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09/28/2013

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Australian Agenda24 February 2013 Peter Dutton 
Sky News Australian AgendaPeter Dutton 24 February 2013
Interview withPeter Dutton Australian Agenda program,24 February 2013 Peter van Onselen: And as mentioned off the top we're joined here in the studio now by the ShadowHealth spokesperson, Peter Dutton. Mr Dutton, welcome to the program.Peter Dutton:Pleasure, thanks Peter.Peter van Onselen:There's problems on the Labor side in terms of health funding arrangements betweenthe Commonwealth and the states. It seems like normally, as Shadow Healthspokesperson, we don't see that much of you. It's almost as though the Coalition aretrying to hide health policy debates from view but Labor's got a problem this week, andhere you are. Is this unusual for you to be allowed out into the media?Peter Dutton:Well, I accepted your invitation. I'm very happy to be back with you in the studio.Thank you for the warm welcome. Look, I think it has been a disastrous week, achaotic week for the Government, particularly when it comes to health policy, and partof the reason of course that the Government hasn't been able to speak about health isbecause they've got no runs on the board. It's really been a very difficult period forthem. They can't hang their hat on mental health rollouts which have been a disaster.They can't say that they've opened more beds. They're now at war with theQueensland and NSW Governments in particular over funding. They've gone, cap inhand, back to their original position in Victoria by now reversing some cuts down there.So I don't think there's any difference now between health and some of the otherpolicy disasters over the last five years.Peter van Onselen:But all the problems that you mentioned, doesn't that make now the time to strike if the Coalition wants to be seen as serious in the health policy area by announcing aserious set of alternative policies that you'll take to the election.
 
Australian Agenda24 February 2013 Peter Dutton 
Peter Dutton:We've done a little bit of that but we'll do more in the run-up to the election. I think atthe last election one of our crowning moments was our ability to trump theGovernment on mental health. The Government over the course of this term hasn'tbeen able to roll out mental health facilities and programs and services. And so there'sa lot of anger. So we'll continue to highlight the difficulties that they've got but at theright time we'll announce our policies, and I think people will be impressed particularlywith the way in which we've...Peter van Onselen:What will be the right time?Peter Dutton:Well, I think in the run-up to the election, there's obviously traditionally a 33-daycampaign. I know the Prime Minister says nobody's campaigning at the moment but
there’ 
ll be an appropriate time and we made an announcement to freeze the area of medical research from any cuts, to quarantine it from any cuts. I think that was asignificant policy announcement particularly given the budget context at the moment,but we'll roll out policies at a time that suits us, not the Labor Party.Paul Kelly:Do you think that the Gillard Government did the right thing giving Victoria that extra107 million?Peter Dutton:Well, I think they shouldn't have pulled out in the first place, Paul. I think the PrimeMinister's big problem is that she's now, at least in the public's mind, somebody whobreaks her promises and can't be trusted and leads a chaotic Government and I think this debate just underscored all of those problems for her. She promised the funding.She personally negotiated the funding agreement, put her signature to the paper, thenwalked away from it, and people were sent letters telling them that their electivesurgery was going to be cancelled, nurses were put off, doctors were put off, bedswere closed. And the reality is that now having reversed that cut, the damage havingbeen done, I think it's very hard for the Prime Minister to claw back credibility. But of course what she's done is not just affect patients but she's now bitten herself off anenormous problem in NSW where there's still $138 million outstanding by way of payments there, and $103 million in Queensland. So now she's bought herself aproblem in those two key states by just reversing the cuts in Victoria.Paul Kelly:Well, just to clarify that answer, I think what you're saying is that you think theGovernment did the wrong thing at the end of last year when they cut back funding, I
 
Australian Agenda24 February 2013 Peter Dutton 
think the figure of about 1.5, 1.6 billion has been mentioned, so you think that was thewrong thing to do.Peter Dutton:I think particularly the wrong thing to do was to cut funding part way through afinancial year. That's what's really sent a shudder across health networks. So a hospitalboard that's running a hospital was told by Julia Gillard as a result of these cuts "You'regoing to have to cut beds" and by announcing a funding cut part way through afinancial year it has a double impact because they then have to find the savings in thesecond half of the year and services announce that they were going to close beds andcut elective surgery.Paul Kelly:Well, the Government was trying to find savings, quite clearly.Peter Dutton:They wanted to get back to surplus. That was all in their context.Paul Kelly:Sure, sure, but what you're saying is the Opposition opposes that.Peter Dutton:We oppose particularly that retrospective cut part way through a financial year that justunderscores this chaos approach and I don't think it's a Government that's got anycredibility in the health space now and particularly for those doctors and nurses on thecoalface that were inflicted with the pain of this cut, to have the Government break their agreement part way through a financial year is almost without precedence and it'sbad for patients.Paul Kelly:I think the message you're really conveying here is that as far as the Coalition isconcerned, given the budgetary challenge that it faces, it won't be making significantcuts in the health budget. Is that essentially where we are?Peter Dutton:I think both parties will make their announcements in relation to health funding goingforward based on the campaign.Paul Kelly:But that's surely the logic of what you're saying.Peter Dutton:I think the bigger point, Paul, is that it's intolerable for a Government, a FederalGovernment in the 21st century in our country to be cutting budgets part way through

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