Date published: 
12 December 2018
Media type: 
Transcript
Audience: 
General public

STEVE AUSTIN:

The federal government, the Health Minister, the Prime Minister announced $1.5 billion plus extra money for health at the Council of Australian Governments Meeting today. The federal government argues the extra money will go towards providing better access to doctors and nurses around Australia.

So, my guest is the federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. Minister, good afternoon to you.

GREG HUNT:

Good afternoon, Steve.

STEVE AUSTIN:

What part of that will be for Queensland, Minister?

GREG HUNT:

So, it’s open to bids, and what we’ve got are really two announcements today: $500 million for medical research, which is projects that are being delivered and, for example, University of Queensland is going to receive funds for gene therapy for type-1 diabetes, or Queensland University of Technology – new therapies in lupus and spirosis.

And then there’s $1.25 billion - so all up, actually, a little bit than you mentioned, nearly $1.75 – but, $1.25 billion for community health and hospitals.

So in Caboolture recently, for example, we set out a project for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. So, a treatment centre – they’re the sort of things, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health. Around the country, the funds will be broadly allocated on a population basis.

STEVE AUSTIN:

So, Queensland will have to bid for this money, do I understand?

GREG HUNT:

Well, it will bid for a particular project.

So, it could be that we have something in relation to hospitals, it might be an adult mental health community facility that is run out of Townsville, you might have a drug and alcohol facility in South Brisbane, you might have something through one of the great hospitals: the Lady Cilento, if I dare use the term, Children’s Hospital in Queensland might have a paediatric unit where they wanted to have specialisation – it could be in brain tumour, it could be in colorectal and paediatric conditions.

So, we’ll look at the proposals. But the beauty of it is it’s both from the State, but also from communities. And where there’s the greatest need and the greatest potential for benefit, then we’ll be in a once in a generation position to support these projects.

STEVE AUSTIN:

My guest is federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.

I spoke with the Queensland Health Minister’s office today and they said: look, this money doesn’t actually help Queensland Health because hospitals here can’t keep doing surgery if they don’t know how much money they have and that this money that you’re offering today doesn’t clarify that, because the Minister here, the Minister’s office says that you guys changed the funding rules retrospectively, which Queensland believes should not have been changed.

But why is that? Basically, they say that this is money that doesn’t actually clarify things or help here in Queensland.

GREG HUNT:

Oh, look, with great respect, we just announced $100 billion and they would find a reason, so I’d just dismiss that gently. No, there’s been no actual change. The Gillard Government rules are still in place and they’re interpreted by an independent hospital funding body – in fact, two hospital funding bodies.

STEVE AUSTIN:

I think the state of Queensland’s Health Minister is referring to Tony Abbott’s budget announcement in 2014.

GREG HUNT:

Oh, we have – since we’ve been in Government, Commonwealth funding to Queensland hospitals has gone up by 63 per cent and Queensland Government funding to Queensland hospitals has gone up by 34 per cent.

So, I’d, look, gently and respectfully - because I’m not looking for a fight with the Queensland Government here - just suggest that they might match what the Commonwealth is doing in terms of growth, and that, I think, would make an enormous difference.

But, as I say, 63 per cent increase in Commonwealth funding – well over half, nearly two-thirds – as opposed to 34 per cent increase in Queensland funding to their own hospitals. So that’s the reality. (inaudible) ... rapid growth of the Commonwealth.

STEVE AUSTIN:

So, what do you want Queensland to do? You want Queensland to match your funding increase?

GREG HUNT:

Yes, that’s- the very interesting thing.

Very recently, the Independent Institute of Health and Welfare looked at – for the last full year of funding – rates of growth for real growth, taking away inflation, the hospital funding - found that the Commonwealth was growing at 6.2 per cent, and the states on average at 0.1 per cent.

So we were growing at, for that particular year – the ’16-’17 year – 62 times the actual real growth that states are putting into their own hospitals.

So, no matter what we put in, I understand that’s the game that some people play. The reality, though, is today, real funding for things such as type-1 diabetes or lupus or MS all around the country, working with beautiful young kids who have brain tumours to ensure that the very treatment that they get – in many cases, radiation or radio therapy – isn’t having an impact in relation to the radiation.

And then new opportunities now – and here I’m speaking directly with your listeners, with the community, to look for drug and alcohol, mental health proposals from communities, as well as from Queensland for hospitals, things in rural areas. It could be linear accelerators which will help with radiation oncology or (inaudible).

STEVE AUSTIN:

So, you want to them to bid for that, yeah?

GREG HUNT:

Proposals – yes. We’re looking for the best proposals from across Queensland to help Queenslanders. And they can come from the community. They can also come from the Queensland Government.

And they’ll all be additional, and things which otherwise wouldn’t have occurred. And if you’re struggling as a family and you know that your town, your area, your region needs drug and alcohol support, to work with your council or to work with groups such as Lives Lived Well who are delivering the Caboolture drug and alcohol support, this is an enormous opportunity to do real things.

STEVE AUSTIN:

My guest is federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. This money you’ve announced today would sit alongside the National Health Reform Agreement, but Queensland has not signed the National Health Reform Agreement yet. What’s the deadline for signing that?

GREG HUNT:

We have through 2019 to do that. All the other states, other than Victoria. So, six out of eight states and territories have signed on over the course of this year. Queensland is doing an interesting thing.

They will get an extra $7 billion. They’re not signing on and holding themselves hostage, and nobody’s quite sure why they’re saying no to an additional $7 billion for 2022 to 2025. We’ve provisioned for it. They’ve actually banked it in their budget but won’t sign the agreement which will deliver it. So, I think – again, that’s one of those happenings. It’s an all of government (inaudible).

STEVE AUSTIN:

Are you in a position to deliver this? Let me just – Joe from Everton Hills, one of my listeners, points out that you could promise anything in this strange pre-election period because you won’t be able to follow through. In other words: you can promise what you like, but it’s unlikely you’d be elected to deliver.

GREG HUNT:

No. With respect, if you’ve got signed agreements, then they bind future governments, unless they’re willing to break an agreement. And that’s very odd and unusual.

For example, if we were to offer a drug and alcohol treatment centre and reached an agreement and signed an agreement with somebody such as – and I use the example of Lives Lived Well for Caboolture, because that’s something we’re actually doing and delivering.

And it would be a very unusual scene if that were taken away from Townsville, or Rockhampton, or Mackay – if that were taken away from Logan or anywhere else across Queensland or the Brisbane area.

STEVE AUSTIN:

Alright, I’ll leave it there. Health Minister Greg Hunt, thank you.

GREG HUNT:

Thanks a lot, Steve.

STEVE AUSTIN:

That’s federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.