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

14 November 2012

Doorstop interview

Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane

Joint interview with
The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP
Minister for Health

SUBJECTS: Opening of the new Diamond Jubilee Ward at the Prince Charles Hospital; Queensland Government health funding cuts; Foreign investment; Royal Commission.

PLIBERSEK:

It's a great pleasure to be here at the Prince Charles Hospital with my friend and colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Wayne Swan, opening the new Diamond Jubilee Ward of the paediatric wing of the Children's Hospital.

This is a marvellous new facility, an investment of around $46 million from the Commonwealth Government and about $8 million from the State Government. It's going to provide fantastic services for people of the Northside. We know that no parent wants to take their kids to hospital, but if the kids are sick you do want a first-class facility like this one here.

It's a very important investment for a peace of mind in an area with a lot of young families. It is terrific to see such a beautiful newly built facility, but also more important is meeting with the staff, seeing their hard-work, their dedication and their commitment to their patients.

TREASURER:

Thanks very much Tanya. It's great to be here at Prince Charles. For many years this hospital has played a very essential role in our local community and the facilities that have been built up over the years are first-class.

This 20 bed paediatric ward is a first-class facility which is going to bring peace of mind to many Northside people, particularly those who have got kids and face the horror of something happening, they know they've got this first-class facility here.

So the Commonwealth has put substantial resources into this facility, and I said to the State Health Minister inside, unfortunately the State Government is sacking local health workers and taking away beds from this hospital, and most particularly, closing up to 140 beds at Eventide and sacking something like 90 staff. That's a withdrawal of state resources, while the Commonwealth is putting additional resources into health in Queensland.

What I said to the State Health Minister is this: the Northside community is not going to take these decisions lying down, we're not going to give up, and we're going to campaign against these decisions until they are changed in the interests of all Northside residents. Because the Commonwealth has a commitment to providing extra resources to the health system in Queensland, and Minister Plibersek and I will continue to do that, and we'll also challenge the State Government when they don't do the right thing and they haven't done the right thing here on the Northside with the closure of beds at Eventide and other beds here at Prince Charles.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible] … the forward estimates for aged care?

TREASURER:

Look, I know that there are a whole lot of figures being bandied around by the Queensland Government – let's make a couple of very important points. There's an additional $600 million under the current health agreement for the Queensland Government. That is an enormous amount of money and I'll throw to Minister Plibersek about that in a moment. And when it comes to aged care funding, we actually pay for the beds at Eventide, we actually pay for those, yet they are closing them anyway. So what you've got here is a decision by the Queensland Government to get out of aged care when the Commonwealth is already paying the bill. The Northside community won't take that decision lying down; we're going to campaign until it is changed. There is no peace of mind for a lot of local families who've got elderly relatives - not just at Eventide, but also at Ashworth House. So, these are very big issues and the Northside community is going to be out there campaigning until those unfair decisions are changed. But when it comes to all the funding, I'll throw to Minister Plibersek to give a bit more detail.

PLIBERSEK:

Thanks very much. I think the State Government here is being very disingenuous. What they're trying to do is divert attention from their own massive cuts to the health budget by suggesting that the Commonwealth Government is cutting funding. It is absolutely not right. Commonwealth funding increases every year. It will increase over the next four years by around 21 per cent. This is a huge extra investment in the Queensland State system at a time when the Queensland Government is cutting around a $1 billion from health funding. We know that over 4,100 workers have got the sack from the Queensland system. We know that beds are closing. We know that specialist services like pathology services and so on, have been defunded or closed. I think because the community response to these cuts has been so strong, the Queensland Government has been looking around for someone else to blame.

What's happened with Commonwealth funding is that there will be an increase every year for the next four years. Every year funding from the Commonwealth Government will increase to Queensland hospitals. The population growth in Queensland has not grown as quickly as was anticipated and health costs have not grown as quickly as anticipated. So yes the Queensland Government would like more, but they've signed up to a funding formula that will deliver increases every year for the next four years, in sharp contrast to their own cuts, their own funding cuts and their own services cuts.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, the Queensland Health Minister said, well he called on the union movement today to show that anger to take it away from his government and point it directly at your community cabinet today …

TREASURER:

Can I just say we welcome discussion about funding because we are providing very substantial funding increases to the health system in Queensland at the same time as the State Government, the Newman Government, is ripping money out. Now, that's just a fact of life. It mightn't be very comfortable for Mr Springborg, but they are pulling money out and the Commonwealth is putting additional money in. The unions know that, the community knows that.

I challenge anyone to walk down the street of the Northside here and talk to locals about what's going on in health facilities on the Northside. They know who's pulling the money out; they also know who's putting the money in. And the Commonwealth Government is putting in significant new resources into health in Queensland, and every step forward we take it is countered by the State Government pulling money out. The consequences has been the loss of something like 30 beds at this hospital here, and also the closure of facilities at Eventide and possibly at Ashworth House, and the sacking of literally of hundreds and hundreds of local health workers in my community. I'm going to stand up and fight for them, the Commonwealth Government is going to fight for them, because some of these decisions are unfair and unjust.

PLIBERSEK:

Can I just say another thing about the cuts. What you have here with the Queensland Government is until very recently they've been proud of these cuts. They've been going out and boasting about the fact that these cuts are necessary and they're necessary because they want to return the budget to surplus quickly. They've been out there saying that these are important cuts and had to be made. And then because the publicity has gone bad for them, they're looking around for someone else to blame. Not only have the Queensland Government been saying that these cuts are necessary and important, you've had Tony Abbott saying that they're necessary, Joe Hockey saying they're necessary, Andrew Robb saying they're necessary. You've had all of the Liberals down in Canberra saying how important it was. They've been saying more strength to Campbell Newman's right arm when it comes to health cuts. I think it's a bit rich now to go running from those decisions.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, on another issue. More allegations surfacing about the PM and getting brown paper bags full of cash.  Do you think there's anything in these allegations?

TREASURER:

There's absolutely no substance in any of these allegations. Deputy Leader Bishop is throwing mud at the Prime Minister all of the time. I don't know how low the Liberals can go, but the fact is that despite all of the mud that the Liberal Party is throwing at the Prime Minister she's going to get on and govern this country in the interests of all Australians and she will not be diverted by this mudslinging from the Federal Liberal Party.

JOURNALIST:

These allegations come out from people that were within the union movement -

TREASURER:

I'm sorry but you ought to have a close read of the articles. There is absolutely no substance in these allegations whatsoever. Deputy Liberal Leader Bishop is out there throwing this mud every day. The Prime Minister will not be diverted by this. She will govern and continue to govern in the interests of all Australians and all Queenslanders. And the fact is that whether you're looking at health and what we're doing to provide additional resources to the states, what we're doing in education, what we're going to do in terms of future education reform, the National Disability Insurance Scheme - these are the things that really matter to all Australians, and I think they're going to reject this campaign from the Liberals of throwing mud at the Prime Minister simply because they feel politically threatened.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, is it true that a Chinese conglomerate, Shanghai Zhongfu, has won the sole rights to develop 15,000 hectares of land in the (inaudible) -

TREASURER:

You'll have to ask the Western Australian Government, because that's a decision for the Western Australian Government, so you'd have to go and ask Colin Barnett what he has done.

JOURNALIST:

But there's been no Federal Government investment?

TREASURER:

At this stage a decision has been taken by the Western Australian Government. If it is going to progress there may well be some application that may come to the Foreign Investment Review Board, but at the moment this is a decision by the Western Australian Government.

JOURNALIST:

Do you believe that priests should break the seal of confessionals and go to the police if another priest confesses to them about child abuse?

TREASURER:

First of all, of the details of the Royal Commission will be worked through in cooperation with State Governments, stakeholders, a wide range of people in the community. But personally I believe that we should have full transparency when it comes to all of these matters. Child abuse is vile and anyone who has engaged in child abuse should feel the full force of the law.