Sky News AM Agenda
Ashleigh Gillon and Mark Butler MP
12 April 2010
E & OE
Subjects: Aged care, public hospitals, NAPLAN tests
Welcome back to AM Agenda. Let’s go straight now to our panel of politicians. Joining me from Adelaide is the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mark Butler. And from Melbourne the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Carers and Voluntary sector, Mitch Fifield. Good morning to you both. Mark Butler I’m going to start with you. What details can you share with us about the aged care announcement we’re expecting from the Prime Minister this morning.
Good Morning Ashleigh. You’re right. The Prime Minister this morning will be announcing a very significant new investment in the aged care sector which builds on a range of investments that he’s announced in the few weeks since he announced the national health and hospitals plan. Now this investment will create about 2500 new places in residential aged care and in community care for people assessed as needing aged care in Australia. It will also create 2000 flexible places in hospitals, in public hospitals, for long stay older patients dealing with one of the very significant complaints from state public hospital systems about cost shifting between the hospital system and the aged care sector. And lastly but just as importantly, it will create very new incentives for GP’s to deliver up to 105,000 additional procedures in aged care facilities. We know that every year about 27,000 hospital admissions take place because care is not able to be provided by GP’s or allied health professionals within an aged care facility. So the facility is left with no choice but to transport the person, the patient, or the resident to a public hospital and really they don’t need to be there if there’s able to be GP and primary care delivered in the aged care facility. This is a very important part of firstly delivering more places in residential aged care and community care, but also as with a number of other announcements made over the last couple of weeks by the Prime Minister, taking more pressure off our public hospital system.
Why are these announcements being dripped out like they are? Were the Premiers told the details of all these announcements at the beginning or are they just like us, waiting for the next instalment every week? It doesn’t seem fair to them that they’re just getting these announcements as we go along when the COAG meeting is next Monday.
Well I don’t agree with the language about that this being dripped out. There’s an enormous amounts of information that’s been provided…
…Well Mark Butler every week there’s another announcement. We’re still waiting for the mental health announcement for example. The aged care announcement’s today. The emergency department announcement over the weekend. That’s being dripped out isn’t it?
Well we think the staging of these announcements which is language I prefer. The staging of these announcements is very important because getting the foundations of the governance and funding responsibilities right, as we think we have in the national health and hospital’s network plan, is a very important base from which to talk about new investments. Whether it’s for the 1 million Australians suffering from Diabetes, the emergency department announcement you talked about the Prime Minister made over the weekend or this aged care announcement, they all need to be considered. They’re all very significant announcements in and of their own right and to lump them all on the public, all on the Premiers or health professionals all on one day would have been completely I think unrealistic and impractical. So what we’re doing is we’re being very upfront, particularly with the Premiers and the health ministers before the COAG meeting next week. With all of the new investments we think can flow if we get the funding and governance responsibilities right as we think we have in the national health and hospitals network plan.
Mitch Fifield lets bring you in. Of course it’s a bit difficult for the Coalition to engage in this debate when we still don’t know what your plan is and what you would do differently. It’s pretty hard to argue with extra aged care places and shorter emergency waiting times and the like. How do you rate these recent announcements and do you think it will be enough to get the Premiers on board and next Monday’s COAG meeting?
Well we’re not entirely clear whether what the government is announcing today is an aged care plan to improve aged care or if it’s an aged care plan to take pressure off public hospitals and to help the Prime Minister in selling his public hospital plan. One of the difficulties is the way that these particular programs are announced. We have them briefed off to the papers so we have a little bit in the papers this morning. We have Justine Elliot, the Aged Care Minister on AM this morning giving a very garbled and convoluted explanation of what the plan is. No doubt later
today we along with the State Premiers will actually find out the detail of this plan. So we don’t have the benefit of it. But it goes to the heart of how this government is managing this aged care, this health program. They’re not putting all the cards on the table at the outset so the State Premiers can properly asses what the Prime Minister is proposing for health. They’re not putting all the cards on the table so the Opposition can properly asses what the Prime Minister is proposing for health. They’re dribbling it out, announcing measures for hospital emergency rooms. Announcing measures for people with diabetes. And now we have this announcement in relation to aged care. If the government was serious about having a genuine discussion with the Premiers, if they were serious about having the Opposition being in a position to take a look at what they’re proposing, they would release everything at once as we did with the new tax system, the GST. We didn’t dribble it out. We put all the cards on the table at once so people could properly asses. One thing I think people should be very concerned about is if you thought Peter Garrett was bad with pink batts, just wait until you get a look at Justine Elliot in charge of aged care. I think there are very good reasons to have concern about having all of Australian aged care under the control of Justine Elliot.
Mark Butler, criticism is flying from all directions for these health reform plans. The RBA Board Member Roger Corbett the latest. He described the reforms as “grotesque.”
Grab from Roger Corbett:
It’s not going to resolve anything. In fact, it’s conceivably going to significantly worsen the situation.
Mark Butler, someone like that, he’s a heavy hitter. The more criticism like that voters hear the less chance a referendum would be successful.
Well I mean there will be a range of views about this. But certainly the overwhelming bulk of the feedback we’ve got as we’ve travelled around the country, all of us are in different parts of the country talking to stakeholders in this area about the proposal is very very positive. Now there will be some debate about some details of it and there will be the odd person like Roger Corbett who may disagree with the fundamentals of it. But the vast bulk of people we’re talking to, whether they’re hospital administrators, people delivering hospital services day in or day out or the many consumer forums that I’ve been particularly doing over the last of weeks are very very positive about the direction and the detail of these reforms. So we’re confident we’ve got the direction of this right. We’re confident that the network plan is the right plan for the future governance and funding of our hospital system and we think that the programs that the Prime Minister has been announcing over the last several days and will announce today again in relation to aged care are significant new investments that will deliver better care and better treatment for Australians.
Ok, also today the Australian Education Union is going to be deciding whether or not teachers will boycott the national literacy and numeracy tests next month to protest over the My School website. Julia Gillard had this to say yesterday as to what options are available to the government as to how these test could go ahead.
Grab from Julia Gillard:
Well we’re obviously looking at a range of options Barry. We haven’t closed in on a final option yet. But one option clearly on the table is asking parents to assist with supervising the tests. Obviously they would do that under instruction from qualified supervisors and we would need to make sure that people have working with children checks and the like, but asking them to work with us to make sure the test go ahead.
Mark, if parents do supervise tests, couldn’t they be liable if something happens to a child during the test. Wouldn’t it also drive a wedge between parents and teachers? Is that really what you are trying to do here?
Well we’re trying to make sure that these tests go ahead. They’re incredibly important for the development of children in grade 3, 5, 7, and 9 and we think it’s unusual to say the least that the question of whether or not people, students, would be able to undertake their test is resting in the hands of the national executive of the teachers union. So we’re not going to simply see tests shelved because the national executive of the teachers union today decides they don’t want to supervise them. We’re going to look at a range of options to make sure that these tests go ahead and the education of our children is not interrupted. Now in terms of parent involvement in this, can I just say parents are involved in a range of school activities. They supervise school excursions regularly. A range of other out of school hour activities. So this is not in a sense a particularly novel idea. It’s not something we want to do. We want the teachers union today to re-think this threat. We think the tests are important and their job is to supervise them going ahead.
Mitch, the Opposition isn’t against the My School website is it? So I’d presume you would also be encouraging teaches not to boycott these tests.
We’re in favour of the NAPLAN tests. The Coalition were the first in the Parliament to propose testing for literacy and numeracy and we were the first in the Parliament to propose providing more information to parents. So we’re fully supportive of those things. But it’s bizarre, Julia Gillard’s proposal that parents basically face-off against the teachers of their own kids at schools. There’s a very special relationship that teachers have with school students, particularly with primary school students. They’re more than educators. They care for them for large parts of each school day and I think to expect parents to be in a confrontational situation with teachers shows that Julia Gillard is a bit out of touch. We don’t want to see parents and teachers facing-off at schools. I don’t think parents would want to be put in that situation. We want to see these tests go ahead and it’s up to Julia Gillard to find a better way than trying to put the hard word on parents and turning every primary school in Australia, potentially, into a conflict zone. We don’t want to see that. We don’t think that’s a good idea.
Ok Mitch Fifield, Mark Butler we are out of time. We will of course bring our viewers up to date when that meeting with the Australian Education Union decides whether or not it will boycott those tests a bit later today. That’s all we have time for for this program. Join us this afternoon of course at 4:15 eastern time for PM Agenda. For now I’m Ashleigh Gillon, thanks for your company.