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Transcript of doortop interview: Brisbane: 6 April 2006: Labor’s dental petition; mental health.\n

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Shadow Minister for Health Manager of Opposition Business


ISSUES: Labor’s Dental Petition, Mental Health

Julia Gillard: I am here in Wynnum today, in the federal electorate of Bonner, for two reasons. One is to launch Labor’s dental health petition.

I have just had the opportunity to look at this great facility here, with truly dedicated staff. But even with such dedicated staff, there are long waiting lists because there aren’t enough resources in dental health, and there aren’t enough fully trained staff.

Both of these issues are the responsibility of the Howard Government and after ten long years of the Howard Government we have got 650,000 Australians on dental waiting lists and we have got a shortage of dentists, dental technicians, dental hygienists, everything that makes this system work.

So Labor’s petition is about getting more resources into dental care. The Howard Government ripped $100 million dollars a year out of the system in 1996. That damage is showing and it is showing in huge waiting lists and in a prosperous nation like this one we certainly shouldn’t have 650 000 people waiting for dental care.

Secondly today, a day after Mr Howard’s mental health announcement, I am also here to call on the Howard government to clarify details of the mental health announcement.

Yesterday’s package was sketchy on details. We don’t know how the new Medicare arrangements for psychologists are going to be delivered, and we need to know.

And we also need to know what is going to happen to mental health workforce. We are short of mental health nurses, we have about 15,000 nurses in mental health in this country, about half of them are going to retire in the next four years.

The Howard Government yesterday announced another 400 places, but those 400 places can only be accessed by nurses if they pay full fees. Now it is going to be hard to get people to be mental health nurses if they have got to pay a fee

for the course but when they graduate they don’t earn significantly more money than they would of if they worked in the general nursing sector.

So Mr Howard has got to clarify what is going to happen with these 400 places and why is it, after ten years of this government we have got such a crisis in mental health and particularly in mental health workforce.

Journalist: Can I take you now to the issue of the schools hit list, is that gone?

Julia Gillard: When it comes to schools policy, what Kim Beazley is saying is that we want to have a policy that lifts every kid up, it doesn’t drag any kid down. We want kids across this country, whether they are in our big cities like Brisbane or in rural centres or outback settings. We want every kid to get the best possible education and the best possible start in life.

Journalist: Is this Kim Beazley’s attempt to wipe out Mark Latham’s policy here?

Julia Gillard: I think it is Kim Beazley saying he wants the best possible policy to make sure every child in this country is lifted up and every child in this country gets the best possible start in life.

Journalist: Has the new funding policy been discussed in the Labor ranks?

Julia Gillard: What Mr Beazley is saying today is that it is his aim to make sure every Australian child gets the best possible start in life, gets a lift in life. The details of those policies will be announced at the appropriate time. Those details aren’t being announced today.

Journalist: I have got a very sticky one for you, you are saying that you regret the comments you made about Kim Beazley’s leadership, especially AWB what do you say about that?

Julia Gillard: What I said yesterday is I was explaining the process of being on Australian Story. The process is one where you have a camera follow you around on and off for more than three months in my case and the process is one where you do more than five hours of interviews. In those interviews I did muse

about our question time strategy and I did say yesterday that was an inappropriate thing to do, obviously those things are best kept in house.

Journalist: Should Mr Beazley feel uncomfortable about you after this popularity poll?

Julia Gillard: (laughs) Certainly not, no.

Journalist: Are you comfortable with your relationship at the moment with Mr Beazley?

Julia Gillard: Absolutely.

Journalist: What about Medibank is there anything more you would like to say on that?

Julia Gillard: We remain concerned that the Howard Government’s sale of Medibank Private is going to be bad news for Australians with private health insurance. Premiums have already gone up a staggering 40 per cent since 2001. If Medibank Private is to be sold there is every chance the market is going to be less competitive. If the market is less competitive, that spells bad news for premiums which could escalate even more than that staggering 40 per cent in the future.

Journalist: Medicare Gold and the Tasmanian forest’s policy have been deemed turkey’s by Barry Jones as the most damaging policies of the last election, do you agree with that?

Julia Gillard: Well, Barry actually withdrew that description of Medicare Gold. Medicare Gold, at base was a policy to resolve a big structural problem in our health system. And that is on any given day acute hospital beds are used for frail elderly Australians who should be in nursing home care but can’t find a nursing home bed. The Howard Government acknowledged that problem and indeed the Howard Government’s own health expert, Andrew Podger, recommended a solution very like Medicare Gold to that problem. That problem still needs to be fixed in our health system. There is not just one way of fixing it and we will be looking for the best possible way but we do need to fix that problem so that acute hospital beds can be used for acutely ill people and nursing home beds are available for frail elderly Australians when they need them.

Journalist: So Medicare Gold is not gone…

Julia Gillard: The structural problems that we need to fix remain in our health system today. If that structural problem remains unaddressed by the Howard

Government then in Government, Labor will address that structural problem because it is bad news for everyone to have acute hospital beds used by people who would be far better off in nursing home care.

Contact: Kimberley Gardiner 0417 428 123