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Budget 2011: Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Melbourne: 13 May 2011: mental health; Qantas; Budget 201112; the Greens; Sydney Harbour Bridge; Bob McMullan

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Transcript of joint doorstop interview, Melbourne FRI 13 MAY 2011

Prime Minister

Subject(s): Mental health; Qantas; Budget 2011­12; The Greens; Sydney Harbour Bridge;  Bob McMullan 

PM: Well I’m very much enjoying my visit to this headspace in Sunshine. I’m joined today by Professor Pat McGorry, who probably needs no introducing, but has been so important to ensuring that there are these kind of facilities around Australia for our young people.

I’m also joined by the Minster for Mental Health, Mark Butler, and by Bill Shorten who’s here in his capacity as local Member. So we’ve much enjoyed the visit here today.

On Tuesday when the Government announced the budget we announced a $2.2 billion mental health package. As we’ve made clear it’s been a pretty tough budget, there are cutbacks in the budget and we’re absolutely determined to get the budget back to surplus by 2012-13 as promised.

But even in a tough budget we wanted to make available money for those things that we really value, and believe are of incredible importance to the community. As I said when I was with Pat earlier this week, I grew up the daughter of a psychiatric nurse and I did, through his

eyes, have some understanding of the state of our mental health system then. It was a mental health system that was changing from being a very closed in system to one which was engaging more with the community. And then of course since my father’s retired, change has continued to happen very rapidly and Professor Pat McGorry has been one of the leading Australians driving that change. And now we understand that if you can reach out to the community, if you can have people come in to a space where they feel comfortable like this one, if we can have them access services early then that can make a real difference to them and their lives. And through Pat’s work we know that there’s no more important time to reach out and offer a service to someone that when they’re young, it’s when people are young that they are most likely to actually confront some of the most serious mental health conditions, but Pat’s work has shown that we can make a difference if we are there helping people and helping them early.

So headspace is about having a good opportunity to get involved and get a service, somewhere where young people feel comfortable, somewhere where they can get a range of services rather than getting referred all around town to get the services they need.

Here at this headspace in Sunshine today I’ve met with young people who have told me stories about their own mental health conditions and about how they got the service they

needed here. They found out through school, they found out through school, they found out through the local public hospital, they found out through friends that this service was available here and everyone of them has talked about how much of a difference it’s made.

I’ve also had the opportunity to meet some great ambassadors for headspace, young people who have used the service and who are now supporting the service by being a young person’s reference group, so a service for young people can also be capturing the ideas of young people about how to get better.

I’m very pleased that in our mental health package from Tuesday night’s budget, that we are expanding the number of these services around the country from 30 to 90 and we are also expanding the number of EPPICs services which are there for young people who have some of the more profound conditions.

I’ll turn now to the Minister for Mental Health Mark Butler to say a few words, and then to Professor McGorry, and we’ll just at this stage if people have questions on mental health, and then when we’ve taken those questions we might ask Professor McGorry to step to one side and we’ll take questions for the day.

MINISTER BUTLER:Well thank for Prime Minister and thank you Professor McGorry for being with us here this morning. Melbourne’s west really is the birthplace of this type of innovative mental health service that’s been pioneered by Professor McGorry and was a centrepiece of the mental health package released in this week’s budget. As the Prime Minister has said, we are scaling up headspace services across the country in exactly the way that headspace has asked us to do. We’re also significantly increasing the resources provided to each and every headspace service around the country so they can do more, provide more services, innovate more, reach out to schools and other places where young people

congregate to provide an even better service to young people.

Mental illness is quite unique among major health conditions facing this country in the sense that it doesn’t emerge in middle age or older age as most do, it emerges in youth. So, we need to find services that young people feel comfortable reaching out to, and this has been the wonderful thing that Professor McGorry, headspace itself and others have been working on

for some years now and I’m just wonderfully proud of the fact that youth mental health services like this were at the centre of this week’s budget so over to Professor McGorry but thank you very much to headspace for having us here today and for the work that you’ve been doing now for some years.

PROFESSOR MCGORRY: This is a fabulous Australian story, it’s absolutely terrific to see the Prime Minister here today listening to the stories of the young people and one of the things we had to overcome in developing this whole area, which was a missing stream of care in our health system, was a sense of confidence that if we did actually put the right times of services on deck and provide timely treatment, timely help for young people, they could actually respond and their own resilience would come to the fore and we heard some wonderful stories this morning about that.

So this is a fabulous team effort, it’s a great Australian story, and it’s going to make a very big difference. Also in much broader ways it’s going to strengthen our country because it’s going to mean because it’s going to mean that young people can rightfully take their place in the workforce, and contribute to the strength and productivity of the country because as the Minister just said, the big thing about mental health is that it does strike people in the most productive years of life, and we’ve just accepted that until recently, we’ve just been happy to

sit by and watch that happen, but now I think we’re seeing Australia, of all the countries in the world, is really showing the way in how that could be turned around and I think other countries are going to be looking to us for the results of this program. So I’m very, very grateful that we’ve received such tremendous support and I’d like to acknowledge all my colleagues and all the young people and everyone involved with headspace and EPPIC and Origin for making these things possible.

We’ve got a big job ahead of us, we’ve got to make sure the implementation of these decisions made by the Government this week is done in a very effective way, I think that these are precious dollars as the Prime Minister said, they’ve been hard won, we’ve got to make sure the implementation phase is done right just the way headspace is does right in the last three or four years. We’ve got 30 of them already scaled up in a very short space of time, working very well, they can really hit their straps now and they can be backed up what’s absolutely essential which is the effective rollout of the EPPIC program to back them up as the Prime Minister pointed out too.

That will really transform mental healthcare in Australia, and shrink the number of people who do end up socially excluded and marginalised around the country, and it’s really the antidote to failed deinstitutionalisation I think, we’ve really worked it out now and we’ve got to get on with the job.

So thank you very much.

PM: Thanks Pat.

Thank you very much, you would have heard me all week that the budget’s been about jobs and opportunity as well as getting the budget back into black, it’s also been about the things that we most value and it’s a pleasure to join everybody here today - an example of the kind of service we most value and the kind of service Australians need available to them and we’ve heard some great stories.

So very happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister how much of this is actually new money, the Coalition says once you break it all down it’s only about $600 million in new expenditure, how much is it?

PM: Well you wouldn’t want to believe some of the figures you get from the Opposition, if you ever a figure, which is a hard thing to do, but I’ll get Mark Butler to go through every dollar and cent for you.

MINISTER BUTLER: This package is $2.2 billion over five years - more than $1.5 billion announced in this week’s budget and more than $600 million announced over the course of the last 12 months. Of that, that is all new money. There are some redirects incorporated in that $2.2 billion amounting to $580 million, particularly recalibrating the rebate general practitioners get for consults within Better Access. So, from now on they will get a rebate which reflects the standard consults in Medicare, which are time-based, plus a premium of 27 per cent for the fact that this is a mental health consult and not a standard consult.

So, there are significant redirections in the Better Access program, those redirections are based on an evaluation of the program that was received by the Government a couple of months ago and has been endorsed by a number of organisations including the Australian

General Practice Network, Consumers Health Forum, Professor McGorry, and a number of others have endorsed that as a proper redirection of funds to areas of need.

So it’s $2.2 billion of new measures, partly funded through a redirection of $580 million but otherwise all new money. That is in stark contrast to Tony Abbott’s health policy last year which was entirely funded through trashing health reform measures that included the e-health record, better primary care infrastructure for local communities, more targeted funding

arrangements for our hospital system instead of continuing to send states a blank cheque, and the after hours GP hotline. Now, Tony Abbott would have us believe last year that you could either have health reform or you could have mental health reform. What we’ve shown this week with our package is that you can have both and you should have both.

PM: Thank you very much.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister is the West a priority area for the rollout of these mental health services considering the disadvantage?

PM: Well we’re standing here in one great service and obviously the services are going to be allocated to areas of need. As I know from my capacity as local Member Melbourne’s West is growing and so it’s a great place to meet a lot of young people and we do have to keep up with that growth with services, but in terms of selections of the sites I’ll turn to Mark to explain in detail how that’ll be done.

MINISTER BUTLER:Thank you Prime Minister. headspace is an independent company with 5 owners if you like - Orygen, which is the organisation that Professor McGorry has headed up for some time, the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, APS, the Psychological Society and the General Practice Network. It has a board, it is independent from Government and it takes applications, if you like, from local communities around

questions like need. I can tell you when headspace board Members go to Parliament House, they are mobbed by local Members of Parliament of all parties because their communities are telling them that they need a headspace service in their community, so this will be an orderly process.

It is deliberately at arms length from Government so that local communities, GPs, mental health professionals, youth mental health services, can make an evidence-based application to the headspace board about their degree of need.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that Qantas’ move to set up a business offshore might be a way to get around local industrial conditions?

PM: Well the Fair Work is the right system for Australia, it’s of course overwhelmed the great disadvantage that Tony Abbott’s Workchoices brought to working people in this country. Tony Abbott is fond now of talking about peoples’ cost of living, well when he was a Minister of course peoples’ cost of living was under assault because they didn’t know week to week whether or not their pay packet would be the same, or they’d get ripped off by Tony Abbott’s Workchoices.

So we’ve done the right thing by getting rid of Work Choices and creating the Fair Work system, it enables people to bargain, and to get the terms and conditions that best meet the needs of their business.

We want to see Australian jobs growing and they are growing, we’ve created 750,000 jobs since we were elected with half a million more to come in the next couple of years, so a strong record of jobs growth.

I certainly don’t want to see any Australian jobs not continue in this country and we work with businesses to try and maximise Australian employment and I think having created 750,000 we’ve got a pretty good track record on doing it.

JOURNALIST: Is it the right thing to do though to establish yourself in Singapore so you don’t have to pay your pilots and crew and everybody else, it’s an Australian company and Australian conditions which it looks like Qantas is doing?

PM: Well I’m not going to comment on one business’ decision, what I am going to say is of course, as Prime Minister, I want to see people properly paid and properly rewarded for the work they do, that’s why I got rid of Work Choices and created the Fair Work system, so that could happen.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s demanding an early election, Bob Brown said this morning that there will be no early election. Do the Greens have the power to dictate when an election will be?

PM: Well you’re referring to Tony Abbott’s statements during his budget reply speech last night. What the Australian people saw last night was 30 minutes of the mindless negativity that Tony Abbott has become known for. Just 30 minutes of absolutely mindless negativity. I mean this is getting to the stage where it’s almost a national joke, if I announce today it’s Friday, I anticipate Tony Abbott will ricocheting around the country saying ‘no that’s not true.’

I mean that’s all we heard from Mr Abbott, just negativity, mindless negativity.

But it’s not funny because of the serious side, and the serious side is Mr Abbott did not step up and explain his approach to the Government’s budget surplus. He’s still a risk to that budget surplus and if he puts that budget surplus in risk, that’s the same as just stomping down on the accelerator for peoples’ cost of living.

So Mr Abbot, even though he failed to do it last night, needs to explain to the Australian people does he support the budget coming back to surplus? Is he going to support the Government’s savings to get that done? Or is he going to be a risk to the budget surplus, a risk to the economy, a risk to jobs and a risk to peoples’ cost of living?

JOURNALIST: Do the Greens have the power to (inaudible)

PM: This parliament will go full term. I will decide when the election will be, and it will be in 2013.

JOURNALIST: Ms Gillard, the Greens, you’ll have to negotiate with the Greens to get your Budget through. Are there any non-negotiables from your side of the fence? Company tax cuts?

PM: You’re question is predicated on assuming gross irresponsibility from Tony Abbott. Now, I can understand why you’d make that assumption, given his track record, but first and foremost Mr Abbott has to answer the question he absolutely failed to answer last night.

I mean, he basically walked into the parliament last night and said ‘I don’t want to talk about the Budget, I’m not going to talk about any Budget legislation, I’m not going to say anything about that, I’m just going to complain and moan for 30 minutes.’ That’s what he did.

Well, that’s not good enough. He’s putting himself forward to Australians to be considered as Prime Minister. Well, if you want to be Prime Minister you’ve got to make the Budget add up.

In terms of the Government’s Budget legislation, the voice we’ve got to hear first is Tony Abbott’s voice. You’ve heard from the Government. You know we’re trying to achieve a Budget surplus in 2012-13. We need Tony Abbott, who’s asking the Australian people to consider him as an alternate Prime Minister to say does he support getting that surplus and the Government’s savings measures? Until we hear from him, I’m not going to be diverted

into discussion about the Greens or the crossbenches. This weight is on his shoulders - is he a risk to the Budget, a risk to jobs, a risk to the economy and a risk to people’s cost of living?

JOURNALIST: Will you guarantee that your set top box scheme won’t end up being like other schemes, and why won’t your population strategy have a target for (inaudible)

PM: Well, I’ll take those questions in turn, and thank you for the opportunity to explain what’s happening with the set top box arrangements, which I don’t think have been very well explained in the media to date.

This is a program to make sure that some of our poorest and most disadvantaged Australians don’t wake up the day after the switchover to digital TV with a blank screen in front of them.

For many of those Australians who aren’t very mobile, who don’t get to go out very much, the TV is their companion. It’s very important to how they live their lives, and I know that Mr Hockey has been tossing his head and sceptical about all of this. Well, do Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey really want thousands of the poorest and most disadvantaged Australians to wake up with no TV service; to take away from them that very small pleasure in life? We’ll, we’ve-

JOURNALIST: -The question, though, is about (inaudible)-

PM: -And I’m coming to the question. Well, it starts with, do you want to do it? What are your values? Do you care about poor and disadvantaged people? We do. We care about their access to TV. That’s why we’ve got the program. Ask him the question - does Mr Abbott care about those poor and disadvantaged Australians?

So, step one: let’s get the answer to that.

Step two, then let’s talk about the mechanics of the scheme. The $350 is there to fund a quality set top box that is suitable for people who aren’t good with technology and may have disabilities to use. That is, it is not the cheapest set top box on the market, and deliberately so. It’s the set top box that will meet the needs of these Australians.

The $350 also pays for its installation - someone to come, put it in, make sure it’s working and explain how it works to the pensioner in the home.

It also comes with Centrelink reaching out to pensioners. We don’t want them just waking up the next day after digital TV going ‘what’s happened to my TV screen?’, reaching out to

them, explaining digital TV, explaining the need for a set top box, and then getting them in the program.

And it comes with a full 12 months of support, so that if something goes wrong and the pensioner who’s not understanding what’s happened with the set top box can get the support they need to make sure they’ve continuing access to TV. That’s what the $350 is for.

So, anybody who’s just out there comparing this with the price of walking into an electronics store and buying a set top box is not understanding the scheme and not putting a fair comparison out.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask, PM, the Greens have suggested a $2 million pay cap for chief executives as a condition of getting through your exec pay reforms Bill - through the lower House yesterday, it’s up to the Senate. Do you think that’s in any way reasonable?

PM: We’ve got our own approach to executive pay, and we’ll be sticking with it, which is we want shareholders to have more say on the pay of executives. We think that’s important. We also think it’s important that executive pay in this country is internationally competitive. We want to make sure we’ve got the best and brightest here in Australia running businesses in this country.

So, the Government will be sticking with its approach.

JOURNALIST: $2 million doesn’t seem to be internationally competitive. (inaudible)

PM: We’ve got our own approach and we’ll stick with it.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how concerned are you about the incident on Sydney Harbour Bridge this morning, and is a national security concern?

PM: Look, I’m not aware of the incident on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I’ve been in transit before I came here, so we’ll get back to you on that.

JOURNALIST: You haven’t been briefed on the Sydney Harbour Bridge-

PM: -I’ve come here straight from the airport and been here for the hour, as you’ve seen, walking around, talking to young people, so we’ll get back to you on that.

JOURNALIST: Why have you sent Bob McMullan to be on the European Board of Reconstruction, or the Bank, sorry, of Reconstruction, a body you said you were going to abolish?

PM: Because Bob McMullan is a quality person. He left politics with an incredibly high reputation. He served this nation ably in very senior portfolios, including as Minister for Trade, and the Bank has gone under considerable restructuring and refocussing since the days of our earlier criticism.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, Premier Ted Ballieu has labelled the Budget as a disappointment to Victoria, particularly because of the deferrals in the infrastructure program, including the upgrade of the Princes Highway. What’s your response to his-

PM: -Well, what I would say to Premier Baillieu and to people around the country is we did work with State governments to agree the deferral of some infrastructure in order to free up the money we needed to engage in flood recovery, including here in Victoria. We needed to free up resources so that we could re-build the nation.

We also need to make sure that we weren’t trying to roll out so much infrastructure at the same time that there weren’t enough people around to build it and to get it done. That is, we didn’t want to put price pressures on infrastructure.

So, we needed to resequence in order to have money to rebuild from the floods. We needed to resequence so that we could get the job done at a value for money price. That was the right thing to do.

In doing that resequencing, we went to governments like the Victorian State Government and asked them to work with us and to agree what could be resequenced, and Premier Baillieu and his people were directly involved in that process.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) your population strategy doesn’t have any target (inaudible) why not?

PM: Well, my concern as Prime Minister is to make sure that we have a sustainable Australia, where community by community we are doing the right thing to meet people’s needs. There are many parts of our country that want to grow; many regional centres that want to grow, and a big part of the Budget on Tuesday night has been investing in the things they need to help growth, to make that they’ve got a better quality of life. I’ve been to any number of regional centres where I’ve met great people like the local doctor, who have said to me ‘I love it here, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to stay when my kids are older because I’m not sure whether they can get the high school they need or university place if I stay in regional Australia. I’m not sure I’d be able to healthcare they need.’

So, our more than $4 billion of investments in regional Australia in this Budget were about making sure we are improving the quality of regional Australia - fantastic place to live now, a better place to live in the future, and I don’t want the first port of call for migrants to our country to always be the growing suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne. We want people to go to our regions where there are job opportunities, particularly in the resources boom, and that’s why we’ve created more places for immigrants to go to regional Australia.

And then we know a lot of people are on the roads, because they’ve got to travel a long way to get from home to work. My electorate is a classic for that - people travelling from Werribee a long way to work because there aren’t the job opportunities locally. Through a $100 million scheme we will be working to help create local job opportunities.

That’s my vision of sustainable Australia.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)-

PM: -Well, I’ve just explained to you - it’s not about figures, it’s about working with communities in exactly the way I’ve explained.

Last question.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) rising price of houses, what would you consider to be a household income that makes you well off?

PM: Well, you’re making some assumptions from things you’ve read in the media, and let me just debunk a number of those assumptions. I think Australians at all sorts of income levels feel cost of living pressures on their shoulders. I think Australians whose households earn $150,000 a year feel those pressures on their shoulders too, which is why I’ve been so determined to deliver a Budget in surplus, because that’s the right thing to do by the cost of living pressures for those Australians, to get-

JOURNALIST: -(inaudible)

PM: Well, I’m answering your questions, and I’ll finish the answer, thanks.

So, on those Australians, $150,000 a year, there’s been a lot of publicity about it. The right thing to do for those Australians was to bring the Budget back to surplus in 2012-13, to not risk us adding to inflationary pressures, to not risk us adding more cost of living pressures on their shoulders, and we’ve done it.

And I think those families who do face cost of living pressures want to know a number of things. They want to know that they’re going to get decent support when they’ve got their chid in childcare. We’ve increased childcare support from the days of the Howard Government, increased it profoundly - from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. They want to know their child’s going to a great school, and we’ve increased resources and driven reforms in schools so they’re a better place. They want to know that their young person can get an apprenticeship, and we’ve increased supports for apprenticeships and they are at record levels. They might want to know that they’re kids are going to get a place in university. We’ve increased support in universities and they are growing and offering increased support in universities and they are growing and offering more places for young Australians.

And I suspect they want to know if someone in their family had a mental health issue that there would be services available for them.

So, in this Budget, we’ve made choices, and I’m happy to be judged by the choices I’ve made, like investing in services like this one. We’ve had to make cuts, too. That’s the responsible thing to do, and we’ve changed our family payment arrangements, which mean two per cent of families will lose payments - two per cent.

The rate of fortnightly payment for support for children will continue to grow, and two percent of families will lose payments. I’m happy to be judged on the facts of this, not the rhetorical flourishes that we are seeing around the place.

And can I conclude by saying the OECD has launched another of its reports. The OECD , of course, does very important work comparing circumstances in different countries, and what it’s concluded in its report today is under the Labor Government, the Federal Labor Government, people are getting to keep more of what they earn and they are surrendering less of their money to Government.

I would suggest that people have a good look at that OECD report. This is important information for people to consider.

Thanks very much.