Greg Hunt

Federal Member for Flinders | Minister for Health

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Interview with Chris Kenny - 2GB

Monday, 1 January 2018

E&OE…
                      
Topics: $3 million to save lives in the water, gang crime in Victoria

CHRIS KENNY:
I’m joined on the line now by the Health Minister Greg Hunt who was at that press conference. Thanks for joining us, Greg.

GREG HUNT:
It’s a pleasure, Chris, and Happy New Year to you and everybody listening.

CHRIS KENNY:
Yeah Happy New Year to you, too. It’s a pretty good announcement for Surf Life Saving for you to kick off the New Year in this fashion. Of course, we’ve had a series of drowning tragedies along our coast already this summer. 

Tell us why this additional money was allocated and what it’s expected to be used for.

GREG HUNT:
So it’s an additional $3 million and it’s going to reduce drownings. What it’s focused on is helping our surf life saving clubs with their equipment and it’s also focusing on what are called river and beach black spots and helping train swimming coaches and people who will be swimming teachers. 

So a real passion both for the Prime Minister and myself and Bridget McKenzie. All of us are members of surf life saving clubs and we were at the PM’s home club, North Bondi, and he told a story of how his father literally swam out and saved him when he was a young kid and he was actually very moved. So this means a lot to each of us and it’s about saving lives. 

We lose nearly 300 a year to drownings around the Australian coast and inland waters which can also be incredibly dangerous.

CHRIS KENNY:
Yeah I caught a bit of the press conference and saw the Prime Minister talking about how Life Saving Australia perhaps as much as any organisation in the country, reflects Australian values of volunteering and community spirit and all of that and as you mentioned, he’s a member there. 

We know previous Prime Minister Tony Abbott – high profile in his involvement with life saving. I wondered about yourself, Greg Hunt, because your electorate of Flinders down there on the southeast of Melbourne has a big coastline. So you’re a member of the local surf club too?

GREG HUNT:
Yeah, we’re members at Mount Martha life saving club and our kids have been doing nippers for quite some years and…

CHRIS KENNY:
It’d be pretty nippy. Be pretty nippy down there sometimes at Mount Martha.

GREG HUNT:
I hate to confess this as a Victorian but the waters are warmer in New South Wales and they’re warmer still the further north you go. But we’re made of tough stuff down in Victoria but it’s good, you know, the kids get to experience the surf, get knocked around in the waves, they learn to understand that the waters are risky but also what you can do for yourself and what you can do to help others. 

And as the PM said, you know, this is quintessentially Australian along with the CFA and so many other organisations. But around the world when they think of sort of Australian identity, you can’t go much beyond the lifesavers and the CFA as that sense of how we bond together and take care of each other.

CHRIS KENNY:
Yeah absolutely. We’re speaking to the Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, about the announcement that’s given more funds – $3 million of additional funds to Surf Life Saving Australia for use in combatting drownings and improving safety around our coastline this summer. 

Greg, we’ve seen a number of drownings this summer. There seems to be so much anecdotal evidence and specific warnings from Surf Life Saving Australia about people’s ignorance when it comes to rips in the surf and how to pick a rip, how to avoid them, how to spot them, how to get out of them once you’re caught in a rip, particularly with people visiting from overseas but also locals. 

So I suppose part of the educational process with Surf Life Saving Australia is very much about just making sure people who attend our beaches have some idea of what to look for in the surf and how to get out of it if they get into trouble.

GREG HUNT:
Yeah exactly and this is what the funding is for in particular. We’ve got a strong focus on visitors and migrants, people who come from overseas, they just don’t have the history and the experience of being in our waters. 

We lost somebody in my electorate from Japan just in the last few days. They were at Phillip Island, they swam on one of the back beaches, and I don’t know all of the circumstances but tragically they were lost. 

And so we’re really focusing on people who may not have the history of growing up with the water, teaching them to look for a rip, you know, if you can see where the water is flowing out, if you can see where the foam is flowing out. But above all else, swim between the flags…

CHRIS KENNY:
Exactly.

GREG HUNT:
…and not to swim alone because not everybody’s going to be able to pick a rip and probably those who are least capable are least likely just because of a relative lack of experience in ocean waters. 

So that’s where our lifesavers come in and our flags are picked to be in the safest places and the places where the lifesavers are most likely to be watching and will be watching if the flags are out and so that’s where it’s the place to swim. 

And we saw that at North Bondi today, the lifesavers were out on patrol, they were watching out, the water was pretty calm and absolutely gorgeous but at any time, somebody can get into trouble, just being a little bit too far out, a big gulp of water and you need others around you, and you need to swim between the flags and if you’re a parent, take your eye off the phone and put your eye on your kids.

CHRIS KENNY:
Indeed. And the thing I mentioned as well, last week, people who know what they’re doing, who can see families or individuals who look they’re going in to the water in the wrong spot, don’t be shy, share your knowledge with them. Don’t be shy just to share with people. They might not know. They might tell you to stick your nose out of their business, I suppose, you run that risk but don’t be shy. Try and share your local knowledge if you can.

GREG HUNT:
This is what Graham Ford was saying, who’s the chair of Surf Life Saving Australia, and he said this year passed, surf lifesavers have been involved in about 4 million what they call interventions, where they’re speaking to people to say look maybe you might just want to come in a bit or move away from that area, move between the flags. 

Therefore, whilst our number of lifesavers is up, we’re at just over 45,000; the number of necessary lifesaving actions has dropped from about 13,000 to 11,000. Not because they’re doing any less work, they’re doing more but what they’re doing onshore is keeping more people out of trouble offshore.

CHRIS KENNY:
We’re speaking to the Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, 131873 is the number. 

And Greg, you are of course, apart from being the Federal Minister for Health, you are a lower house member for a Victorian seat, the Victorian seat of Flinders, which takes in a lot of the southeast Melbourne suburbs and down there, as you say across to Mornington Peninsula. 

You must be concerned about the gang crimes, the youth gang crimes in Melbourne at the moment. There has been media reports that Federal MPs, including yourself, are expressing concerns about the lack of action by the Daniel Andrews State Labor Government in Victoria. 

Can you tell us what you think about the youth gang problem in Victoria and whether or not you’re happy with what the State Government’s doing to address it?

GREG HUNT:
Look I think it is the number one issue in Victoria, along with electricity prices and massive, massive congestion which is coming about from East West not being constructed. But in my electorate, in neighbouring electorates, right across Melbourne and so many part of Victoria, people are genuinely concerned and rightly concerned about gang violence, which is out of control. 

We have to be frank, a lot of it is a particular basis, there are African gangs which are running riot…

CHRIS KENNY:
Yeah we have to be upfront here, that’s an important point, let’s not be shy, it’s largely Sudanese-based or African-based youth gangs that are causing the trouble.

GREG HUNT:
Well, there are a variety of different gangs, but there is a particular problem there. No question, no doubt, no denying and I think we need to call it for what it is. The police are doing a great job, but they aren’t being resourced or given the powers or the laws to do what needs to be done by Daniel Andrews. 

The real solution – I think Matt Guy had that – he’s the Victorian Opposition leader and that’s about tougher drug distribution laws, much tougher gang laws and more resources for the police. 

And as federal Victorians, our primary focus is to put pressure on the Victorian Government to give the police the powers that they want, need and frankly in private, police will say to you give us the freedom and we’ll solve the problem.

CHRIS KENNY:
So you’re not expecting the Federal Government to get involved in this, but it’s a matter of federal MPs demanding that the Victorian State Labor Government does more.

GREG HUNT:
Look, we help in whatever ways are appropriate, and I know the PM has taken the lead from the Victorian Ministers and MPs on this. Whether it’s intelligence, whether it’s advice, whether it’s information, whether it’s resourcing, we assist with that but at the end of the day, policing is done at the community level and at the state level and the Victoria police do a brilliant job. 

The Victorian Government has absolutely failed to control the gang problem, partly through denial, partly through a lack of resources and partly through political correctness. It’s time that they called the problem for what it is and the solution is the Matthew Guy solution.

CHRIS KENNY:
Well, just before I let you go, Greg Hunt, 2017 was a shambolic year politically. Largely because of the dual citizenship crisis. What are your hopes for 2018? What’s the one thing you’d like most for the Federal Government to deliver?

GREG HUNT:
For us, it’s a very simple equation. More jobs with better real wages, and reducing the pressure on the cost of living. Nothing will lift the whole of the country and the whole of the economy more and help more people than continuing the thousand jobs a day which are being created, but then helping to turn that into better real wages, more money in the pocket and reduced pressures on out-of-pocket costs which keeps money in the pocket. Cost of living.

CHRIS KENNY:
Thanks very much for joining us, Greg Hunt.

GREG HUNT:
Cheers, Chris.

(ENDS)

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