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Treasurer discusses reforms for elective surgery funds.

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Monday 14 January 2008

Treasurer discusses reforms for elective surgery funds


TONY EASTLEY: One hundred and fifty millions dollars is a lot of money in anyone's eyes, but put all the States' Treasurers and Health Ministers in just one room and the money is soon spent.  


The Rudd Government has put the funds on the table, and today in Brisbane, all the interested parties will be there for the carve-up. 


The idea is for the money to cut waiting times for elective surgery. 


New South Wales has already put its hand up, arguing it deserves one third of the money because it's got a third of the population.  


It could be an interesting get-together and a fine balancing act for the Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan, who spoke to Peta Donald in Canberra. 


WAYNE SWAN: Well I'm looking forward to working with my State colleagues to take on some of the very big challenges that are facing the country, and one of those big challenges is the reduction in elective surgery waiting lists. 


PETA DONALD: Yes, there's $150 million on the table for the States to reduce those waiting lists, or the waiting time for elective surgery. 


What do you think of the argument coming from New South Wales, that because it's got a third of the population, it should get a third of the money? 


WAYNE SWAN: Well, they're matters that we will be talking about today so I don't intend to prejudge the outcome of that matter, but it won't just be what can be done in this package today, it's reform down the track. 


We've got to make sure that hard-earned taxpayers' dollars really reach the service delivery level, and what we're determined to do is to have an impact. This is about the reform of the health system, not just in the short-term, but the longer-term.  


So we can have local service delivery, effectively delivered across the country, wherever people live. 


PETA DONALD: Is it true that you'll be proposing that a whole lot of health grants of $1-million to $3-million be rolled into one agreement? 


WAYNE SWAN: Well we're looking at the reform of specific purpose payments across the board. There are something like 90 individual specific purpose payments. Now that's a lot of administration. We think we can eliminate waste and duplication, and make sure that those hard-earned taxpayers' dollars reach the people who need them. 


PETA DONALD: What if sometime in the future you would like to have the conditions that are currently attached to those payments, wouldn't you like to have that control over how the States spend the money, perhaps sometime in the future? 


WAYNE SWAN: What we want to influence is the outcome. We want more effective service delivery on the ground. At the moment there's a tremendous amount of administration looking at what is called the inputs to the agreement. We want to see the outcomes delivered to the Australian people.  


So yes, there will be supervision of the money, but it will be supervision of the money without the waste and duplication that has grown up over a very long period of time, and we've got to eliminate that waste and duplication so taxpayers' dollars reach the people that need them. 


PETA DONALD: On the interest rates going up, all the major banks have now put up rates outside any prompting from the Reserve Bank. Do you think, is it possible for you to cut out the fees that people incur if they change their loan from one lender to another? 


WAYNE SWAN: Well Australian families deserve the best deal they can get from banks, and we want to help them get the best deal. So I think it is important that if people want to change their account, in a competitive market, that they can do that with relative ease. 


So I'll be talking to the banks about this issue, and I'll also be talking to the regulatory authorities, and I've commissioned a report from the Federal Treasury, because what many people say to me is that they can't vote with their feet because there are unreasonable road blocks which prevent them from shifting banks, and therefore inhibiting competition. 


PETA DONALD: So you want to scrap those fees? 


WAYNE SWAN: Well, we're looking at all of the issues associated with portability, and when I've received that report, when I've discussed it with the banks, I'll come back with a response. 


TONY EASTLEY: Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan ending Peta Donald's report.