Sky News - Queensland Budget, Plain Packaging and Dental Legislation
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12 September 2012
Topics: Queensland Budget, Plain Packaging and Dental Legislation
Kieran Gilbert: First though, reaction to the Queensland Budget. One of the areas targeted in Campbell Newman's first budget was health. With me for federal reaction is the Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek. Thanks for your time.
Tanya Plibersek: Thanks.
Kieran Gilbert: The Queensland Premier says while some jobs are going to be lost, Queensland Health will be more efficient. He's also putting in $800 million additional funding.
Tanya Plibersek: Well, he's not putting in $800 - 800 million additional; he's indexing the health budget which is what happens every year. Health costs go up and population goes up so, this isn't additional funding, this is normal growth and he shouldn't get away with pretending that this is an additional injection.
The other thing I'd have to say is if you cut 4140 staff from the Queensland Health system, frontline services suffer. We've already heard of cuts to BreastScreen Australia, now we're hearing that the Tuberculosis Control Centre is going to be dismantled.
Doctors, nurses, physios, occupational therapists - all of them losing their jobs. That makes a difference to the kind of health services Queenslanders can expect.
Kieran Gilbert: Isn't he right to say that the former Queensland Labor Health Minister said that the bureaucracy was bloated?
Tanya Plibersek: Well, I never think you should have a single extra public servant other than the ones needed to do the tasks before them, but you can't cut 4140 people and not see cuts to frontline staff. We've heard reports of counsellors from one of the morgues in Queensland losing their jobs.
These are frontline jobs going and the fact that Campbell Newman is redefining jobs from, you know, office jobs to - well, frontline jobs to office jobs so that he can pretend that there are no cuts to frontline services is particularly galling.
Kieran Gilbert: But he's saying that in the modern era, technology the way it is, that more people - well, less people can do more with less.
Tanya Plibersek: Yeah. You know I heard him comparing doctors and nurses to garbos last night on the TV saying that fewer people are needed to pick up garbage bins today because of the trucks that we've got. The workers that he is cutting have specific clear job descriptions. He's cut the flu vaccination program for Queensland Health workers; he's cut the BreastScreen central unit that reminds people that it's time to have a mammogram.
The Tuberculosis Control Centre - I mean, Queensland faces a threat from the north of drug resistant TB. He's cut funding for fluoride in the water and this is the thing that will protect the teeth of generations of Queenslanders into the future...
Kieran Gilbert: He's saying he's putting it on a sustainable footing the funding, that it blew out under Anna Bligh and Peter Beattie and he's got to get things back on track.
Tanya Plibersek: Well, I think the cuts that he's made are dumb, heavy-handed, thick-headed cuts. I think that you have to be careful with health funding, you have to make sure that every single dollar counts. I do the same. When I came in as Health Minister, I had to cut the subsidy for private health insurance.
It's not an easy thing to do to find savings; I agree that we need to always be on the lookout for savings but you don't cut frontline staff. You don't cut doctors and nurses and pathologists from the health system and think that patient care won't suffer.
Kieran Gilbert: [Interrupts] And what he's saying is...
Tanya Plibersek: Patient care will suffer.
Kieran Gilbert: What Campbell Newman argues is that they're establishing 17 local hospital health boards giving locals a greater say and that that's going to improve efficiency. Isn't - you would support that component of the Queensland plans don't you?
Tanya Plibersek: And indeed, that's Federal Government policy. We are the ones that have asked every state and territory to have local hospital networks so that you can have local decision making. Locals do know the local challenges and the local solutions better, but using that as an excuse to cut nurses jobs, and to cut doctors jobs, and to cut pathologists jobs, and pretending that it won't affect the care that Queenslanders get is dishonest.
Kieran Gilbert: Okay. Let's look at another issue...
Tanya Plibersek: And...
Kieran Gilbert: Just quickly if you can.
Tanya Plibersek: Well, no. I just want to say this. And this is a curtain raiser for Tony Abbott because Tony Abbott has been out there defending and promoting these cuts. This is what we face as a nation if Tony Abbott becomes Prime Minister.
Kieran Gilbert: Well, I'm sure that Mr Abbott would disagree with that assertion, but let's move on to tobacco because the tobacco companies are starting to implement plain packaging. Imperial Tobacco has included the line: it's what's on the inside that counts. You're not happy about that obviously, that line, but is it legal?
Tanya Plibersek: Well, they need to change their packaging from 1 October. They need to change the packaging that they're producing from 1 October. So, they haven't broken the law. That plain packaging needs to be in the shops from 1 December, so there's a little bit of time for the plain packaging that's being manufactured to get into the shops and the shopkeepers to clear their own stock.
So, that packaging at the moment is not illegal but I can tell you it's unprincipled. The tobacco companies are using their packs to have a last desperate gasp at promoting their brand. And yes, they're right, it's what's in the pack that counts and what we used to call them when I was kids was cancer sticks.
This is the only product that, if taken as the manufacturer intended, kills half of regular users. It is what's in the pack that counts, but the tobacco companies should stop using every effort to attract those last smokers.
Kieran Gilbert: And finally on the dental plan, what's the latest on that front? When will that go through the Parliament?
Tanya Plibersek: New legislation today in the Parliament - introduced today to introduce the kids dental scheme that we announced a couple of weeks ago. It will mean that kids from the ages of 2-18 in Family Tax Benefit A, families will get a thousand bucks of dental work every two years. The legislation will be introduced today and I'm very happy it will be.
Kieran Gilbert: Okay, Tanya Plibersek thanks for your time.
Tanya Plibersek: It's a pleasure.
Kieran Gilbert: Appreciate it.
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