Television interview with Minister Butler and Sylvia Jeffreys, Today Show - 7 December 2023

Read Minister Butler's interview with Sylvia Jeffreys on $1.2 billion Strengthening Medicare measures.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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SYLVIA JEFFREYS, HOST: Joining us now from Canberra is Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler. Minister, good morning to you. Very productive day there in Canberra yesterday. The Attorney General says it is absurd though that the Government apologised for this debacle. Do you agree?
MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGED CARE, MARK BUTLER: I think we're all sorry that we're in this position of laws that in some cases have been in place for 20 years since John Howard was Prime Minister, have been knocked over by the High Court and around 140 detainees were required to be released by the government. Everyone's frustrated by this. We've seen some awful reoffending by a small number of these detainees, but we've been determined to put in place laws that, as far as possible, would be robust, would be strong and would allow us to do our job of protecting the community.
DAVID CAMPBELL, HOST: All right. Let's go into the National Cabinet meeting where a $1.2 billion Medicare package was announced. How is this going to take the pressure off our hospitals?
BUTLER: What we saw yesterday was governments working together for Australia. This hasn't always been the case. As your viewers would know, too often governments get stuck in this trench warfare or the blame game, particularly around critical services like health and hospitals and disability supports. What you saw yesterday was a very different approach that was a credit to the Prime Minister and all the premiers and chief ministers.

You'll see out of that deal yesterday more investment in strengthening Medicare. Investments in things like the Urgent Care Clinics, which we've been standing up over the course of this year, but also very significant increased investment from the Commonwealth to support states in their efforts to combat ramping and to deal with the elective surgery waitlist that really built up over the course of COVID. And at the same time, you will see states supporting the Commonwealth in our efforts to make the NDIS sustainable for the long term, and to build a shared system of supports for people who live with disability but aren’t able to get into the NDIS. It's a very significant deal for Australians in some of the most critical services governments deliver.
JEFFREYS: There are millions of Australians who need the NDIS to be sustainable. It was forecast to hit almost $100 billion annually within 10 years. Have you got those costs under control now?
BUTLER: We’ve set with the National Cabinet very clear targets to get those costs under control. It doesn't serve anyone - people with disability or taxpayers more generally - not to have an NDIS that is sustainable for the long term. Bill Shorten, the NDIS Minister, will be standing up at the Press Club today and outlining a review that's been conducted over the last several months, talking to thousands and thousands of people living with disability, their families, the providers in the NDIS, to make sure that this critical reform that's still only 10 or 11 years old, is sustainable for decades to come.
CAMPBELL: States and territories have agreed to take on the cost of support for children with developmental problems. Can you promise parents there of children who are living with autism that they won't be any worse off under this new arrangement?
BUTLER: This will be a shared system, so states will be working with the Commonwealth to design these system of supports that the NDIS reviewers have said is so important. Yes, for children with autism and other developmental delays, but also for a range of adults, for example, with long term mental health issues who at the moment are locked out of the NDIS. This is a really critical part of the deal that was struck by all of our governments yesterday, and it's about making sure that people have the right level of support. We remember that the NDIS was designed for people with very serious permanent disabilities - only a portion of those Australians who are living with disabilities - and it's working for those people very well. But for people outside of that group, frankly, there hasn’t been the same level of support that is appropriate for their need. We're determined as a group of governments working together, funding this together, to build that system of support.
JEFFREYS: Okay. Mark Butler, we appreciate your time this morning. Thank you so much for joining us.
BUTLER: Thank you.


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