Radio interview with Brian Carlton, 7AD

Transcript
05 Apr 2017
Prime Minister
Mersey Hospital funding; Budget speculation; Australian Maritime College; Suspected chemical weapon attack in Syria
E&OE

BRIAN CARLTON:

Prime Minister good morning

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah great to be with you.

BRIAN CARLTON:

Now was this a hard deal, a hard agreement to reach? And to what extent were you sort of pressured into it with the threat of having to actually physically run the hospital if you’d not agreed to this deal?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh look I think the most important thing is to celebrate the outcome. We were there, as you would have seen at the hospital, you can see how thrilled the community is and it’s a wonderful hospital.  You know, there are people there that have worked for 30, 40 years.  Julie Duff, the Head of Nursing, working there for 42 years. When she started there as a 17-year-old she told me her mother was a registered nurse there, so long ago they were wearing veils then. And, you know, the sense of relief in the community that the funding is now secure, the hospital will be owned again by Tasmania which was obviously the right level of Government to own it and the funding is secured there for ten years. 

There’s a real sense of joy and relief, I was delighted to be able to go there and meet with them and see the great work they’re doing.  It’s a great team, it’s not the biggest hospital in Australia but, gee, it’s got a big heart. 

BRIAN CARLTON:

It certainly does punch above its weight more often than not Prime Minister, no doubt about that.  Tell me, did you have any interest whatsoever in maintaining ownership of the hospital?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Brian, look I think the important thing is our interest is in ensuring that Tasmanians and indeed all Australians have access to the finest public health, finest hospital care that can be provided. And so the outcome, my focus and that of the Health Minister Greg Hunt, was very much on what is the right outcome for Tasmanians and clearly it is part of the Tasmanian Government’s public health system, it clearly should be able, it shouldn’t be operating in a silo. 

And we were talking to the Head of the Emergency Department there and she made exactly that point, that this will make it so much easier for them to work and collaborate with the other hospitals in the region you know the North-West Regional Hospital and of course Launceston General and so that collaboration between the, you know, the professional medical teams is going to be made a lot easier, so I think that’s good. 

BRIAN CARLTON:

Now Prime Minister how did you manage to find $730 million in one hit in the current budget period and with the current considerations?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we’ll set all that out in the Budget.  I’m getting lots of questions on the Budget Brian at the moment and all I can say is the Budget is in May. But all of that will be set out in the Budget. 

BRIAN CARLTON:

Okay, but you’re guaranteeing that it will be delivered in one tranche not over a period of years?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. 

No, no it’s being paid, it’s being paid. This represents the funding that would have been provided over ten years paid in one you know lump sum now and of course that gives the state great flexibility, it gives them greater freedom and it means this hospital is Tasmania’s. They’ve made an absolutely iron clad commitment to maintaining the hospital and its services but they’ve now got, it gives the state greater flexibility and autonomy in managing the financial side of it and that’s good because it’s a great state led by a great Premier in Will Hodgman.

BRIAN CARLTON:

I know your time is short Prime Minister, just a quick one if I may - there was a good deal of consternation in the State a week or so ago, in fact two weeks ago when the announcement was made by Christopher Pyne to establish what’s being seen as a parallel college in the marine space to the one we already have here, the AMC in Launceston, that $24 million if I’m not mistaken to establish a similar operation in Adelaide was looked at as - hang on, why are we doing that?  We could create the defense hub here and spoke it into Adelaide.  We’re already the hub, now we’re becoming the spoke?  A lot of people are a bit upset about that plan, pork barreling is a term that’s been used. 

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I was actually just speaking to Christopher Pyne about this as I have done on several occasions.  The big naval ship building program that we have and the bigger ships will be built in Osborne in South Australia. 

It is an enormous boost for the Maritime College in Tasmania, an absolutely enormous boost because it’s going to provide the demand for thousands of skilled workers in all of the areas of naval architecture and every trade and profession associated with that, and of course it’s also going to require a lot more seafarers as well. 

This is a very big opportunity, the technical college which is a trade technical college that will be set up at Osborne was designed to be there where the work is being done.  So clearly you’re going to have your trades training done in parallel with the construction but of course a lot of the work, a lot of the trainees, the students will be doing training in Launceston and indeed elsewhere in Australia. This is a huge national enterprise.

This ship building, naval ship building exercise is the biggest commitment to naval ship building in our peace time history. 

You know for six years the Labor Party didn’t commission one Australian ship from one Australian yard.

So what we’re doing now is making this massive commitment. We need it to give our Navy the capability to keep us safe. But it is also providing the commitment to the advanced manufacturing, the skills, the long term manufacturing industry base that we need to secure our future. 

And Tasmania and the Maritime College is going to play an enormous part in that.  Believe me, this is a, this should, what’s happening in Osborne should be seen as an opportunity, as a real opportunity for greater demand and greater growth from the Maritime College in Tasmania.

BRIAN CARLTON:

PM it was just a sense that the AMC here, the Maritime College could be the hub rather than the spoke. 

Look I know your time is very short, one quick thing, very disturbing story - what are your briefings telling you about, intelligence briefings, about what’s occurred in Syria in the past 24 hours?  We’re getting messages of a gas attack.  The finger is already being pointed at the Assad regime.  What are your intelligence briefings telling you this morning?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, let me just say this, this attack we absolutely condemn this horrendous attack.  The, if the Assad regime has used chemical weapons as is being alleged, that constitutes a war crime.  It constitutes a shocking war crime. 

The Assad regime should abide by the laws of armed conflict and there should be and will be I’ve no doubt, a full investigation into the circumstances of what appears to, well what has been, appears to be, a horrendous use of chemical weapons which we condemn. 

BRIAN CARLTON:

It’s an interesting thing for the Syrians to do just when it was becoming the realpolitik of the regime that would have to stay in Damascus until at least the ISIS situation and the rebel situation is sorted out then we deal with them.  It just doesn’t make any logical sense for Assad to go on a chemical rampage, and 48 hours after that sort of determination has been made.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, well again I can say that we absolutely condemn the use of chemical weapons.  The Assad regime must end their production and the use of chemical weapons immediately.  We co-sponsored a resolution of the UN General Assembly establishing an independent mechanism for collecting evidence on crimes of this kind committed in Syria and we absolutely support the measures to ensure that those responsible for this use of chemical weapons are held accountable. 

Now the United States, well, as I said, I won’t go any further than that.  But this certainly has been condemned by Governments around the world.  The United States has concluded that the attack was made by the Assad regime and both the President and the US Secretary of State have condemned these attacks in the same terms that I am condemning them now. 

BRIAN CARLTON:

Will there be any kind of stronger response?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that is the next step.  There are already sanctions in relation to Syria and we’ll be talking with our allies in this conflict to determine what the next step of response and sanctions can be. 

BRIAN CARLTON:

Appreciate your time this morning Prime Minister, thank you.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you so much. 

BRIAN CARLTON:

And appreciate also the deal, the $730 million deal for the Mersey Hospital.  That is absolutely a good outcome no doubt about that. 

[ENDS]