Radio interview with Assistant Minister Kearney and Sammy J, ABC Radio Melbourne - 29 April 2024

Read the transcript of the radio interview between Assistant Minister Kearney and Sammy J on men's violence against women; bulk billing.

The Hon Ged Kearney MP
Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care

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SAMMY J, HOST: In political life, you don't get to choose necessarily which issues will arise during your term in office, despite your preferred priorities. Could this be the issue that Anthony Albanese will be defined by, and indeed, that he will now have to reconcentrate his efforts on?
I'm joined right now by Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney. Good morning, Ged. Thank you for your time. I know we've got some interesting bulk billing data to discuss, and we'll get to that shortly, but I will just first ask, you were there at the march in Melbourne. How did it feel there in person?
GED KEARNEY, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: I was there, and I'm glad I was there because I think it was a really seminal moment in this discussion that we're having. It's an incredibly important discussion. And part of the answer, as I think you would be aware in your line of business, is talking about it and making it a national conversation, trying to let everybody know this is a national crisis. It's events like yesterday that really do that.
I was very proud to be there with the Premier. Mark Dreyfus the Attorney-General was there. A number of MPs were there. I was very pleased to be there with those women and men that came along to raise awareness.
HOST: And of course, this crisis has exploded. If you like during your time in government now, which does put a focus on your response as a government. Cabinet is meeting on Wednesday - what do you think needs to happen from here within the limits of your ability as a government?
KEARNEY: I think it's important to note too, that yes, it is an issue for our government. The previous prime minister said, you know, in days gone by, women would be shot for marching as they did. And the response from our government is to say, well, this is a crisis. You heard the Prime Minister. It's a crisis and every level of government has to step up. The Prime Minister, I believe, has called a snap meeting of National Cabinet  that will meet on Wednesday to see how we can intensify our response. We do have a national plan to rid the country of domestic violence in a generation. It's a very ambitious plan. We're only two years into that plan. I think our government is very serious about this. We are serious about issues facing women broadly across the community. And this is something I think, that we will tackle head on.

HOST: I'm chatting to Ged Kearney, the Member for Cooper and Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care. Within that portfolio, Ged, I'd like to talk about this updated information we have regarding rates of bulk billing.
KEARNEY: Yes. You may recall Sammy in years gone by, we constantly saw the bulk billing rate in freefall. Just dropping. It was virtually impossible to get to see a bulk billing doctor. I know a lot of people, particularly in our area in urban Melbourne and in the outer urban areas are still struggling see a GP. But we're very pleased that since our massive investment in Medicare, that the bulk billing rate has stabilised. It has risen by 2.1% since November, and this means that a lot more people are able to see GPs and get bulk billed. I think about 950,000 additional people were bulk billed in the five months to March. We're really pleased about this. It is a sign that we're on the right track. There's still a lot more to do.
HOST: Pardon me, I'm trying to square that because  that's encouraging news and encouraging figures and yet the sort of experiences that I've had in terms of talking to others is that it's still virtually impossible. It still seems to be that way. For people who are looking for a bulk billing appointment, in so many cases it is.
KEARNEY: We do recognise that it is still difficult in many areas.
We are pleased. We have been focusing on rural and regional areas and increasing the number of general practitioners actually practising, we think will help. There's been a big uptick I'm pleased to let everyone know in the number of medical graduates who are doing general practise training, and the Commonwealth government has increased funding for general practise training, and we're pleased to see more doctors choosing to be a GP.
We can't just magic them out of nowhere, unfortunately. But I think increasing the number of general practitioners in the field is going to help a lot. We are investing in MyMedicare, which is a different way of funding. So people don't have to rely entirely on bulk billing. We're incentivising general practise to look after people with chronic illness, for example, and funding them slightly differently. We're looking at lots of different ways - I guess I'm trying to say, Sammy - to really alleviate this pressure
HOST: Just finally, I see a lot of these signs and a campaign to keep pathology bulk billed. What can you tell me about that push and the need for that?
KEARNEY: Our pathologists are concerned that there really hasn't been a proper increase in the rebate that they receive for services. But I'm pleased to say that more than 99% of pathology tests provided outside of hospital are bulk billed. We are aware of that situation and we're talking to the pathologists at the moment to try to sort out what the problem is.
HOST: Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ged Kearney, I know that you're close to the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. You know that Kyle and Jackie are starting on the Melbourne airwaves this morning, so I really need a scoop. Can you tell me anything about the budget coming up? Just give me something,  a hot headline that I can bring to the listeners.
KEARENY: It will be a very good budget that has the cost of living at its heart. How's that?
HOST: Yeah, okay. I'll do. I'll take it. Ged Kearney, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care. Thank you for your time.
KEARNEY: No worries. Thanks for having me.


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