Transcript: Dr Gannon, Sky News - Election health policy

9 Jul 2016

Transcript: AMA President Dr Michael Gannon with Ashleigh Gillon, ‘Weekend Live’, Sky News, Saturday 9 July 2016

Subjects: Election result, health policy, Health Minister

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Welcome back to Weekend Live.  Well, as the Coalition looks increasingly confident it will form a Government, and a majority Government at that, attention is turning to the likely make up of Mr Turnbull's new-look front bench, with speculation Sussan Ley will be removed as the Health Minister.

For more on this and some policy issues that dominated the campaign we are joined by Michael Gannon, he is the President of the Australian Medical Association, he joins us live from Perth.

Michael Gannon, good to talk with you, thanks for your time. Would you agree that Sussan Ley was absent from the crucial final two weeks of the debate leading up to the Election Day? Do you think that she did fail to effectively rebut Labor's message on Medicare?

MICHAEL GANNON: I was disappointed that we didn't hear more from Minister Ley in the campaign. It was very clear that Labor had put health, and Medicare specifically, at the centre of their campaign.

Sussan Ley would have been the appropriate person to talk about her Party's message and to rebut elements of Labor's message that she disagreed with. I was surprised that there was no debate between Catherine King and Sussan Ley during the campaign. It was good to see health issues discussed, I think it would have added to the level of debate if we had heard more of her during the campaign.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Malcolm Turnbull has admitted this week that the Liberals have a reputational problem around public health policy.

Do you think a new face in the Health Ministry would be the first step for the Coalition resolving that?

MICHAEL GANNON: Well I've said before, I've enjoyed my interactions with Minister Ley.

I think that she's got some good ideas, she's a good listener, she's a person that you can definitely speak to. I don't necessarily see that as the problem.

It's not my job to sit in judgement of how the Coalition ran their campaign. Certainly, whatever happens, we want to see what looks more and more likely like a re-elected Coalition Government focus on health policy, and look at investing in it. I'm very happy to support their platform of trying to responsibly fund the system, try and bring the Budget towards balance. But it's really important that whatever measures they come up with, whatever efficiencies or savings they look for, that they are well targeted. There are areas of health spending that, if you touch, you end up paying a lot more further down the track.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: I'm not sure if you heard Andrew Wilkie's news conference a short time ago here on Sky while you were waiting for this interview, but he was clearly signalling that he will be pushing for the Government to reverse policy in health areas, including on the Medicare freeze. Would you expect that, considering the result, which the Government will have to make a major U-turn on that policy in particular?

MICHAEL GANNON: I think the reason we're so interested in these amazingly close races, you know, seven votes in Flynn, quite incredible, because the- what our country's going to look like will be very different at 74 seats, at 75, at 76 or 77. Of course then it will require some really skilful negotiation to get any measures through the Upper House. So I think that there's going to need to be a lot of listening, whoever is in the Health Ministry, to people potentially in the Lower House, but certainly in the Upper House, to get contentious legislation through.

So I think that's why we're all still waiting. The world is a very different place at 77 seats compared to 74.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Yeah, and of course Malcolm Turnbull will be hoping the 77, which seems to be the upper edge of expectations, is the case. Before the election, Michael, I interviewed you and you wouldn't say, you wouldn't go as far to say that you thought Bill Shorten's warning on Medicare was irresponsible. That's despite reports that Labor's campaign had been worrying particularly elder Australians about the future of health care in this country.

When you combine those reports with the text messages we saw sent on the day, which appeared to come from Medicare, warning about the Coalition's plan, are you now willing to say that yes, in hindsight, with all that we now know, that Labor's campaign on Medicare privatisation was irresponsible?

MICHAEL GANNON: Well look, I don't think it's my job to use that terminology.

I am happy to call it a scare campaign, and I've used that in my public statements post-election. A move to look at potentially outsourcing to the private sector, the horribly out of date payments system, was in no way privatisation. And I think that that scare campaign was particularly effective.

What I've also said, as early as the day after the election, is that I think the Liberal Party left the fertile ground for the scare campaign. I think that people were worried about co-payments, they were worried about out of pocket expenses for basic blood tests, for X-rays, ultrasounds, they were worried about an increase in out of pocket expenses for pharmaceuticals.                                               

Now I think that we need to be able to have a really mature conversation about these out of pocket expenses, because what is clear is that there is growth in this sector.

As the population ages and the incidence of chronic diseases increases, we're going to have to come up with different ways to fund the health system. So what we can't have is sacred cows that can't be touched. This is going to require mature debate and concessions from both sides of politics to come up with a health policy that's purposeful for 10, 15, 20 years' time.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Michael Gannon, the AMA President, joining us live there from Perth. Thanks so much for your time on Weekend Live and best of luck with your lobbying efforts, which will no doubt ramp up as soon as we actually have an election result. Thanks so much.

9 July 2016

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