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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 16 October 2006: \nImpact of the drought on mental health; breast cancer report; future of NBCC; SA ALP Conference.



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JULIA GILLARD M.P. Shadow Minister for Health Manager of Opposition Business

TRANSCRIPT DOORSTOP INTERVIEW PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA 8:15AM MONDAY 16 OCTOBER 2006 _______________________________________________________________________

ISSUES: Impact of the drought on mental health; breast cancer report; future of NBCC; SA ALP Conference. _______________________________________________________________________

JULIA GILLARD: Last week was Mental Health Week and there were a series of events in Parliament House, some of them hosted by the Howard Government.

Whilst it is good to celebrate Mental Health Week, what would be even better would be if the Howard Government cared about mental health on everyday of the year and in every week of the year.

We have been talking over the last few days about drought and we know one of the tragic side effects of drought is mental illness and depression, and tragically suicide in rural communities.

It has been estimated that every four days a farmer commits suicide. Now, that is a startling statistic and something that the Howard Government should be desperately concerned about.

The Howard Government has announced a mental health package but its benefits largely miss rural and regional communities. It is all about Medicare rebating and Medicare rebating only works if there are mental health professionals in your community and we know, across the country in rural and regional areas there are very few mental health professionals.

The Howard Government has put a token fund into addressing mental health for rural and regional areas, $50 million over 5 years. Well, $10 million a year isn’t enough to address a problem of this magnitude. We are calling on the Howard Government to

do more in view of the seriousness of the drought and the crisis in mental health that it is causing.

On another matter, Tony Abbott the Minister for Health today will announce a breast cancer report. It shows that breast cancer rates have increased for women, in fact

doubled in 20 years. More than 13,000 will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the next 12 months and around 100 men. Survivability rates have increased and that is the good news.

We know that a great deal of good work has been done on breast cancer in this country by entities like the National Breast Cancer Centre. The government funding for that Centre runs out on the 30th of June next year. We are calling on Tony Abbott today, to clarify that the Centre will be refunded so that the staff at the Centre have got security and know that their jobs will be there in the middle of next year and on an ongoing basis.

JOURNALIST: The working journalists were banned from listening to the alternative Prime Minister in South Australia yesterday because they weren’t union members, I mean that is hugely embarrassing for the Labor Party isn’t it?

JULIA GILLARD: Well look, as I understand it this is a local South Australian Branch rule which has been in place for a number of years. It is not a rule that is pursued generally by the Labor Party…

JOURNALIST: It was defended by Kim Beazley and Mike Rann.

JULIA GILLARD: Well I think what Mr Beazley said yesterday is he is speaking at the South Australian Branch Conference and obviously the South Australian Branch makes its own rules.

JOURNALIST: But on principle, does principle mean nothing to him?

JULIA GILLARD: The…

JOURNALIST: The principle that journalists should be able to cover the alternative Prime Minister?

JULIA GILLARD: Well of course we believe in freedom of the media and that is what we have been pursuing in the cross media debate while the Howard Government has been trying to squish diversity of media. What happened over the weekend of course

is that there we local rules, they are South Australian Branch Conference, therefore the South Australian Branch sets the rules, it is no more complicated than that.

You would be aware that almost every day of his life, Mr Beazley makes himself available to the media, irrespective of whether or not they are union members.

JOURNALIST: He defended that local principle.

JULIA GILLARD: I think what Mr Beazley said, and I am going to restate it, is that he is at the South Australian Branch Conference and they are the South Australian Branch rules.

JOURNALIST: Well isn’t it true, he just didn’t want to criticise them did he, I mean he definitely doesn’t have the ticker to criticise party members when they do this, when they pull this sort of stunt?

JULIA GILLARD: Well that is all very cute and inflammatory language but this is really just a very local event, it is the South Australian Branch Conference, Mr Beazley is a guest at that Conference giving an address. It is the South Australian Branch that sets the rules and it is my understanding that those rules have been in place for a number of years. If the media have a major issue with those rules then that is a dialogue that ought to be pursued with the South Australian Branch of the Labor

Party.

JOURNALIST: Do you support those rules, do you think they are appropriate?

JULIA GILLARD: Look I think it is best for people to be able to talk to the media in an open sense but these are local branch rules and I think it is appropriate that the South Australian Branch deals with matters to deal with the South Australian Branch.

JOURNALIST: Doesn’t it leave the Opposition open to easy criticism by being at the event?

JULIA GILLARD: Oh no I think people are smart enough to understand that if you are a guest speaking at an event and the event has a set of protocols that it lives by then those protocols will apply to you while you are at that event. I mean I don’t think it is anymore complicated than that. All of us speak at various events where we are invited and where the local organisers of the event have protocols, standing orders

by which they abide and we fit in with those for the period we are there.

JOURNALIST: So when the Labor Party in South Australia criticises the Howard Government over AWAs and the lack of choice, they are suffering from a massive case of hypocrisy?

JULIA GILLARD: I wouldn’t say that either. I mean the issue with choice or the lack of choice with the extreme industrial relations legislation of this government is that there are workers around this country every day who have an Australian Workplace Agreement thrust in front of them and are told if they don’t sign it they won’t have a job. We raise those issues in Parliament but the reality is the people who are prepared to come out publicly are only the tip of the iceberg and below that tip there are thousands of stories that go untold, of people being denied choice and dignity in their workplace and we will certainly be continuing to pursue that debate.

JOURNALIST: It is true though that the Labor Party, as Kim Beazley said yesterday does stand shoulder to shoulder with the union movement in discriminating against, in this case journalists, because they were not members of a union.

JULIA GILLARD: Mr Beazley said no such thing yesterday. What Mr Beazley…

JOURNALIST: He said they stand shoulder to shoulder…

JULIA GILLARD: What Mr Beazley is of course saying is we stand shoulder to shoulder with the union movement in fighting these extreme industrial relations laws because we believe workers in Australian workplaces are entitled to simple dignity and

respect. That is something the Howard Government doesn’t believe.

ENDS