THE HON. CATHERINE KING MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE
MEMBER FOR BALLARAT
TUESDAY, 12 JUNE 2018
SUBJECT/S: MRI licenses, Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to hospitals, One Nation’s deals with Liberal Party
KYLE MCGINN MLC: Thanks everyone for coming down today, it’s massive news for the region – for Kalgoorlie. As you all know there’s been a lot of debate around the MRI machine here in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. WA Labor from a state perspective has made an election commitment to deliver the MRI machine here in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, and I’m ecstatic to announce that Catherine King, the Shadow Minister for Health, is here today to make a very positive announcement for the region. And without further ado I’d love to pass it over to Catherine King and thank her for coming out to make this very important announcement for the region.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE Thanks everyone for coming out today, and can I thank Kyle McGinn for hosting me here, and also to the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Hospital. We’ve just had a lovely tour through the emergency department, talked to emergency physicians here, talked to diagnostic imaging radiologists who are doing such vital work in this community and also had a look through the Commonwealth-funded dialysis unit which is providing terrific services here at the hospital.
When the Budget was handed down we were hoping the Government would finally end what has been a scandal in this country, where there have only been 4 full MRI licenses issued under the Abbott-Turnbull Government. Two of those occurred in the middle of the 2016 election cycle in Liberal Party seats in Victoria that the Government was trying to ensure that it won. MRI licenses should not be the subject of politics; they should have a proper process to determine where they are located on the basis of health care need. That is not what has happened in this country. So in the Budget Reply Bill Shorten announced that Labor will, if elected at the general election, provide 20 full MRI licenses across the country with the first ten of those to be in public hospitals.
I am very pleased today to be announcing the first of those will be here at Kalgoorlie Hospital. We had a major Senate inquiry looking at MRI licensing across the country, and Kalgoorlie came up as one of the significant areas of need in this country for MRI licensing. We are very pleased that the state Labor Government has in fact requested that federal Labor place one of the MRI licenses here. It backs in the commitment that they have made to fund the capital, the actual purchasing of the machine itself, but the MRI licence means that services can be billed to Medicare. The licence is attached to the hospital for the life of the hospital, and it certainly is an important part of ensuring that we provide proper, adequate diagnostic services here in this community.
We know MRIs are a very common diagnostic tool. We also know particularly for children they are a much better and appropriate tool for ensuring that children are not exposed substantially to radiation. In fact I think it was the Western Australian Cancer Council that submitted to the Senate inquiry that we know that we could pose a significant risk to children when we are using CT scanning as opposed to MRI scanning. So I am very pleased to make this announcement here today.
I also want to make some comments – I’ve seen some commentary in your newspapers over the course of the last few days around the fact that the One Nation Senator here in WA claims to have done a deal with the Liberal Government in Canberra around the $80 billion tax cuts. And then the Turnbull Government has agreed to do an MRI license and now is reneging on that. It is scandalous that anyone would think it is appropriate to buy a vote off a Senator in return for something that is critical for people’s health care needs. It is absolutely scandalous. Had there been a National Corruption Commission it is something that should be referred to them. Buying a vote for $80 billion worth of corporate tax cuts is shameful, I’ve never heard anything like it in my entire 17 years as a Member of Parliament. Frankly I think that anyone playing politics with the health of people here in this community should be ashamed of themselves. I think Brett is going to speak as a community member and someone who owns some dental practices here in Kalgoorlie, he is going to have a little bit to say about what this means as somebody who has lobbied for this, and I’m happy to take questions after that.
BRETT WILSON, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF GMF DENTAL CENTRE IN KALGOORLIE: Thank you Catherine and Kyle. As both Catherine and Kyle have mentioned the MRI machine is a huge win to have put into the Goldfields region. It is something that has been needed for quite some time and speaking as a community member and somebody heavily involved in the medical industry locally it is absolutely a huge win. It’s something that several people have lobbied for over the last 4 to 5 years and unsuccessfully to date, which just shows how Kyle’s connections and his persistence have really paid off and created a huge win for the local community. Thank you for standing up and recognising the important need.
REPORTER: What sort of funding commitment has been identified as being required? State Labor has offered I think $3 million but what sort of federal funding?
KING: So the capital has come from the state Government, then the recurrent billing that occurs through Medicare will come from the Commonwealth. So overall for the 20 MRI machines that we’ve announced across the country, that’s an $80 million commitment, and that’s an ongoing commitment for all the services that are provided here. In terms of our commitment it’s attached to the hospital but it’s also a requirement that the hospital bulk bill all patients who use the MRI and particularly outpatients. That means people won’t be paying a gap payment when they come here and are accessing the MRI. So it is Medicare recurrent funding that we are announcing here today.
MRI machines do require a licence in order to attract Medicare funding. And that’s really been a shame. Under Labor, when we were last in Government, we awarded over 230 MRI licenses across the country, there was a fair and transparent process in which communities were able to build the business case as to why they needed to get MRi licenses. There have been four awarded under the Liberals, two of which happened during the 2016 election campaign. We’re announcing that we will award another 20, the first one here.
REPORTER: Of the $80 million can you break that down to what it would be for Kalgoorlie?
KING: I’d have to go back and have a look but on average it’s around $1.6 million per machine, depends on the amount of services they do.
REPORTER: Given this is dependent on Labor being voted in, shouldn’t the Labor State Government also be lobbying hard for this to be implemented given how needed the equipment is if you don’t claim power at the next election?
KING: That’s really a matter for the Liberal Party. As I said I do think it is absolutely appalling that they think MRI licenses should be subject to the buying of votes over completely unrelated issues, particularly selling out working Australians, selling out our health and education systems in return for $80 billion worth of tax cuts – $17 billion of which goes to big banks, somehow thinking that that is appropriate when you’ve got a community in need here. I’d have to say that I’ve never heard from them. I’ve heard from Kyle, he’s absolutely lobbied federal Labor very heavily about this issue. I have never heard from the One Nation Senator on this issue at all. I’ve never in fact even met him.
REPORTER: Have you tried to reach out to Senator Georgiou?
KING: I think that would really be a matter for him. He has never reached out to me, has never come to ask federal Labor when we announced several weeks ago now that there would be MRI licenses across the country. He’s never lobbied me about that, never lobbied federal Labor as far as I know about that at all. I don’t know whether he’s submitted to the Senate inquiry, certainly this community was pretty vocal in that Senate inquiry about the need.
I hope that Labor is successful at the general election because we are the only political party that cares about Medicare, cares about health, and actually invests in the health of the nation. I’ve seen that here at this hospital with the money that was put into the dialysis unit here. Money has been cut from this hospital under the Turnbull Government, $77 million overall has been cut from Western Australian public hospitals. Labor’s the only party which invests in health. If you want your MRI here in Kalgoorlie vote Labor at the next federal election.
REPORTER: You mentioned that the community’s lobbied really hard, were you aware that there was also some private backers in the community who were looking to raise funds for an MRI machine for Kalgoorlie?
KING: I’m not aware of that. Again, this is one which is attached to the public hospital and I think that’s important. If other members of the community want to raise funds to assist with the capital purchase alongside the terrific work Kyle has done getting a commitment out of WA Labor then that’s always a good thing. I know many community members raise funds for their local public hospital because they know how important they are in communities like Kalgoorlie.