Interview with Leon Byner - FIVEAA
Friday, 9 February 2018
Topics: Record levels of Commonwealth funding for Australian hospitals
So let’s talk to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Greg, thanks for being on the program…
Good morning, Leon.
Tell us, what is the fight basically about?
I think it’s solely about, unfortunately, short-changing. The South Australian Premier’s short-changing South Australian patients before the election to try to grandstand.
Obviously, everybody in South Australia knows they literally can’t keep the lights on in their hospitals at the moment.
What’s the good news for South Australians? There’s a $1.5 billion increase in funding that is on the table from the Commonwealth.
Interestingly, over the last four years we’ve increased funding to South Australian hospitals at the federal level by 26 per cent. The Weatherill Government has increased funding to South Australian hospitals by 6 per cent.
So, the Commonwealth growth has been more than four-times faster than the State growth.
But critically, going forward, we actually want to continue to try to fix up some of the gaps that the State has left. And we care about the patients and that’s why we’re putting an extra $1.5 billion on the table to take it from the five-year figure of $6.5 billion to a five-year figure of $8 billion.
At the end of the day, it’s about putting patients before politics, whereas, I’m sorry to say, I think that the South Australian Premier seems to be putting politics before patients.
Look, I’ve got a comment here from the Government and I’ll quote what it says here.
Yes. Go ahead.
This is a statement attributable to the Premier, and it says: “before there can be any new health agreement, there has to be an honest acknowledgement of the unilateral breach by the Commonwealth in the previous agreement.” It goes on: “there must be a willingness to renegotiate a comprehensive replacement. What we see at the moment is an insubstantial document, where we’re being asked to sign up to create the illusion of progress.” What do you say to that?
I’d say it’s very odd because, the first thing is, this is the same central agreement which was signed in 2016 by the Premier, which was significant growth in Commonwealth funding, as we’ve seen. Exactly as I’ve said, we’ve increased by 26 per cent they’ve increased by 6 per cent.
Secondly, the deep reform which was agreed upon by not just the Australian Government but by all of the state health ministers, and it’s a profoundly weighty document with reforms that would improve through better data, the outcomes for patients, through better preventative health and wellbeing the outcomes for patients.
In the end I think most people in South Australia will know wow, a very significant funding increase and the Premier turning his back on $1.5 billion. The only reason he’s doing it is he wants to have a fight before an election and my gentle advice is – be constructive, we’re seeking to be cooperative.
It’s a very, very significant offer and it’s designed at the end of the day to help the patients, the doctors, the nurses, everybody involved in the health system.
Is it a better offer from what’s previously been given by the Federal Government?
So, what it is, is it’s the same formula that the Premier signed on to in 2016 and so that is significant growth. We pick up 100 per cent of Medicare, we pick up 100 per cent of Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme, we pick up all of the federal aged care funding and then we see increase in defence, in veterans funding and we also see an increase at a faster rate than South Australia’s been contributing.
So it’s a very, very, very good outcome for the State. And above all else, more money for the hospitals at a time literally when they can’t keep the lights on.
Alright. I know that Daniel Andrews in Victoria, he’s saying the similar sort of things that Jay is saying. So are we really saying here this is party political, that the Liberal states are saying yes and the Labor ones no?
Well I’ll wait until the end of the day. I wouldn’t predict that all the Labor states will say no at all. And behind the scenes, by the way, the senior officials and even some Labor ministers have said to me ‘oh this is a good deal’.
And then, I won’t out individual ones, but they might have indicated that this is the boss just being political and that’s not surprising but it’s a bit disappointing.
But we’re determined to continue to work to make sure that the states actually get this additional funding.
Alright Greg, thanks for coming on this morning.
It’s a pleasure. Cheers.
Good on you. That’s the Federal Health Minister at COAG just updating you on federal health funding.