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Transcript of interview with Steve Martin: ABC Goulburn Murray: 4 June 2018: Barnaby Joyce; rural health; Medicare; and GP home visiting services

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Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie Deputy Leader of The Nationals Minister for Rural Health Minister for Sport Minister for Regional Communications


ABC Goulburn Murray 4 June 2018 8:35am

STEVE MARTIN: Bridget McKenzie is The Nationals Senator for Victoria and Deputy Leader of The National Party and had been booked in to speak with Joseph Thomsen on ABC Goulburn Murray about some local sporting grants and getting more doctors and healthcare professionals into regional Australia and we will get to those topics I promise. However there are other things to talk about involving The Nationals which is primarily the interview last night between Barnaby Joyce the former Deputy Prime Minister and his new partner Vikki Campion. Senator Bridget McKenzie good morning to you.

BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Good morning how are you going?

MARTIN: I’m well thanks for your time this morning.

MCKENZIE: My absolute pleasure, Dubbo is a bit cold.

MARTIN: We will get to some of those issues you were booked to talk about with Joseph in just a moment but first up though I am interested in your reaction to that interview last night on Channel 7.

MCKENZIE: Look I didn’t get to see the interview I was out at a function with the local member Mark Coulton up here in Dubbo at The Commercial Hotel. But from what I have read in the papers, nothing new here. I don’t really have anything to add from obviously what has been reported yesterday.

MARTIN: OK as far as you’re concerned has Barnaby Joyce got a future in Parliament do you think?

MCKENZIE: Obviously he has a future in Parliament and ultimately that is up to him and the people of the New England.

MARTIN: What do you think about the public backlash about all of this Senator?

MCKENZIE: I think your listeners Steve have actually been pretty clear what they think about the issue and the level of interest it has garnered in the media. I think there are much more important things that politicians, and indeed if I may say the media, should be focussing on in terms of the public discussion around how we can deliver for Australians and the sorts of things they’re concerned about.

Today I will be with the Prime Minister here in Dubbo talking to NSW farmers about the drought. We are also talking about opening medical schools in the region to deliver more doctors and nurses. So I think if you get out into these country communities this is not even in the top ten issues that people want to talk to me about day in and day out.

MARTIN: OK while all the work that you have just mentioned goes on there are still questions about the culture of parliament. As part of that interview last night Vikki Campion apparently claimed that she was told by some conservatives within parliament that she should abort the child effectively. Are you aware or have you heard those conversations. Does that surprise you that those sorts of suggestions were being made? I wonder about this in terms of the culture within that building of our national leaders.

MCKENZIE: I haven’t heard any mention of any such conversations at all. So when I read the newspapers about that this morning obviously that’s news to me. And if you have questions around the veracity of that they obviously need to be directed to Vikki.

MARTIN: OK just finally on this they were quite defiant on the $150,000 that they were going to receive [inaudible].

MCKENZIE: Look I am on the public record. I think this is a personal matter. I think it is a different thing to being asked your view as a parliamentarian on policy issues or the going on in parliament. And politicians write memoirs etcetera so I don’t see this as any different it is a personal matter.

MARTIN: Alright let’s move on.

MCKENZIE: Yes Steve let’s, as everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

MARTIN: Regional doctors what is happening? The stronger rural health strategy in regional health, what are you doing?

MCKENZIE: It is quite a transformational package. A $550 million investment to really revitalise and ensure that those of us out in the regions have access to high quality domestically trained

doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. It is a really carefully calibrated suite of initiatives. Everything from training pathways to incentivising work programs and beyond to make sure we get those settings right. I think that for a long time governments of all ilk’s have tried to make sure that we get the settings right but we haven’t quite hit the mark. We have been incentivising doctors to practice in areas where there are plenty of doctors, areas like the Sunshine Coast. We have really addressed those issues and one of the key components is setting up the Murray Darling medical school network which is why I am up in Dubbo today to talk about the University of Sydney collaboration here in Dubbo. It is five end to end medical schools in the regions which really flip the training model for young medical graduates on its head. Traditionally you would enrol in a city university and you would be doing some of your practice throughout that period of time in regional Australia. What we are doing is embedding those young undergraduates in a regional community with a training pathway were they may have to go up to Sydney or Melbourne for very brief periods but they will be mainly studying in the regions. Because what the research shows us is that if you train in the regions you are much more likely to practice in the regions. So I am imagining, and I know that modelling shows, that we will have over 3000 additional doctors practicing in the regions over the next ten years as a result of these changes. And they won’t just be here in Dubbo they will be right throughout regional Australia.

MARTIN: Is this just about doctors or does it include other allied health professionals?

MCKENZIE: That is a really good question Steve because now to practice in a regional country town for instance it is important that your local GP has a multidisciplinary team around them. So we have actually incentivised GP practices in this package to hire nurses, nurse practitioners, allied health professionals, physios etcetera so your local GP doesn’t have to do it all and can actually have access to a suite of other professionals in regional communities so that you don’t have to travel to those larger capital cities around regional Victoria to get the work done.

MARTIN: How long do you think it is before listeners might start seeing a difference on the ground in their towns and in their communities?

MCKENZIE: Some of the measures start immediately and others like the Murray Darling Medical School Network we won’t be seeing the first graduates enter that scheme until 2021. So it is over the next ten years and I know for some that may seem like a long way away but there are measures that will be starting immediately and over the next year to assist particularly GP practices in the regions right now to get that extra allied health professional assistance that they need. So I am excited it is a great measure that is supported by the Rural Doctors Association, it is supported by the AMA and we are really excited about being able to have this once in a generation change in how we address access, particularly for those in the regions, to domestically trained doctors of high quality.

MARTIN: Senator while they will be trained in the regions and while research does show that if they have a good experience being trained in regional areas they tend to stay, there is still no obligation [inaudible]

MCKENZIE: We have bonded programs where people have a return of service obligation if you like and we have made changes to that particular program as well. What we were finding was that students were signing away and saying yes I will do six years in the regions, but then as life moved on and by the time they had graduated things had changed and they weren’t

able to, or didn’t want to, fulfil that obligation. So we have actually made changes to that bonded program making it much more flexible and narrowing it to three years so it is much more likely to be used by these medical graduates.

We have also got to make sure that there are places for them to go and I think that is where the partnerships with State governments are so important. We have made a really strong signal as a federal government by investing in some of the training pathways but we need state governments to do more so that those opportunities in our state funded hospitals in the regions are there for training and ongoing career opportunities for these young graduates who want to practice in the regions they’ve got to have a good career pathway to do so.

MARTIN: A question that has come in on the SMS Senator it says Ballard’s Home Doctor service shut down after federal government cuts to Medicare rebates. As the Minister for Rural Health do you see a need for GP home visiting service? What is your view on this Bridget McKenzie?

MCKENZIE: What the data shows is that we actually focused on the afterhours visitation and it was supposed to be for emergency care. What we were finding is that there are some models of care where people were actually booking in appointments for an emergency and that some doctors were actually using this particular program inappropriately. So we’ve targeted this program and made sure that it is going to be used as it was intended which was for emergency afterhours visits by GPs.

The other interesting thing that we were able to do in one of my other portfolio areas in the budget is sport. I am so lucky to be the Minister for Sport in the greatest sporting nation on earth. But really focused on the $230 million I was able to deliver with a focus on community infrastructure and community participation grants which will be rolling out over coming months. So I encourage everyone, not just in Ballarat, but right throughout regional Victoria who is listening today in the Goulburn Murray and beyond to look out for that because I know we have a tsunami of interest, particularly from young girls on the back of AFLW, Southern Stars in cricket even our netballers, flooding into our local clubs and we need to make sure they have got the facilities available there to encourage those young women to continue to participate. So I have backing that in in the budget which is fantastic.

And just finally in regional communications my other portfolio we have got a review being conducted right now. The first hearings are in Darwin this week and it is an independent statutory review into regional communications. And I am really hoping this review can focus on what’s next in terms of making sure that those of us who live out in the regions have access to 21st century technology to make sure we can grow our local economies and have access to the health and education services we need. So if your listeners are interested in getting involved I know there will be hearings in Victoria. It is an independent review so I can’t tell you but I will give you the website that your listeners will be able to engage with

MARTIN: Senator we will have to leave it there we have to move on, but thank you for your time this morning. Senator Bridget McKenzie, Bendigo based Deputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Rural Health, Minister for Sport and Minister for Regional Communications as well, and in Dubbo at the moment.


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