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Govt calls for patience on hospital takeover -

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Govt calls for patience on hospital takeover pledge

Sabra Lane reported this story on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 12:10:00

PETER CAVE: The Federal Opposition has called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to spell out in detail
how he will fulfil an election promise he made two years ago on taking over the nation's hospital
system.

Mr Rudd promised in the lead-up to the last election that if the states hadn't agreed on fixing the
health system by mid-2009, the Federal Government would propose a takeover and put that proposition
to voters.

The Opposition's health spokesman Peter Dutton says the deadline is now here and the pledge given
by Mr Rudd now stands as another broken promise.

From Canberra Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: This is the promise Kevin Rudd made on August the 23rd, 2007 when he was the Federal
Opposition leader.

KEVIN RUDD: It's time for someone to put their hand up and take responsibility and if elected as
prime minister in two months time, that's exactly what I intend to do, so that when it comes to
health and hospitals the buck would stop with me if elected as the next prime minister of
Australia.

SABRE LANE: He also nominated a date. Mr Rudd said if the health system hadn't improved by
mid-2009, he'd ask the population if the Federal Government should take over the running of the
country's 750 public hospitals.

KEVIN RUDD: A Rudd Labor government will seek to take financial control of Australia's 750 public
hospitals, if state and territory Governments have failed to agree to a national health and
hospital reform plan by mid-2009, to eliminate the duplication and overlap which currently plagues
the system.

PETER DUTTON: Today is fundamental injustice day for the Prime Minister of course. This was the day
that Kevin Rudd promised to fix public hospitals.

SABRE LANE: The shadow health spokesman Peter Dutton.

PETER DUTTON: We' calling on The Government to fulfil their promise and that's what Mr Rudd needs
to answer today. Is he going take public hospitals over as he promised at the last election? Is he
even going to give you a criteria or benchmark by which you can make a decision whether or not he's
fixed public hospitals or even the Government can make their own analysis as to whether or not
they've fixed public hospitals? They're the questions that need to be answered.

SABRE LANE: Mr Dutton called a media conference this morning to challenge Mr Rudd. He says the
hospital pledge now stands as yet another broken promise.

PETER DUTTON: His election promise was to fix public hospitals by today. If he didn't do that he
was going to seek a mandate. Now we're calling on The Rudd Government to seek that mandate, to put
in to place their promise. We'll see the details that they provide because as I say there's no
detail in what the Prime Minister has proposed.

Let him put forward what it is he was talking about. Wdon't have any form of words beyond that, so
we need to see exactly what it is Mr Rudd is providing, how it is he thinks he will operate
hospitals, what form the mandate will take, what form of words the questions will form if he's
going to put are referendum to the people.

SABRE LANE: The Opposition's health spokesman says the hospital promise was ill-considered, just
like FuelWatch and GroceryChoice.

PETER DUTTON: A promise that he would fix the cost of living pressures as well, that he would fix
the price of petrol and that he would fix the price of groceries. Now he obviously never had any
intention of fulfilling those promises. I suspect that Hospital Watch was something the Prime
Minister never intended doing anything about.

SABRE LANE: But Mr Dutton dodged questions about the Opposition's alternative health policies.

PETER DUTTON: We've got views about the future direction of the health system in this country.

REPORTER: What are they?

SABRE LANE: And he was pressed several times about whether the Opposition supported a federal
takeover or thought it was good public policy.

PETER DUTTON: Our position is not one of Government from exile. We're not proposing to run a
parallel system; we will make our commitments at the time of the next election

SABRE LANE: But Peter Dutton you are the alternative Government.

PETER DUTTON: We are and we are formulating policies, we will release those policies and Mr Rudd
released his at the time of the last election, now the problem Mr Rudd has is that he was elected.
And he was elected which now means that he has the onus to deliver on those promises.

SABRE LANE: The Australian Medical Association's president Dr Andrew Pesce told ABC2 Breakfast the
current system can't continue.

Dr ANDREW PESCE: We need beds, we don't need desks, and we need a single funder to make sure that
there's no cost or blame shifting which continues to impede our ability to fix the problems that
we've got.

SABRE LANE: Kevin Rudd was very clear in his 2007 declaration - he said a decision would be made by
mid-2009. At the time, critics said it was an overly ambitious deadline that he'd find very hard to
meet. And certainly the language on the promise has changed. The Federal Health Minister Nicola
Roxon.

NICOLA ROXON: Well the deadline is, as it has always been, that we would consider this issue in the
middle of the year. We are in the middle of the year, we are considering the issue and we certainly
will make our views known in due course.

SABRE LANE: When Labor won office, it commissioned two major reports on health - one on the
nation's health and hospital system, the other on preventative health policies. Both reports will
be handed to the Government today and Nicola Roxon says a decision won't be immediate as the
Government needs time to properly consider the reports and recommendations before deciding what it
will do.

NICOLA ROXON: We're only receiving the report from the Health and Hospital Reform Commission today
and we would like to consider it, as I think the public would expect us to, carefully and closely.

PETER CAVE: The Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon ending that report from Sabre Lane.