a

journalist, I felt I was often a

frustrated politician. Now that

a politician, I am mostly a frustrated politician. Now that I'm

frustrated journalist, and I want

thank the 'Sydney Morning Herald' frustrated journalist, and I want to

for giving me the chance to work

some of those frustrations with for giving me the chance to work out fortnightly column. some of those frustrations with that

fortnightly column. I want to say

how much of appreciate the

importance of journalists in our

political process, even when what

you write annoys the hell out of me,

and I also want to say how I

appreciate the professional

integrity and the intellectual

honesty which mostly

honesty which mostly allows the

journalists of Australia to report

the facts, even when they don't

the facts, even when they don't like them. Ladies and gentlemen, a

them. Ladies and gentlemen, a Press Club Address is a rare chance to

tell hundreds of thousands of TV

viewers what the Government has

done, what the Government is doing,

and what the Government plans to do

next. It's also a chance to

next. It's also a chance to explain the thinking behind the

the thinking behind the Government's decisions to an audience which

understand and appreciates politics.

Almost every opinion poll rates

health as the public's most

important issue. Health stories

important issue. Health stories are a media staple. Yet compared, say,

to workplace relations, health

attracts little philosophical controversy.

controversy. The political

controversy. The political argument is almost always over funding which

is never enough or capacity for

human error to which all systems

human error to which all systems are prone. It's instructive and for

prone. It's instructive and for the Commonwealth Government, somewhat

reassuring that proposals to change

the health system rather than to

keep it essentially as it is are

keep it essentially as it is are the ones that generate the most

political controversy because in

health, people want their problems

solved. They don't want systems

changed unless, of course, there is

something fundamentally wrong with

them, which is not currently the

case with health services for which

the Commonwealth has principal

responsibility. Any discussion of

health systems needs to acknowledge

how well they work. Their

organisational logic may leave much

to be desired, but in

to be desired, but in practice they

mostly deliver good results. Every

single day brings a million

Commonwealth Government subsidised

interactions between doctors or

pharmacists and their patients.

Every single day, hundreds of

life-saving processes often of

extraordinary cost and complexity,

are carried out at very little

expense to patients and more or

expense to patients and more or less complete satisfaction to

complete satisfaction to them.

Because health services are highly

complex and provided by an array of

private and public entities, it's

more important than usual to

more important than usual to respect the people in the system and to

avoid unilateral policy-making.

Markets are important mechanisms in

health as elsewhere, but they

health as elsewhere, but they mostly have to be managed ones in this

sector, because health equity sector, because health equity is

just as important as health

efficiency. An instinct for con

efficiency. An instinct for con ser testify incrementalism is

testify incrementalism is especially important here because people's

health is too important for

experimentation. As the regular

experimentation. As the regular and largely ineffective reorganisations

of State's area health authority

shows only too well, the unintended

consequences of health reform are often

often far more significant than the

intended ones. Because health

services shouldn't ever be

interrupted, it is even more

important than in other areas to

clarify what is a problem and

clarify what is a problem and what's not, what problems can be solved

not, what problems can be solved and what can't, and the extent to which

solutions invariably create

problems of their own. Now, the

critics scoffed when the claim was

first made that the Howard

Government was the best friend that Medicare

Medicare had ever had. From 1984,

the Coalition had been vulnerable

the Coalition had been vulnerable on health because it had opposed

Medicare's creation. But in

managing the system in government,

the Coalition has come to

the Coalition has come to appreciate more its fundamental strengths.

These days, it is the ALP which

sounds unconvincing in its support

for Medicare because, after all,

it's hard to be the party of

Medicare while incessantly

criticising it and promising to

abolish the safety net or to help

older people by dudding younger

people. Largely neutralising

people. Largely neutralising health as a political issue has been one

as a political issue has been one of this Government's significant

political achievements. Since 1996,

the Government has painstakingly established

established strong health

credentials partly by big increases

in spending, partly by avoiding

anything that could be described as

ideologically driven, but mostly by

constantly examining the system for

practical weaknesses and doing what

was necessary to address them. For

instance, since November 2003, the

Government has introduced targeted incentive payments and

incentive payments and rebate

increases which have lifted the GP

bulk-billing rate to over 75% and

bulk-billing rate to over 75% and to record levels for children and for

people in country areas. The

Government has introduced the

Medicare safety net which, even

after modifications, will provide

extra help to 1.5 million people

this year. The overall

this year. The overall bulk-billing rate for GPs and specialists combined is

combined is now higher than in

combined is now higher than in March 1996. The Government has

1996. The Government has introduced care plans to help GPs better treat

their chronicly ill patients. For

the first time, there is a Medicare

rebate for services provided to

chronicly ill people by allied

health professionals such as

physiotherapists, chiropractors,

dieticians, occupational therapists,

dieticians, occupational therapists, diabetic educators and exercise

physiologists. Under changes

announced since November 2003,

nurses and in some limited

circumstances midwife services

delivered for and on behalf of GPs

can attract Medicare rebates for

can attract Medicare rebates for the first time. Comprehensive health

checks under Medicare are becoming

available, not just for people over

75 and for Indigenous people, but

also for

also for middle-aged people with

risk factors, sux as diabetes,

risk factors, sux as diabetes, obese city or other lifestyle issues.

city or other lifestyle issues. The Government is spending an

Government is spending an additional $1.9 billion on mental health on

$1.9 billion on mental health on top of existing programs yuch as Beyond

Bluey has seen suicide levels

Bluey has seen suicide levels almost halved since the mid 1990. Because

Indigenous people make

Indigenous people make comparatively little use of Medicare, the

Government has increased funding

Government has increased funding for Aboriginal services to $350 million

a year. The Government's new

pregnancy support measures have

pregnancy support measures have been a source of personal as well as

professional satisfaction. Writing

in 'The Australian' last week, Matt

Price observed: "Tony Abbott has

many talents, including the knack

many talents, including the knack of annoying battalions of Australian

women with regular forays into the

abortion debate." I have chosen to

run this risk because as all sides

now seem to agree, 88,000 abortions

a year on the most reliable figures

are far too many. In my view,

abortion is a tragedy, not a crime.

Still, it is worth trying to bring

these huge numbers down. If these initiatives

initiatives help women to make

genuine personal choices rather

genuine personal choices rather than socially conditioned ones, if they

help women in an almost impossible

difficult situation to feel less

alone, they will ultimately be one

of the Howard Government's more

significant achievements. The

Government has massively invested

Government has massively invested in training more doctors, nurses and

other health professionals P since

1996, new medical schools 1996, new medical schools have been

established or announced at the

follow universities: James koork,

the ANU, Notre Dame, Griffith, Bond,

UWS, Wollongong, Deakin and EWU.

There are now 14 rural clinical

schools and 11 university

departments of rural health. The

number of publicly funded medical

graduates, just 1,300 in 2003, graduates, just 1,300 in 2003, will

be nearly 2,300 in 2012 withen

be nearly 2,300 in 2012 withen extra 900 full-fee-paying graduates. The

number of fursing graduates per

number of fursing graduates per year will increase by 900 between 1998

and 2012. Dental graduates by is

and 2012. Dental graduates by is 10 a year over the same period.

Psychology graduates by 486 and

pharmacy graduates by 297. Since 2003,

2003, based on Medicare statistics,

the number of full time equivalent

doctors has already risen by 2.4%

overall and by 6.3% in country

areas. In 1996, $6 billion was

spent under the Medicare benefit

schedule. By 2003, this had

increased to $8.1 billion. This

year, spending should reach $11.2

billion, a 39% real increase over

the life of the Howard Government.

In 1996, spending on health and

ageing portfolio programs was under

14% of the total Commonwealth

budget. This financial year, it

will be over #19d%. This -- over

19%. This spending should be seen

as an investment in people's health, rather than as

rather than as an troe nom kal cost

to Government because it largely

takes place in programs such as

Medicare and PBS. It's often

pointed out that health spending is

projected to rise from under 10% of

GDP to well over 15% by 2040, but

it's less often remembered that

health costs have already risen

health costs have already risen from about 5% of GDP

about 5% of GDP in 1960, and this

has not proven to be unsustainable

because life expectancy at birth

because life expectancy at birth has risen by almost a decade in that

time to 81 years and Australia's

economic strength is much greater

thanks in part to the fact that

people die less often in middle-age

from cancer and heart disease. It

can't be assumed that health spending

spending is automatically value for

money any more than this can be

assumed in other areas of

government. Still, every country

has spent more on health as it has

grown richer, so the likelihood is

that Australia would spend

proportionately less on health only

by becoming a comparatively poorer

country. Until last year, the PBS

had been the fastest growing area

had been the fastest growing area of Commonwealth health spending,

increasing at a rate of 12% between

1995 and 2004. Thanks to better

doctor prescribing practices,

doctor prescribing practices, thanks to measures such as the 12.5%

mandatory price cut for new generic

medicines and also the safety

medicines and also the safety scares over some popular drugs growth

slowed to just 2.8% last year.

slowed to just 2.8% last year. Even so, the Government estimates 7.8%

growth over the next four years.

growth over the next four years. So it's important to consider further

future savings, not to spend less

future savings, not to spend less on health, but to create head room for

the very expensive but very

effective drugs expected to be

available soon. For instance, for

some patients, Herceptin is some patients, Herceptin is expected to increase

to increase breast cancer survival

rates from 85% to over 90%. The

pharmaceutical benefits advisory

Committee has accordingly

recommended that it be made

available on the PBS at a cost of

about $50,000 per patient or up to

$400 million over four years.

Understandably enough,

pharmaceutical companies make big

efforts to market their new efforts to market their new products to doctors

to doctors who equally

understandably, often feel obliged

to recommend what is said to be the

best, regardless of cost. In the

case of Herceptin, this has helped

to generate a media campaign

featuring people forced to sell

their houses to save their lives

with the inevitable demands that

governments do something such as governments do something such as the safety checks and

safety checks and cost effective

analysis. As new products become

available to give extra time to

people who are terminally ill or to

save small numbers from horrible

diseases at very high cost, there

will be more campaigns of this type,

motivated by compassion and a

motivated by compassion and a vision of the good society, as well as

commercial self-interest.

Government will also be held

responsible if these new drugs fail

to deliver as promised or turn

to deliver as promised or turn out

to have unacceptable side effects

to have unacceptable side effects or even to add greatly to

pharmaceutical company profits.

pharmaceutical company profits. The Government has to weigh all these

Ricks and make judgment calls,

knowing that the costs will

ultimately borne by taxpayerses.

ultimately borne by taxpayerses. So the Government would like to see

more use of comparatively #k45e7,

off-pattern generic drugs, but this

off-pattern generic drugs, but this is hard to manage. Discounted

co-payments, risk encouraging

overuse or hoarding. Tender

overuse or hoarding. Tendering

jeopardises choice and the

possibility that tiny differences

possibility that tiny differences in drugs might make big differences

drugs might make big differences for some patients. The Government is

currently talking to the key

stakeholders about securing a

stakeholders about securing a fairer price and greater volume for

price and greater volume for generic medicines so that innovative but

expensive effective medicines might

more readily attract subsidy. Of

course, any change potentially

effects the incomes of

manufacturers, distributors and

retailers all of whom inevitably

fear the worse and strive to ensure

that it impacts on someone else,

sometimes by exaggerating the potential

potential downside for vulnerable

patients. Because for some people,

it can literally mean a matter of

life or death, health policy

decisions often arouse very strong

ee notion motions. Stopping to

count the cough the of the latest

miracle cures, can seem heartless,

but responsible governments have to

see about good deeds. Following

comment and exposure draft of any

legislation the Government

legislation the Government considers necessary will be published with

parliamentary process to be necessary will be published with the

completed if possible by the end of

the year. The Government can't

promise that everyone will be happy

with its final decisions, but it

does guarantee that no-one should

surprised. The Government is also does guarantee that no-one should be concluding consultations with surprised. The Government is also

interested parties on the final

shape of new legislation governing

private health insurance. Again,

there will be an exposure draft

before legislation goes into the

Parliament by the end of the year.

The Government wants funds to cover

services once delivered in hospital

but now done elsewhere for which

there is no specific Medicare

benefit. This means ending the

artificial distinction between in

and out of hospital services, and out of hospital services, so

that funds can potentially cover

from their main tables services

might substitute for an in-hospital from their main tables services that

service or help to prevent the need

for an in-hospital service. For

instance, physiotherapy, den tis

stri, disease management programs,

chemotherapy and home dialysis to

the extent not covered by Medicare

the main would potentially be coverable under would potentially be coverable

the main table rather than under

ancillary policy with subsequent

reassurance advantages. Savings in

hospitalisation costs should enable

funds to provide more services out

of hospital without higher premiums.

The Government also wants to end

the nasty surprises when private

patients receive their bill by

ensuring that doctors and hospitals

tell people in advance about

out-of-pocket expenses they are

likely to face. The likely to face. The most recent

survey showed that 44% of all

private hospital episodes involved

gap expenses, averaging $720 and

21% involved payments for which no gap expenses, averaging $720 and the

prior financial consent had been

obtained. With Government support,

the Australian Medical Association

is now advising doctors that

to obtain informed consent is now advising doctors that failing to obtain informed consent is not

acceptable professional practice

the Government is planning to acceptable professional practice and

conduct a further survey by private

patients by the end of the year,

with a follow-up if necessary in

April next year, if these surveys

don't show that informed financial

consent has become the norm

procedures, the Government will

regulate to make it mandatory.

These changes are designed to make

attractive private health insurance a more

attractive product without further

financial incentives and without

changing the basic architecture of

the existing system in ways which

might disadvantage patients without

private cover. Unlike the

Opposition, the Government believes

it complements the current Medicare

system rather than undermine it.

The more who have private insurance,

the less to be on waiting lists for

elective procedures. Perhaps the

biggest single challenge now facing

the health system is coping with

chronic diseases in an ageing the health system is coping with the

population in a culture which has

engineered out of daily life and

which is azicted to fast food.

Life-styled related diabetes, after

flew Wen za as it's been called is

the pandemic of the modern world.

Depending on how it is managed, it

can take 15 years off people's life

expectancy. The basic problem is

that people are literally eating

themselves to an earlier death.

Nearly two-thirds of adult males,

half of adult females and a quarter

of Australian children are

overweight with about a third of

these technically obese. GP manage management these technically obese. GP

management plans and team-care plan

plans are one aspect of the management plans and team-care

Government as response. So is the

after-school exercise program run

the Commonwealth sports department after-school exercise program run by

now operating at nearly 20% of

schools and the healthy eating

grants for school canteens run by

the Commonwealth Health Department

now taken up by about 60% of

schools. The Australian better

health initiative agreed at the

February COAG should enable

of this type to be further extended, February COAG should enable programs

and help nudge our system from just

treating sickness to also promoting

wellness. Through the Commonwealth

communications department, the

Government is working to achieve

more responsible food advertising

children and has run its own more responsible food advertising to

campaigns promoting fut and

vegetables and at least an hour of

exercise a day. Advertisements do

have some influence on behaviour,

otherwise people wouldn't pay for

them. Still, banning food ads to

children is a token isic pseudo

solution that has been proven not

work. Quebec banned food solution that has been proven not to

advertising to children 25 years

and Sweden banned it 12 years ago advertising to children 25 years ago

without any appreciatable impact on

obesity rates. In this area, bans

are the soft option for governments

more interested in looking good

doing good. What's really needed more interested in looking good than

more information and awareness doing good. What's really needed is

what the food we put into our more information and awareness about

is doing to us. People need to what the food we put into our mouths

that there are 275 calories in a is doing to us. People need to know

Mars bar, 280 in a Magnum ice-cream,

1 6 1 in a can of Coke and about

0 in a large Big Mac meal which 1 6 1 in a can of Coke and about 108

about half of an add duct's daily

requirement. People need to know

takes an hour of brisk walking to requirement. People need to know it

walk off a lunch. There is nothing

wrong with treats, as long as

don't indulge themselves every day wrong with treats, as long as people

and as long as they adjust their

other food intake or their exercise

regime accordingly. Still, it's

hard to overestimate the scale of

the problem with every chance that

life expectancies in developed

countries such as Australia might

actually fall for the first time in

about 300 years. Governments have

maximum potential to make a

difference. When they take on

ideological or institutional or

vested interests. The Howard

Government has not picked all that

many fights, but where it has on

and workplace relations reform, many fights, but where it has on tax

for the dole, border protection and and workplace relations reform, work

participation ins global war on

terror, to name some of the most

important ones, it has contributed

to lasting change for good.

Probably the greatest frustration

for health policy makers is lack of

clarity over which governments

should do what and how it should be

paid for. This is a particular

problem for public hospitals which

the Commonwealth Government part

funds, but the state governments

wholly run. The upshot is the

States blaming the Commonwealth

anything goes badly wrong, but the States blaming the Commonwealth when

Commonwealth lacking any capacity

effect specific change, leaving the Commonwealth lacking any capacity to

public confused and annoyed and

wondering why little seems to

change. This inherently

unsatisfactory arrangement is

unsatisfactory arrangement is almost certain to continue at least until

the expiry of the current health

care agreements on 30 June 2008.

Now, the Government could conclude

that any different structure might

be even worse, or it could put

options on the table designed options on the table designed to

deliver better services . Any

proposed change would be about

running hospitals better, not

empowering Commonwealth bureaucrats.

As the Prime Minister has rightly

observed, Canberra-based public

servants would be no better than

their State counterparts if they

ride to run hospitals directly

themselves. Re-negotiations public

hospital funding arrangements will

be one of the biggest health

challenges of any fifth term.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great

pleasure to be here. Yes, Ken, it

was the election campaign when I

was the election campaign when I was last here debating Julia Gillard.

Before that, I think the CFMEU

managed to cut off the live

broadcast mid-stream when I was

talking about reform in the construction industry. So it construction industry. So it is

nice to be here in a more Ben nine

portfolio, talking in a more

mainstream way. I have now been

mainstream way. I have now been the Health Minister for almost three year

years. I never expected to be the

Health Minister, but I have to say

it has been a signal honour to

occupy the position, in part

occupy the position, in part because of the difference you can make, in part because

part because of health 's

part because of health 's importance in people's lives, but in

significant measure, because it has

given me the opportunity to mix

given me the opportunity to mix with some of the most articulate,

committed, intelligent and

idealistic people in our society on

whose strong shoulders the health

system fundamentally rests.

APPLAUSE Thank you very much,

minister. We have our usual period

of media questions, starting today

with Greg Turnbull. Mr Abbott, Greg

Turnbull from the Ten Network. I

want to ask you for a prog mow sis

on health insurance premiums T

on health insurance premiums T seems that over the past few years,

wherever we've had one small step

for inflation, we've had a giant

leap for health insurance premiums.

Last week we had a giant leap

leading to today's interest rates.

The main culprits were bananas and

petrol prices but lurking behind

petrol prices but lurking behind was a repeat offender in health

a repeat offender in health premiums which went up above the national

average. Should we be bracing

ourselves for yet more increases in

premiums and what can you do to

Rynne them back? The short answer

is, yes, you can expect health

insurance premiums to increase in

the years ahead, but I would like

the years ahead, but I would like to think that premium rises, like any

interest rate increase will always

be less under a Coalition

be less under a Coalition government than under any

than under any alternative.) Rein

them back) We actually like private

health insurance. We think it is

health insurance. We think it is an important part of the health system.

It takes sure off the public

system and that's why we have put a It takes sure off the public health

whole range of measures in place to

make it a more attractive, more

We are affordable option for Australians.

We are not planning an additional

subsidy measures, but we do think

that the kind of incremental change,

important in

important incremental change, the

kind of significant liberalisations

that we think the coming

will embody, will make it easier that we think the coming legislation

the funds to offer their services will embody, will make it easier for

competitive prices. Look, I would the funds to offer their services at

love to be able to stand up here

say there will never be another love to be able to stand up here and

premium increase. In fact, all I

can point out is that between 1983

and 1996, premium increases

11% a year. Since then, they've and 1996, premium increases averaged

averaged just 0.5% a year. The next

question from Simon Gross. question from Simon Gross. From

Science Media. I've got a broad

church question. I think about

three weeks ago we heard here from

Professor Barry Marshall who shared

year with would the Nobel Prize for medicine last

year with Robin Warren and he was a

member of the Lockhart Review and

spoke here of his support for the member of the Lockhart Review and he

Lockhart Review in terms of em

embring beyondic Lockhart Review in terms of allowing

embring beyondic stem cell or

research that involves embring

beyondic stem cells. He also told

us that he is a Catholic. I asked

him earlier this week how he

reconciled his Catholicism with his

review. He said, "There are

Catholics and there are staunch

Catholics," so it seems the

Church is a broad Catholics," so it seems the Catholic

Church is a broad cash church. So

if Professor Barry Marshall engaged

in em

in embryonic research, they would

still consider themselves a

and the church would embrace them. still consider themselves a Catholic

If they did, they would be an

in Australia. How could this be If they did, they would be an outlaw

right? Look, every Catholic is an

imperfect Catholic, just that we

tend to be imperfect tend to be imperfect in our own

particular ways. LAUGHTER Look, I

appreciate that there is a lot of

emotion around this because there

are a lot of people out there who

are hanging on cures and they think

that various forms of research

offer it to them. I just offer that various forms of research might

these two cautionary note these two cautionary

these two cautionary notes. First

of all, there is very little real

evidence that embryonic stem cell

research is the health nirvana that

some of its more enthusiastic

advocates portray. I think that

some people have been guilty of

overpeddling hope to vulnerable

people in this area. The second

point I make is that so-called

therapeutic cloning is basically

translating Dolly the sheep-type

situations to human beings, and I

think that we should think long and

hard before going down that path.

Michael Brissenden. Michael

Brissenden from ABC Television. Mr Michael Brissenden. Michael

Abbott, I have a stem cell question

as well. I understand the discussions with still continuing

and when you come back to toorth

there will be more suggestion

discussions and a live issue in. I

noticed a few key points in your

speech talking about you have

neutralised health as a political

issue and you have avoided anything ideologically driven. Do you think

there is a conflict about you and

your views being the Minister for

Health, and what do you say to

people who do have Parkinson's Health, and what do you say to those

disease or something who may be

looking at this as some hope, as

you've said and see your opposition

to it as an ideologically driven

opposition? Well, I suppose I make

rational sense distinction between ideology in a opposition? Well, I suppose I make a

rational sense and values, and I

think there have been a number of

very important human values which

the Government has tried to be

conscious of in all of its

decision-making, and the fact that

the Government has been returned

four times now or elected four

now, the fact that that natural four times now or elected four times

in the Labor majority that people discerned Labor majority that people

in the 1980s seems to have

disappeared suggests to me that

government has actually been pretty disappeared suggests to me that this

good at tapping into the deeper

values of the Australian people.

So, I do draw that distinction

between ideologies and value

between ideologies and values. I

suppose it's very hard, when you

talking to someone who is afflicted, suppose it's very hard, when you are

and who has been persuaded that a

particular course of action is the

right one - it is very hard to

muttering about the end not right one - it is very hard to start

justifying the means, and yet that

has always been a classic position

And I think in the Western ethical tradition.

And I think we abandon it at our

peril. We don't have any trouble

accepting, for argument's sake,

medical research no longer justify

medical research no longer accepting, for argument's sake, that

particular kinds of experiments on medical research no longer justifies

animals. I don't see why we ought

to have an absolutely rigid

that it can't also rule out even to have an absolutely rigid position

most extraordinary potential that it can't also rule out even the

benefits, can't also rule out some

extreme practices with human

material. Next question is from

Eleanor Gregory. Mr Abbott, Eleanor

Gregory from the ABC. During your

speech you mentioned diabetes as

of the main health issues facing speech you mentioned diabetes as one

Australians and at the recent COAG

meeting there was an agreement to

focus on health outcomes, starting

with diabetes. What is it you

expect the states to do to achieve

that, and how do you measure their

success in doing so? OK. Look,

aspect of COAG was an agreement to success in doing so? OK. Look, that

take this issue even more seriously

wasn't and to come up with proposals. It

wasn't an agreement on any

particular proposals. I think that

there is a lot that we have already

done to try to address this problem

in general, and I would point to

things like the GP management plans

and the team care plans for people

with chronic diseases of which

diabetes is probably the most

obvious candidate, but I think it's

a question

a question of watch this space for

what new things both the

Commonwealth and the states will

come up with. Mark Metherell.

Mark Metherell from the 'Sydney

Morning Herald', Mr Abbott. You

mentioned that you hoped to have

some sort of an agreement on the

reform by the end of the year. Do some sort of an agreement on the PBS

you hope or is your goal you hope or is your goal to get

to, for the Commonwealth, the. you hope or is your goal to get back

Hundreds of millions of dollars in

savings that have been generated by

the increased veilability of

medicine

the increased veilability of generic medicines -- availability of

generic medicines, the money which

currently tends to end up with

pharmacies? Our essential goal is

try to get the exist

pharmacies? Our essential goal is to try to get the existing range of medicines more

medicines more cheaply so that we

have scope to pay for the coming in

have scope to pay for the coming innovative range of medicines.

That's our essential goal. Now,

precisely how we do that is

currently subject to discussion,

currently subject to discussion, and the truth is that any money that

gets taken out of the existing

payments for

payments for existing medicines has

all sorts of ramifications for the

people who are providing those

medicines, whether they be

manufacturers, distributors or

retailers. Now, I think everyone

accepts that in principle we ought

to make more use of generics so

to make more use of generics so that we can provide ourselves with more

scope to pay for the innovative and

effective new drugs coming into the system,

system, but accepting something in

principle is all very well when it

comes to the practicalities if it

impacts too much on me and my

business or me and my livelihood, bomb

business or me and my livelihood, it becomes extremely difficult. So

becomes extremely difficult. So the Government is involved in all of

that delicate balancing at the

moment. I think discussions have

been reasonably constructive so far.

I think that all

I think that all the principal

parties - Medicines Australia, the

Pharmacy Guild, the generic

medicines Industry Association, the

AMA - I think all of them are

entering into it in a constructive

spirit but I wouldn't want to at

this stage want to pre-empt what we

ultimately come up with, just that ultimately come up with, just that I am

am reasonably confident that we can

come up with some significant new

measures that will restrain what

would otherwise be the growth of

would otherwise be the growth of the PBS, but I certainly don't

anticipate that the PBS is going to

become anything like a relatively

scat tick let alone a declining

scat tick let alone a declining area for growth in government spending.

for growth in government spending. Annabel Stafford. Annabel Stafford

from 'The Age'. Mr Abbott, you

from 'The Age'. Mr Abbott, you said the public hospital funding

agreements or state funding

agreements will be one of the

biggest fifth-term issues. Is this

something your government intends

something your government intends to put a policy forward oh the public

vote on those agreements and what

might it look like? Yes, this is an issue

issue which is going to receive

increasing attention inside

government over the next few months

and then it will be subject to

negotiation which will inevitably

negotiation which will inevitably be semi-public in the months prior to

any concluded agreement. I think

any concluded agreement. I think it is pretty obvious that there is

going to be extensive public discussion of this

discussion of this next year and in

2008, and I have no doubt that

anything which is floated will be

carefully analysed by people for

carefully analysed by people for all sorts of good and not-so-good

reasons for potential downsides.

But, of course, anything that we

But, of course, anything that we are taxed with, anything that we are

charged with, any charged with, any problems that

might possibly emerge with anything

that the Government is considering

would equally emerge with anything

that other political parties might

be considering, so I suspect that

be considering, so I suspect that we will all be in the same boat of

dealing with difficult and thorny

issues between now and 30 June 2008.

Cy Question from Ben pack ham. Minister,

Minister, Ben Packham from the

herald sun. You've advocated the

commercial approach in dealing with

the issue of childhood obesity,

informing people about the calories

that are in their food and so on.

How do you then compete with all

How do you then compete with all the other messages that are out there

other messages that are out there on TV and in particular junk food advertise

advertising, and do you think that there

there are always going to be people

who don't get the message?

Inevitably there will always be

Inevitably there will always be some people who are more susceptible

people who are more susceptible than we would like to less-healthy

messages, but that's life. The

question is: What is a reasonable

approach for a responsible government in

government in a free and pluralist

society to adopt? You know, I'm

society to adopt? You know, I'm sure if I was to decide that particular

media outlets, for argument sake,

were more responsible and better

than others, and to try to enhance

them Andy minute initial others,

people would say that that was very

unfair and was the unfair and was the kind of think

that was quite incompatible with

that was quite incompatible with the exercise of government authority in

a free and democratic society. Sn.

a free and democratic society. (Diminish) Look, I'm a reluctant

regulator. Regulation is something

we do when absolutely necessary as

we do when absolutely necessary as a last resort when there is a clear

benefit, when the benefits of doing

something fairly

something fairly clearly outweigh

the potential cost of doing

something, including all the

transitional costs, then you

consider - then you consider new

governmental programs, new

governmental regulations. Look,

governmental regulations. Look, the point I make is not that some

point I make is not that some people are influenced for ill by

advertising, I don't deny that for advertising, I don't deny that for a second.

second. The point I make is that

we've got to accept a certain

we've got to accept a certain amount of suboptimal outcomes because we

live in a free society and, to some

extent - to some extent - people

need to be able to make their own

mistakes. Next question is from

Steve Lewis. Minister, you and I

Steve Lewis. Minister, you and I and most of the people in this most of the people in this room

most of the people in this room will be facing higher mortgage

be facing higher mortgage repayments as a result of today's decision on

interest rates. A third rise by

interest rates. A third rise by the RBA since the Government was

re-elected in 2004, elected, I

re-elected in 2004, elected, I might add, on the promise it would keep

interest rates lower than the Labor

Party. How much damage it had

latest rate rise going to do to the

Government's economic credentials and surely you

and surely you as a senior member

that your strong suit as economic

manager will be badly damaged as a

result of this latest rate rise?

There is no doubt that most people

would be happier if interest rates

didn't go up, but I think an

increasingly economically and

politically literal population

understand that government can only do so

do so much in this area. The real

question is: Is the Government

better at managing the economy than

the alternative? And I don't think

anything which has happened over

anything which has happened over the last 18 months or so would cause

reasonable people to question the

Government's economic credentials. David Spears.

David Spears. David Spears from Sky

News. Minister, you called

News. Minister, you called yourself a reluctant regulator. The

Government has, though, regulated

very heavily in the area of

advertising of cigarettes, for

example, because of the health

consequences. I'm interested

whether you really think there is

whether you really think there is no benefit to be had on putting any

limits at all on junk food

advertising. Some of the States were

were clearly miffed last week when

they were prevented from even

discussing this. Some of the

suggestions they put forward

particularly in limiting those

particularly in limiting those prime viewing hours of children. Do you

have any thoughts on those sorts of

limb lits or are you simply saying

there should be no regulation at

there should be no regulation at all of Young food ads? As this issue

of Young food ads? As this issue has been more widely analysed and

discussed in health portfolios, it

is amazing how much more you

discover about just how heavily

regulated, at least potentially,

these things already are, and there

is already a mechanism for people

who think food advertising to

children is misleading or wrong or

inappropriate. There is already a

mechanism for people who feel that way to

way to complain, and there is a

panel, an advertising standards

panel which can add j Jude Kate on

these ads. Looking at the

composition of this panel, I don't

think that particular panel will

allow the evil Captain Liss to get

away with too much, I can tell you

that. LAUGHTER But, you know, I

that. LAUGHTER But, you know, I very much urge responsibility. I very

much urge responsibility on

advertisers, and I think it's

important that the current

discussions about a new code

currently taking place under the

auspices of the Communications

Minister continue, and have a good outcome,

outcome. But the main point I

outcome. But the main point I would make is that the

make is that the odd treat, even if

it is a Krispy Kreme donut, is not

it is a Krispy Kreme donut, is not a bad thing. It is a staple diet of

that kind of treat which is a bad

thing. It's feasting on these

things in the absence of the kind

things in the absence of the kind of exercise program that you need to

burn off all those calories.

burn off all those calories. That's a bad thing. Whereas each

a bad thing. Whereas each cigarette does you damage. So I think does you damage. So I think there

is a fundamental difference between

so-called junk food and cigarettes,

and what we really need to do is

patiently and carefully and

patiently and carefully and sensibly try to address the cultural issues

which are causing the obesity

epidemic. The real problem is that we still have

we still have the food appetites of hunt

hunter-gatherers, but we have the

opportunities for indulgence of

medieval princes, and we need to

bring it all into better sync.

Jason Koutsoukis. Mr Abbott, I see

you so often in

you so often in parliamentary seek

-- sitting weeks, dining over at

Porsche's restaurant. You are

Porsche's restaurant. You are often tipped as the person who might, if

it ever came to this, be the one to

tap the Prime Minister on the

shoulder and suggest he might move

on. So I wanted to ask you if it

ever crossed your mind, over the

last six months that you might, in

your regular chats with the PM,

your regular chats with the PM, have suggested that now is the time for

him to go? LAUGHTER And are you

disappointed with his decision, or

do you think that he can, as your

colleague, Malcolm Turnbull,

suggested, break Sir Robert

suggested, break Sir Robert Menzies' record. Well, Jason, let me

advertise your sister pub advertise your sister pub pli

kaition, the 'Sydney Morning

Herald'. There was a marvellous

piece in there today and I would

encourage every one of you to turn

instantly to the 'Sydney Morning

Herald' op ed page and read an

article there under my by line.

LAUGHTER If anyone else wants me to

write for them, I'm

write for them, I'm very happy to

accept offers, I have to say. Look,

I am very please

I am very pleased. I think this is

a great outcome for the Government,

for the Liberal Party and for the

country because, plainly, this has

been one of the really outstanding

partnership, THE outstanding

partnerships of Australian

partnerships of Australian political history thus far and history thus far and the thing

thorough has ex-hill rated me and

thorough has ex-hill rated me and so many other people, not just Liberal

supports, but people generally,

supports, but people generally, that it now looks like this partnership

will be a great one than that other

one which ended in such awful ak

one which ended in such awful ak con my in 1991. Mr Abbott, Sally

Cockburn from 3AW in Melbourne.

Just harking back to the Lockhart

Review which was released last

December. You mentioned honesty in

reporting and Dolly the sheep.

Would it not be true to say that

Would it not be true to say that the Lockhart Review would lead to

nothing but cloning human beings;

but that those who object to stem

cell research can't put that on the

basis of putting no progress in

science. In fact, if you science. In fact, if you keep bans

on science, you will never have

progress. If you banned

investigation into fun gi we

wouldn't have penicillin. Would it

not be fair to listen to a publicly

funded and widely consulted review

like the Lockhart Review and come

out without having consultation

within both houses and say we are

going to reject is is a little

premature and to say that premature and to say that the moral

view, how would you respond to that?

Well, I would reject it, of course.

Sally, look, I am all in favour of

research and I've got to say

Australian scientists are a great

credit to our country. They have

done wonders for us in the wider

world and I am sure they will

continue to do so. But there are some things some things that scientists should

not do, just as there are some

things that politicians should not

do, some things that financiers

should not do. I think there are

rightly limits on what people ought

to do, and in my view, therapeutic

cloning, so-called, is a bridge too

far. Now, I know that the Lockhart

far. Now, I know that the Lockhart Review phrased its recommendations,

couched its recommendations in

cautious terms, but allowing

therapeutic clone

therapeutic cloning and permitting

the resultant product to develop 14 day

the resultant product to develop for 14 days sp their recommendation now --

-- is their recommendation now,

-- is their recommendation now, but I would quite confident that were

I would quite confident that were we to accept that, in a few years'

time, they would be saying let's

time, they would be saying let's let it go for 30 days and a few years

beyond that, we would have

scientists of high standing telling

us that we ought to let it go for

three months and so on. I just

think that it will be better for

think that it will be better for all of us if we don't go down this path.

Minister, thank you very much.

Minister, thank you very much. Time has caught up with us, but thank

has caught up with us, but thank you for the past hour. We would like

you - I didn't realise it was so

long since you were last here. We