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ABC News Breakfast -

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VIRGINIA TRIOLI: But first, despite threats of international legal action, the Government is
pushing ahead with its plan to enforce plain packaging for cigarettes. The Health Minister Nicola
Roxon is going to introduce the legislation into Parliament this morning.

And for more, the Minister Nicola Roxon joins us now from Canberra.

Nicola Roxon, good morning and thanks for joining us.

NICOLA ROXON: Good morning.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Before we get to plain packaging, can I just ask you quickly about this news that
COAG, which was due to meet next Friday, that meeting has been delayed apparently because
negotiations on health reforms are going better than expected. Is that correct?

NICOLA ROXON: Yes, look, they're going extremely well. We have had most of the details finalised -
a very important meeting with all of the senior bureaucrats on Friday was able to resolve most of
the outstanding issues. So we're very confident that that is proceeding as we needed it to. I think
the states and territories are satisfied that a range of their very detailed concerns have been
taken onboard and we have every expectation that that is continuing as it needs to.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: So the point then of putting it off is that you think that by the time that you
meet again - and do you have a new time for that meeting, if you can share with us - you'll
actually have a solid agreement with the states?

NICOLA ROXON: Absolutely. No, look, I can't inform you about the plans and discussions that the
Prime Minister and Premiers would be having about a different date...


NICOLA ROXON: ...that's obviously a matter for them. But I'm very comfortable that the negotiations
for our detailed health reforms are all but finalised. A few minor things still to be dealt with,
but I'm very comfortable with where those negotiations have got to.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I'm not wanting to over-simplify what I know is a very complex area here, but when
it comes to your role as Health Minister, do you have a benchmark when it comes to more beds in
operation; more facilities available to more people, that you believe need to be met in order to
regard these negotiations as successful?

NICOLA ROXON: Well obviously the key elements of the reform were announced and signed onto by the
Prime Minister and premiers in February, so the 1300 extra sub-acute beds, the targets for dealing
with people in emergency departments or admitting them to hospitals within four hours, those sorts
of headline commitments to the public have already been made. What's been negotiated in the last
couple of months is actually how you make all that happen; where every little bit of extra
transparency comes into the system, so that taxpayers can be confident that their health dollars
are being well spent. What's going to be reported publicly, having our new local hospital networks
and Medicare locals to give more decision making and input to local health professionals.

So those components are known. The negotiations haven't been over a new or additional deliverable
to the community. They've been about how we make sure that happens in a timely way, for the money
that's been on the table. And it's been a very cooperative process.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: There's been a suggestion that perhaps the states were going to use the COAG
meeting to complain directly to the Prime Minister about the carbon tax. Is postponing the meeting
one way of putting that off?

NICOLA ROXON: Oh, look, I don't know. I think people will speculate about all sorts of things.
Ultimately, the role that I play in this is about how we make sure the health reforms progress the
way that they need to. We had all sorts of detailed discussions on the pieces of legislation that
will be able to be introduced into the Parliament when we return in August. That's the area that I
am really focusing on and I think people are comfortable that there isn't the need next week for a
meeting to discuss outstanding health issues, because really all the key issues have been
negotiated very cooperatively and we are extremely close to reaching that deal.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: I want to move on to the other issues, but just very quickly and finally on this,
does it still mean though, as you understand it, in that final negotiated outcome, there will be
that extra layer of reporting, if you like, for all the health networks, to report into, in order
for the information that they can dissimulate to the public, to be sent out via that new level of
reporting. Will that be part of the new agreement?

NICOLA ROXON: I think you might be asking about the Health Performance Authority which we
absolutely are committed to and all of the states and territories are as well. It's basically a
body that will now make sure that every bit of investment in the health system, whether it's in
hospitals or primary care and GPs, will be properly assessed and reported.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Yeah, but that's one that you and I discussed before and I was suggesting in
addition to the existing reporting requirements, it actually seemed like doubling up.

NICOLA ROXON: No, it's using a lot of the same data, but it's using it in a way that's comparable
across the country and it's also making sure that there is an assessment of performance. We don't
want to be in a situation where we can just say X numbers of procedures are done. We need to be
able to say X number of procedures have been done and too many of them were not done in the right
time, or it's fantastic we've seen a great improvement. What did that hospital, or local net...
hospital network do that we can replicate elsewhere?


NICOLA ROXON: So it's a much more active reporting and performance monitoring and every state and
territory has agreed to that.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Nicola Roxon, are you pretty confident now - notwithstanding the now, I think it's
at least two legal threats that tobacco companies have laid against the plain packaging legislation
- are you confident that you have the support, in both Houses, to get this legislation through,
albeit perhaps in some amended form?

NICOLA ROXON: I'm very confident that we have very broad support within Parliament for this. Of
course, it's true that the Liberal Party were dragged kicking and screaming, but they have
announced that they will support this legislation. I...

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Are you open to some amendments from them?

NICOLA ROXON: Well we haven't seen any, but of course we will always - I mean the Parliament is
always able to put forward amendments. We wouldn't be considering amendments that fundamentally
change our determination to require tobacco to be sold in plain packs. But they may have amendments
that we're not aware of, of particular issues which we will consider.

I have noticed there have been a few backbenchers from the Liberal Party, as recently as last
night, attacking these plans. So there does seem to be disquiet within the Liberal Party, for what
is a really exciting public health initiative - a world first. And something that our Government is
very proud to be delivering.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: And Nicola Roxon, just finally, just a question without notice that we just heard
this morning, that the very well known television and radio presenter Derryn Hinch received that
life changing phone call on Tuesday night and he's just undergone a liver transplant at the Austin
Hospital in Melbourne. So many other Australians, of course, waiting on those lists as well and
waiting for that phone call.

There's been a lot of publicity around this in the last few months. Is it your understanding that
donor rates have increased and are hospitals coping well with those who want to donate, because
there was news just recently that perhaps people were willing to donate, but there weren't the
resources on the ground, in the hospitals, to actually get those donations through to harvest the
organs if I can put it that way...

NICOLA ROXON: Yeah, look, we...

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: ...and to get them where they need to be.

NICOLA ROXON: We've seen a fundamental change in the way that hospitals do provide support,
particularly to families when they've got a loved one at this critical stage. Usually, of course, a
crisis, a car accident or some dreadful trauma - the support that's now in place to help families
make a decision, whether or not their loved one that may die, or has died, can become a donor, is
changing the way these procedures [inaudible] and we certainly have a lot more transplants
occurring across Australia, because of our government's additional investments. It was a $150
million package.

But there are still many, many people that are waiting and the number of people waiting for
transplants still far outweighs the number of donors. But when you see such a big jump in our
figures, as we've seen last year, I think that's a good sign that things are working well. And, of
course, I wish Derryn Hinch and his family well. It's a very major piece of surgery; a very complex
one. And there will be many, many Australians hoping that he and others who go through this process
can recover well.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Nicola Roxon, good to talk to you. Thanks for joining us.

NICOLA ROXON: Thank you.