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Transcript of doorstop interview: Naccho Conference, Darwin: 6 November 2019: New funding model for Indigenous health; Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund; illness outbreak

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Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Cabinet


06 November 2019



Topics: New funding model for Indigenous health; Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund; Illness outbreak.

GREG HUNT: It’s just a privilege to be here at the NACCHO Conference with Donnella, with Pat, with Senator Sam McMahon.

We’ve made an announcement today of a new funding model agreed by and with NACCHO and Indigenous Australia.

They've had deep input. They went through an early draft and had a huge involvement in redrafting, redesigning.

And I'm delighted that we'll be adding an additional $90 million to help produce better Indigenous health outcomes. That will be supporting our Aboriginal community controlled health organisations, our Aboriginal medical services, 145 of them around the country.

And in particular, it will help as we pursue the goals of ending avoidable Indigenous blindness, avoidable Indigenous deafness and ending rheumatic heart disease and making a difference (inaudible) Donnella, you want to say a couple of words and then?

DONNELLA MILLS: Yes. Just as- as the Acting Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, we really welcome this announcement.

And I just want to make particular mention with Minister Hunt that we've really moved forward on building a genuine partnership.

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.

What we know as Aboriginal and Torres Islander peoples, we are the experts in delivering comprehensive primary health care to our people.

So I look forward to continuing to work with the Australian Government. And again, we welcome this announcement. Pat?

PAT TURNER: Yes. Look, this is a great announcement. We all know that Indigenous health is a really big issue here in the Northern Territory.

We all know that there's lots of work that can be done to close the gap and to improve outcomes. Here, we have a Minister and the Prime Minister that are really committed to Indigenous health, and welfare, and wellbeing, and to improving outcomes.

So I'm really pleased that this has happened here today and that we've got this fantastic announcement.

GREG HUNT: Great. Happy to take any questions.

JOURNALIST: Minister, can you talk us through the major enhancements to the way the funding is distributed? What are the changes that the organisations will see?

GREG HUNT: So firstly, it's a three-year funding. Secondly, there's a guarantee that every organisation will maintain its existing funding and then that additional funding will be based on a combination of need, cost, and complexity.

And so it's been designed by and with the Aboriginal community controlled health organisations and services.

And thirdly, the other element that’s there, which is really important, is the indexation of wages. And it's a fair point to ask whether that should or shouldn't have been built in previously, but it will be now.

JOURNALIST: Labor has brought up, I suppose, questions about the timing of these Ministerial visits the past few days, because there's a public inquiry on- or a Senate inquiry on in Darwin. Was it timed to match with that?

GREG HUNT: No. This conference was established by NACCHO, their time, their watch.

And I, in fact, adjusted my diary to be here for their conference. And so sort of a little bit embarrassing, I think, for them to be trying to downplay a really important health breakthrough. And as Donnella said, a health partnership.

The timing was set, as it should have been, by Indigenous Australia for Indigenous Australia. And I was privileged to join them on their time, on their watch as part of their conference.

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.

JOURNALIST: How committed is the Coalition Government to developing Northern Australia? I mean it was- it’s been, you know, years since they- Tony Abbott first announced the White Paper into Developing Northern Australia.

The rhetoric gets brought up election after election, but really is there- is there much of a difference being made on the ground in regional and especially north Australia?

GREG HUNT: Look, I think the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund has very real possibilities. One of the things which is available under that- we might well be able to support some of the very services that we outlined today.

So the physical infrastructure for Aboriginal community controlled health services does qualify under the NAIF, and that could make a real difference.

Sam, you’ve been very involved in northern development, your thoughts?

SAM MCMAHON: Yeah. I mean, look, it has been slower to be rolled out and it has been slower in uptake than we would have liked. And you possibly heard Minister Canavan say that yesterday.

But he and the Coalition Government and myself are very committed to making sure that that gets rolled out.

And not only the NAIF, but some other infrastructure, other things such as health infrastructure. We are very committed to making sure that that northern Australia is taken care of.

GREG HUNT: Okay. Thank you. So look, ultimately, today is about saving lives and protecting lives in Indigenous Australia, and a partnership that we hope will last the next 20 years. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Minister, what are you doing- what’s the Government doing to address the sickness outbreak that has now seen more than three-hundred to three-thousand people affected from Queensland right the way through to Western Australia?

GREG HUNT: So the Chief Medical Officer has led discussions and led talks with states on- and the territories on precisely that issue.

So we've been investing additional funds. The Chief Medical Officer is leading a coordinated national plan with the states and territories on that issue.

And then the third element of course is the AMS, the Aboriginal Medical Services, and their capacity to make that impact on the ground.

JOURNALIST: Does there need to be a national centre for disease control, do you think?

GREG HUNT: Well I think what we do have, which is run out of the Health Department, is precisely that.

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.

We have a national approach to disease coordination and emergency management, which comes from the Federal Health Department, it's actually embedded within.

JOURNALIST: Was the Government too slow to act on this issue given that that outbreak started in Queensland I think right back in 2014, perhaps even earlier?


Look, we’ve stepped in because some of the states and territories have not done their work. So primarily, the population health control responsibilities rests with the states and territories.

But where there is an issue, which comes because in some cases they may not have stepped up, then it's our time and our turn and our watch, and we’ll deal with that.

JOURNALIST: Any state and territory in particular that dropped the ball on this one?


Oh, I think this was most significantly the issue in Queensland. They were notified, they were warned, and they were very slow to act. Okay, thank you very much.

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