Television interview with Assistant Minister Ged Kearney and Tom Connell, Sky News - 6 May 2024

Read the transcript of the radio interview between Assistant Minister Kearney and Tom Connell on budget measures for students in work placements and the health system

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

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TOM CONNELL, SKY NEWS: As you heard there, the Government is planning on paying various workers, including nurses, who do in-study placements so they're not, so-called, the working poor. Joining me now for more on these Budget measures Assistant Health Minister Ged Kearney. Thank you for your time. You are a nurse. I'm not sure how much the sort of system around this has changed over the years, but paint a picture for me. Why is this needed? How many weeks is a nurse sort of studying on the job without getting paid at the moment? 

GED KEARNEY, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE: Well, it varies across courses of course, but if you are a student midwife you're expected to do many, many hours looking after women, right through from the time that antenatal right through to their birth. Now, this could take you out of the workforce at erratic times. It could be hours and hours that you need to be with the mother as she's labouring. It’s quite a difficult thing to predict which makes having a job, if you're a student midwife, very difficult.

If you're a student nurse it's a little more planned, you know when you are going to be on clinical placement. But this morning, Tom, I met with some rural and regional nursing students in Bendigo and they were telling me that some of their placements are as far away as Echuca or other country towns, which means they have to leave home. They have to go to these other towns. They have to pay rent in those other towns while they're doing their clinical placements. It could be up to 16 weeks a year. They still have to pay rent on their substantive place of residence back at home, so they're paying two rents for a period of time. I mean, it can be really financially difficult. And of course, while they're away doing clinical placements, they can't work at their usual, say, casual job back at home so they don't have any income.

So, the whole thing becomes financially disastrous for these young people and older people who might be doing study later on in life who might have children and a mortgage. So, it can be really distressful in terms of financial situation. It could be catastrophic in some terms, in some ways, and people leave their courses. So, yeah.

CONNELL: I guess, for younger people many have access to parental places. Not all do. But you make a good point because we want people to sort of have career changes and go into things, so it's a bit harder. It doesn't start though until July 1st next year. This feels more like a pre-election promise than a Budget one, because it's going to be in the Budget but not take effect until after the election.

KEARNEY: Well, Tom, these decisions are made by the Treasurer and by the Cabinet and they've deemed that this is a good time to start that. It's all about being financially and fiscally responsible.

CONNELL: [Talks over] So you’d like to start it earlier?

KEARNEY: I beg your pardon.

CONNELL: It sounds like you’d, maybe, like to start it earlier but money is a bit tight.

KEARNEY: Look as I said, you know, you need to be responsible government when making these decisions and, clearly, that's been dictated by the Budget that it will start next year. But as I said, I spoke to a group of nursing students today and it was greeted with a round of applause. They were absolutely thrilled that this is coming even down the pipeline. And it will be a great help to those nursing students. And we need more nurses, we need more midwives and teachers and social workers who it's going to apply to as well.

CONNELL: A new hospital funding deal is being done by the Government and it's going to offer to double the cap in terms of that hospital funding. There's all this talk of a structural deficit. It sounds as though, in this area, not going to be money saved it's actually going to go up. Is health just a part of the Budget where it's going to be a part that's going to increase? Can't really find the savings there? It's going to go the other way?

KEARNEY: Well, there was negotiations with the state as you would know, the states and territories last year to inject $13 billion into their health system, into the hospital system. This is after all those years of COVID that we know put a terrible strain on the health state budgets and a recognition that there is assistance needed. So, I think the $13 billion will be very welcome. The health of the nation is incredibly important to everybody, and I think it's a wise investment.

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