2CC Stephen Cenatiempo Breakfast Show - 09/11/2021

09 November 2021


SUBJECTS: The Greens; Extinction rebellion; Hospital funding; the Pacific; Community grants.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Joining us this morning for our federal political panel is the Labor member for Canberra, Alicia Payne MP. Good morning, Alicia.




CENATIEMPO: Zed Seselja, Liberal senator for the ACT and Minister for International Development and the Pacific is with us. G'day Zed.


ACT LIBERAL SENATOR ZED SESELJA: Good morning. Good morning, Alicia.


CENATIEMPO: Alicia, apparently the Greens are coming after your seat.


PAYNE: Yes, yes. My seat is one of the 10 target seats around the country that they are targeting.


CENATIEMPO: What did you do to them?


PAYNE: Well, I believe it was at the last election as well.


CENATIEMPO: Zed, I'm hoping I'm not putting words in your mouth. But I reckon you'd rather have Alicia there than a Green, wouldn't you?


SESELJA: Well, the Greens are pretty extreme. So look, it. I don't think I'll be endorsing candidates between Labor and the Greens. They are very close together these days. But look, the Greens are extreme. I mean, we saw it yesterday, we saw their activist-arm, the extinction rebellion, doing their worst. They've got some policies that are pretty crazy. You know, whether it's decriminalization of drugs, whether it's cutting our defence spending in half. So there are some pretty crazy policies from the Greens. And, look, this is a serious point. I make this point often in the Parliament. I know there are people in the Labor Party who fight the Greens. Unfortunately, there are also some of the Labor Party, some of them here in the ACT, who really appease the Greens and empower them. And we've seen that an ACT Assembly level and we see it from time to time at a federal level. So I haven't formed a view. I don't know what Alicia's views are on the Greens. We haven't had detailed discussions. So I'll have an open mind on that. But they are, I think a party that has a lot of destructive policies. And they wrapped them up in  environmentalism. But there's actually some pretty extreme policies there.


CENATIEMPO: Well, Alicia, that's a fair comment. There are some fairly vocal members of your caucus that are concerned about the influence the Greens have over the Labor Party at the moment, where do you stand on that?


PAYNE: Well, I think there's a lot of well-meaning people that support the Greens who care about issues, like the environment, and other issues that they stand for. But the thing to remember is that the Greens are not a party of government, and they never come up with the plans around the costs or the implementation of their policies at a federal level. And they can get away with saying that. So in the federal parliament, they're not going to be able to actually be a voice in a government. They don't even look at trying to win seats around the country, they only look at the seats where they think that there are many people that already share their views or can be persuaded that way.


CENATIEMPO: Zed, while we're on this issue, the extinction rebellion protesters, vandalized your office yesterday, suggesting that you need to do more to mitigate climate change with regards to Pacific Islands. I guess the irony of that is that you're heading to Fiji this week.


SESELJA: Yeah, so a couple of things there. One, we are doing a lot in terms of support for our Pacific Island nations and climate finance. We've announced extra support, we're doing our bit around the world, reducing emissions much faster than most developed countries. So, but when it comes to that kind of extreme protest, I mean, yesterday, so they damaged, obviously, it's actually a private building, I think that's leased by the Commonwealth on my, on taxpayers behalf, and on my behalf for my office. They damaged that, they damaged the neighbouring property, which is just a local small business, local takeaway. So you know, if you're gonna, I mean, we're all, I'm all into protests if people want to. But you don't do it by breaking the law, you don't do it by vandalizing property, private property, public property. And that's what we saw. And as I said earlier, I mean, Adam Bandt has said, you know, those guys are heroes, the leader of the Greens has said these guys are heroes. And so, you know, there's a real extremism there.


But look, the Fiji visit is very important. They're reopening. There'll be reopening to tourists, I think, from the first of December from Australia. So and I know there's a lot of interest in that. It's a big part of their economy, tourism, but we've been assisting them through a very, very difficult time. And one of the things we'll be talking about is the fact that our 1 million doses that we've shared with Fiji has really come at a very important time for them and helped them through a real economic and health crisis. So yeah, it is an important visit.


CENATIEMPO: Alicia, Canberra’s hospitals are still falling behind the rest of the nation. This is according to the AMAs public hospital report card. We spoke to AMA president, the ACT AMA president yesterday who's called on the federal government to kick in 50-50 funding to get it up to, get it up to speed because the ACT Government has fallen behind in its funding, I guess, obligations when it comes to health. I know we'd like to blame the federal government for everything but sometimes state and territory governments have got to take a bit of responsibility don't they?


PAYNE: Well, this call for the 50-50 split for the federal government to stump up to share the responsibility for our hospitals has actually come from every state and territory governments around the country. Liberal and Labor had called on the Prime Minister to deliver that and he's just said no. And I think that in a pandemic is extraordinary. The federal government currently has modelling that could show us what the impact on our hospitals will be, and they won't release that. And they're really struggling. They've been under pressure now for nearly two years with the pandemic, and other parts of the hospitals work are suffering because of that.


I think a really important point about this as well, is there is pressure on our hospital system because of the federal government's failure to address other parts of its responsibilities, such as the aged care sector, the NDIS, and primary care. So there was data released recently that showed that, I think it was around 100 patients were in Canberra hospitals because they couldn't get the care that they needed in aged care or under the NDIS so that they can be released from hospital. And that's not good for those people either. If they don't need to be in hospital, they're better off not being in hospital.


The other really important point is that in Canberra, we have the lowest bulk billing rates in the country, after the federal government removed extra incentives for bulk billing in Canberra recently, as well. And that does put that extra strain on our hospital system. Both in the sense that people don't have somewhere to go when they do have an acute reason to need care, but also, because it means that there's less access to that sort of prevention, even ongoing health care that can be provided in the primary system.


CENATIEMPO: Zed, Alicia makes some good points there. I would say the fact that we have such high incomes in Canberra would, we should have lower bulk billing rates here. But the pandemic has been used as a lot of cover here, because particularly here in Canberra, we're talking about shortfalls that have been years in the making, not just the last 18 months to two years of the pandemic.


SESELJA: Well, it's 20 years of mismanagement by the Labor government, and I'll put some facts on the table in terms of what we've done since we came to office. So after 20 years of Labor government here in Canberra, we have some of the worst performances in our emergency departments, in particular, in Canberra hospitals generally. Yet, since we came to government, you're talking about what we do well, we've more than doubled the funding to the ACT year on year. When we came in was about $200 million years now about $550 million per year, so a huge increase at a time when the ACT government has under-invested and mismanaged. And it's not just me who says it, it's people like the longest serving Labor chief minister in the ACT, Jon Stanhope, he says exactly the same thing. The ACT government has been underfunding it. They've been mismanaging it. And after 20 years, we've got some very poor results to show it from a federal level since we came in year-on-year, huge increases more than doubled. So we are absolutely doing our bit but we can't run the hospital system on behalf of the ACT Labor government.


CENATIEMPO: Well, but having said that, I mean, the ACT is a fairly unique jurisdiction in that it is the Australian Capital Territory and territories do come under the auspices of the federal government. Don't you need to step in and pick up the shortfall because this government is failing?


SESELJA: Well, we are picking up the shortfall but we can't run the hospital system. As I say $200 million when we came in per year, $550 million this year. That's not a small increase. That is a huge year on year increase. And at the same time, not only has the ACT government not been increasing funding at a similar level. They are managing the hospital, now we can't run the hospital system. That's just something not, the Commonwealth does not due on behalf of the ACT. And it is time after 20 years that they started to do the job that they're elected to do which is look after health. They're getting plenty of money from the Commonwealth taxpayer. And we would expect much better outcomes as a result.


CENATIEMPO: Alicia, let's finish on a positive, Australia Day grants applications are open.


PAYNE: Stronger communities grants?




PAYNE: Yes, they are open and they are fantastic grants of up to $20,000 for organizations for mainly capital works. All the information's on my website. Please check it out if you are not-for-profit organization.


CENATIEMPO: Zed before I let you go. Am I too old to enter your Christmas card competition?


SESELJA: No, no. I mean, you know, we're encouraging the young people, but Stephen, I consider you relatively young.


CENATIEMPO: Alicia, Zed good to talk to you this morning.