TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
JUSTINE KEAY MP
MEMBER FOR BRADDON
FRIDAY, 10 MAY 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s commitment to two 24/7 medical walk-in centres in Burnie and Devonport; Liberals’ cuts to health in Tasmania; Labor’s plan for north and north west Tasmania.
JUSTINE KEAY, MEMBER FOR BRADDON: Hi everyone. My name is Justine Keay, I'm the Federal Member for Braddon and welcome to the Northwest Regional Hospital, it's always great to have Tanya Plibersek, our Deputy Leader, here again, because health is so important for the people of Braddon, the people of Tasmania. And so sadly, I hear so many stories in this electorate of people who've been so let down by this health system, which is under crisis. Our medical staff and our nursing staff are doing a magnificent job looking after people in this system that is so under pressure; but this government has had six years to do something and they've done nothing but cut. Cut funding from our hospitals, cut funding from our health system and like me, as the Federal Member, I hear these stories all the time. I met an elderly gentleman not that long ago and I get quite emotional when I tell these stories because these cuts have real impact on people's lives. He had three breaks in his hip - well he has three breaks in his hip. He can't get his operation and he is so unwell, not just physically in so much pain, but he wants to end his life and his wife sobs beside him day after day. These are the real stories - the impacts of Scott Morrison's cuts on our health system and the way they impact on people's lives, on their well-being, is just shameful. We have to do better and under Labor, we will do better. We will invest more money in our health system and put it into the areas that will take pressure off our emergency departments, allow people to get the care that they need through the GP system here and also for elective surgeries with $30 million to cut the elective surgery waiting list; as well as our funding package for cancer care treatment and dental care package for pensioners. We've got the plan to look after Tasmania's health. Scott Morrison - the Liberals - don't. All they will do is cut. I'll hand over to Tanya.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, thanks Justine. You've described the local situation so well. I know this hospital well. I know the community well and the needs of the north and the north west because when I was the Federal Health Minister, I saw the damage that had been done by Liberal governments, state and federal; and once again, we've got a Liberal Government in Canberra, that's cut $11 million from the state's hospitals. It wants to cut another $35 million from the state's hospitals. That has an impact, and we hear from our friends who work in the health system that they're trying to give the best possible care to patients in hospitals like this, but they are stretched. Health - doctors, nurses, allied health professionals - health staff are stretched because of these cuts. The impact is as Justine says, people waiting much longer for elective surgery. There's now 9,000 people waiting for elective surgery and one in ten of them have been waiting longer than a year. We know people are waiting longer in emergency because it's hard to get to see a GP because people are waiting weeks for GP appointments. They're turning up in hospital emergency; and then you have the problem called 'bed-block' in a hospital where people who could be treated at home or could be treated by their GP or could be in an aged care facility, or would be more properly looked after somewhere else are instead stuck waiting in emergency or in hospital beds that are not the best place for them. So Labor says we need to take a thorough approach to this, that ensures that our hospitals are properly funded, of course we'll increase hospital funding to deal with the cuts of the Morrison Government. But we also need to take the pressure off the hospital system in the first place. And so today we're announcing $20 million for two 24 hour, seven-day-a-week walk-in clinics in Burnie and Devonport that would allow patients, instead of coming to hospital emergency, to go instead to see a GP and nurse practitioner to get wound management care, women's health, dental health, mother and child health - a range of services available to people who would otherwise be waiting weeks to see a GP or they would be turning up in hospital emergency. We've seen brilliant examples of this model of care in other parts of Australia. It makes such a difference to people who have been told by GPs that their books are closed or have had to wait weeks for an appointment - it makes a difference to the patient. It also makes a difference to our health system as a whole because if you can keep people out of emergency departments, if you can reserve emergency departments for people who really do need to be looked at in hospital - potentially admitted to hospital - and you keep what can be dealt with in a primary healthcare setting in the community in that primary healthcare setting, the whole health system works better. Better for patients, better for health staff, better for our budget, better all ‘round. So it's a great thing. Justine has been campaigning so hard for these health facilities in her local communities of Burnie and Devonport. She has been making the case to Catherine King, our Health Shadow Minister, to Bill Shorten, our Leader, to the Labor Party, that these are necessary investments that go side by side with our investment in hospital, our cancer packages, our pensioner dental packages and all of the other health announcements that we've made. So Justine, congratulations - big win for you today with these two new walk-in clinics.
JOURNALIST: How soon would the funding for those flow? Over what time period? And is it just for bricks and mortar, does it include staffing numbers?
PLIBERSEK: Well, this funding is for the bricks and mortar and, of course, the services within the walk-in clinics would be funded through our increased spending on hospital services, our increased commitment to primary healthcare, GP services and so on, of course, are covered by Medicare. So with our extra investment in Medicare and in hospitals, the services will be covered. I think it's very important that the Tasmanian State Government play a role in this as well.
JOURNALIST: Have you picked any specific sites where these would be located?
PLIBERSEK: Well, the sites will be in consultation with the local community. It makes sense to have something close to the hospital here. But the final sites have to be determined in consultation with local communities.
JOURNALIST: And how soon would you like to see them operational?
PLIBERSEK: Well as soon as possible. I mean, once a site is selected and planning approvals given the construction will be very quick indeed. I've seen a number of these facilities across the country - they're not complicated to construct. They are a huge contribution to the local community because of the health services they provide and, of course, there's the construction jobs and ongoing jobs with staffing, as well.
JOURNALIST: How many staff will be needed and what's the patient capacity?
PLIBERSEK: Well, those details will be worked through in more detail with the State Government, with local health administrations and with the local community. Of course, bigger facilities like this allow more doctors to work together, so you reduce the risk of doctor burnout. It means that doctors can, not just be working on their own, but be working with practice nurses that can provide specialist support like cancer care, diabetic care, mother and child care. There's the capacity to put dental services in as well. Of course, with our pensioner dental scheme that gives free dental care to people who are on the pension or have a seniors healthcare card, we'll be substantially expanding the access to dental care for many people here in the north west and that comes on top of the child dental scheme that we announced when we were last in government that continues to be so valued by families. So, the final makeup of - of course there will be GP-type services. Of course, there'll be things like wound care, stitches - if you need stitches, you have an accident, you don't want to sit for six hours waiting in emergency, you just want half a dozen stitches where you’ve cut your hand but proper wound care. Those sorts of immediate, emergency, low-level type of emergency types of care will be available side by side with things like groups of patients being brought together to - so for example, if you've got groups of diabetic patients, you can bring them together and have a dietitian and an exercise physiologist talk to groups of patients together about how to stay healthy, how to stay out of hospital. Of course, that's great for patients - and of course, it's also very good for our health budget. The healthier we can keep people, the more we can keep people out of hospital, the better for everyone.
JOURNALIST: Tasmania's had a bit of a history of having issues attracting and retaining the good quality doctors, especially in rural areas. I mean, in Launceston you have over a year's wait for a urologist, for example. Do you think that's just a state issue or do you think there's something that the Federal Government should be doing to help attract highly skilled staff like this into these regional areas?
PLIBERSEK: Look, the immediate solution to that is programs liked TAZREACH which Federal Labor supports, that makes sure that specialists are available to Tasmanians, but longer term the workforce planning issue is absolutely something that the Federal Government should be involved in and it was so very disappointing when the Liberals came in that they got rid of Heath Workforce Australia, which was the organisation whose sole job it was to make sure that workforce shortages like the ones experienced in the north west and in many parts of Tasmania are addressed long term. So some of the strategies that we had when we were last in government, included getting more people from rural and regional communities to study medicine, study nursing and allied health, providing more opportunities to study in regional areas because what we know is if someone comes from a regional area, studies in a regional area, they're much more likely to go on and practice in a regional area. This government, this Federal Government, has given up on having any systematic approach to health workforce issues, not just in Tasmania, but around Australia - we are not tackling the mismatch between, there might be plenty of supply of a particular medical specialty or doctors or dentists or whatever in city areas, but a real shortage in places like this, we have to tackle that as a nation and it's such a shame that organisations like Health Workforce Australia aren't able to do that work, so it's getting longer.
JOURNALIST: So if elected and there's funds going-
PLIBERSEK: I'm sorry. Can I just say one more thing? These two walk-in clinics actually will support retaining health workforce in the north west because one of the pressures that GPs will tell you about all the time is the need to be on call, quite often 24 hours a day, contacted, you know, throughout the day and night. Actually having a 24-hour clinic that's not hospital emergency gives the opportunity for GPs to not be under that constant pressure to be available to their patients. And so we hope that this will really help with the issue of doctor churn that this region has experienced.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, $20 million across both sites or-
PLIBERSEK: Across two sites, that's right.
JOURNALIST: Now the Liberals have been pretty critical of your funding. We've got $50 million going privately to MONA, 25 to AFL Tas, and we're here today for health. Do you not think it's better to maybe spend some, reallocate that funding? How do you respond to that critical thinking?
PLIBERSEK: I actually want to respond by stamping my feet and holding my breath because that is so unfair. We're proud of our $50 million investment in MONA but Justine, I think it's $53 million in tourism for your electorate. I mean, honestly, this is such a beautiful part of Australia, such a beautiful part of the world. We want more tourists to come to the north, to the north west of Tasmania, and we are prepared to back that with extra funding. This is a $121 million fund that the MONA funding came out of. Justine has already talked about, she'll talk in a minute about the detailed announcements that she's making here in her electorate, but it's extra tourism investment here, road upgrades, recreational fishing upgrades for locals and to attract recreational fishers, sporting field upgrades. This idea that Tasmania doesn't deserve its own footy team. We've got a Federal Government that's prepared to put money into the North Queensland Cowboys, into the Sydney Swans, into the Adelaide Crows. They're prepared to invest in football for the mainland. But if it's football for Tasmania, apparently Tasmania doesn't deserve its own team. And if this goes ahead, of course if there's agreement with the AFL, but this is such a dishonest, a dishonest criticism from the Liberals. They cut funding to hospitals already. They want to cut more funding from Tasmanian hospitals. And then they say "Oh we shouldn't spend the money on a footy team. We should spend it on health". Well, they shouldn't cut the health budget in the first place and we are prepared to invest in a football team for Tasmania and tourism infrastructure and health care and our schools and TAFEs and universities and disability services and road upgrades and support for manufacturing in Tasmania, the agriculture support that comes with the third stage of the irrigation plan. We are able to invest in all of these things because we are cutting tax loopholes for big multinational companies and people on the very highest incomes. You saw today that our costings were released. You see that Labor can afford to invest in health care and a footy team and MONA, and tourism infrastructure for the north west and all of these things because we have closed down tax loopholes for multinational companies and very wealthy individuals. The only people who won't tell you how they're going to fund their promises are the Liberals. They have promised at least $77 billion of tax cuts for very high income earners. Where does that money come from? Is it coming from more cuts to hospitals like this one? Is it coming from more cuts to the schools that Justine and I have visited together. Is it coming from more cuts to aged care? You know that next year's predicted surplus is built on the back of a $1.6 billion cut to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. So $77 billion of tax cuts to very high income earners, at least $77 billion - we don't know the real figure because Scott Morrison won't tell you what the real figure is. He won't tell you the real figure and he won't tell you where the funding is coming from. Justine, did you want to add a bit on the local tourism investments, local roads and so on?
KEAY: Absolutely. Love to. What the State Liberals won't tell you, the candidates and the candidate here in Braddon won't tell you, that Premier Will Hodgman supported Labor's commitment to MONA. They don't support the jobs, do they, that will come from owning the economic development coming from that project. But they also had not committed to tourism funding here in the north west coast. What we have done is committed to the coastal pathway project, the actual whole length of it. They haven't done that. We've committed $1.2 million to Mount Olwen Mountain Bike Park in Queenstown, in an economy that needs that extra destination in the tourism infrastructure to grow their economy. They haven't done that. We've committed funding for a new bike park up at the Dial Range in Penguin. They haven't done that. We've committed more money to our roads, to improve access for all our export coming out of the west coast and the far north west. What have they done? They haven't done that. So I think the question for the Liberals is "Why is it that they won't fund those core areas of our economy here to get our economy moving to grow jobs?" It's because all they want to bang on about is two things - they've got nothing else, they've got absolutely nothing else. What we've also committed to is $5 million for grassroots footy. Now, I've asked the Liberal candidate here in Braddon what his commitment is to grassroots footy - zero. He couldn't even open his mouth and say one word. So I think our record is very clear, the Liberals are just devoid of any policy or any commitment to grow the economy here to support our communities and grow jobs.
JOURNALIST: And speaking of Liberal funding Justine, they announced $80 million to Burnie Port. When are you going to make your announcement and are you looking at matching that?
KEAY: Well, the Federal Liberals I understand, only announced, well they announced $40 million. We've been working with the proponents on the Burnie Port and we'll have our announcement about that very shortly. Ours will be different from this government's commitment because we're working on a separate aspect of the port, but they've got nothing else for here. They talk about all this hub here, this and that, they can't even give you any details on anything that they're doing and you know this north-south parochialism. We actually, as a Labor Party, are committed to the whole state economy. We're not focusing on one electorate or the other, they're focusing on where they can get votes because that, I think that's very cynical. I think people, the voters of Tasmania will look at that very cynically as well. Only Labor will deliver more funding for our health system that's in crisis, more money into our tourism infrastructure that we want those tourists that go to MONA to come to the north west and they are and they will do so in more volume because we're the party that's committed to developing our economy here in the north west.
PLIBERSEK: We've seen clinics like this operating in many parts of Australia. And of course you have to work with local GPs. The aim is to provide a service at times of emergency and then link the patient back to their regular GP, but in an environment where people are waiting two or three weeks for a GP appointment or more likely they're just turning up to wait for hours in the emergency department, a service like this is very beneficial. There are services like this in many parts of Australia, strong models, good links with local GPs, well supported by the medical profession.
JOURNALIST: On the Liberals announcement today, they've talked about increasing funds for emergency relief for people in need. Is this where the money should be best spent or do you think there are more structural ways that people in need could get the funds that they need?
PLIBERSEK: I'm going to make a couple of general points and then I'm going to ask Justine to talk about local services that provide emergency relief funding for local families. The general points I want to make are: this government has cut funding in this area, this funding was going to run out. So we haven't seen the details of what the Government's announcing today but if all they're doing is rolling over existing funding, I don't think you get a big slap on the back for that one. Secondly, I want to say that we know that need is increasing in Australia. We hear from suppliers of emergency relief that the number of people coming to them for financial assistance, for food assistance, for help paying their power bills so that their power doesn't get switched off, is increasing and one of the saddest elements of this is a lot of people who are working are also turning to emergency relief. The reason is wages have flatlined. Wages are not keeping up with the cost of power increases, childcare cost increases, private health insurance if you've got it, a whole range of things that are really pushing on the family budget, putting pressure on families. Secondly, you've got a million Australians who are underemployed, who want more hours of work. You've got a million Australians who are working two jobs just to make ends meet. We've got penalty rates cut so that people who are working this Sunday, the same hours as they worked Sunday a year ago, are going to get paid less for working this Sunday. So all of this: low wages growth, cuts to penalty rates, underemployment, insecure labour - these are things that we should be tackling as a nation. We should be ensuring that if you work a full-time job you can support your family on that. That is one of the most basic promises of Australian life that if you work a full-time job, you can support your family on that and we're not in that place anymore. The Government talks a lot about the economy. They constantly talk about cuts for big business, cuts for the banks, protecting the tax loopholes for high-income earners. They're not talking about an economy that works for working people and we've seen cuts to homelessness services, $88 million cut from new building and homelessness services, the cuts to the National Rental Affordability Scheme that we had when we were last in government, so you see rental stress on families. When it comes to tax relief, this government forgot people earning less than $48,000 a year. Labor has the same or bigger tax cut for 10 million working Australians, but for people on less than $48,000 a year we've got a bigger tax cut. We need to focus on people who are doing it tough in this country. Low-paid and middle-income families are struggling and this government's only plan is trickle-down economics from people who are really wealthy having better tax loopholes protected for them. Justine, I know you've been working with local organisations that provide emergency relief . Can you talk a little bit about them?
KEAY: Thanks Tanya, absolutely. I mean the decision that this government made to stop funding local organisations for emergency relief just goes to show how out of touch they are. One of the organisations in this community is Wyndarra in Smithton. What the Government decided to do was stop their funding, to defund them from that part of their work which is so important for that community. And in fact, they wanted people from that community if they wanted to access emergency relief to go to Burnie or Devonport to do it. Now, sometimes these people don't have enough money to put petrol in their car. That's why they go to these community services and Wyndarra were rightly outraged at the Government for the decision that they made to defund them. The Government then said "Oh we'll will give you an extra 12 months and that's it." Labor, through lobbying from the local community, because I’m up there talking to them-
PLIBERSEK: And Justine.
KEAY: And me, we got to get that funding reinstated for Wyndarra. And no one knows when they're going to be in crisis. Sometimes it just happens, but when they walk through that door at an organisation like Wyndarra, who has amazing volunteers, the community love that organisation, they walk in, they ask for help and the people there can say what else is going on in your life and provide other supports for them. To change the funding model to make those people travel out of their community, if they can indeed travel, means that they're not getting access to those other supports. This is a government that is so out of touch. They do not care and the people of Smithton in particular should be very cynical about any announcements that the Liberals make in relation to emergency relief.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you.