The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Peter Costello

Peter Costello

Treasurer

11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Transcript of 03/05/2006

Interview with Madonna King
ABC Radio Brisbane

Wednesday, 3 May 2006
8.35 am

SUBJECTS: Queensland health funding, GST, Budget, interest rates

KING:

Treasurer, you have got some idea to name and shame state governments that squander public health funding, what is behind this?

TREASURER:

Well as you know the Commonwealth Government helps states with health funding in two ways. First of all through the GST which Queensland gets the best deal out of out of all of the States of Australia and secondly with healthcare agreements which are monies given to the States in order to run the hospital system. Now, when you put the financial assistance together, it is billions of billions of dollars and what I think the Commonwealth increasingly will look to do is it will look to get outcomes, agreed outcomes from the States in the performance of their health systems in return for that money because

KING:

So you are talking about judging comparative performances of the States in spending federal grants.

TREASURER:

yes, basically, if you are getting $9 billion then we should be able to have certain performance indicators in the hospitals.

KING:

And what would happen if the Queensland Government wasn't able to perform in that way?

TREASURER:

Well, we would encourage them to perform and we would try and render them advice about what has worked in other States, try and give them assistance to improve accountability in relation to the money but the performance indicators would be for example in the number of patients treated, in the length of queues, in the treatment outcomes, that if you want to continue to receive $9 billion or so of federal funding you have got to meet performance indicators in the way a business for example would be asked to meet performance indicators.

KING:

Would you make that information public?

TREASURER:

Well, I think it would be useful information. I think the public would be quite interested to know what outcomes they are getting for these very vast amounts of money.

KING:

I can't help thinking from your responses that you think the Queensland Government has been a bit negligent in running the health system or in spending federal funds.

TREASURER:

Well, I am not singling anybody out in particular, I am just saying that the taxpayers of the country are investing huge amounts in state government grants which are being designed for good health systems.

KING:

And do you think Queensland taxpayers are getting their money's worth out of the Queensland Government in their delivery of health?

TREASURER:

Well, obviously there have been a few notable failures in the Queensland health system recently, that has been there for all to see. But what I want to make clear is that the best thing is to pick up these health systems, there is huge investment going in, the Federal investment in health is greater than it has ever been in Australian history and what would disappoint me is after investing all of that additional money in the system we are not actually getting better outcomes.

KING:

Will you increase health funding next Tuesday?

TREASURER:

Yes, health funding will be increased in the Federal Budget as we have done over every year of the last 10 years.

KING:

But in terms of delivery of services or research or

TREASURER:

Well, health funding will be increased in relation to the Medicare system, in relation to the hospital system, year after year more federal funds are delivered into these systems and more money is delivered to the States through the GST and healthcare grants. Now, the point I am making is there is no point delivering increasing amounts as we do without ensuring that it gets to the patients and we have got to make sure that it gets through the system and it gets into outcomes.

KING:

Do you think it is not perhaps getting to patients as much as it should now?

TREASURER:

Well, I want it to be delivered as effectively as possible.

KING:

And you think the Queensland Government is not delivering it as effectively as possible?

TREASURER:

Well, obviously the health system in Queensland has its problems and its problem is not a shortage of federal funds because Queensland is getting more GST and health grants than has ever been the case. Queensland does better out of GST than any other State.

KING:

Are other States delivering the better health system to taxpayers, do you think, than Queensland?

TREASURER:

Well as you look around the States, I would say that there is room for improvement in all of them but as I said earlier you would have to notice because of the inquiries that are going on in Queensland that Queensland has had trouble with its health system.

KING:

I understand also on health, you want doctors in private hospitals to be forced to give patients quotes on treatment costs and indeed I think private hospitals to ban doctors who don't. Is there a way that that can be enforceable?

TREASURER:

I think if you are going to hospital and you are having a procedure then you are entitled to know the cost and I think both the hospitals should outline the cost and the doctor. And of course if it is a standard procedure that goes according to plan they should be held to that cost. It is a bit like a quote in relation to a job. Now, doctors will say there are quite often unforseen consequences or complications arise, we all understand if complications arise that were not envisaged in the first place, they will have to do additional treatment and we understand that that will render further fees. But I do think that it would be in the patients' interests if they knew at the beginning of an operation in a private hospital the amount that they are going to be up for, I think the hospital should be able to tell them, you know, if you are staying so many days it is going to cost $X, and I think the hospitals do have the capacity to say to their doctors, in this hospital, if you want to use this hospital we would like you to give financial information to patients ahead of surgery.

KING:

All right, on another topic, interest rates go up in an hour, will it have a, there will be a decision I am sorry on whether interest rates go up in an hour, will it have a political impact on your government or indeed the Budget you are about to hand down if they do?

TREASURER:

Well I was going to say you must be a clairvoyant if

KING:

I wouldn't be in this job if I were.

TREASURER:

if you know what is going to happen in an hour. Look, the important thing when we put together the Budget, which is the premier economic statement of the Federal Government done on an annual basis, is that we put together a plan which will keep the Australian economy strong, people in jobs, businesses profitable

KING:

But will any change in interest rates impact on the Budget you are going to hand down?

TREASURER:

well the statement that we will put together will deal with the economic circumstances as we expect them to be over the next 12 months and that is the way we will be dealing with it.

KING:

All right, whatever tax cuts you have got in your back pocket you are going to be attacked for not conducting a bigger shake-up of the tax system that is happening already why forgo that opportunity you have got?

TREASURER:

Well, again as you say it is extraordinary isn't it, that people can apparently attack proposals they haven't seen

KING:

Are you flagging a bigger shake-up than we suspect?

TREASURER:

I think that the best thing is the Budget will be out next Tuesday, what ever we do or we don't do should be assessed after people see it and then we can have the commentary.

KING:

All right, this is your 11 th Budget, in terms of highlights, what has been the biggest in those 11 years?

TREASURER:

Well, I think the biggest change is of course when I began as Treasurer and I started doing Budgets, the critical Budget night disclosure was how big our deficit would be. The Labor deficits had been ranging from $10 billion per annum to $17 billion. The whole climate has now changed because we don't run deficits anymore.

KING:

So that is your biggest highlight in your 11 years, is there going to be a 12 th year, do you think?

TREASURER:

Well, in relation to changing the whole nature of the Commonwealth Government, the second thing that people also used to look at is how much had Labor run up debt and I think the greatest highlight over the last 10 years is not only have we not run up debt, but we have now repaid Labor's $96 billion of debt and that has been a very, very significant turn around for Australia.

KING:

All right, that is your biggest highlight in those 11 years in terms of delivering Budgets, is there going to be a 12 th ?

TREASURER:

Well, let's just deliver our 11 th Budget I think, as I said to you earlier, some people are apparently able to assess what we have done in this Budget before it is delivered and others want to know what is going to be done in the next Budget but the most important thing I think is to see what is delivered in this Budget.

KING:

All right, Treasurer Peter Costello, we hope to have you in to take listeners' calls next time you are in Queensland.

TREASURER:

Thank you very much Madonna, thank you.