17 October 2022
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER
MONDAY, 17 OCTOBER 2022
SUBJECTS: FLOOD EMERGENCY; MEDICARE RORTS.
NATALIE BARR, HOST: Well, parts of Victoria are experiencing a record-breaking flooding emergency with thousands of residents at risk, up to 8,000 homes are expected to be surrounded by water this morning with rivers in the Echuca and Shepparton areas expected to peak. It comes as the government announces support payments are now available to those impacted by the floods.
Joining me now are Labor’s Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce. Good morning to you. Tanya, you’re standing virtually in the rain – 14 degrees and raining in Sydney. Tell us how these people can access the payments, how much they are, and where do they get them.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: Well, through Centrelink, and it’s a thousand dollars for an adult and $400 per child. It’s the same emergency support that we’ve seen in the past in Queensland and parts of New South Wales when they’ve been flooded. They’re now available in Victoria and parts of northern Tasmania. It depends on where you live, it depends on actually being affected by the floods. But if you just go through Centrelink is the best option for people to check their eligibility.
It's a really tough time, and the federal government is standing by to help states cope with this, you know, once again this terrible flooding that people are experiencing.
BARR: Yeah, Barnaby, this is looking bad for so many people. The clean-up around Maribyrnong, but around that Shepparton area, thousands and thousands of people could go under. Is that enough?
BARNABY JOYCE MP: Yeah –
BARR: Those payments?
JOYCE: Well, no, for some of them it will be devastating. If you lose your house, you’re not going to fix it for a thousand dollars. And obviously, I’ve been speaking to or been in contact via our chat site with Sam Birrell, who’s the member for down there. And he’s obviously beside himself with the problems that they’re about to encounter. It’s such an insidious thing, a flood. Of course, I’ve experienced it when I lived at St George. You see the water rising and rising and people take all the precautions they can but it comes underneath the sandbags. It takes away people’s houses. And then going back and helping out before in places such as Woodburn on the Northern Rivers and throwing out people’s – all their private possessions, wedding photos, clothes, their cupboards, when things just get destroyed. When water goes through, it’s destroyed. A thousand dollars doesn’t touch the sides.
And it once more goes to show you the issues that happen in regional Australia that regional Australia is a different place, and we’ve got to make sure that you get the investment into regional Australia. Because after this is over it won’t be the houses – it will be the roads. The roads will pack it in. And once the water gets under the surface of the roads the seal gives up and the infrastructure that just basically falls to pieces after the rain.
And so my heart goes out to people on the Campaspe, on the Murray and the problems that they’re encountering. And we hope to do whatever we can together to try and make sure that we assist in getting them back on their feet. Because it’s – these people produce an immense amount of wealth for our nation, and they need the respect that stands behind that to show that people understand what they’re going through and what they do for our country.
BARR: Yeah, just these peaks just keep surpassing, don’t they? What we had 50 years ago, the Goulburn River expected to peak higher than 1974. It’s just devastating these pictures we’re seeing.
Look, also this morning there are reports billions of dollars are being rorted from Medicare each year by medical practitioners. An investigation by The Age found doctors are making mistakes or they’re charging for services that aren’t necessary or didn’t even happen in the first place, including billing dead people and falsifying patient records to boost their profits. The revelations come as GPs lobby the government to boost Medicare funding and increase rebates.
Tanya, this leakage is estimated to be about $8 billion a year. What is your government going to do about this?
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah, it is really shocking, isn’t it. Well, I was Health Minister, and I can tell you that it is really important that we have strong compliance for Medicare. Medicare is the best health system in the world, but to keep it universal, to keep it affordable we need to make sure that every dollar is being spent wisely. And it doesn’t matter what the system is; there will always be a couple of people who try and rort it and do the wrong thing. We need to come down on those people like a tonne of bricks. Because Medicare, Australians feel protective of Medicare. They want to keep Medicare. They love the way our health system works, but it can’t work if you’ve got people ripping it off. So, for those people who are ripping it off, they need to face the full consequences of the law.
BARR: Yeah, the trouble here, Barnaby, it doesn’t sound like it’s a revelation. You’ve got a guy who ran the Medicare watchdog years ago saying he raised this with health ministers from both sides of the government back in 2011 and the years he was in leading up to that – so both sides, both health ministers and the department – and he was shut down. So, this isn’t a little bit of money; this is yours and mine and everyone out there’s money being wasted. How can we get on top of this?
JOYCE: Well, obviously Medicare and the NDIS are two parts of expenditure that are out of control. But we’ve got a budget coming up, and let’s see what happens. So far, I see they’re just going to rip the guts out of regional Australia. The budget will be a great day for you if you live on light rail –
BARR: Yeah, but on this issue, Barnaby, it sounds like it has been something that has been rorted for many years and no government has done anything about it.
JOYCE: Well, now we get to see the Labor Party fix it. And they’ll have to fix NDIS while they’re at it because both Medicare and NDIS are out of their financial envelopes, and they’re recurring expenditure. So, you’re not going to fix recurring expenditure by dealing with assets on the balance sheet.
So, yeah, it’s a job. The Labor Party have been there for half a year now and they’ve got to fix this up. And if Medicare is their baby, then let’s see if they have the capacity. It won’t be one or two – there’ll be loads of people. And a lot of these GPs, you know, these so-called large clinics, large doctors' clinics, just become supermarkets for whatever charge they can possibly get on the person who walks through the door.
BARR: Yeah, so what I don’t get –
JOYCE: By the time people have sat down in the waiting room they’ve got hundreds of dollars of bills against their name.
BARR: So, if I’m sitting here and I’m opening the paper and I’m reading this morning and I’m saying both governments were warned by a watchdog, a Medicare watchdog and neither of you guys did anything about it, you know, that’s really frustrating.
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Nat, to be fair, Nat, we haven’t been in government for nine years, and –
JOYCE: I’m admitting it needs to be fixed but –
BARR: Yes, Tanya?
JOYCE: It’s just – all you’re doing –
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: When I was the Health Minister, Nat, we changed –
JOYCE: You’re just relinquishing your responsibility when you say that.
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: When I was the Health Minister, Nat, we changed a whole bunch of things. So, there were people getting cosmetic procedures on Medicare, we cracked down on that. We went through and said you just – we’re not going to pay for a bunch of this stuff that is not medically necessary. If we had doctors – and I discovered doctors myself when I was the Health Minister who were rorting Medicare – we often suspended them, we prevented them from practising, we prevented them from billing Medicare. And it looks like in the time since the previous government were in charge, the last nine years, that sort of work hasn’t been kept up to scratch. We need to make sure we’re doing it because Medicare is a great system. You don’t want to get sick in any other country on earth other than Australia.
Of course, it can always be better. One of the things we need to do to make it better is to make sure that every single dollar is being spent in the way that it’s supposed to be spent – for patient health, looking after patients, not lining the pockets of big medical companies.
BARR: Yeah, that’s for sure. Okay, thank you both. Talk to you next week.
JOYCE: Well, why –
MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Thank you.
BARR: Thank you, sorry, we’ve got to go to the news because the floods are a big story.