Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of doorstop interview: Lismore: 24 August 2009: health and hospital reform; Bali Peace Park; binge drinking; income gap between men and women; repeal of Workchoices; Liberal and National Party.

Download PDFDownload PDF

You are here: Home > Media Centre > Interview

24 August 2009

Transcript of doorstop interview


24 August 2009

Subject(s): Health and hospital reform; Bali Peace Park; Binge Drinking; Income gap Between

Men and Women; Repeal of Workchoices; Liberal and National Party

PM: Well it’s good to be back in Lismore, and it’s good to be here with Janelle Saffin, our local

Member, as well as of course with Justine Elliott, the Minister for Aged Care. We’re here to talk

about the future of health reform, health and hospitals reform, FOR this important and growing

part of Australia. It’s been good to sit down together with the local health community in all of

its branches and talk about their response to the recommendations which have been put

forward by the Health Reform Commission. Recommendations which go to the future of

preventative healthcare, primary healthcare, acute hospital care, sub-acute care, and of course

we’ve also had discussions concerning aged cares services, mental health services, and dental


Here, of course, at Lismore Base Hospital, we have also been seeking to invest over a period of

time since we’ve been in office. Today I’d like to announce that we’re investing $8.3 million to

fund the establishment of an eight bed medical assessment unit here at the hospital.

These eight extra medical assessment beds will take pressure off the emergency department by

moving patients to a dedicated area to receive medical diagnosis and treatment. I am advised

through my consultations elsewhere in the health and hospital system that this is a very useful

way of taking pressure off the emergency departments. I was only last week at Nepean Hospital

in Sydney, where they introduced me to the impact this has on the overall efficiency of the

emergency department. And there, their particular service was calibrated particularly around

the needs of older Australians, and we’re adding to that service here.

So here in Lismore, and here in this part of Australia, adding to this ability to support the

emergency department at Lismore Base is one step forward, we’ve still got many steps to take for the future. This funding also is in addition to the over $600,000 recently provided to the


Page 1 of 5 Interview | Prime Minister of Australia


hospital for new surgical equipment under stage two of the Government’s elective surgery

program. The funding comes from the Government’s $750 million commitment to take pressure

off our emergency departments, some $248 million of which is going to various hospitals in New

South Wales.

On top of that, we have also been making earlier investments here at Lismore Base. I’d like to

emphasise in particular the investment we are making over two years, the establishment of the

University of Western Sydney’s new rural clinical school both in Lismore and at Bathurst. And

we’ve had discussions with representatives of that school this morning.

Furthermore, we have also our investment in Lismore’s integrated cancer centre. This is a $15

million investment which Janelle and I had a look at this morning. I think they said to us they

hope to have it up and running next year? And with a throughput of patients not long after that.

This is going to be an important addition to the proper provision of cancer care in communities

like this, in important and growing regional centres across Australia. In the Budget we indicated

a very large investment in integrated cancer care nationwide, $1.3 billion, Sydney, Melbourne,

the large centres, but most critically, also having a network of integrated cancer care centres

across Australia’s regions as well. And this is part and parcel of that process. So adding that

ability to receive proper oncology services in major centres like this, is again one step forward.

Finally, making sure we get it right for the long term on health and hospitals is really important,

which means getting it right also for regions like this. This will be a tough process, hard

decisions to be taken, and none of these decisions for the long term future are going to be

cheap, or inexpensive. Therefore, as a community and as a country, we’re going to have to

engage in a debate which is realistic about the direction we’re going to go, the reforms which

need to be undertaken, but also about the cost implications which flow and how they are to be

funded. Enough from me folks, and over to you.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd we had a case here last week I believe it was, of a doctor who has just

set up practice in Byron Bay. He moved here from New Zealand when he was fourteen. He

didn’t become an Australian citizen until after he’d studied. He’s now been told that he has to

go to the outback for up to a decade before he can practice back here on the coast. Are you

aware of that situation, and is it a loophole in the provision of Medicare provider numbers that

you’d like to see perhaps addressed, because doctor numbers here on the north coast aren’t

that flash either?

PM: Ah, no. And I’m advised that we’ve got challenges in this region and in other regions in

terms of overall numbers of medicos. I, in a presentation before indicated where that trend line

is going for the future, unless we intervene nationwide. On the individual circumstances

surrounding this case, you won’t be surprised to know that I’m not aware of them. However,

I’m sure the Health Minister can now look at the circumstances surrounding that case and see if

there is any problem in the system which has caused that to occur, and we’ll take that up with


JOURNALIST: (inaudible) I know there’s a general perception though on the far north coast

that, being a regional area, often it gets quite overlooked in terms of funding. (inaudible)

Page 2 of 5 Interview | Prime Minister of Australia


PM: One of the reasons I’m here today is because Janelle Saffin has said loud and clear that I

needed to get here to look on the ground at the needs of this fast-growing region. I’m from

Queensland, and I understand the growth pressures which are on South East Queensland, and

this part of New South Wales. They are huge. It’s not just a growing population in New South

Wales, but it’s also, over time, the ageing of the population as well. And getting these two

things right for the future, as our colleague just reminded us also, the challenges for providing

workforce for the future, medicos, nurses, specialists, surgeons, across the categories.

So, in the presentation to the health community representatives here today I made a particular

point of saying that we need to get right the better access to healthcare services across the nation. Not just the large cities, across the nation. And that means there are important regions

as well. But I get back to what I said before - none of this will be for free. Whatever reforms we

embrace will cost, and as a nation we’ve got to have that debate as well.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) should have tax free charity status to attract sponsorship to build a

memorial on the Sari club site?

PM: I believe that when it comes to the future of that site, we shouldn’t have anything which

allows people to trample on the memories of those who tragically lost their lives in Bali,

tragically lost their lives through that terrorist attack. Secondly, you refer particularly to the tax

status of that particular facility. I am advised that the Treasurer will be obtaining a response

from the Treasury in the course of the next week or two ahead. And this will have gone through

the normal processes. The Treasurer will be receiving advice soon.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Look, I think one of the big challenges with the proper (inaudible) of, let’s call it health

funding across the board, is making sure that you’ve got state and territory governments

working together in partnership with the Australian Government.

In the past, for the last Australian Healthcare Agreement, you saw the Australian Government

pull out a billion dollars from public hospital funding across the nation. That has implications for

regions like this, and that’s despite the fact that the population is going up, you’re having

increased ageing of the population, yet under the Howard Government you actually had the

overall allocations for public hospitals go down by a billion in real terms. That’s a real problem.

Therefore, the alternative for the future is us partnering with state and territory governments to

make a difference. It’s what the Health Minister has done in Phase One through the new

Australian Healthcare Agreement. My presentation here today indicated that compared with the

last Healthcare Agreement, that represents a 50 per cent increase in funding. And that’s not

just for the acute hospital system. It’s across all the categories as well.

Phase two is getting the response right to this thing, that is, the long-term Health Reform

Commission recommendations for the long-term future. And getting also the balance of

responsibilities right with state and territory governments. This is going to be a very tough

reform process, hard decision to be taken, tough funding decisions to be taken, but I believe

the mood of the country is that we have this debate rather than just avoid it.

Page 3 of 5 Interview | Prime Minister of Australia


JOURNALIST: (inaudible) describe the mood as people have had a gutful of the responsibility

shifting. And it sounded like, perhaps you had as well?

PM: No, I’ve been consistent on this, ever since I became Leader of Opposition. My colleagues

may remember that when I stood up on the first day in the House of Representatives I think,

having been elected as leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party, I held up a report on aged care,

which was entitled, it was a bipartisan report of the parliament, entitled ‘The Blame Game’. And

I said Australians are fed up with this. They actually want us to get past this sort of mindless

game of it’s his fault or her fault because they are from a different level of government. I mean,

people just want a real debate about the problems in the system, how to fix them, and how much it will cost. And that’s what I’m trying to do.

I don’t underestimate the complexity of this debate. It’s going to be very hard. And everywhere

I go, the needs are infinite and the resources are finite. But unless we have this debate, we’re

simply going to allow what the Commission has described as a system at tipping point to fall

over, and I don’t intend to be around and simply say ‘well, that’s a problem, isn’t it?’ I want to

at least have a go, and we intend to have a go.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, there’s a new report apparently released saying that women’s

pay lags behind men’s pay. Is there anything that you can do to address this imbalance

between men and women’s pay, and are you worried that women are feeling and bearing the

brunt of the economic crisis?

PM: I think we do need to see the income gap between men and women close over time in

Australia because of the critical contribution which women in the workforce make to the

economy overall, across the whole range of professions and occupations.

The second thing though, can I just draw your attention to the impact of the repeal of

WorkChoices. WorkChoices and Australian Workplace Agreements, the biggest impact, or at

least a really big impact, was with women in particular categories of employment. The data I

saw a year or so ago about the impact on women employed under AWAs, Australian Workplace

Agreements, on the one hand, and those not employed under AWAs was huge. Not just tens of

dollars, but in fact high tens of dollars.

Therefore, we’ve changed the industrial relations system, therefore, for women in those

categories of employment, the new arrangements put in place by Julia Gillard I believe will have

some effect, but we’re going to have to always lift our game on that.

But I just made mention of WorkChoices and I notice there’s a debate about the Liberals and

Liberal policy for the future and leadership alternatives as well. Can I say that it’s really

important that we are absolutely clearly focussed on not just leadership alternatives for the

Liberal Party, but policy alternatives as well.

One thing about the Liberals is that they seem to have this deep addiction for WorkChoices and

this deep addiction for nuclear power. It doesn’t matter where you turn. So I think one of the

challenges we’d like to see an answer to is for any candidate for the leadership of the Liberal

Party to stick their hand up and say they are not either a supporter of WorkChoices or not a

supporter of nuclear power. It seems to be part and parcel of the Liberal National Party DNA.

Page 4 of 5 Interview | Prime Minister of Australia


JOURNALIST: (inaudible) Surfers Paradise (inaudible)

PM: Well, first of all, in terms of what the Premier has done in terms of bans on particular

categories of products, I am not fully briefed. Can I say that the Gold Coast in general, Surfers

Paradise in particular, has got its own challenges in terms of the health and hospital system,

and health policy generally. That’s why the Health Minister is there in the latter part of the day,

and I’m sure she’ll listen long and hard to what the local community has to say.

You see, more broadly, as a nation also we need to, this is no particular reference to Surfers or

to the Gold Coast, but the nation at large, we do have a challenge to deal with when it comes to teenage binge drinking. It’s just real. If you speak to the coppers, as I do quite often, Sydney,

Melbourne and elsewhere, this is a real problem. And dealing with this effectively means that

the whole community has to get engaged, because the roll-on consequences for our men and

women in police uniform, the roll-on consequences for the health and hospital system is huge

unless we’re dealing with this, but I’m sure that will be part and parcel of the Minister’s

consultations up there today.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: You know something, I’ve been to the Gold Coast many, many, many times over the

years, and I like it a lot. And even though I grew up on the Sunshine Coast, which if you know

anything about South-East Queensland, they, sort of, have views of each other. My views are

somewhat beyond that. Both have their great strengths. I love the Gold Coast and I’m sure I’ll

be back there again.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) my business colleagues in Canberra want to know did you consider

joining the Liberal Party as a youngster?

PM: Um, no. And can I say-

JOURNALIST: What about the Nationals?

PM: No. No to either possibility. But I’ve got to say the challenge for the Liberals and Nationals

is to find a single leadership alternative for the future who doesn’t have a deep addiction to

WorkChoices or a deep addiction to nuclear power. It seems to come up all the time. Got to

run, folks.


Page 5 of 5 Interview | Prime Minister of Australia