The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

24 August 2012

Joint Doorstop

Joint interview with
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Minister for Health

SUBJECTS: $45 million investment in children's health services in Brisbane, Queensland Govt cuts to flu vaccines for health workers, Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne's negativity, cuts to Queensland budget by Campbell Newman, RBA Governor before the House Economics Committee, Olympic Dam, Nauru, Clive Palmer no longer running for preselection for the LNP

MINISTER PLIBERSEK:

We've had a terrific opportunity looking at this beautiful new facility over the last little while and we've met some local kids as well who tell us that although they don't intend on using this service they're very glad that it's here and such a beautiful service to use.

This is an investment of over $45 million from the Commonwealth Government - $45.6 million in these new paediatric emergency services. That means kids who have an accident or who become suddenly sick, whose parents are very worried can come to a facility that's purpose built for them. It means that they don't have to use emergency services that are built for adults which can be very frightening and very intimidating when you're a small child and very sick.

When you see inside this facility you'll see that it is absolutely child friendly. It is built to serve the needs of local children. We expect that over the next two years you'll see around 20,000 admissions to this facility. The facility has 70 staff, 12 emergency bays, 20 short-stay paediatric beds and an eight room specialist outpatient's service as well. It's a fine new facility for an area with a growing populating of young families.

Like we say with all children's hospital facilities – we truly hope that children don't need to use them. But of course we know that there will always be kids who need these sorts of services and when they do, they need to be absolutely the best services available. So this beautiful new facility I hope will make a great contribution to this local area in years to come.

I want to say a little bit more generally about health services in Queensland. This new $45.6 million contribution from the Commonwealth Government to the health of the patients of Queensland is part of $13.5 billion that the Commonwealth Government will put into the Queensland health system through the National Health Reform agreement.

$13.5 billion that will support extra investment just like this one, building new hospitals, renovating and upgrading existing facilities, improving GP services, improving after-hours access to GPs, extra workforce measures, helping with the targets that the Queensland Government has agreed to for faster turn-around through emergency services and faster turnaround of elective surgery too.

This $13.5 billion is invested by the Commonwealth Government because we care about the health of patients in Queensland. That's why it's been so very distressing in recent weeks to hear about constant cuts from the Queensland Government to the Queensland health system.

We've heard just yesterday that health workers will be missing out on vital flu vaccination. We know that Queensland has had a very bad flu season. We've seen some very tragic consequences with previously healthy people ending up in hospital in very bad conditions and one of the best protections against spreading the flu is people being immunised themselves.

Health workers in Queensland started out with a flu immunisation rate of around 26 per cent and because of the central flu vaccination program that rate's up to 60 per cent. That's really important for the health of those workers themselves because of course they can be exposed to people who are sick with flu at any time.

But it's so important for the health of patients as well. Health workers who contract flu can be carrying the virus for several days before they notice any serious symptoms and in that time of course can be spreading the virus. So it's a great thing for health workers to be immunised.

The cuts that Campbell Newman has made to flu vaccine for health workers in Queensland seriously endangers the health of those patients of health workers. But that's not the only cut. We've seen cuts to breast screen services, we've seen a threat of $80 million cut out of Brisbane Metro North. 30 beds out of this very hospital - cut. I think it's so important that as the Commonwealth Government puts extra resources into Queensland, the Queensland Government also does its share for the patients of Queensland.

I think the Treasurer may want to say a few words too.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Tanya. It's great to be here not just as the local member but also as a member of the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation Board. For a long time I've been associated with the excellent work that is done at this hospital. And I'm really proud of this new facility that we've been looking at today. I think it's going to give local families an enormous amount of piece of mind to know that they've got such an excellent facility should something happen unexpectedly to their kids. I expect that this will be used extensively unfortunately over time but local families will know that they can continue to get here first-class health care and that's what's really important.

As Tanya was saying before it is indeed unfortunate that we see the Newman Government taking the axe to health services in Queensland. Axing something like 30 beds here at the Prince Charles, but also axing that support for the hospital workforce the Minister was talking about before, that is indeed unfortunate.

What Queenslanders are now seeing is a bit of a preview to what an Abbott Government would be like when it comes not just to health but also education. The Newman Government said that people have nothing to fear from it when it comes to public services and of course after the election we've seen very big cuts particularly in health and they are here at this local hospital.

I'd just also like to say a couple of other things about the political debate that we've had this week. Yesterday the Prime Minister attended a full press conference and for well over one hour answered every question that was put to her by the press gallery about a range of matters.

Now this morning one of Tony Abbott's goons, Mr Pyne went out and said that the Prime Minister still had further questions to answer despite doing a press conference yesterday for one hour and taking every single question. This morning on breakfast television Mr Abbott said that he hadn't bothered to read what the Prime Minister had said yesterday in answer to all of the questions that the Opposition says that she should be answering.

So Mr Abbott has had a shocking week. The truth is that the Opposition, Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne are just associating themselves with the muckrakers that are out there because what they're really interested in is destructive negativity, they simply want to tear everything down. They're not really interested in the national interest.

We saw this again during the week with Olympic Dam. Mr Abbott was forced to admit that he had not read the statement from BHP while standing up and claiming that BHP had said it had something to do with carbon pricing and mining taxes. We all know it had nothing to do with those matters, the BHP statement said so. But he said on national television that it did and then of course the next day told a huge porky to try and get out of that mess. And on top of that we had the statement from Mr Abbott earlier this week that he'd thought that the public schools in our community got too much support and that was a fundamental injustice. Now if you put those three things together it tells you something about Mr Abbott's character and I think it tells you that he is unfit for high office.

Over to you

JOURNALIST:

Back to the Queensland cuts. It seems as though Clive Palmer has set up what he's called the ‘Hope Fund' of thousands of dollars to public servants, for counselling. Is he going to become Queensland's messiah?

TREASURER:

I'm tempted to say he's just a naughty boy but the fact is that there are savage cuts working their way through the Queensland community when Mr Newman and his government said that Queenslanders had nothing to fear and in particular people who provided public services such as health and education had nothing to fear.

What we've seen since then is statements that they intend to cut the public sector workforce by 20,000, 25,000. A statement about 4,000 when it comes to the health workforce. What that means is savage cuts to services in local communities and we're beginning to see those now – 30 beds here at this hospital.

We've seen the cuts to the skills program, those cuts impacting some of the most vulnerable people in our community. So I think Queenslanders are right to conclude that the Newman Government has been less than honest about its intentions. I think that they are right to conclude that the sort of approach we're seeing here in Queensland is exactly what they'll see in full-force from Tony Abbott and the Liberals in Canberra who've got a $70 billion hole in their budget bottom line, which can only be filled by massive cuts to health and education services.

JOURNALIST:

The head of the RBA is answering questions about the Securency scandal today. Do you have faith in him?

TREASURER:

I certainly do. I do have faith in the integrity of the Governor of the Reserve Bank. He's a first-class public servant. He has made a comprehensive statement about all of these matters. I made a statement about these matters in the Parliament yesterday and he is appearing before the committee as he should.

These are serious matters which do deserve to be thoroughly investigated. That is what the Reserve Bank has been doing and the accountability mechanism through the committee today is entirely the appropriate course of action.

JOURNALIST:

When did you first hear about the allegations? Who told you?

TREASURER:

I heard about them when I was informed by the Governor of the Reserve Bank about all of these issues.

JOURNALIST:

What impact do you think the shelving of the Olympic Dam project places on the budget?

TREASURER:

Can I just make a couple of points about the Olympic Dam project. Australia has an investment pipeline in resources of half a trillion dollars, half a trillion dollars. It's a very long pipeline and in that pipeline there was no accounting for Olympic Dam. Olympic Dam was a project with a long-life which the company was looking at for the long-term.

It's sad for South Australia that they have shelved that project and we certainly hope that BHP at some stage in the future can get cracking on the project. As BHP said yesterday, there have been changes in the international environment that influenced their decision, including the cost of capital.

The most important thing that Australians need to understand and know is that the advanced pipeline of projects in resources is at the level of $270 billion. That is going to continue for a long time to come. That pipeline will be there creating wealth and in the future creating exports for Australia and we will see an export boom that will follow this investment boom. It's sad that one project has not gone ahead because of those international circumstances but we shouldn't ignore that fact that many projects are currently being bought and will produce a stream of income for our country for a long time to come.

JOURNALIST:

(inaudible) a $10 billion budget hole in a softening of commodity prices. How do you intend to make that up?

TREASURER:

Well first things first. I wouldn't take that figure as being gospel. The fact is that when commodity prices come down that will have some impact on our budget. In terms of our budget estimates we have already budgeted for commodity prices to come off. The fact is we have reached the peak of our terms of trade and we are forecast for terms of trade to come down over time, that is already in our figuring. It's far too early to be drawing any conclusions about impacts on revenue from spot prices of iron ore or coal that you are seeing in the markets on a daily basis. We shouldn't be doing that.

JOURNALIST:

Bob Carr says he'll be spending Foreign Aid money on community services in Nauru and PNG but not on detention facilities. Should that money be going elsewhere?

TREASURER:

We are looking at all of the costs associated with the establishment of the detention centres off-shore. We will account for all of that when we bring down our mid-year budget update, which will be at the end of the year and we'll be able to talk about that in greater detail then.

JOURNALIST:

Do you know when we will have people in Nauru?

TREASURER:

We're trying to make sure that we have people there as quickly as we possibly can. Which is why the military has been there in the past week and have only just returned yesterday or the day before. We're working on this as quickly as we possibly can.

JOURNALIST:

Just back to Mr Palmer. Are you surprised in the way that he's not running for LNP preselection anymore?

TREASURER:

He's run away with his tail between his legs, hasn't he, Mr Palmer. He announced he was going to run in Lilley, he put up a whole lot of billboards, the locals around here would have seen the billboards and the big billboard of Clive standing there with his hands out like this. Mr Abbott in that hand, Mr Newman in that hand.

JOURNALIST:

Back to the flu. There's a shortage of (inaudible) flu stock in the state. Do you think that the Federal Government can help out with those stocks?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK:

We are confident that if there are shortages of particular types of flu vaccines if the Queensland Government contacts the Federal Government we should be able to help them with any shortages. The thing I really want to say particularly about the flu shots for health workers though is that this is an incredibly important measure for the health of the workers themselves. But it has much broader implications for the health system.

If we have health workers who are off sick, they are not able to look after patients and if we have health workers who contract flu and don't know about it for the first few days they can spread that virus without meaning to, around to their patients many of whom have already compromised immune systems, for the very reason they're in hospital, because they're not well.

It is an incredibly short sighted measure by the Queensland Government and it fits with a whole range of other incredibly short sighted measures that will have big effects for Queensland health patients.