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Rudd and Abbott lock horns over health -

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Rudd and Abbott lock horns over health

Broadcast: 18/03/2010

Reporter: Chris Uhlmann

Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott locked horns in a battle royal over health and hospitals in parliament
today.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Was it a case of come in spinner in Federal Parliament today, where the
Government appeared to goad Opposition Leader Tony Abbott into a debate on health - both within
Parliament and at the National Press Club next Tuesday.

The Government is relying on figures from Peter Costello's 2003 budget that they say show that
health lost a billion dollars in funding under the Howard Government, and for much of that time
Tony Abbott was Health Minister.

The Opposition Leader says hospital funding during his tenure actually increased by two billion
dollars.

The Government believes that while ever the fight is on health it is squarely on Labor's turf. So
perhaps the phoney war is over and, despite the lack of an election date, the campaign is now on in
earnest.

Political editor, Chris Uhlmann.

CHRIS UHLMANN, POLITICAL EDITOR: Hundreds of children with type one diabetes came to Parliament
today to press the case for continuing research into the juvenile form of that chronic disease.

KEVIN RUDD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: You having fun down here?

KID: Yeah.

KEVIN RUDD: That's good.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And the Prime Minister got a rock star welcome.

Labor believes health is its territory and for two weeks Kevin Rudd has wanted to talk about little
other than his plan for hospital reform.

KEVIN RUDD (to new mother): Everything go okay?

NEW MOTHER: Yes, brilliant.

KEVIN RUDD: Mr Speaker can I say to those opposite that what we must ensure for the future is that
we have a properly funded, properly structured health and hospital system for Australia.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And the Opposition has been determined to talk about anything but health and
hospitals.

SCOTT MORRISON, OPPOSITION IMMIGRATION SPOKESMAN: Will the Government now revoke the permanent
protection visas...

CHRIS UHLMANN: But today Tony Abbott was goaded into a fight.

KEVIN RUDD: My question again today, two weeks into this debate, plenty of time to review its
content, is does the Leader of the Opposition support this plan or oppose it? Well the leader of
the opposition remains stoically silent. Well, let me try another question.

TONY ABBOTT: If he wants to give me leave I'm happy to speak on health and hospital policy in this
Parliament, Mr Speaker.

HARRY JENKINS, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Order, please.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And that was what the Government was waiting for.

HARRY JENKINS: The leader of the house.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE HOUSE: I move that so much of standing orders be suspended as would
allow the Leader of the Opposition to speak about health and hospital reform for a period of not
exceeding 10 minutes and for the Prime Minister to also have equal time.

LABOR MEMBERS: Hear hear!

HARRY JENKINS: All those of that opinion say aye.

MANY: Aye.

HARRY JENKINS: The contrary no.

(silence)

I think the ayes have it.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Some might think it's not a great idea to offer an opportunist an opportunity,
because the man can punch.

TONY ABBOTT: They don't want their public hospital system wrecked by this Prime Minister. They
don't want their public hospital system wrecked by someone who is engaging in amateur hour
experimentation. They don't want their public hospital system wrecked by someone who made such a
mess of the nation's rooves through his failed disastrous home insulation program.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The Coalition Leader spoke well. As a former Health Minister he understands the
issues and he raised a few telling questions about holes in the Government's plan.

TONY ABBOTT: Who will administer the case mix system? What is going to happen to the public
servants currently with the Victorian Government who understand it? Will they march en masse to
Canberra? How are the local hospital networks actually going to be established? Who will run them?
Will they be determined by Federal law and Federal regulation or will it entirely be a matter for
the states?

CHRIS UHLMANN: But Tony Abbott was fighting on his opponent's turf. And perhaps he might regret
some moments.

TONY ABBOTT: The Leader of the Opposition comes into this Parliament and puts his hand on his heart
and boasts about the PET scanner at Royal North Shore Hospital.

I promised that money Mr Speaker!

LIBERAL MEMBERS: Hear hear!

TONY ABBOTT: I promised that money. It ought to be called the Tony Abbott PET scanner at Royal
North Shore Hospital.

KEVIN RUDD: It's good to have Mark Latham back, Mr Speaker, not in the pages of the Financial
Review today but here at the dispatch box opposite.

CHRIS UHLMANN: It was a day when both sides claim they came out winners.

KEVIN RUDD: His defined definitive position on the health and hospitals policy of the Government of
the Commonwealth of Australia is "I question all of it and I oppose most of it".

CHRIS UHLMANN: There was an eerie sense of déjà vu about today - an echo of tactics past.

PETER COSTELLO, FORMER TREASURER (20 September 2007): I move that so much of standing and sessional
orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition detailing to the house forthwith
the smear allegations which he is putting against the Prime Minister, the Liberal Party and the
Government.

LIBERAL MEMBERS: Hear hear.

CHRIS UHLMANN: History shows that tactic failed but these words were prophetic.

PETER COSTELLO: This is the last question time - it could well the last question time - before the
election.

CHRIS UHLMANN: As this Parliament rises for seven weeks, there is no sign of a Federal election
soon, but mark this date as the day when the campaign began in earnest.

To confirm it the prime minister accepted a challenge to continue the health fight at the national
press club next week.

KEVIN RUDD: I'm advised that the next available date for a debate between the Leader of the
Opposition and myself is next Tuesday. I would therefore look forward to the opportunity to debate
him on that occasion.

TONY ABBOTT: Mr Speaker, I very much welcome the opportunity to debate the Prime Minister next
Tuesday.

CHRIS UHLMANN: There are two real elections on this Saturday in Tasmania and South Australia and
Labor isn't so enthusiastic about those.

The swing against incumbent Labor Governments is on in both states. Age is playing against both and
the feeling is strongest in Tasmania.

ANTONY GREEN, ABC ELECTION ANALYST: The Labor party has been in office since 1998. It's a
government that's been through 12 years in office. It's run through a lot of ministers, through two
premiers, a couple of deputy premiers. It's sort of on borrowed time after so long in office and
it's facing defeat in this election.

It's certain to lose its majority and the question is what sort of Government comes out of this
election in what's likely to be a hung Parliament?

CHRIS UHLMANN: In South Australia the Liberal Party needs a seven per cent swing to win.

ANTONY GREEN: There are only 47 seats in the South Australian Parliament and really, in terms of
seats the Liberals can win from Labor, there's only seven or eight, so all the focus is on these
seats. Some of these seven or eight seats have really popular local Labor members.

I think we'll see a substantial swing. I'm not convinced it's necessarily going to be on the right
- in the right seats which will deliver the Liberals enough seats.

The Liberals have got to end up with more seats than Labor, they've got to take seven seats from
Labor and Independents to hopefully end up with more seats than Labor. I think that's a big ask,
given the sorts of sitting members and the sorts of swings they need.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Both fights are being keenly watched from Canberra.

ANTONY GREEN: Both of these state elections will be decided almost entirely on local issues. These
elections are being fought on state issues and to do with state leaders.

However, I'm well aware of the fact that most people who work within State Circle in Canberra
understand that nothing happens in Australia that isn't all about Canberra. So the mood and the
atmosphere, the vibe will all be influenced by these two election results and no doubt, even though
these two elections are about David Bartlett in Labour and Mike Rand in Labor, everyone's going to
want to talk about what it means for Kevin Rudd in Labor on Monday.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The Labor members in Federal Parliament are pessimistic about both elections and
fear that among the things they'll be talking about on Monday is how the changes of Government will
affect Kevin Rudd's plans to remake the hospital system.

And that should add some spice to Tuesday's debate.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Political Editor Chris Uhlmann.