Transcript of Interview ABC 963 Hobart – Leon Compton
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21 April 2011
Leon Compton: With the election of Independent Andrew Wilkie to the seat of Denison in Hobart, the Royal Hobart Hospital's become a priority for Federal Government.
The Health Minister's in town today, in what's believed to be a further funding announcement for the hospital. Minister, good morning to you.
Nicola Roxon: Good morning.
Leon Compton: And thank you for coming in. What is the purpose of your visit to Tasmania today?
Nicola Roxon: Well I'm going to be meeting with the Premier, Lara Giddings, we're making an announcement together, which is very good news for the Tasmanian community, and particularly those who rely on the Hobart Hospital, I'm going to be announcing today that an additional $240 million is being invested, bringing our amount at the Commonwealth level, to $340 million for the redevelopment of the Hobart Hospital.
So pretty good news, a pretty big announcement, and we want to also congratulate the Tasmanian Government for putting in an application which met with all of the criteria and requirements, our independent board said it was a great application, and that's made us able to make the announcement today, and I think there's going to be a lot of happy people in Tasmania, when we do.
Leon Compton: This - what will become a $340 million commitment, effectively then honours the pledge that you made to Andrew Wilkie, as part of his agreement to give you his support?
Nicola Roxon: It absolutely does, we made clear that we would fund this amount, if the application was found to meet all of the necessary standards. Remember that an earlier application for a different amount of money, when there was talk of a hospital being rebuilt - built on a totally new site, did not meet those requirements, so it was a rigorous process, we're very pleased that the application stands up to scrutiny, and it means that nearly 200 extra beds will be part of this Hobart Hospital, and it's an exciting development, and it shows what we can do in partnership with the Tasmanian Government.
Leon Compton: It shows effectively what Andrew Wilkie can do in partnership with you, does it not? Is that not the significant part of this arrangement, that it was his pledge with you, honoured today?
Nicola Roxon: Look, it absolutely is very significant, and Andrew has been a passionate advocate for this. I might say so have over the past years many of our Labor colleagues, so I think this is good news, everyone can feel proud and pleased about it, Mr Wilkie certainly put a focus on this, and the fact that we had a proper process, an independent board, also gave him confidence, and he's on the record saying this, so I don't think I'm verballing him, that we had a proper process for making sure the money would be well spent.
So this is actually a really important day today, that we can announce that this investment will flow, it means that the work that's already commenced on the women's and children's site, can now be expanded into the larger redevelopment, and I'm really pleased that the premier will be announcing that, she'll be with me, and Mr Wilkie will be with me, as will a number of our Tasmanian colleagues, at the State level and the Federal level, so it's going to be a big show, and I suspect that's because every Tasmanian knows how important getting this investment right, is going to be.
Leon Compton: Nicola Roxon's my guest this morning, the Federal Health Minister, on your local ABC around Tasmania. Minister, yesterday's lead story in news around the state, the State Government's planning to cut $400 million over three years out of health services here, their budget's in an incredible pickle, how can you be sure that they will meet their commitment, and their side of the bargain, that is necessary for this deal to go ahead?
Nicola Roxon: Well, it does require investment from the State Government, and even our early investments have required money from the State Government, which has been forthcoming, and we are...
Leon Compton: Who's putting your money up? Their budget does not show a commitment to their side of the bargain, is my understanding.
Nicola Roxon: Well, we've already committed $100 million, that's been paid over, and that has been met with contributions also by the State Government that have already been provided and budgeted for. I think the question you're asking is, then the final amount of money that's required, and I'm not in a position to make announcements for a State Government and their budget, there's a very difficult process being gone through here, those questions will have to be put to either Minister Michelle O'Byrne, or of course the premier, and we'll be holding a press conference today, when those questions can be put. But we're confident...
Leon Compton: Minister, Federal...
Nicola Roxon: ...we are confident that this money will be matched, it's going to be spent over the next four years, as construction continues, and of course it shows that the Commonwealth, with its different base, is able to make funding available to assist a state like Tasmania, to make this important investment. But they will also have to provide their share, and they've committed that to us, and I have no reason to doubt that they won't.
Leon Compton: Minister, Federal Governments get frustrated quite often about State Governments promising, Federal Government comes to the party, State Government does not deliver, you would know any number of examples of that, and we also know that Federal Government has had some frustration with the Tasmanian Government's performance in service delivery in recent years, will you be making them guarantee their side of the funding?
Nicola Roxon: Well, we absolutely have contractual arrangements with them, we have commitments with them, we pay money in a staged way, so that we are sure that the construction goes according to time, and the money is paid at the appropriate time, so we're very careful and rigorous about that.
But the really important thing, Leon, is actually our health reforms that have been signed on to, are designed to tackle that exact problem. We are going to put money for future funding, for growth in health expenses across Tasmania, and across the country, into a separate pool, where the State Governments also have to put their money into it, where we share clearly 50 per cent of the growth into the future, and where there can't be any of that fiddling, where allegations have been made for decades about the way that, you know, the Commonwealth increases their money and the state pulls it out, or vice versa, so we wanted to put an end to that, and our reforms have a very significant financial edge, which is giving us a lot of comfort, that we will not be in that position in the future.
Leon Compton: On your local ABC around Tasmania, my guest this morning, Nicola Roxon, the Federal Health Minister. I went to a talk the other night, your Minister for Ageing and Mental Health was in town, and having a chat. Health researchers who had come along for the chat, standing up and extremely worried about your government's commitment to funding for things like Alzheimer's research, MS research, ongoing mental health research, in parts of Australia, and particularly in Tasmania. Can you confirm that their concerns about this, that the NHMRC budget will not be affected in the upcoming Federal budget?
Nicola Roxon: What I can absolutely clearly say is that we very much value the research, and we know that often it is the key to us being able to provide better services into the future, for the health of Australians. We've spent more than any other government, even with the financial pressures of the last few years, on funding for research. It is competitive, so you may miss out on particular projects, when another one is successful, and the Treasurer made quite clear yesterday that this is an area that we are very serious about making sure we maintain commitments, we're not...
Leon Compton: Are you looking at cutting the pool of funding that exists at the moment?
Nicola Roxon: We're not, we're not ruling in and out any of the budget announcements, I mean we do get into this awkward period for the next few weeks, but we've made very clear, the researchers have all been in town, they've met with the Treasurer, they've met with the Prime Minister, they've met with my colleague, Minister Butler, who's directly responsible for research, and they've been assured that all of us understand the value of research, and the importance of making sure it can continue, and we've got a proud record here of investing more than any other government in the past, and I think you can be pretty confident that's not a record we're hoping to tarnish.
Leon Compton: Health Minister, good to have you in the studio this morning.
Nicola Roxon: Thank you.
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