PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 7 FEBRUARY 2018
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Well reports this morning of Malcolm Turnbull’s secret pre-budget deal on our public hospital is bad news for patients across the country. Be in no doubt this is a dud deal. It is a dud deal for the states, it is a dud deal for our public hospitals and it’s a dud deal for every Australian who uses our public hospital system. Malcolm Turnbull’s secret pre-budget deal locks in seven years of cuts to our public hospitals. We know that Malcolm Turnbull is not that much interested in public hospitals, he’s been too busy giving big business corporate tax cuts, rather than properly funding our health system. Now I don’t know if Malcolm Turnbull or Greg Hunt has had a family member be in a public hospital of late, but I can tell you our public hospitals are absolutely stretched. Our emergency departments are absolutely stretched to the maximum. Our doctors, our nurses are all telling this government that they need more funding in our public hospitals. This deal does nothing to deal with the growing demand in our public hospital system. The emergency department waiting list or elective surgery its a deal the states should reject, and I think the fact that Malcolm Turnbull has secretly tried to get this through the COAG agenda on Friday, says everything about their priorities when it comes to public hospitals. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Do you not think that its perhaps a good thing that they’re starting negotiations early, we’ve still got two years on the current deal.
KING: Of course they should be starting negotiations early, what we said very, very clearly, was that this needed to be a much more public discussion. If you want to get public hospital reform, if we want to get significant improvement in our elective surgery and emergency departments, we actually need to do what Labor did when we were in government. Actually have an independent look at how we reform our public hospitals and how we properly fund them. Under this government, the Commonwealth share of public hospital funding is in decline. Now what we know is that this deal, this deal would be worse than what Tony Abbott was offering in 2014. It locks in massive cuts to our public hospitals, and if Greg Hunt and Malcolm Turnbull think that is good enough, then they clearly have not sat in an emergency department waiting room, talking to public patients.
REPORTER: The level of federal funding at 45%, I think for the entire duration, should the federal government be stumping up more than that?
KING: Well if you remember in government, we did a deal – a 10 year deal – with the states and territories, to lock in funding at 50% of growth and the efficient price of activity in public hospitals. We also during the election campaign promised that to 2020. With the view that we would have an independent health reform commission work publicly to actually develop a new agreement with states and territories, that actually looked at reform in public hospitals but also increases in Commonwealth funding. What this government has done is cut additional funding that was designed specifically to get elective surgery and emergency department waiting lists down. They have not offered any extra money on the table to try and deal with that and if anything, the policies in their other areas – the freeze on the Medicare Benefit Schedule rebate, their attacks on after hours services – all of those things are set to drive more patients into our emergency departments.
REPORTER: Where would Labor find the money to boost the Commonwealth’s share?
KING: Well obviously we did that during the election campaign and we will have more to say on public hospitals in the lead up to the election itself. But what this does show is Malcolm Turnbull is more interested in talking about the profits of private health insurers than he is of properly funding our public hospitals system.
REPORTER: New Year, you look like you might have some solid goals for the year?
KING: Obviously I do, my goal for the year is to defend our public health system against the cuts of Malcolm Turnbull. And to make sure we hold this government to account every single day for the decisions they are making that are affecting patients across the country. I will be prosecuting that case every single day up until the next election as well as developing new policy proposals, as you’ve seen we have announced two already. Private health insurance affordability, trying to make sure we stand up to private health insurers and attack some of the excess profits that they’ve been making in the interest of Australian consumers. The other is that we make a fantastic announcement yesterday about 12 million dollars to ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is an insidious disease in our community and its time we actually acted to make sure that we get the rates of ovarian cancer down in this country. And we have lots more to say about health in the coming months.
REPORTER: Just one last question on a side issue, if Labor does decide to oppose the Adani project, could they put together a jobs package for Queensland that could satisfy Queensland voters?
KING: Well look, I’m obviously not here to announce Labor party policy, but I think it is fair to say that we are increasingly sceptical about the Adani project, particularly given some of the reports around the environmental evidence to date. And we’ll have a lot more to say about that.
REPORTER: Just another issue, have you seen the front page of the Daily Telegraph today?
KING: Look I have, I wouldn’t comment on something that is a private and personal matter and it is obviously something very difficult for the family and the people involved. Thank you.