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Transcript of doorstop: Sunday 23 February 2003: State Parliament House, Perth: public hospitals, bulk billing, leadership.



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T R A N S C R I P T

Stephen Smith MP Member for Perth Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP - State Parliament House, Perth Sunday 23 February 2003

E & OE

Subjects: Public hospitals, Bulk billing, Leadership

SMITH: Well, this morning Health Minister Kay Patterson has let the cat out of the bag. What she has confirmed is that she can't guarantee to the states that they won't see a cut to funding for public hospitals.

The second thing she has let out of the bag today is that her so-called billion-dollar plan to help bulk billing is a figment of her imagination. It is quite clear that Treasurer Costello has squashed that with his statement last week that there would be no new funding for health.

So, today we see Senator Patterson exposed. The States now have to proceed on the basis there’ll be a cut in real terms to funds to public hospitals and, secondly, everyone must proceed on the basis that the Government has no plan to rescue bulk billing. It has no plan to restore bulk billing to respectable levels. We can do nothing other than expect to see the free-fall in bulk billing continue and that will continue to have adverse implications for Australians and place additional pressure on the emergency departments of our public hospitals.

JOURNALIST: Senator Patterson says the States are to blame [inaudible]?

SMITH: Well, the States have been in there for some time trying to effect an agreement which sees the States properly resourced, which sees the States make an appropriate contribution of their own, but which also sees better health outcomes. The States in the last three or four months have been making the point as well, that the catastrophic decline in bulk billing has placed additional pressure on the emergency departments of our public hospitals.

Now we see Senator Patterson out there today engaging in the blame game trying to shift the blame to the States. I don’t believe Australians cop that. In the end, they want a Commonwealth Government which is prepared to accept responsibility in health and what we need to see is a Commonwealth which is prepared to be absolutely committed to Medicare, absolutely committed to our public hospitals and committed to ensuring the States get appropriate and adequate funding.

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The truth is, we now know because Senator Patterson has today let the cat out of the bag, that the States have got nothing to look forward to other than a cut in real terms in the funds for our public hospitals.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] says it’s to do with the NSW election [inaudible]?

SMITH: That’s just a complete furphy so far as Senator Patterson is concerned. Senator Patterson was also saying today that when the Health Ministers last met properly, in November of last year, she couldn’t give them

the answer to the question they wanted answered then, which was “will you guarantee that our funds won’t be cut in real terms?” She’s been asked this question since November last year.

In November last year she said nothing about the New South Wales election. We also ensured that she was grilled on this issue in Senate Estimates last week. She wasn’t saying much about the New South Wales election last year and the Victorian election didn’t disturb the November meeting of Health Ministers.

So that’s a complete furphy. Senator Patterson is clutching at straws trying to find any old alibi.

The truth is she’s been sprung. She’s been sprung because, it’s clear today, that the States have nothing to look forward to other than a cut in real terms to funding to public hospitals and Australians have nothing to look forward to

other than a continuing decline so far as bulk billing is concerned.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] Simon Crean’s leadership?

SMITH: I made my views clear at the end of last year and I made my views clear last week and frankly, it doesn’t matter what I say, someone somewhere will try and make something of it. So, I‘ve had all that I’ve got to say about leadership. I made my view crystal clear last year and last week. I’m not proposing to add to it and other people can make of it what they want.

Ends

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