Interview with David Speers on Sky News

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's interview with David Speers on Sky News speaking about Medicinal cannabis; the Government's commitment to strong national security; Women’s World Cup bid in 2023 and the Clean Energy Target.

Page last updated: 14 June 2017

PDF printable version of Interview with David Speers on Sky News (PDF 278 KB)

13 June 2017

E&OE…

Topics: Medicinal cannabis; Coalition’s commitment to strong national security; Women’s World Cup bid in 2023; Clean Energy Target

DAVID SPEERS:
With me now is the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt. Thank you for your time this afternoon.

GREG HUNT:
It’s a pleasure.

DAVID SPEERS:
So we’ve spoken about this before, this issue. Remind us what’s wrong with the idea of terminally ill patients being able to bring in cannabis for medicinal purposes?

GREG HUNT:
Well, at present they already have that capacity, but the important thing is it has safeguards that were agreed upon by the Parliament last year, safeguards that include protections of quality and ensuring that there is no security risk in terms of large quantities which could be trafficked.

That advice was given to the Senate only very recently by the head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Professor John Skerritt.

What has happened today is that the Labor Party, along with some of the crossbench and the Greens, have removed the protections.

So the advice of the TGA, but also the view presented by the doctors, the AMA, the College of GPs, even Palliative Care Australia, is that this is a dangerous step because the quality of what can now come in is no longer regulated.

The TGA advised the Senate that people could not just have health issues, but could suffer catastrophic outcomes as a result.

DAVID SPEERS:
So, to be clear, there’s no regulation at all around what can be brought in?

GREG HUNT:
No, what has to happen is that there is simply a prescription by a doctor. At the moment, you can have a prescription by a doctor which then gets …

DAVID SPEERS:
So you need a prescription, but the actual cannabis you’re bringing in is not tested, looked at, or …

GREG HUNT:
No. So unlike virtually any other medicine under this new category , category A, this one is not subject to quality, it’s not subject to testing, it’s not something we support and it’s not something that groups such as Palliative Care Australia support, because it is dangerous and unregulated.

The evidence from California is of deaths from the type of product which could be brought in. Part of our job as the regulators of medicine in Australia is to ensure there’s access, but, above all else, to ensure there’s safety, and both of those things are present now.

DAVID SPEERS:
So what’s the danger here? I mean, how dangerous could cannabis be that a terminally ill patient with a prescription has gone to find overseas?

GREG HUNT:
Well, the head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration gave evidence to the Senate of deaths overseas. And what does that mean?

It means that this cannabis could not only hurt the patient, but could be shared with other people because it can also come in, in large quantities.

DAVID SPEERS:
So, what, you could bring it in and share it with other terminally ill patients?

GREG HUNT:
Well, what the TGA and what the authorities have pointed out, and indeed, the medical bodies have pointed out, is the quality isn’t there, but nor are the safeguards, and it could easily be shared with other people.

You could have not just health impacts, but, as we have seen overseas, the very product which is not regulated has caused deaths overseas, could …

DAVID SPEERS:
Whereabouts has that happened? Where’s …

GREG HUNT:
That’s occurred in California, is the example which the head of the TGA has provided.

DAVID SPEERS:
So if this is such a danger, why weren’t you able to convince Pauline Hanson to stick with you?

GREG HUNT:
Well, I’ll have to ask the Labor Party to speak for themselves and others to speak for themselves, because …

DAVID SPEERS:
No, no. I’m asking of Pauline Hanson. She’s the one who flipped.

GREG HUNT:
Well, I will let others speak for themselves, but my advice and my judgement as somebody who has responsibility for the safety of patients in Australia is that, whether it’s Palliative Care Australia, the AMA, the College of GPs, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the authority (inaudible)…

DAVID SPEERS:
Sure, but just on the point, did she talk to you at all about her decision to change her mind?

GREG HUNT:
Well, we had a number of conversations.

DAVID SPEERS:
And what did she say to you as to why she changed her mind?

GREG HUNT:
I’ll respect her reasons and her ability to defend her own decision, but our advice has not changed. If anything, it is stronger and clearer than when we first met.

The real point here though is that you have the alternative prime minister of Australia who has wilfully and knowingly ripped away the safeguards …

DAVID SPEERS:
And Pauline Hanson and the Greens and any…

GREG HUNT:
Yep, no, no, we’re in disagreement with anybody who removes those safeguards.

DAVID SPEERS:
Alright, a few other issues, there are quite a few for you today, Greg Hunt. You were on the front of The Australian newspaper accusing Victorian courts of advocating lighter sentences for terrorists as part of, quote, an ideological experiment. What’s the evidence of that?

GREG HUNT:
Well, I think the material which is on the public record is clear, categorical, and unequivocal. There’s no doubt that the statements have been made.

My concern, and those of my fellow ministers who have also raised issues, is about a general proposition , I won’t refer to particular judges or particular cases, but a general proposition that any one state could advocate for a lower and lesser sentencing regime than the national norm for terrorism offences, for convicted terrorists …

DAVID SPEERS
Is it a national norm, or compared to New South Wales?

GREG HUNT:
Well, right across the country. My understanding is that the Premiers, no matter what their disposition with regards to political flavour, has been very strong in relation to counter-terrorism laws with the one exception, I’m sorry to say, of Victoria.

DAVID SPEERS:
We’re talking the courts, not the Government though.

GREG HUNT:
I understand.

DAVID SPEERS:
So the court, you’re saying the courts, the judges in Victoria, aren’t delivering sentences in line with the national norm?

GREG HUNT:
What I will say is that there were comments made about a general view that one state should have desirably a lower level, a far lower level, of sentencing than another state. There was significant criticism of New South Wales for having high and strong sentencing in relation to terrorism.

DAVID SPEERS:
Those were the comments made. I’m just wondering whether you think all states should rise to the New South Wales mark, and you’d probably agree, or should there be a national norm for sentences for these offences?

GREG HUNT:
Well, the judges should make decisions on the individual cases. New South Wales has been making decisions on individual cases, and what you see there is that there is a clear, strong view.

Now, what our concern is about is a statement on a blanket basis that there should be a lower level of sentencing, not a statement by us, but a statement on a blanket basis that there should be a lower level of sentencing.

DAVID SPEERS:
The Judicial Conference of Australia representing the nation’s judges say this is a coordinated and direct attack on the character and independence of the judiciary

GREG HUNT:
Well, I respectfully but categorically disagree. I couldn’t disagree more, because what we are responding to is comments of a general nature about a sentencing regime which is in defiance of national expectations.

The overwhelming number of Australians, in my view, the overwhelming number of Australians would support the strongest possible regime for dealing with convicted terrorists.

People convicted of terrorism or preparation for terrorism offences, and the vast majority of Australians would not support low levels of sentencing, of reducing the sentencing compared with what has been occurring.

DAVID SPEERS:
Have there actually been lighter sentences delivered in Victoria?

GREG HUNT:
Well, I will let the judges refer to their own material and their own words…

DAVID SPEERS:
Surely, that’s the real test here. Okay.

GREG HUNT:
Where they drew a distinction of sentence levels in their own words.

DAVID SPEERS:
I know. The comments that have been made are there on the record, as you say, but surely the real test is whether they are giving lighter sentences to terrorists?

GREG HUNT:
Well, I think their own evidence, as was presented in Victoria, is that there were two different standards and two different patterns.

And our view is that what has occurred on a case-by-case basis in New South Wales represents the intention of the law and the overwhelming view of the public that we should not be soft on terror and what’s occurred, what we have read from the members themselves in Victoria is at odds with the general public expectation and the intention of the law.

DAVID SPEERS:
Now, another portfolio area for you, in the area of sport, Greg Hunt. The 2023 Women’s World Cup, the Government getting behind the Australian bid to host the 2023 World Cup. What will that involve? What will it cost taxpayers?

We remember, and I’m sure you are studying the experience of the failed bid for the Men’s World Cup not so long ago.

GREG HUNT:
Yes, absolutely. So, we’ve actually been very careful in coming to this decision. We wanted assurances on probity and assurances on a reasonable prospect, and then we’ve funded it on the basis of a first round, million dollars, and then a second round with further assurances of probity and realistic prospects of success where there would be an additional investment of $4 million.

We think that there is a real chance that Australia can host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and a real chance that if we do that, that Australian women, the Matildas, can be successful.

DAVID SPEERS:
Well, let’s hope so, but with the Men’s World Cup that we bid for, the bidding process, we now know, was questionable, to say the least.

GREG HUNT:
Yeah, absolutely unacceptable.

DAVID SPEERS:
Are you satisfied about FIFA now? It’s squeaky clean?

GREG HUNT:
Yes. I am satisfied on the advice we’ve had, but because both myself and the Prime Minister wanted to be absolutely sure, that’s why we’ve done this in two stages.

We’ve said that the test for proceeding to stage two is realistic prospects of success, although all the advice and evidence so far is that they’re very good, and our absolute probity.

DAVID SPEERS:
Alright. Before I let you go, Greg Hunt, I can’t remember how many interviews we’ve done about climate change…

GREG HUNT:
One or two.

DAVID SPEERS:
Over the years. One or two in your many years in the portfolio in opposition and in government. What do you think about the idea of a clean energy target?

GREG HUNT:
I think we have to examine it with an open mind, I think Alan Finkel has done tremendous work, I know my colleague Josh Frydenberg is completely focussed on continuing the work we did with the abolition of the carbon tax, the changes to the renewable energy target which took the pressure off electricity prices, we saw a 10 per cent take out compared with what prices would otherwise have been.

DAVID SPEERS:
What’s happened since then?

GREG HUNT:
We’ve always said there are underlying pressures, and one of the elements…

DAVID SPEERS:
It has doubled.

GREG HUNT:
Is the fact that we identified early that there are weaknesses in the gas regime with the states which are blocking access to gas.

DAVID SPEERS:
And there’s been no investment in coal, either, for ten years, so this is a problem. Why did you never land on this idea of a clean energy target?

GREG HUNT:
Well, I think what we’ve done here is do two things. Firstly, abolish the carbon tax. Secondly, put in place changes to the renewable energy target, and thirdly, this is, I think, a very interesting and positive proposition that deserves to be considered.

DAVID SPEERS:
Greg Hunt, appreciate your time this afternoon. Thank you very much for that, we’ll talk again soon.

(ENDS)

Top of Page