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Interview with Nadia Mitsopoulos ABC Radio Perth

Transcript of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt's Interview with Nadia Mitsopoulos ABC Radio Perth

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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Well, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hosting his first COAG meeting today in Adelaide. It’s all happening in Adelaide this week, and that is, of course, the Council of Australian Governments, where all the state and territory leaders get together.

And, the Prime Minister comes bearing gifts – $1.2 billion in extra funding for health. It sounds like a lot but I wonder how much of that WA will get to see, especially as we have just missed out on the National Space Agency. Maybe the federal Health Minister can make it up for us. His name is Greg Hunt and I spoke to him a short time ago.


Good morning, Nadia.


How much of this funding will go to WA?


So, it’ll be based on need and population and the quality of applications. So, it will be approximately in line with population, and I think that's a very, very good thing for Western Australia.


So how do you assess that exactly?


So what we'll do is we're inviting applications, whether it's for drug and alcohol treatment centres, mental health centres; whether it's for additional projects within hospitals, particularly rural hospitals but also urban – it could be cancer treatment centres; and we'll look at both need and population and the quality of applications.

That's, obviously, got to be the first and foremost thing is a proposal, something that is likely to deliver a benefit to a population but you put these things together and we do that and it will be broadly in line with state population.

Again, as is often the case, WA might do a little bit (inaudible). It could be exactly in line with state population. That will be determined on the basis of the applications themselves.


You’ve mentioned a few examples there, but is there- mental health for instance – but is there - and alcohol and drug treatment - but is there particular areas that you want this money to be spent?

Because we look at some of the media this morning, it talks about more doctors and nurses, so it is all pretty vague still.


Well, what we have is a series of announcements. There's a half a billion dollars for medical research today. For example, the University of Western Australia is doing, I think, not just an Australian but a world-leading program in relation to reducing the impact of radiation on beautiful young children battling brain cancer, so as the treatment itself is not causing additional problems.

And then we have the funding today – what's called the Community Health and Hospitals Program, which is $1.25 billion additional funding injection into just that – community health and hospitals.

And so we’ll work- at this moment, the Prime Minister is working with the premiers and chief ministers of the states on their priorities, and we'll also be inviting from communities, their priorities as well.


WA is a big state and the Government here says WA is already being ripped off by Canberra so any extra funds would only be what we deserved and not necessarily a gift.

Do you acknowledge that WA hasn't been getting its fair share?


Well, what we just did very recently is we signed up a new national health agreement with Western Australia. Western Australia was one of the principal recipients.

They were the equal-first with New South Wales (inaudible) and that meant that there was a bonus for them which they could invest in priority projects.

We've been growing the rate of funding at Commonwealth level nationally at 55 per cent since 2012 of increased hospital funding and states on average are at 18 per cent.

So, we're investing at a faster rate than the states and that’s particularly so within the case of Western Australia.

So, I'd say that we’d invite the West Australian Government to match our rate of growth and I think that would be tremendous if they did that.

And in particular, of course, then the new medicines which are exclusively covered by the Australian Government – things such as medicines for breast cancer, for cystic fibrosis, for frontal muscular atrophy, for cardiac conditions, which are just making a massive and important difference in people's lives.


Minister Greg Hunt, he's the federal Health Minister, is my guest on Breakfast this morning.

Where are the priority areas? Let me know this morning – 1300-222-720 or text on 0437922720. Where should some of this extra money go? What are the needs in where- in your areas where you live? I'd love to hear from you this morning.

Minister, you mentioned that the State Government would have to apply for individual projects that they want funded. Will they also have to match funding for those projects? You’ve made a reference to that as well.


No, this is not requiring matching funding but let's say, for example, that there was an expansion to the (audible) Harvey Hospital, something that I know has been very important to many people. It may be that we were asked to do a particular unit or a particular focus and the state might be covering other areas.

So, they’re examples of the types of things- so drug and alcohol treatment service where the Commonwealth might do the build - you might have something in Mandurah; you might have something in Broome or Geraldton; it might be something in Midlands where there's a requirement.

And so we'll work with each of the states and territories on their proposals and priorities but also with the community because I think it's very important that they have a say and the ability to do this, which is what makes this approach unique.

And of course, one other area where there's a very big gap – we're expanding youth mental health services and I think everybody knows headspace extremely well but for adults, there- at the state level, there hasn't been the same level of services so I particularly want to look at adult mental health services as well as youth mental health services.


So, is that a message to state governments including here in WA that a proposal in regards to that is something you would like to see?


Yeah, yeah.


That’s something, specifically, you want to fund?


Yes, absolutely. And so we’ve set out the priority areas being hospital services in both urban and in particular, rural areas and regional areas – but mental health and drug and alcohol and preventative health are the other key aspects.

And at the end of the day, if you're in an area, which perhaps should have had a state-funded drug and alcohol rehabilitation service, well, we're not going to cast blame.

We're just trying to say this is our opportunity because we've been fortunate to run a strong economy, to run, therefore, a strong budget.

We can now invest in these new and additional services to fill some of the gaps which may have occurred at state level but no blame, it’s just continue to expand opportunities.

We know- when I was over there in Perth and Albany not long ago, the ice epidemic in Indigenous communities, in regional communities, but also in the cities, the ice epidemic is a particular challenge in WA.


Yeah, it is indeed. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is my guest this morning and Minister, you mentioned infrastructure, you did mention Rockingham Peel hospitals and some needs for upgrades there.

The AMA here is very keen to see a replacement for King Edward Hospital, our main maternity hospital, as well as Graylands as well, and upgrades to rural hospitals; and those things do not come cheap.

Best case scenario is WA would get a few hundred million dollars of this funding. Is that it? Or would you look at any further requests from WA, particularly when it comes to those big infrastructure projects for hospitals?


Look, we’ll obviously take this as an opportunity to look at all of the different proposals.

I won't pre-empt and I apologise for that but we haven't received any of them yet. But this is a chance to do something which hasn't happened before where both the states and territories, on the one hand, and the community on the other, have the ability to put proposals forward and from that.

We’re able to assess both the need and the quality of the proposals in terms of are they going to have a real human impact; is it going to help people recover from mental health challenges; is it going to help families recover from drug and alcohol addiction, ice and opioid; and if we can do that, then we really will have made a contribution to saving lives and protecting lives.


And where is this money coming from?


So this is funding which- it comes from the fact that we've been able to grow the economy, to do our bit to assist the Australian public to grow the economy, and therefore, it comes from growth in Commonwealth revenues.


Minister, on another matter, quickly. Deakin University has crunched the numbers and come up with the 16 best ways to tackle obesity in Australia and the number one idea was to standardise and increase taxes for alcohol. Is that something you will ever consider?


I haven't seen the report but we're not proposing any increase in taxes so (inaudible).


Should you be?


Well, I understand and respect that that's the view of (inaudible) but it’s not the Commonwealth approach.

Our goal is- and only today, we've announced $28 million for obesity research and treatment under the National Health and Medical Research Council.

So the leading universities, the leading hospitals, working together to help reduce the challenges of obesity and to try to prevent people from heading down that path.


We'll leave it there. Thanks for your time.


Thanks very much.



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