Interview on 6PR with Oliver Peterson
Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's interview on 6PR with Oliver Peterson regarding the Health Budget.
The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Minister for Health
9 May 2018
Topics: Health Budget; High Court decision
Good afternoon Minister.
And good afternoon, Ollie.
Alright. We will talk health in just a moment. But do you think Bill Shorten has egg on his face after those comments? He repeatedly made them last year that all Labor MPs were okay with their citizenship and look what’s happened today.
Absolutely. We said it was bogus then and it’s been shown to be bogus now. So it was obvious then that they had a group of MPs, including Josh Wilson from Fremantle, who were going to fall afoul of the High Court. Those positions were very obvious.
We could have saved time and money by having all of these by-elections at the same time. But most importantly, it goes to Mr Shorten’s integrity. He was willing to make a pledge that he knew he couldn’t stand by, and if he does that over the status of the people he knows absolutely best, you can imagine you wouldn’t put a lot faith in the other pledges that he makes.
Well obviously, John Alexander, your colleague and your National colleague there in the Coalition, Barnaby Joyce, had to roll the dice and recontest their seats. They won those. They did the right thing, the proper thing last year when they found out their citizenship was coming into question.
This just makes a mess of all of that, and now to have four MPs for the Labor Party to have to go and recontest whether or not they’re eligible or not to sit in the Australian Parliament and ask the electorate to vote for them, well there’ll be a few frustrated voters I imagine, Minister.
I can understand. If I were a voter in Fremantle or Perth, I’d be wondering, well why am I being made to do this now? I mean, our focus is the Budget and how it improves the lives of Australians, but if you’re in one of those seats or elsewhere in the country, you’d be thinking: well, this could have been avoided if they’d been upfront, honest and honourable.
But right now, that will be a matter for the electors of those seats. For us, it's all about the Budget, the impact in mental health funding, in aged care funding, the $5 billion which is going into that, and respecting older Australians.
Well let's get to that now. The health budget, of course, as you said, in particular those two focuses, and I read a quote of yours ‘saving lives and protecting lives’. Let's start with mental health first of all, Minister. What's been promised in that portfolio and to the various organisations and associations that are assisting with mental health?
So, $338 million of additional funding for mental health, and it's such an unimaginably important area. The first of the areas that we're working on is suicide prevention funding for Lifeline, $33 million. And $37 million dollars for beyondblue to expand a program called The Way Back, which is about helping people who are discharged from hospital after a suicide attempt or after having been in with suicidal thoughts, or the belief that they might attempt suicide.
And it’s monitoring them, it's supporting them at their absolutely most vulnerable time. $100 million for aged care, for supporting seniors in an area which hasn't been as well supported as it could have been over decades and it’s a personal passion to deal with this.
$80 million of that will go into residential care, nursing homes and other forms of residential care, to provide mental health support, and $20 million will go into support within the community, mental health nurses.
And then a 10-year, $125 million Million Minds mental health research program. So the biggest most significant mental health research program in Australian history, which is about giving access to and treatment to, over the course of a decade, a million people who would otherwise not have had proper treatment.
Now, let's talk about the in-home care packages, an additional 14,000 new home care packages for senior Australians has been included in the Budget of a cost of $1.6 billion. Obviously, home care is the preference here of many of our listeners, but does that put you at odds with the aged care industry?
If anybody is trying to move out of their house into aged care facilities, are we going to see plenty of aged care facilities that have unoccupied beds or they're going to struggle to continue to operate because they're not going to see the number of patients or customers really coming into their doors, they’re going to stay home for a bit longer?
No. What we see is because we've done the work with the Australian people to build a strong economy we're able to support all of the different elements of aged care. So 13,500 new residential aged care places. So exactly what you're asking about, and 14,000 new at-home places.
So, you bring the two together and what we're doing is giving people choice. Most Australians, if they can, would overwhelmingly prefer to stay in their own home and what we're particularly focusing on is the higher levels of care in your own home. So many people don't face this until either themselves or a parent is facing the challenges of aging.
You can get the care in your own home or you can get the care, the higher needs care, in a residential facility. Each of those is growing significantly every year and we've funded 13,500 new residential care places in the aged care facilities, and all up, over the last few months, 20,000 new high-level home care packages, which is 6000 in December and another 14,000 last night.
I see as well you announced new medical schools in New South Wales and Victoria. Will this go towards solving the so-called shortage of GPs Australia-wide?
Yes. So it's actually a rural health strategy and it's about teaching, training and attraction of doctors and nurses to the regions. All up, about 3000 new doctors and 3000 nurses are expected to be added to regional Australia, and that's great for Western Australia. It's great for every part of the country in the regional areas.
There's a new incentive for doctors from around the country, the doctors in the city, who don't have access to bill Medicare. They're going through their careers, but they’re not on a formal specialist pathway.
If they go under the More Doctors for Rural Australia Program, you’ll have Aussie-trained doctors in the bush , 3000 extra doctors, 3000 extra nurses, entirely of their own volition. So, they get to choose whether they go, but we’ve got great incentive packages to give them career progression and better incomes.
Any changes to Medicare, Minister?
No. Well, that’s not quite right, I apologise. No changes that are other than positive because what we see is that there are new tests for cystic fibrosis that will help 7000 families get screening. There are new tests for prostate cancer and mammograms for breast cancer, which will help 26,000 males and over 200,000 women. So, they are new additions to the Medicare system which are incredibly good. But Medicare goes up every year. It goes from $25, to $26, to $27, to $29 billion a year over the course of the Budget.
If you could describe your health budget this afternoon in just a couple of words, Greg Hunt, what would those words be?
Saving lives and protecting lives.
Alright. There you go. You've nailed the soundbite this afternoon, Minister. I think that many are indicating that this is a Budget that is trying to really, I guess, massage the electorate here that we might be headed towards a poll.
Any indication that we might be about to cast a few votes and whether or not we decide to return the government to another term in office, or whether we change the stripes? Is that what you're preparing us for?
No. Every discussion I've been part of is about us being a full-term government and that's my understanding and expectation. I suspect that that's the expectation that pretty much all of your listeners would have and in particular would want us to have. Our job is to govern and that's what we're doing and to be able to do things such as to list a new $700 million dollar breast cancer drug, which will help thousands of women have better treatment, lifesaving or life preserving treatment.
You know, I love this job and this work. We all get to have the opportunity to do something that will help patients, help people in the community, and gee you wouldn't want to try to walk away from those responsibilities and those opportunities.
Greg Hunt, appreciate your time on Perth Live this afternoon. Thank you very much.
Thanks a lot. Cheers.