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Shadow Minister discusses Tasmanian health plan.



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Nicola Roxon MP Shadow Minister for Health MEDIA RELEASE

TRANSCRIPT Interview with Tim Cox, ABC Hobart, 27 September 2007 E&OE

Subject: Tasmanian health plan

TIM COX: Good morning to you.

NICOLA ROXON: Good morning how are you?

COX: Very well thank you. Is it pork barrelling when the money is spent largely in the marginal seats of the north?

ROXON: No, look, I reject that. This $50 million Tasmanian health package is part of our $2 billion National Health and Hospital Plan.

We have set out some clear guidelines for how and where we want to spend that money. For example, a particular emphasis on primary health care and GP Super Clinics.

They are spread across Tasmania, as they will be spread across the country, with an emphasis on them being placed in areas where services are already low.

Where there is a low usage, for example, of the Medicare safety net, where there is low usage of Medicare payments - because what that means is that’s where Commonwealth money is already being spent at a lower rate than everywhere else.

Labor believes that we need to make sure that we even that up, and you will see across the country commitments that are being made in strong Labor seats, National Party seats and marginal seats, and it is part of a comprehensive plan that Labor is putting forward for this election.

COX: The State Health Minister here, Lara Giddings, was fairly conciliatory about the approach that Federal Labor had taken on this, and they’ve adopted part of the States’ clinical services plan etc.

The Premier yesterday though said that both parties come pork barrelling in the marginal seats come this time of year. Do you think you need to get him onside a bit more?

ROXON: Well look, Federation in a robust democracy - we’re not always going to agree on everything. Our way of thinking is this. We didn’t design the Mersey intervention. We don’t think that having a plan just for one hospital in one seat is the way to go-

COX: But you’ve backed the intervention?

ROXON: Well let me finish. We’re not in the business of tearing up contracts that have been signed, and that has now been signed by the Tasmanian Government and the Federal Government, and of course if we are elected we will honour that contractual arrangement.

But the truth is that money that has now been freed up, was already being spent in the north and the north west, and we don’t think it’s unreasonable to say “Look, if you would like the additional $50 million that we have promised the Tasmanian community, we believe that money should be spent in the north”.

Now I’m sure, as part of our whole negotiation over the way we invest in health care in the future, that the Tasmanian Government and the new Labor Government if we’re elected, will be able to reach a sensible agreement which helps all Tasmanians.

But that’s the view that we clearly hold about where that extra money should be spent in the interim.

COX: But if though, the State’s primary hospital, the Royal Hobart, is to be rebuilt on a greenfields site, why isn’t there more assistance to get that underway sooner?

ROXON: I think what this comes down to is the basic question of the way the Howard Government has been treating their contributions to public hospital funding over the last eleven years.

We know that they have pulled at least a billion dollars out of public hospital funding in the last few years, and that’s left Tasmanian public hospitals short-changed as well as many others.

Now we are making commitments that will kickstart a reform process, but we are fully aware that we need to have very close and important negotiations with every State Government about the way funding for public hospitals will continue in the future, and that is the place to have those discussions,

particularly about Royal Hobart Hospital, which of course is going to be central to any sort of Tasmanian health plan in the future.

COX: Tony Abbott flagged here yesterday that there would most likely be further Coalition funding committed for health in Tasmania above and beyond the Mersey. Was what you and Kevin Rudd unveiled this week the extent of Labor’s promised contribution here for the campaign?

ROXON: I think the commitments that have been made to these super clinics in Devonport and Burnie and Bellerive and Sorrell - $15 million for an integrated care centre in Launceston, money for a new oncology service, funding for the first ever PET scanner in Tasmania, which we cannot for the life of us understand why Mr Abbott has ignored for so many years, and a travel package to assist with transport. That’s a significant commitment to make.

I think we’re entitled to hope that the community will look at those commitments before we start on another range of promises that may be made in the future as other needs become apparent.

COX: Nicola Roxon, we need to leave it there, but thanks for your time, appreciate it.

ROXON: Thanks very much.

Contact: Sean Kelly 0417 108 362