9am with David and Kim


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24-08-2006 09:09 AM



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24-08-2006 09:09 AM


David and Kim speak with Ms. J. Gillard MP regarding stem cell research, parliamentary standards and health reform agenda.


24-08-2006 09:24 AM

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2006-08-24 09:09:21

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9am with David and Kim -

View in ParlView


Shadow Minister for Health

Manager of Opposition Business


9AM with David & Kim


24 AUGUST 2006

ISSUES: Stem cell research, parliamentary standards, health reform agenda

DAVID: In Canberra, politicians' comments on stem cell research have been aggressive, colourful,
inflammatory and often ill informed with all parties divided in beliefs.

KIM: Labor's health spokesperson, Julia Gillard believes the issue is worth debating and she joins
us now. Good morning.

JULIA: Good morning.

DAVID: Good morning.

KIM: Looking very youthful and gorgeous, you've had something done to your hair?

JULIA: I think that's the efforts of your make-up department rather than anything else.


KIM: It is always nice to kind of come in and have a makeover.

JULIA: I am going to start turning up every morning.


DAVID: Hang on a minute, it's hard enough for me to get any attention as it is. Julia, Health
Minister Tony Abbott suggests research into stem cells and therapeutic cloning results in
human-animals or hybrids. I am with him, I mean the last thing we need are babies flying around
with wings.

JULIA: Yes, I agree with you on that. But this is the problem with the language and why I think
Tony Abbott, as Minister for Health, has got a special responsibility to get it right. It doesn't
mean he shouldn't argue his view but he has got to be careful. No one is talking about making human
hybrids that would be running around. There is a suggestion that for therapeutic cloning you might
use some animal material, particularly an egg from an animal but this is for producing a stem cell
line and the embryo created from that would be destroyed within 14 days. So no suggestion it is
going to be brought to term and made into a human-animal cross that would be with us.

DAVID: Well, then why is he saying that then? Why is he suggesting that that might happen? I mean
because that is the kind of language that is really going to scare everyone, isn't it?

JULIA: It is and I think Tony has really got an obligation to just be honest with people and say
his religious views, and I respect them, his religious views mean that he is opposed to therapeutic
cloning, he is opposed to the creation of embryos, he thinks that is offensive and that's what he
believes. If he went out and said that, people would say, those are his views and he is entitled to
them. The problem is he seeks to engage in the debate, not being very clear that he will be
opposed, in all circumstances, to therapeutic cloning and then he tries to argue the toss on the
science and I think that is what misleads people.

DAVID: It is interesting because there are very, very real ethical issues and his beliefs may
include those and they, as I said, are very real issues. Why can't he engage, as you suggest, in
that part of the conversation by suggesting what those ethical issues are?

JULIA: This is an ethically complex area, I don't think there would be any Australian that would
look at the area of stem cell research and not have some level of concerns. But people have to be
clear about what their perspective is. Tony's perspective is that this is just wrong and he is
entitled to believe that and I respect that. What he shouldn't then go on to do is use inflammatory
language in the debate which would mislead people on what the debate is truly about.

KIM: Julia, you have said he has a special responsibility to be fair and use correct language in
this discussion. Are you saying he is being irresponsible?

JULIA: Look, he isn't a backbencher. He is not just a bystander in this debate or someone who is
coming from the backbench with their unique views, he is actually the Minister for Health and this
is all about health. If the scientists are to be believed, and I think we should believe them, this
research is important to helping us to find cures for some of the diseases that harm people in our
society the most, whether it is Parkinson's or diabetes, things that really impact on people. So
with his responsibility as Minister for Health I think he really needs to be incredibly careful
about what he says. People will receive the information from him as if it is official information
rather than one man's view.

KIM: Are you then worried about debate on this issue? Because there are two private members' bills
that will be put forward is it going to be a fair debate, will they actually be able to be debated?

DAVID: It is interesting and further to that, one is being suggested by Kay Patterson, a Liberal
and the other by Senator Natasha Stott Despoja. What chances are there of those being heard and
considered equally?

JULIA: Yeah, we really don't know yet. I suspect, because the Government is in control of what
Parliament does with its time, I suspect the Government will give priority to Senator Kay
Patterson's Bill and that will be the one that comes before the Parliament. Now, it doesn't really
matter whose name is on the bill, I don't think, what matters is that it raises all of the issues
and we then have a very careful debate. I think the Parliament has shown it can deal with these
issues. We dealt with RU486 earlier in the year and that was complicated too and raised ethical
issues for people. But I think there is a responsibility to keep it calm and I suspect when the
debate is in Parliament people won't actually acquit that responsibility, we will hear some
inflammatory language and some silly statements...

KIM: There are often some silly things said in Parliament. A little whole ago there was a
particular comment about a grub. Do you remember that one?

JULIA: I do, I do.


DAVID: I think in truth you were being mentored by Tony Abbott.

JULIA: That's right, we sort of had a stand off about snivelling grubs and that might be part of
the Parliamentary exchange but hopefully when we are dealing with something serious we can be a bit
more serious about it.

DAVID: Do these things come back to haunt you? Let's refresh our memory, let's just have a look.

Julia Gillard: Mr Speaker, I move that that snivelling grub over there be not further heard.

Julia Gillard: If I have offended grubs I withdraw, unconditionally.


DAVID: That is going to come back to haunt you. Interesting that what you said there was exactly
what Tony Abbott said.

JULIA: That's right.

DAVID: But you were removed from the House because of it and he wasn't?

JULIA: Yes, I was making a point. Tony Abbott, had said that in anger, across the table. He had
actually moved a motion, that the snivelling grub over there be not further heard and the
Parliament passed it believe it or not, it is actually on the Hansard. So I was trying to make a
point this really wasn't appropriate and Tony Abbott really should have been removed from the
Chamber for that. So that's why I was looking down in that film clip because I was actually reading
the exact words, and I got tossed out for 24 hours...

KIM: You are a rebel, a rebel without a cause. Well, you did have a cause!

JULIA: Yes, about double standards.

DAVID: How does that work though, I mean, if he wasn't removed, why were you removed?

JULIA: Well, we are still trying to find out from the Speaker exactly why that was.

DAVID: Is that because the Speaker is Government appointed and therefore favourable to the
Government and unfavourable, if I can use that word, to all else, how does that work?

JULIA: The Speaker historically comes from the Government party and the current Speaker, David
Hawker does. Now, I don't want to say anything specific about David...

DAVID: Go on.

JULIA: We have had some issues about double standards...

KIM: But the Speaker is supposed to be impartial.

JULIA: He is supposed to be impartial and I think it is hard when people have come from one side of
politics to slip off the coat of being a Liberal or being a Labor person, if we were in Government,
to be independent.

KIM: Speaking of a potential Labor Government, one of the issues that you are really quite serious
about is, I was going to say reshuffling but really, completely changing the health portfolio so
that the Government and the States aren't actually throwing money into the same area.

JULIA: That's right. One of the big problems in our health system at the moment is that the
Commonwealth funds parts of it, the States run some of it and often there are big gaps and holes
between the two. A really good example of that is that the Government can under-fund aged care
which will mean frail aged people can end up in public hospital beds. Now, they don't need to be in
hospital beds, they need a residential aged care bed but there isn't one available for them. That
is bad for the person involved because there is nothing worse than being in hospital when you don't
need to be there and it is madness from the point of view of the system because hospital beds are
the most expensive thing in our health system and we want them for people who are acutely ill.

So what I have suggested is the next five year health agreements need to be about better
partnerships between the States and the Commonwealth but we should use those agreements as a way to
start talking about whether or not we need one health system funded federally which runs the lot.
Now, we have to have a real debate about that because it is complicated and the last thing any of
us would want is Canberra based bureaucrats running the local hospital down the end of your road
without knowing anything about it.

KIM: Yes.

JULIA: And that is a legitimate fear. So many of our public hospitals, indeed some of our private
hospitals, the not-for-profits, only get by because of local community support so we wouldn't want
to jeopardise that. But I think it is a debate this nation needs to have.

DAVID: What is the likelihood, you seem to have an ally in Tony Abbott, and he has expressed
support for a Federal takeover of the health system. He has even called the current system a 'dog's
breakfast' I think. So given that, given your support for it, will it be debated? Will it become an
issue, say for the next election?

JULIA: I think it will be an issue at the next election, the future of our health system. The
problem for Tony Abbott is he has said let's take over the public hospitals, the Federal Government
should takeover the public hospitals, but every time he has said it John Howard has come out and
contradicted him. So the Prime Minister is not going to let Tony Abbott go down that reform path.
Whereas on our side of politics we are prepared to have that debate, to have it with out State
Labor colleagues and in the community generally and work out what is the best way forward. We all
know our health system is going to be under increasing strain, ageing population, very expensive
new drugs, all of those kinds of things and we have got to make sure it is in the best possible
shape to deal with that strain.

DAVID: Just before we go, can I ask you for an honest yes/no answer to this question?

JULIA: This is going to be a hard question I can tell.

DAVID: Not a politician's answer. Is the ALP going to win the next election?

JULIA: I hope so.


DAVID: I tried.

JULIA: You never know until the day after Election Day who is going to win and who is going to lose
but I think the issues are certainly there and health is one of them, the industrial relations


JULIA: That is a big one and rising interest rates, particularly in my part of Melbourne is what
everybody is talking about.

KIM: If you lowered the fuel excise you would get a few more votes.

JULIA: Right, I will pass that onto Kim.


KIM: Excellent, thanks for that. Lovely to see you again, it is always a pleasure.

JULIA: Thank you.

DAVID: Speaking of Kim, he is on next week.

KIM: Fantastic, I'll look forward to that.