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Minister comments on ACT being first to sign federal health agreement.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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PM

 

Wednesday 27th August 2003

 

 

MARK COLVIN: The ACT has become the first of the eight states and territories to sign up to the next five-year health agreement with the Common wealth. 

 

There's been a standoff till now, with the states and territories complaining that the Commonwealth's offer is inadequate. 

 

They had suggested they would not sign-up before the deadline expired on Sunday. 

 

And it was looming as a dominant issue for Friday's meeting between Premiers, Chief Ministers and the Prime Minister. 

 

But now, as Louise Yaxley reports, the Federal Health Minister, Kay Patterson, is trying to use the ACT's decision to put pressure on the other states. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: As the deadline's loomed, the propaganda war between the states and the Commonwealth has become frenetic. They've argued constantly over the figures. 

 

Senator Patterson says the Commonwealth's offer is $42 billion for public hospitals over the next five-years.  

 

She says it’s a 17 per cent or $10 billion increase. 

 

But the States disagree with the formula. They say they’ll end up a billion dollars worse off, because they complain the Commonwealth hasn't take account of the increasing cost of running hospitals. 

 

The two sides have slugged it out with huge newspaper ads and it was set to dominate this week's Council of Australian Governments meeting. 

 

Late this afternoon, Senator Patterson was able to get the first signature on a health care agreement - the ACT's Health Minister, Simon Corbell, put pen to paper. 

 

KAY PATTERSON: Mr Simon Corbell has signed today the health care agreement for the next five years, which means over half a billion dollars for the ACT. 

 

It demonstrates what I was saying, that I've been working cooperatively with ministers regarding reform, and I'm delighted that Mr Corbell has agreed to sign up, and we've had some very productive discussions. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Senator Patterson insists the ACT hasn't squeezed any extra money out of the Commonwealth. She says the negotiations which led to them coming to the party were about an existing program for more GPs, rather than more funds. 

 

KAY PATTERSON: Mr Corbell came and indicated that he had some concerns about general practitioners. 

 

I indicated we had a program we could work with him in that area to have GPs where we need them in the ACT. 

 

We also need to look at after hours in the ACT to ensure that we take pressure off doctors, but more importantly, make sure patients have access to GPs, and also we've talked very productively about older people moving from hospital to nursing homes and from hospital to home. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: Senator Patterson argues its up to all the states to try to negotiate if they believe they have specific problems pushing up the cost of running their hospitals. 

 

But she says there's no more money available beyond what's already on the table. 

 

KAY PATTERSON: There's no additional funding. 

 

What we're looking at is ways in which we've been able to talk about existing programs and fitting them to the needs of a particular state or territory. 

 

No, what it's about is being innovative in the way we actually look at those programs and address the areas of need in a particular state or territory. 

 

I've been saying this for a long time, for over a year, that there are programmes there that we can use in an innovative way to ensure that we deliver a better health income and I've demonstrated that with Mr Corbell. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: The Minister still has a stand off with the other seven jurisdictions. 

 

She says three are close to giving up their campaign for more money and putting pen to paper on her offer. 

 

KAY PATTERSON: I think the other health ministers know that. 

 

I've been working with three others in a very detailed way and I look forward to continuing that. 

 

As soon as we sign up, we can move on with a reform agenda. 

 

If they sign up by the 31st of August they'll get all the growth that we've promised. 

 

I'd be expecting the states to sign. 

 

LOUISE YAXLEY: The ACT's decision makes it less likely there'll be an out and out stoush over health at Friday's meeting with the Prime Minister. 

 

Although the issue will certainly be prominent, even though the Prime Minister's refused state requests to make it an agenda item. Instead, Mr Howard says they have to talk about it during general business. 

 

MARK COLVIN: Louise Yaxley.