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Transcript of interview with Shane Doherty: 4BC: 23 August 2013: 4BN interview with Tanya Plibersek; health

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The Hon Peter Dutton MP Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing

23 August 2013

4BC Shane Doherty interview - debate with Tanya Plibersek

Topics: Health


SHANE DOHERTY: We’re glad to welcome this morning the Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek -


SHANE DOHERTY: - and Peter Dutton, the Federal Opposition Health Spokesman.

PETER DUTTON: Good morning Shane, good morning Tanya.

SHANE DOHERTY: By virtue of a coin toss, Tanya - I’m sorry - Minister -

TANYA PLIBERSEK: - I think Tanya’s fine -

SHANE DOHERTY: - you go first, tell me what you’re getting right, why we should stick with you.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well since we came to government in 2007, we’ve got more doctors, more nurses, more hospital beds. We’re putting $20 billion more into our hospitals between now and 2020. We’ve got better services in areas like dental, we’ve increased the number of doctors in country areas, we’re building 26 regional cancer centres around Australia. And you’ve just got to contrast that investment with the cuts that you see coming

from the Queensland government and a number of other state governments around the country.

SHANE DOHERTY: Well the Queensland government of course says that it’s not their fault, that’s your fault, you took -

TANYA PLIBERSEK: - Well that’s just nonsense; I mean they cut $3 billion from the first state budget. They sacked more than 4,000 staff, the Metro North area alone has got another thousand staff being sacked. 900 nurses and midwives across the state that we know about, full time equivalents. Just every Queensland knows someone who’s lost their job or been affected by the service cuts.

SHANE DOHERTY: At the end of last year, did you or did you not, did the Feds not take more than $100 million off Queensland overnight?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: No. What happened was we, because the expenses and rate of growth in Queensland were not as fast as we anticipated, the health funding didn’t grow as fast as the Queensland government would like. But every single year, health funding from the Commonwealth to the state of Queensland’s gone up, and that’s a big contrast to the Queensland government taking $3 billion out.

SHANE DOHERTY: So we’re not trying to make ends meet with $100 million less than we were a year before?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: No, what you need to look at is the Queensland government’s budget papers that show the $3 billion that they’ve cut from the state budget. I mean to look around to someone to blame for that massive impact on the state health system I think’s a bit disingenuous. Everybody knows who employs Queensland nurses - it’s the Queensland government, and everybody knows who’s sacking them - it’s the Queensland government.

SHANE DOHERTY: Fair enough, but this is a Federal election, so let’s talk about what you’re up to. What have you got left that you haven’t done yet?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Do you mean in terms of the whole health system or in this election?

SHANE DOHERTY: No, in terms of the health system. What’s your burning ambition? What have you got left undone that you’d be very disappointed to not be able to do on the 8th of September?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Look I think that the biggest challenge that we’ve got facing us as a community is that we’ve fixed a lot of the old diseases that people uses to get, you know we’re much better able to treat a whole range of conditions. The thing that we’re doing worse on all the time is, um, non-communicable diseases, so we’re eating too much, drinking too much and smoking too much and it’s leading to more of us having diabetes and cardiovascular disease and so on. I think we need to make sure that the next generation of young people know how to cook, know how to eat a decent diet, know never to pick up their first cigarette, know how to drink in moderation, know how to exercise. And that’s a much longer term project, that’s not something that you kind of flick the switch on or off. Australia’s now got the best five year cancer survival rates in the world, and that’s

because we’ve done so well with picking up cancers earlier and treating them earlier. It’s still terrible to get cancer, but if you get cancer in Australia you’ve got the best survival chances of anywhere in the world. We need to make sure that our next generation of young people are actually benefiting from the strong health system that we have, to lead healthy lives.

SHANE DOHERTY: Peter Dutton?

PETER DUTTON: Shane, a couple of points. Obviously I think we have in our announcement yesterday provided Australians with a really positive plan about the way in which we want to invest into frontline services in particular, how we can give more support to our GPs. I want to make sure that it’s easier, not harder, for mums and dads with sick kids to get in to see their local doctor. I want to make sure that we can try and cut down on the times that people are waiting to have elective surgery, particularly for older Australians who might have to wait years for a crook knee or a crook hip to be fixed up, and there’s a lot of work to do. I think part of the problem has been that the federal bureaucracy has grown by about 30% over the course of the last six years -

TANYA PLIBERSEK: - that’s not true Peter.

PETER DUTTON: Well Tanya I gave you a fair go, I’m just happy to have a positive conversation -

TANYA PLIBERSEK: - you just have to tell the truth, though.

PETER DUTTON: Well I want to go back to a couple of points you made in your earlier remarks and, as I say, I didn’t interrupt you and I’m happy to have a fair go myself. What I would say is that those numbers in Canberra have increased by 30%. Now the public servants in Canberra don’t run a hospital, they don’t see a patient, and yet if you’re spending billions of dollars there, that’s the reason that the Federal Government cut $100 million out of Queensland’s health system last November. And the worst part about that cut Shane was that it was retrospective. So when the government was still talking about coming to surplus, they released their Mid-Year Economic Fiscal Outlook and so they had to cut back on the health funding, and the problem was that Queensland hospitals -

TANYA PLIBERSEK: - that’s not true Peter -

PETER DUTTON: - In Brisbane, in Bundaberg, or wherever it was, they were part way through a financial year. I mean they were already performing elective surgery, they were already employing doctors and nurses in regional areas, and they get to November and they get advice from the federal government that $100 million is coming out, so it has a double impact which means you’re into November - which means you’ve already had that expenditure from July through to November. And then they had to cut back services in the second part of the financial year, and I think that’s what Queenslanders were most angry about, and the government used a tricky sort of formula to say population growth wasn’t what it was. But in the year it was about trying to achieve this sort of mystical surplus which never eventuated anyway, but of course since then they’ve changed leaders, again, and we’ve just seen no difference really in the way that they’ve approached spending a heap of money on these bureaucratic structures and taking it away from frontline services.


TANYA PLIBERSEK: - That’s actually not true.

SHANE DOHERTY: - Ok Minister. Now Peter your mentioned cuts and I think that’s something that people are frightened about with Tony Abbott - that he has a huge deficit that he has to reign in. We’ve seen that in Queensland, the similar story in Queensland, and that ended up in cuts. Can you guarantee that health will not be a place that you cut back?

PETER DUTTON: Yes. And we announced that yesterday Shane, and I think it’s important. Yes there is a debt problem, I mean the fact that we had no debt only six years ago and that it’s ramped up to $300 billion in that short period of time is going to be a problem for a generation of Australians. And the Labor Party will wear this around their necks I think for a generation. And it is going to be difficult to balance the books, because if you’re paying $10 billion a year in interest, you’re not spending it on an upgrade at the PA Hospital. You’re not spending it on services in Caboolture or on the Gold Coast.

SHANE DOHERTY: Ok, I think what we’ve been talking about so far is about policy in bureaucratese. I want to talk more about how you fix those problems. As the Minister has pointed out, obesity and other things are huge problems for this country and I don’t know where you start. Minister, where do you start just on that point? Where do you start Minister, to attack those problems of obesity, diabetes, heart disease? Where do you start?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: We’ll we’ve got some terrific programs starting in schools, like the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. We’ve got the new, physical, exercise work that’s being done by the National Health and Medical Research Council that talks about what is the proper amount that people should be aiming for each day including kids.

SHANE DOHERTY: How about taxing junk food?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well, um, no I don’t think we need to tax junk food. But one of the things that was done is we’ve come up with much clearer front-of-pack labelling for food that will include a star rating system and a sort of slide. So if you’re a busy mum stopping at the supermarket on the way home, and you’ve got two packets of food in front of you and one’s got two stars and one’s got four stars, you very quickly know to grab the four star one - that’s the healthier one. We’ve taken about 2200 tonnes of salt out of food because we’re working with the food industry on a food reformulation plan, so we’re working with them starting with things like processed meat and simmer sauces, [inaudible] breads and so on, just to gradually reduce the amount of salt that’s going into our food. We’re doing that in a number of different ways to make the food that we buy healthier, so we’re giving more information to busy families, we’re reformulating our food to make it healthier, we’re making sure people have information about good nutrition and exercise. We’re funding a great deal more research into the areas of preventative health and we’ve invested almost $1 billion with the states and territories and local government so that they can do things like set up walking groups and put in outdoor exercise equipment so people don’t have to pay to go to the gym to get fit, we’re doing health kids checks, health workers checks -

SHANE DOHERTY: - ok, that’s a lot, that’s a lot. Peter Dutton, where’s the fire in your belly? What’s the thing you want to get done, apart from all that bureaucratese and policy and where we put the money, what’s the issue you want to fix up more than any other?

PETER DUTTON: Well Shane, I think for all the arguments that Tanya and I can have, I think there’s common ground about trying to provide support to people to stay well, trying to keep them away from emergency departments if that’s clinically appropriate because, not just because it’s more expensive if people are going to hospitals and being admitted to tertiary beds, but also because it’s better for people’s health, I mean we want to have a healthier society. We announced yesterday in our plan that we would increase dramatically the funding going into the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, so you know a huge investment into that. The Cancer council says that that will save 35,000 lives and we know, as the Minister was saying before, if we can detect earlier some of these cancers, then we’ve got some of the best clinicians in the world and I want to relieve them of the red tape and I want them to get back to seeing patients. And if we do I think we can be really proud as a nation of what we can achieve, we’ve got one of the highest life expectancies, when Tony Abbott was Health Minister he introduced the wrap around with the graphic health warnings on cigarette packets, we had a dramatic decrease in the smoking rates over his time as Health Minister, we’ve got a lot of doctors coming through because when we were in government we doubled the number of medical schools -

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Oh hang on a minute Peter, you know that there were doctor shortages right across Australia when Tony Abbott was Health Minister and the reason that doctor numbers are increasing now is because we’ve increased the number of places after there was a cap that Tony Abbott introduced when he was Health Minister [inaudible].

PETER DUTTON: Yes, but don’t forget Tanya that doctors don’t just come in overnight, they’re in universities and they’re training for six or seven years. Those medical schools were actually announced under and funded under Tony Abbott’s time as Health Minister. Yes they’re coming out now, you’re providing funding for training, that’s great -

TANYA PLIBERSEK: - There was a cap on training places; we’ve had to double the number of training places -

PETER DUTTON: Sure, and we announced yesterday that we’ll do another hundred a year because these numbers are coming through now because of the work that Tony did as Health Minister. So you know, credit to both of us, and let’s hope we can get more of those doctors into GP clinics and helping keep kids and parents well and out of hospitals if that’s at all possible.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well one of the things I’d like to say Shane is one of the biggest reforms we’ve made in terms of keeping people well and out of hospital is better connected primary care through our Medicare Locals. So we’ve got doctors and nurses -

SHANE DOHERTY: - Actually, we’ve got Leslie at Redcliffe who’s text us, and she wants to know about the superclinic at Redcliffe.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I was just there actually a couple of days ago, it’s a fantastic building, it’s in its final stages of fit out now -

SHANE DOHERTY: - Leslie thinks it’s a white elephant.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well I hope she’ll love it when it’s open. I had a talk to the people who are running it, they’re getting doctors in there shortly, there’ll be all sorts of allied health in there as well, they’re looking at physiotherapy, dieticians, there’ll be a pathology lab, there’ll be a pharmacist. And the good thing about it is that it’s right there on the hospital grounds. So instead of turning up to hospital emergency if you just need a few stitches, you can go to the GP clinic. But if you turn up to the GP clinic and you’ve had a heart attack they can get you straight to the hospital. It’s a terrific co-location of those two services.

SHANE DOHERTY: Alright. I think we still find stories everyday about people who still have trouble getting basic services. We still have huge waiting lists for dental. I think there are huge problems ahead of both of you, I wish you both luck.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Oh, thank you so much Shane. It’s a great opportunity to have a debate about what I really think is one of the most important issues of the election.

SHANE DOHERTY: Peter, last word?

PETER DUTTON: Shane, just a quick word on the Redcliffe superclinic. I mean all of us in Brisbane know the story there. It was promised six years ago, it hasn’t opened; it’s been a white elephant. Of the 64 that the government promised, they’ve only opened half of them. One was scrapped, four have required a $14 million bail out, and unfortunately in Health -

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Peter, are you going to keep Redcliffe or are you going to shut it? Are you going to keep it? Is it going to be a GP superclinic or not? Under you?

PETER DUTTON: We’re going to keep it, we’re going to open it, patients will see doctors. Six years of your promises, you’ve made all these promises before, it’s never opened, it will under us, particularly if Luke Howarth is elected -

TANYA PLIBERSEK: - It’s in the final stages of fit out though, I was there this week.

PETER DUTTON: Yes, I promise you it will see patients if we’re elected in September and you’ve never seen one patient there in six years. It’s not just about promises; it’s about being able to deliver.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: It’ll see patients in, you know, a month’s time whether it’s you that’s elected or whether it’s me that’s elected and that’ll be a great investment for the people of Redcliffe. I’m very proud of what’s going on there.

SHANE DOHERTY: Grateful for your time, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and Opposition Health Spokesman Peter Dutton.


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