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Transcript of press conference: Blackburn Clinic, Melbourne: practice nurse funding; Medicare; unemployment; Australian Technical Colleges; medical workforce; economic plan; Bernie Banton; climate change; industrial relations; caesarean sections.



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PRIME MINISTER

31 October 2007

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP PRESS CONFERENCE THE BLACKBURN CLINIC, MELBOURNE

Subjects: Practice nurse funding, Medicare, unemployment, Australian Technical Colleges, medical workforce, economic plan, Bernie Banton, climate change, industrial relations, caesarean sections

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………

PRIME MINISTER:

Well ladies and gentlemen, I’d like first of all to acknowledge Dr Peter Elliott, the Managing Director of the Blackburn Clinic, and Dr Rob Dunn, also the Managing Director of Blackburn Clinic, and Miss Maree Plucinski who is a practice nurse and therefore somebody who will feature not personally, but in a representative way in one of the important announcements I’m going to make this morning.

I also acknowledge my colleagues, the Treasurer Peter Costello, the Health Minister Tony Abbott, the local Member for Deakin, Phil Barresi, Senator Judith Troeth, Senator for Victoria, and Miles King the Liberal candidate for Chisholm and Angela Randall the Liberal candidate for Bruce, who’s also a health information manager, and therefore has some personal experience and understanding of some of the issues that I want to address today.

As you all know, a strong economy is central to everything. And it is important whenever a significant policy announcement is made to understand that it all springs from a strong economy, without a strong economy it wouldn’t have been possible for us in the last Budget to have increased provision for health and aged care, and that now comprises one fifth of the national Budget. And we have been able over the years to

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invest very heavily in Medicare, as Tony Abbott frequently says, the Coalition is the best friend that Medicare has ever had. And we’re able to be a good friend of Medicare, indeed the best friend of Medicare, to strengthen bulk billing, to provide the Medicare safety net, to provide a strong tax incentive for private health insurance. We’re able to do all of those things because we have a strong economy.

During this election campaign we’ve outlined our plan to further strengthen the Australian economy. It commenced with the tax relief that was announced by the Treasurer and by me on the first day of the campaign, which will provide massive incentives for Australians at all levels of income and will be of particular benefit for part-time workers, especially but not only women with dependent children.

We’ve also been able to provide additional assistance for our senior citizens, for our self-funded retirees, for carers and for people on disability support pensions, consistent with our view that all Australians are entitled to share fairly in the benefits of our strong economy.

We have a goal of driving unemployment in this country down to 3 per cent by the end of our next term, and one of the things we must do because of that goal, in order to achieve it and because of the ageing of the population and the impact that has on workforce participation, it’s important that we do everything we can to invest in training and skilling of our workforce. And over the past few days I’ve outlined a number of long-range programs to aid the process of skilling our workforce, I’ve talked about the one hundred new Australian Technical Colleges that will be established over the years ahead, about the investment in work skills vouchers and the investment in small business vouchers which will be of particular assistance to firms employing fewer than 20 people.

And today I want to talk about the medical workforce because fundamental to the further improvements we need to make to the delivery of health services in Australia, and my starting proposition is that for all the criticism that is levelled at it, Australia does have a first-class health system and we should never lose sight of that, we shouldn’t lose our sense of perspective. We have a very good health system. We have great doctors, dedicated nurses, wonderful health professionals all round, very good public hospitals, obviously with some weaknesses and challenges in administration, and also importantly a balanced approach to medicine, we have a public component, we have a private component. Unlike other countries we don’t spend our time arguing as to whether it should be all private or all public and we don’t, unlike nations such as America, we don’t make it prohibitively expensive for people to get fundamental health care. And I’m very proud of the egalitarian character of Australia’s health care system. I believe that every Australian is entitled to the advantages of modern health technology. I don’t think access to modern medicine and modern health technology should be the preserve of people who have money, it should be available to all of our citizens, that’s why we’ve kept our pledge to further strengthen Medicare. But having a trained workforce is very important because unless you have the doctors and the nurses and the other health professionals, you can’t make the improvements that are needed. So I’m starting with a series of health announcements.

And the first one is today to deal with issues relating to the medical workforce. Because in order to make further improvements and to introduce new initiatives, we do need to train and have more doctors. And today I’m announcing two new initiatives to improve

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our health care and to make sure that we have a growing stream of Australian trained doctors and nurses working in public hospitals and in family GP practices, and I think this clinic is an amazing place, the friendly family atmosphere, the collegiate sense amongst all of the people who work here is absolutely stunning, and I’m quite bowled over by its size and its scope and it’s a great role model, and I think it will be relevant for some of the things that I am about to say.

Now as many of you would be aware we’ve already committed funding to double the number of university medical graduates to nearly 3,000 by 2012. And we need, however, in order to utilise the additional graduates coming out of medical schools, we need to provide opportunities for GPs and specialists when they graduate to get the necessary further training. And to provide more general practitioners we are going to increase GP

training places by 50 per cent to some 900, to 900 and that’s up from 600 by the year 2011. We’re going to fund 510 places a year, additional for junior doctors to train in GP surgeries and that’s up from 280, that’s 280 to 510. And those two measures will involve an expenditure of $108 million over four years and will in a very significant way address

the need to provide training opportunities for the graduates as they come out of their medical schools. And to train more medical specialists, we will double the number of training places in private hospitals and surgeries to 300 a year, that’s up from 150, and that will be at a cost of $37 million over the next four years. Now I had the opportunity when I was in Brisbane a short while ago to go to Greenslopes Hospital, which is the largest private hospital in Australia, and to announce the establishment of a new

arrangement between that hospital for training of specialists at Greenslopes, a partnership with the University of Queensland.

Now you will be aware that a couple of months ago at the St George Private Hospital in Sydney, I was able to inaugurate a return, if I can mix my descriptions, inaugurate a return to hospital-based nurse training by saying that we would establish some 25 Australian hospital nursing schools at a cost of $135 million over four years to train initially some 500 enrolled nurses, we will fund more of those if the demand for them increases which I believe it will as time goes by, because we think there should be an additional stream for nurse training, and that additional stream should enable a young man or woman to leave school and go working in a hospital straight away, and to stay there for a period of time, and to know very early in their life whether they want to be

nurses or not. Now there’s nothing wrong with the university stream, and we’re going to continue to fund them to the full, and the number of new commencing university nursing places will grow to 10,100 under our existing proposals by the year 2011.

Now I believe that the announcements I’ve made today will make a very significant contribution to having more Australian-trained doctors working in this country in the near future. Our commitment to nurse training is already evident and these measures are very important in relation to further strengthening the medical workforce.

But I now want to turn to the issue of practice nurses. You’ve had a practice nurse here for some 28 years, Maree Plucinski, and I had the opportunity of talking to her earlier. And I think one of the best things that’s occurred in recent years in medical practice in Australia is the payment of financial incentives and support to GPs and there’s something in the order of 6,100 practice nurses around Australia. And under the existing arrangements these are funded up to a maximum of $40,000 a practice for rural areas and also for areas of workforce shortage. But there are some remaining areas in Australia

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where the funding of GPs for practice nurses does not take place, and the announcement I make today is to remove the remaining restrictions, so that from now on under this policy if the Coalition is re-elected, we will fund in the way we have concerning rural and workforce shortage areas, we’ll fund all other GP practices that want practice nurses and we believe this will result in some 75 per cent of GP practices in Australia taking up the offer of having practice nurses.

But I want, however, to turn to another aspect of the practice nurse issue which is very, very important. And that is a decision that Government will make if it is re-elected to introduce a new Medicare item that will allow practice nurses to visit any patient over the age of 65 in their own home. And the new Medicare provider item which will be worth $44.65 will mean that a practice nurse can visit any person over the age of 65 in their own home, and also be able to visit any person under the age of 65 who is too ill to go to a doctor’s surgery. We estimate that this will provide about 800,000 home visits by practice nurses over the next four years. It will be of particular value to the frail aged and to veterans. It will also recognise the reality of the changed demands on the medical workforce so many people now are, and particularly women, are juggling raising a family, looking after a sick and elderly parent and also holding down a job either

part-time or full-time, and the opportunity to have a practice nurse go and visit their ill mum or dad at home rather than trying to take a couple of hours off work to take them to see the doctor will be a huge improvement, a huge innovation and this will be of enormous value also to our treasured veterans’ community who of course by definition are getting very frail and old and I think it’s a very important extension of the use of practice nurses and these extra GP practice nurses and also the home visits will add about $165 million over four years to our expenditure on health and together these initiatives which are, let me say, the first of a series of announcements that we will make in the area of health policy between now and the election but we’re starting where we should start,

and that is strengthening the medical workforce because if you’re going to do other things you’ve got to have more doctors, you’ve got to have more nurses and you’ve got to have more flexibility in the provision of services and they’re going to cost about $444 million. That includes of course the provision I’ve already announced for the enrolled nurses over four years. So this does represent a very important first step in a very coherent, carefully thought through plan to further strengthen what is already a wonderful health system.

I now invite Peter Costello to say a couple of words about the relevance of all of this to our overall economic approach and then Tony Abbott will you know, clean up any deficiencies on a technical side in my presentation and bring his scalpel to bear on any of my inappropriate language or whatever mis-descriptions. But Peter Costello.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Prime Minister John Howard, Angela Randall, Liberal for Bruce, the wonderful Member for Deakin, Phil Barresi, Miles King, the candidate for Chisholm, Tony Abbott, the wonderful Health Minister, Senator Judith Troeth, Senator for Victoria.

Can I say what a pleasure it is for me to be here because this wonderful practice has my mother as a patient and I want to thank you for looking after my mother and the wonderful work that you do. And I had a very pleasant experience, one of the patients sitting in your waiting room this morning was my prep teacher, Miss Harl, her name was

and she taught me how to count from one to ten, and all I had to do was add nine noughts

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on the end and I could qualify as Federal Treasurer. So I thanked her for all that she did for me.

There’s no area of our Budget that is receiving faster growth in investment than health. In 1996 the Federal Government was spending around $20 billion on health and ageing. In this financial year it will be about $52 billion. And our intergenerational report shows us that in the future no other area of policy will require a growth in investment growing as fast as the health and ageing area. In fact we expect as a proportion of the economy, it will double over the next four years. It’s not just growing in proportion to the economy, but as a proportion of the economy to double.

And we will only be able to sustain the investment that we need in health and aged care if we have a strong economy. Doesn’t matter what our aspirations are, if we don’t have a strong economy we will not be able to invest in the aged care, in medical services, in the hospital services, in the pharmaceutical services, which will be required over the next four years.

And that’s why the Government has laid down an economic plan for this election. The economic plan is the basis for the health plan. The two go hand in hand. The measures that the Prime Minister has just announced are also measures to build capacity in the economy, because you can’t deliver health services if you don’t have the skilled workforce to deliver it. Training of GPs is about delivering capacity to deliver medical services. The grants for practice nurses now extended to all surgeries is about capacity to deliver medical services.

The announcement that’s been made in relation to specialists, again, is about skilling the workforce to deliver services. So this is investment in health capacity, a capacity which we know is going to grow and we know only a strong economy can meet.

And so these announcements today are part of our plan, our plan to build the economy, and our plan to increase capacity with skills, training and the ability to have high professional, quality services.

So our health plan is very much a part of our economic plan. A plan for growth, capacity, skills and training to give better living standards to all Australians.

And now I invite Tony Abbott to say a few words.

ABBOTT:

Well thanks very much Peter, thanks Prime Minister. It’s great to be here in this practice, it’s great to be with Phil Barresi, the local Member.

I just want to say that I was here yesterday with Phil talking to local doctors about the kinds of things that would help them to deliver even better services to their patients. They said that it would be great to be able to make more use of practice nurses, they said in particular it would be terrific if the practice nurse could get out of the surgery and go and visit people in their homes. Well my eyes lit up when I heard this, because I had a slight inkling that our policy might accommodate some of these desires which local doctors had. I want to congratulate the local division, particularly the chairman, Dr

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Marion Shearer, for the work that she and her colleagues have put into these issues, and I’m pleased that the Government has been able to respond in this way.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you. Any questions?

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, at the last election the Labor Party had a policy for over 65s for Medicare Gold, well we haven’t been able to look at the policy documents, is this policy fully funded?

PRIME MINISTER:

This policy is well and truly funded. This policy is as far away, economically speaking, from Medicare Gold as Perth is from Sydney.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, a few years ago Peter Beattie was calling almost every week for you to increase the number of GP training places. Why has it taken so long?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well in fact I’m glad you mentioned Peter Beattie. I’m glad you mentioned Peter Beattie, because this initiative in relation to specialists actually came out of a COAG meeting in the middle of last year I think it was, where we agreed for the first time to use private hospitals, and Peter Beattie came out of that COAG meeting and he said ladies and gentlemen, these COAG meetings keep getting better and better. So this is an example of, we talked about it, we’ve agreed, we have in fact provided money for a lot more university graduates and now we’re providing for a massive increase in the number of GP training places, and also a significant increase indeed, a doubling of those in private hospitals for specialist training as well as the very important initiative in relation to practice nurses.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, presumably some practice nurses will charge more than $44.65 to go to a home visit. Is that a concern, particularly for people on fixed incomes? And if they’re paying more, if they’re paying a gap as it were, will that go towards the Medicare safety net?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course it will. The Medicare safety net which at long last the Labor Party has said they will support, the Medicare safety net will be there but I expect a very high percentage, a very high percentage of these visits will be bulkbilled. I ought to mention that bulkbilling rates generally for people over 65 are, I’m advised, higher than they have been at any time since Medicare was introduced, higher than at any time since Medicare

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was introduced. Now I expect a very high percentage of the visits now. This is a huge breakthrough, to be able to have practice nurses going out and visiting people in their homes. I think it will restore, albeit in a modern form, something that used to be the greater feature of our medical system in the past. And I think, not only the people in the situation I described, but families generally will welcome this.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, are you confident that with all these positions can be filled, particularly the expansion of practice nurses, the removal of those restrictions, are there enough people in…

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it will add, my advice is that it will make a net addition of about 500 to the number of practice nurses and I’m sure that can be accommodated. See, you have quite a lot of number of practices now who employ practice nurses even though they’re not eligible for the grants. And the good news for those practices is they will become eligible for the grants, and on top of that there’ll be others that will take advantage of the grant and put on a practice nurse for the first time. We estimate that about three-quarters of the GP practices around Australia will have practice nurses.

JOURNLIST:

Prime Minister, will you continue to meet with Pastor Danny Nalliah from Catch the Fire Ministries despite his association with the League of Rights?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, let me just say something about the League of Rights. I abhor the League of Rights, I mean one of the central planks of the League of Rights is that they’ve been a bit anti-Semitic. Well everybody knows my very strong position on that, and as for what people I meet do, any more than you can responsible for what the people you meet do, I can’t be responsible either.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard the increase in the GP training places, does that have anything to do with the concerns of our, the safety concerns or security concerns about overseas trained doctors?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no. It’s designed to do the obvious thing, and that is that if you are to tackle some of the other problems in the health system, you need the staff, you need trained people, you do need more doctors, you do need more nurses, you do need more flexibility, and that’s what it’s designed to do. It’s in no way a reflection on foreign-trained or foreign-born doctors, many of them do an absolutely fantastic job in our health system. And this should not be seen in any way as a reaction to that issue, or in any way contextualised in relation to that issue.

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JOURNALIST:

Will this policy solve the GP and medical workforce crisis in this country?

PRIME MINISTER:

It will make a huge contribution to increasing the number of medical professionals needed by our hospitals.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, is this very positive message at risk of getting lost because of Mr Abbott’s comments about Bernie Banton?

PRIME MINISTER:

Absolutely not. Mr Abbott apologised to Mr Banton which is more than Mr Rudd did to the parents of that brave British soldier in Afghanistan. It took Mr Rudd weeks to send an email and he only did it because the issue because public yesterday so …

JOURNALIST:

Did you ask Mr Abbott to apologise?

PRIME MINISTER:

No I didn’t. Mr Abbott is the sort of man who does these things without being pressured, unlike Mr Rudd who has to be pressured. I mean, I don’t remember anybody in the Labor Party apologising to Tony Staley or Janet Albrechtsen for the appalling things that were said about them, so let’s not have any hypocrisy from the Labor Party on that issue.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, your comments on the Labor candidate for Hinkler. What about Peter Phelps, Gary Nairn’s Chief of Staff. Should he resign as well?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he was reprimanded for what he did, and he’s not a candidate. This bloke is representing the Australian Labor Party and he called the parents of a British soldier in Afghanistan warmongers - English warmongers. I mean that’s about as contemptible as you can get.

JOURNALIST:

Peter Phelps is paid by the Australian taxpayer.

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PRIME MINISTER:

But he’s been counselled and he’s apologised.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, on climate change, yesterday I think for the first time out of your own mouth, you opened up the possibility of Australia accepting the prospect of differentiated obligations from developing nations in a post-Kyoto agreement. Will the Coalition if it’s re-elected go to the Bali talks in December with a fully developed position on who should commit to what cuts among the developing nations after 2012?

PRIME MINISTER:

Paul, it wasn’t the first time.

JOURNALIST:

… out of your own mouth it was.

PRIME MINISTER:

No. I think if you go back to the APEC meeting in Sydney, which I chaired, the Sydney Declaration acknowledged differentiated targets. Now it could hardly therefore be said that yesterday was the first time I embraced that idea because I was…

JOURNALIST:

…the second part of the question?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah but I was the chairman of the APEC meeting, so I don’t think it’s fair to say that I first uttered those words yesterday. The second part, we will go to the Bali meeting if we are the Government and I think Australia should be afraid, indeed very afraid, at the idea

that we might be represented at the Bali meeting by Peter Garrett after the debacle of the past two days. We will go to that meeting if we’re still the Government of Australia with a commitment, a desire, to achieve an outcome where you get a new international

agreement that covers all the major emitters. We’re willing to be part of that, and we’ve always acknowledged that different countries have different contributions to make because they’re at different stages of development, but they’ve all got to be part of the agreement.

JOURNALIST:

Will you know what you want China to give up at those talks?

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PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I will have a very clear idea that I will want a significant contribution from all the major emitters. It’s quite impossible for me to say now in precise quantitative terms…

JOURNALIST:

I’m not asking what they are, I’m just asking if you’re going to have…

PRIME MINISTER:

I will have a very clear idea of what I will want from all of the major emitters, including the United States and including China. Can I just go back, this was meant to be the great point of differentiation between the Labor Party. I mean the two things they say were the great points of differentiation, what they say, there are many others, economic management is the major point of differentiation, but they don’t admit that. But they

talked about climate change and industrial relations and they were meant to be the kings of climate change and over the past two days, we have seen a massive reversal of Labor’s position. Mr Garrett stated Labor’s policy on the AM program the day before yesterday. What he said then was Labor policy. They have always, until the afternoon of the day

before yesterday, they have always been willing to sign away Australia before getting a commitment from countries like China. They’ve always been willing, it was only when we pointed that out and on the pressure of the campaign trail, Mr Rudd capitulated and he…

JOURNALIST:

Isn’t that what Malcolm Turnbull was proposing when he advocated signing Kyoto?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, look, what Mr Rudd and Mr Garrett did yesterday, or the day before yesterday, what they did was to reverse a long standing ALP policy and it’s an extraordinary reversal on something that was meant to be their piece de resistance. This was the thing that was marking them out and in the space of fewer than 12 hours, they completely threw it overboard and Mr Rudd said I agree with Mr Howard. Now, I think he’s right to agree with me, but I think it’s right of me to point out that that wasn’t Labor policy, and the other observation I’d make is that as with Robert McClelland, he rubbished his own Shadow Minister. All Peter Garrett was doing was stating Labor policy in the same way that Robert McClelland was stating Labor policy on the death penalty, because Mr Rudd had said the same thing in December of last year at the time of Saddam Hussein’s execution when he effectively attacked me for not opposing the execution of Saddam Hussein. So this is the most extraordinary reversal on a central policy issue and it just shows that when a bit of pressure is applied, Mr Rudd buckles.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, you say the process of industrial relations reform is complete. Does that mean that the fairness test will absolutely remain in its current form?

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PRIME MINISTER:

Well we certainly we wouldn’t be weakening it.

JOURNALIST:

And secondly, does that mean that you’ll keep awards the way they are now? Or will you push ahead with award rationalisation?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, what it means is that we have absolutely no proposals at all to in any way affect the existing protections under the law for workers.

JOURNALIST:

Will you be cutting the number of awards?

PRIME MINISTER:

We announced a process of award rationalisation at the time the policy was announced, and we will continue what we have said on that subject, but in the process, we won’t be in any way weakening the protections and if any of that involves weakening protections, we won’t be doing it.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, will you match Labor’s pledge on renewables?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m getting some advice on what it means, and what its implications are, and then I will have something to say about it. I don’t automatically - I don’t adopt the Labor policy in the space of 12 hours. I’ll just sort of have a look at it and if I think it is worth supporting, I’ll say so. We’re not against people having more renewables, we’re all in favour of renewables. We’ve invested in the largest solar plant in the world near Mildura. That’s the biggest - the Treasurer was there.

TREASURER:

I announced it.

PRIME MINISTER:

He announced it. It is the biggest in the world. So we are all in favour of solar but you’ve got to make sure that in the process of embracing renewables, you don’t wreck the economy, you don’t wreck the coal industry. We know Peter Garrett’s opposed to the automatic expansion of the coal industry, we know that and there’re so malleable in this policy area that you can’t be sure what they would do if they got into office.

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JOURNALIST:

You thanked them yesterday for their bipartisanship on climate change.

PRIME MINISTER:

I did.

JOURNALIST:

You can return the favour on renewable energy …

PRIME MINISTER:

But they adopted a good policy. If their policy after proper examination is good, then I’ll say so, but I seem to remember Mr Rudd saying frequently that he’ll take advice. Well I’ll take advice on this occasion, I’m going to take some advice.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, the Labor treasury spokesman Wayne Swan has said on radio today that the L-A-W law tax cuts were delivered because a second tranche was put into superannuation.

PRIME MINISTER:

You’ve got to be joking. That’s a bit like saying that $600 wasn’t real.

TREASURER:

Can I just say…

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, yeah. He’s the expert on L-A-W law, straining at the leash.

TREASURER:

The last time the Labor Party promised tax cuts was before the 1993 election. Not only did they promise them, they put them into law. They won that election and after the 1993 election, they took those tax cuts away and Wayne Swan, the Shadow Treasurer, voted to take those tax cuts away. They were never delivered. There were two tranches, the first tranche was delivered, the second was never delivered. The law that they passed had a clause which said that the second round could be developed on a date to be proclaimed and it was never proclaimed.

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JOURNALIST:

Some of your tax cuts are hardly L-A-W law either are they, I mean they’re a pledge that’s dependent on other things happening?

TREASURER:

Can I say, Sam, we cut tax in 2000, in 2003, in 2004, in 2005, in 2006, in 2007. Five years. We delivered every single dollar. This Government has honoured its tax policy to the hilt. Now we’ve had the incredible spectacle in this campaign, the Government announces a tax plan, five days later the Labor Party me-toos it, and says oh well, you can have this tax plan even if Labor’s elected. I would invite the people of Australia to ask themselves two questions. Who was committed to a tax plan enough to think it up and announce it in the first place, and who has the record on delivering on tax promises?

JOURNALIST:

Mr Howard, just on providing Medicare items for nurses, there’s also been a big push on in recent years for midwives to have Medicare numbers, and there’s reports again today about the risks of caesareans, concerns about the level of caesareans in Australia, do you think Australia has too many caesareans and do you think having more midwives in the field would reduce that level?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I am always loathe to pontificate about how many caesarean deliveries there are. I mean in the end it is a matter between a new mother and her doctor and I know enough about these things to respect that fact and I’m not going to say there are too many or too few. I think it’s a matter for medical practitioners and the profession generally to deal with those things. As for Medicare items, well given that this Government is the best friend that Medicare has ever had we’re always keen, consistent with other priorities, to further strengthen Medicare, but I’ve made a very important announcement today and I do have more announcements to make on health so I think we might, if there’s no more questions?

JOURNALIST:

…on a number of occasions that you’d stay on as leader as long as it was in the best interests of the party. A new poll today suggest that the Coalition would be less popular under Mr Costello, would you reconsider your retirement plans?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I don’t take much notice of the worm either. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:

…instead of giving money to the district nursing - brought out the practice nurses will be going out to people’s homes, why not just give more money to the district nurses?

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PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I’m not against district nursing but the practice nurses perform a different role. Practice nurses are located in a medical practice, and they carry out duties under the supervision of a general practitioner that are very akin to the services provided by a GP practice. District nursing is wonderful work and very valuable but it’s a separate thing and I don’t think you should see one as being a substitute for the other.

Thank you.

[ends]

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