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Budget 2018: transcript of interview with Steve Price: 2GB: health budget, pension loan scheme, new hospitals agreement

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

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health


9 May 2018



Topics: Health Budget; Pension Loan Scheme; New hospitals agreement

STEVE PRICE: One of the biggest announcements in last night’s budget was money for health. The 2018/19 Budget is really putting the asset on this argument from Labor, the Mediscare argument of the last campaign. There will be a $12.4 billion increase in the health budget and $414.5 billion investment in health, aged care and sport. The Health Minister Greg Hunt joins us on the line. Thanks for your time.

GREG HUNT: And good evening Steve.

STEVE PRICE: Can we afford it?

GREG HUNT: Yes we can because all up as a country we’ve got a much stronger economy and that actually allows us to deliver these essential services and get back to surplus as well as to deliver the tax cuts and the tax reliefs. So they’re the big three things; the services, the surplus and the tax cuts and the tax relief.

STEVE PRICE: The states agreement, you’ve still got South Australia and Queensland, is that right, holding out, what happens to them in terms of funding?

GREG HUNT: So two states still to go and it's Victoria and Queensland actually...


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

GREG HUNT: And what I think is that it looks like one of them - I won't give it away - is preparing to sign on and then the other one everyone says will sign on after their state election if not earlier. We've provisioned the funding for them and if they sign on they get the funding and obviously in the end we expect everybody to sign on but we've added an extra $30 billion for hospital funding over the period 2020 to 2025 and it's there in the Budget, long term budgeted, funded and what that means is more services for people who want to go to their hospitals.

STEVE PRICE: Yeah, I don't expect you to give away which state it is but there's a November state election happening in Victoria and I wouldn't want to be a state premier or state health minister going into a state election saying, well, we may not be able to fund hospitals because Canberra won't give us the money and then Canberra says well that's because you haven't signed the agreement.

GREG HUNT: Oh look it's a case of, every other state has said, wow this is a great deal. An extra $30 billion. If Victoria doesn't seem to be very interested at this point, Queensland is much more interested and they are being very constructive I've got to say. So at the end of the day I think we’ll end up getting all of the states and that- we don't need all of the states to sign on because for New South Wales they've signed on, they'll get their funds, for Tassi or for South Australia, Western Australia, ACT, Northern Territory, three Liberal, three Labor.

STEVE PRICE: To your broader package, I'm very taken with the longer life package that you announced. Parts of it are complicated but I think the underlying message of it will resonate. You’ve recognised that a big bubble of baby boomers is coming through Australia.

There's going to be a large number of Australians close to retirement or getting toward retirement. There’s going to be a lot more pressure on the aged care sector. Can I ask you a couple of things about that? You’ve put in the Budget an additional 14,000 high level home care package packages, that's in addition to I think 20,000 that you'd already funded. That doesn't sound like a lot but is it?

GREG HUNT: Yes it is. So what you see is there’s very significant growth. More people are getting older but more people want to stay at home and get their treatment at home if they are starting to lose mobility or the capacity to take care of themselves than to go into a residential place. So what you'll see is that there’s very, very significant growth across all of the home care packages.

We’ll end up going from 111,000 packages this year, which itself is up from 87 last year, to 151 in just four years. So overall an increase of growth of 40,000. Twenty you were right, were already provisioned to grow, and then we've added 6000 in December, 14,000 overnight. Basically what does it mean? It means a lot more high care packages for people who want to remain at home rather than to go into residential care.

STEVE PRICE: I know every circumstance is different but can you give me a typical example of how that works for somebody. Do they have someone come and cook for them a couple of times a week, do they get nursing care?

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

GREG HUNT: Yeah, no I think if you're at the lower levels of care you might have somebody who comes in to help you cook or to clean. If you're at the high care levels you may need somebody to help you out of bed, to wash you, to help you if you're in a wheelchair, you might have somebody who's got very, very serious incapacity.

They'll help with the movement of the body. You can imagine as people age in some cases they're fortunate and they'll keep their mobility. My mother-in-law is 86 and she lives at our house and she points out she does more around the house than I do.

But other people can be the same age and they'll need assistance in their own home and then others will really have huge mobility needs, they basically need to be supported but they prefer to be at home and we want to give them that choice. That's the big thing. If you're living longer we want to give you that choice whether you stay at home or if you go into residential care.

STEVE PRICE: We're talking to Health Minister Greg Hunt. I tried to explain to my mother yesterday this scheme to give people greater flexibility to use the equity they might have in the family home to not have to move into a retirement village.

This is where you can draw down 150 per cent if you are eligible to the pension and it then is charged back at interest rate of around five per cent and you can then use that money to provide care for yourself at home. How exactly does that work and do you have to be on the full age pension to qualify?

GREG HUNT: No. So it's pretty simple but it's not widely known and it's one of these programs we want to promote. So it's called the Pension Loan Scheme. Until now it's only been those who were on part pensions who could access it, not those on a full pension, not those who are superannuants, it was only those in the middle. Now it's 100 per cent of people over the age of 65. So everybody over the age of 65 can access it.

What will happen here is instead of taking out a mortgage you're effectively just taking a loan against your home where the Government will pay you, they’ll top you up all your pension or the equivalent it up to $907 per fortnight, and what does that mean? It means that you'll have that funding and then either when you sell your home or if somebody passes away they’ll take it from the estate and it will be paid back to the Government. So it's a loan which takes the form of a fortnightly top up.

STEVE PRICE: So it is a reverse mortgage scheme really?

GREG HUNT: It's similar to but you don't actually take out the mortgage. So you don't have to put a mortgage over your own home. It's a loan against the value of your house and if you're saying look I've got all this equity, I don't want to sell my house, I don't want to mortgage the house, but I'm willing to have a loan go against the house and that allows me for the next five years to live a lot better quality of life than would otherwise be the case.

STEVE PRICE: I think you really have to get out there and sell that because there is inbuilt inherent suspicion among older Australians, I think, about letting someone chip away at their one last remaining tax free asset if they're on a full pension.

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

GREG HUNT: Well it's entirely voluntary and so it's really a response to the request and the demand from some to say well can we top up our fortnightly funds for cost of living purposes, if we're willing to do that and say that instead of, you know, at the end of our time, handing over $400,000 in equity with the estate, we hand over 350,000.

But in the meantime we've had a significantly better five years then that's the choice we want to give people. So that's all. We want to give them that choice and I think that could make a real difference.

STEVE PRICE: I do too. I like it a lot. Forty million dollars to support aged care providers in regional, rural and remote Australia. This is for urgent building and maintenance work. Does that mean you’re going into the business of building nursing homes?

GREG HUNT: No, what we're doing is we're actually supporting the nursing home owners. A lot of the time they don't have the capital, they have less flexibility in...

STEVE PRICE: Aren’t they rolling in dough though?

GREG HUNT: No. The margins in this sector are in many cases very tight, particularly in a lot of the not-for-profit rural homes. They're not charging extra fees in many cases...

STEVE PRICE: So run by churches...

GREG HUNT: Yeah and what they want is to give people in towns such as Bunyip, for example, which is a case I know quite well, the ability to stay in their own town, their own community and not to have to move away from that community. You know, it's stressful, it's immensely stressful going into residential care. Even though the care can be fantastic, there’s a sense severe isolation, of what does this mean for me. And if you can be near the family, near the friends and that can make a huge difference.

STEVE PRICE: One last one from me. We're going to need to talk again because this is such a huge portfolio you’re now running...


STEVE PRICE: And I know Ken Wyatt’s going to be largely in charge of this - but this idea that you're going to have an aged care quality and safety commission which is going to keep an eye on standards inside nursing homes. That's a very big and very difficult job. Are you convinced you’ve resourced that well enough? You put $50 million, I think an additional $50 million in there, is it possible to keep an eye on every aged care facility in the country to make sure they're doing the right thing?

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

GREG HUNT: Yes it is and yes we have to. So this is a genuinely tough cop on the beat who’ll oversee spot checks of nursing homes as well as organised checks. So sometimes you know they're coming and everybody does the right thing. But what we want to do is have an increasing number of spot checks. So you’ll never know when the cop on the beat will turn up and that will be an important discipline. We saw the tragedy of the South Australian Labor Government...

STEVE PRICE: Disgraceful.

GREG HUNT: …Oakden home. We just said, well, it was a state Labor nursing home, it’s not acceptable on our watch. We just have to have a tough cop on the beat so as this can never happen again.

STEVE PRICE: Good luck with that. I think that’s a really important move. Thanks very much for your time, we’ll talk again.

GREG HUNT: Thanks Steve.