Remarks at the Australian College of Nursing Parliamentary Breakfast

11 Oct 2016
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister


Well thank you very much indeed Kathy for your welcome and good morning everybody.

It’s wonderful to be here with the leaders of the nursing profession across Australia and at least 120 of you here in the room. We’re joined by so many of my parliamentary colleagues. The Health Minister Sussan Ley, the Assistant Minister for Rural Health Dr David Gillespie, the Shadow Health Minister Catherine King, the Leader of the Greens Richard Di Natale and many others.

We are also joined by the Chief Nurse of the Commonwealth Adjunct Professor Debra Thoms and as I said many other nursing leaders from across Australia.

I’m delighted to be here alongside Sussan and David and so many other parliamentarians after this historic occasion. The first time the Australian College of Nursing has launched a White Paper at Parliament House.

The Paper ‘Nurses are essential in health and aged care reforms’ addresses issues of critical importance to the future of Australia’s healthcare system so it is appropriate that we’ve come together here to pay proper consideration to its contents.

Australia has a world class healthcare system. It’s the envy of many countries around the world, but we face many challenges. As you perhaps more than most, are very well aware.

We have an ageing population, chronic disease is rising, new medical technology is promising, exciting but costly and people’s expectations are very high.

We are also a very mobile world nowadays which brings with it greater health protection risks, greater risks of epidemic - and there is a very good discussion in the Paper about the role nurses play in combating Ebola and the risk of pandemics.

This is a more challenging environment - wonderful, great opportunities but a more challenging one for front line medical professionals, such as yourselves.

Now my Government is committed to ensuring that future generations of Australians will also continue to enjoy world class healthcare.

We’re putting more funding than ever before in to health and aged care each year, currently about $90 billion a year. With demand growing, so will the need for more funding. 

Quality and affordable healthcare depend upon good economic management and a balanced budget.

Our National Economic Plan to repair the Budget and create a strong economy will ensure that our children and grandchildren also benefit from the health and aged care system that we currently enjoy.

The system needs to be a quality system, efficient and with sustainable growth - and you know better than anyone how important it is that patients are at the centre of the health system. We just heard Kathy talk about the significance of Sussan’s Health Care Homes reforms, which are putting the patient right at the centre of the focus of care.

Now we have to work together to find innovative solutions to the way we deliver care and this means real collaboration with all health professionals including of course nurses, more than a half of the entire profession.

Organisations like your Australian College of Nurses, representing nurses from the front line across political management and academic worlds give us the hands on and well-documented evidence we need in health policy.

We understand the value that nurses can bring to policy discussion and we know that their input, your input is vital to help us deliver reform. That’s why we have nurses advising us on several Commonwealth health and aged care committees.

The Minister, Sussan Ley will discuss the Government’s reforms to improve the quality of care and patient outcomes and ensure more efficient systems.

Given it is Mental Health Week, I’d like to touch on our significant reforms to mental health this morning.

We will invest $192 million of new money to strengthen mental health care in Australia.

Our bold package of reforms will ensure that we can offer the very best health to people with mental illness, their families and carers.

This once in a generation reform puts the needs of individuals at the centre of our mental health system with localised services and support provided at a regional level.

Our package includes 12 regional suicide prevention trial sites, digital innovation trials and ten lead sites to trial different care models – all looking to see what actually works.

Of course, mental health nurses are integral to our reforms so we will also provide $1.5 million to the Australian College of Mental Health Nurses to investigate a new work force model that would allow mental health nurses to move between the primary and acute care sectors.

The health sector faces great workforce challenges. We’ve discussed earlier and as Kathy noted, nurses represent over half of the Australian health and aged care workforce. Yet a number of reports predict we will not have enough nurses and particularly not enough mental health nurses to meet our needs into the future.

We have to work together to ensure that we create the right policy settings, make smart decisions about how we spend money and importantly find the best way to use the skills and experience of nurse practitioners, registered nurses, midwives and enrolled nurses.

Health ministers agreed last year that no single policy will magically close the looming nursing shortage and that coordinated national action is needed.

However there are a number of workforce focused initiatives already underway.

The Practice Nurses Incentive Program will expand the role of practice nurses so that GP’s can focus on more complex care.

The Nursing in Primary Health Care Program aims to help nurses into primary health care settings including in rural communities and we are committed to working with the aged care sector to ensure that we have a capable and responsible aged care workforce now and into the future.

The exciting aspect of these reforms is that they change and expand the career opportunities in education available for all levels of nursing in all types of nursing.

The nursing profession therefore is on the cusp of unprecedented possibility and attention and you have an enormous opportunity to help shape the future.

In the White Paper which we are launching today, we welcome the College of Nurses commitment to working closely with government because we are determined to consult and negotiate and achieve the very best outcomes we can in this 45th Parliament.

The nursing profession is demonstrating its commitment to this – to have 120 nursing leaders, here, all of you, from across Australia here in the Parliament today is proof of that.

So I am very pleased to launch your White Paper. Nurses are essential in health and aged care reforms. I commend it to all of you.

It is, as we were discussing earlier, consistent with a strong tradition of nurses. It is succinct, it is very readable and I encourage everyone to read it, all of it. It’s not one of those intimidating multi-volume tones. It gets right to the point, so please read it.

We look forward, all of us, and I hope I can speak for all Members of the House and the Senate, we all look forward to strengthening our strong working relationship with your College.

Thank you very much