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FRANK COLLETTA: To the other big news of the day, a federal takeover of the nation's embattled
health system will be one step closer today with the release of the Rudd Government's Health Reform
Commission Report.

Now, it will stop short of advocating a federal takeover of state public hospitals, but will call
for new Super Clinics to take over many services provided by public hospitals.

And joining us now to discuss the report is Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon.

Minister, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

NICOLA ROXON: Good morning.

FRANK COLLETTA: This report seems to be a fairly damning indictment of the states. Is this the only
way to fix the system, for the Commonwealth to perhaps take greater control of it?

NICOLA ROXON: Well, what the Reform Commission report looks at is the way that we can invest
differently in our health system in the future. It looks at changing demographics. It looks at
existing problems, particularly the mix of Commonwealth and State services.

And, interestingly, it suggests that if we invest more in that frontline community care, that we'll
get better outcomes for patients, that it'll be more convenient for patients, and we will probably
take pressure off our hospitals. So, it's an interesting idea.

The report has many contentious ideas in it and they're being released today for discussion. And,
of course, then the Government will consider the final recommendations when they're put to us in
the middle of this year.

FRANK COLLETTA: They're being called Super Clinics. How do they work? What sort of services can we
expect they will provide?

NICOLA ROXON: Well, what your viewers might be aware of is that the Rudd Government has already,
during our election, we promised 31 Super Clinics. And they're being delivered now across the
country.

What the report does is suggest that there's a need to go even further to make sure that
comprehensive primary care services are available in the community - so that you can see your
doctor, you can see your dietician, you can perhaps get your pathology test done or pick up your
script all in a convenient location.

And if we manage care well in that frontline in our community, we can keep people healthier and
also, hopefully, keep them out of hospital.

FRANK COLLETTA: With that aside, Minister, every week we read these horror stories about our public
hospitals: the appalling treatment, doctors not being paid, some hospitals even running out of what
is basic equipment. Why not just kick out the states and take over the whole system?

NICOLA ROXON: Well, there are a lot of terrible stories that have been in the media. We know that
our system is under a lot of pressure and we've acted very quickly to invest more in our public
hospitals.

We made sure that we turned around a trend of the Howard Government, who pulled money out of public
hospitals and neglected the system. We've been doing that and we know those immediate investments
are required.

At the same time we are demanding more of the states and territories in terms of activity. Examples
are elective surgery, how our money has improved many, many more services being provided across the
country.

But this Reform Commission report is about thinking beyond tomorrow and thinking for the decades to
come.

We asked them to step out of the day to day political and practical problems so that we could make
sure that some long term decisions, that have been neglected for too long, can be made with the
best interests of the community at heart.

It is frustrating because a lot of damage was done by the previous government and a lot of repair
work is needed.

But piece by piece we're rebuilding that and at the same time we're looking at what serious reform
changes are needed for the decades to come.

FRANK COLLETTA: Are you in any way, though, backing away from your pledge to hold a referendum for
a Commonwealth takeover if the public hospitals don't improve, which is obviously [inaudible] in
this time?

NICOLA ROXON: Our position has always been that by the middle of this year we would make an
assessment about whether the states and territories were delivering and being partners in the
reform challenges that are needed for our health system.

The enormous deal that was reached at the end of last year between - using the Council of
Australian Governments - was an important step in the right direction. The investments that we've
made in the last twelve months have seen some significant improvements.

But a lot of damage has been done. There are many problems and I think people understand that we
can't always fix them at once.

So, we will still assess, in the middle of the year, whether it is necessary or ideal for the
Commonwealth to consider taking over funding of our hospitals.

But, interestingly, this report being released today and calling for discussion, actually flags
that some of the most important changes, in terms of health outcomes, might actually, in fact, be
made outside our hospital system, not inside it.

FRANK COLLETTA: Sounds like there's a little bit of a warning there, what you've just said to the
public hospital system. How bad does it have to get, though, before you will hold a referendum?

NICOLA ROXON: Look, we take very seriously the concerns that are raised in the public. We're making
sure that we're investing heavily in workforce, one of the real blockages within our hospital
system. We're making sure that we're setting up an investment structure for the future to help the
states in meeting their infrastructure needs. But we can't do it all at once. We need to make sure
that we look at these issues with a clear head.

And I, as the Health Minister, and the Rudd Government, wants to assess any changes measured
against one simple thing. What will be better for the community? Where can we make the most
difference, in terms of providing convenient access to health services that ensure that people can
get the best health outcomes possible?

Now, that includes us looking at hospitals, but it includes a vast range of other ideas that are
being put forward today by the Health Reform Commission. And we want to look closely at those as
well.

FRANK COLLETTA: We might revisit this mid-year. Thank you very much, Health Minister Nicola Roxon.
Thanks for joining us.

NICOLA ROXON: Thank you.

ENDS