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Source: Australian Ministers for Health

Date published: 

4 November 2019

Media type: 



General public


I want to welcome today’s progress through the COAG Health Ministers meeting.

In particular, there was a historic agreement to work for a single national partnership on mental health, a united national mental health system.

This is already responding to the recommendations of the Productivity Commission.

It is one of the most important advances in unified, integrated mental health care in the last three decades, and we now have to make it work.

But it’s a response and a recognition that today is a critical day for patients, for four million Australians with mental health needs.

And so I want to thank the Productivity Commission but in particular, thank the states and territories for their cooperation with regards to developing a genuine national partnership for mental health.

The Commonwealth lead in areas such as prevention and early diagnosis through the GP system; cooperation in treatment and then the states to lead in the hospitals and the recovery as people are discharged from the hospital.

But this is a profoundly important moment.

Today as well, we have progress on eating disorders.

As of today, patients with eating disorders would be able to access up to 60 sessions of Medicare-funded treatment – 40 with psychologists and 20 with dieticians.

And this is an immensely important step forward and the Butterfly Foundation has described it as fundamental and critical for patients and lifesaving.

Many people have been involved in it. So all of these things come together today.

Secondly, the ministers have together agreed for the first time to make safe use of medicines a national health priority.

This is an immediate response to the royal commission into aged care.

The royal commission called for safer use of medicines and in particular, to deal with chemical restraints in aged care.

And I thank the ministers for responding in real time to the aged care royal commission.

So, we will now move to have the safe use of medicines, the quality use of medicines, to be declared a national health priority for the first time in Australian history.


Mr Hunt-


Sorry. Thirdly, we’ve also made very real progress on e-cigarettes.

We have some of the strongest rules in the world on nicotine-based e-cigarettes and the restrictions that are in place – there’s a strong clear commitment from all ministers to maintain them.

But in addition to that, we have now referred to the chief medical and health officers across the country the question of non-nicotine, flavoured vaping and e-cigarettes.

There’s a deep concern that these are both an on-ramp for young people to smoking and that they are also potentially dangerous to young people directly.

The evidence coming out of the United States is concerning and so the chief medical and health officers around the country will immediately begin the process of addressing the scientific evidence of the threat and the risk.

In addition to that, we’ve also made very real progress on better and stronger hospital services for Australians.

We’ve had already, at the work of the Victorian Government agreeing with the Commonwealth to sign up, and I thank them and we’re making great progress on a national hospital agreement.

The heads of agreements have now been signed by seven out of the eight states and we’ve had very constructive discussions with Queensland.

So I’m quietly hopeful that more will be down there based on additional support for primary care.

So all of these things have come together in what has been an immensely important meeting.

Breakthroughs on the national partnership on mental health, breakthroughs on the safer use of medicines in direct and immediate response to the royal commission into aged care; action taken on e-cigarettes, the non-nicotine vaping; and then finally, enormous progress together towards better hospital care for Australians.


What did you make of the interim report into aged care?


The interim report, I think, was profoundly important.

It highlighted a generational challenge and an intergenerational inequity in Australia.

And I want to thank the royal commissioners- I mourn the loss of Commissioner Tracey but I thank the commissioners for their work.

We’ve taken immediate steps here at the Health Ministers’ meeting to address one of the elements. And the Prime Minister indicated today that we would, in the coming weeks, respond on the three priorities that they have raised.

But this is an incredibly important and confronting, an absolutely confronting, report but this is why we call it: to shine a light into the places where light have not been evident before.


Has the Government let down our elderly?


I think the point of the royal commission is that as a country over a generation, over three decades, across jurisdictions, but also in the community, we can do significantly better, we must do significantly better, and we commit that we will together do significantly better.

The message that was given to me by the Royal Commission, Lynelle Briggs when we spoke yesterday just prior to the release when she briefed us on the report, was that this is ultimately about a culture of respect that begins with each of us.

It begins in the community and it begins with the Prime Minister and all of the members of Parliament and all of the Parliaments.


Do you agree with- that the aged care sector is a shocking tale of neglect?


Look, I am not going to argue with any of the findings in the royal commission.

We asked them to be frank and fearless, and they have been frank and fearless.


Will the Government act on the recommendations?




Another immediate recommendation is to stop the flow of young people with a disability going into aged care.

How is the Federal Government doing this?


So, the Prime Minister already addressed that this morning.

This has been one of his personal passions, and I have to say when we were drafting the royal commission, terms of reference, he was himself deeply engaged in that particular reference, and so we’ll be responding on the three priorities that they outlined in the coming weeks, but that will be one of them and we’re already working on ways forward.


Will a nurse to patient ratio be made mandatory?


We’ll wait for the royal commission to make their final recommendations, and so at this point and time, that’s one of the questions that they’ll be addressing in the final report.


On eating disorders, ahead of the federal election you promised $4 million at the Peel Health Campus for a residential eating disorder centre.

Can you guarantee that’s going to happen at the Peel Health Campus?


Yes, absolutely, and I’ve just been having very constructive discussions with the West Australian Minister Roger Cook, and that’s one of the items.

So, we’ll work with them on the design and the delivery, but the commitment is clear and absolute. It’s a deep personal passion, and it’s a shared passion.

I will perhaps step beyond the bounds of usual discussion – I want to thank Roger Cook, he has been a wonderful, utterly professional chair of the COAG Health Council, but a great partner on eating disorders.

He believes in it, we believe in it, and together we’ll deliver it.


So it will happen in Mandurah, not Perth?


Our commitment is to- for it to happen in Mandurah, yes.


And on the Medicare Benefits Scheme then, what’s happening today, what use is that for people in places like Mandurah where there are no specialists in eating disorders to use the benefits scheme?


Well, this has been designed by and delivered through the Medicare system as a result of the advice of the Butterfly Foundation and others.

And what it does is it opens up a level of consultations which was never previously available before, a dramatic change, and we hope that this will provide support for people wherever they are in Australia.


But if there are no specialists in eating disorders where you live, can you see how people might find that- it won’t make much difference to them.


Well, I think you’ll find that the available population of treating psychologists is very significant, and whilst I wouldn’t speak for any one place, it has been welcomed by the eating disorder community as a fundamental and ground-breaking step forward.


How much is the subsidy costing the government?


It’s $110 million.


And how much would it broadly cost the government if people don’t access the sessions for free?




How much would it broadly cost the government if people don’t access the sessions for free?


Well, for us our investment is $110 million, and that’s- it’s not a capped expenditure, and so we’re hoping that as many people as the physicians recommend take this up as a really important opportunity to deal with what can be an agonising condition.


Can anyone- what are the requirements to be able to access those 40 or 60 sessions?


So what is required is that a GP makes the recommendation, and that’s the existing situation.

It’s what’s being designed by the medical professionals, but it’s been designed in conjunction with the Butterfly Foundation, with the National Mental Health Commission CEO Christine Morgan who was previously the head of the Butterfly Foundation, and it’s been worked with all of the eating disorder working group experts.


Minister, sorry- we have to chase the New South Wales Minister (inaudible) if you’ve already answered this.


That’s alright.


Maternity services (inaudible).


So the maternity services framework was passed through, and importantly that includes continuity of care for midwifery, something that’s been very important for mums, and very important for the midwives.

My mother was a midwife so you’ll have to forgive me for being a little bit supportive and particular on the midwifery (inaudible).


(Inaudible) those who are giving birth in regional and rural, remote areas, would have the best services that are available?


Yes, this is about improving services for women not just in the cities but particularly in rural, regional, and remote Australia. Alright.


Did you discuss cosmetic surgery?


Yes, yes. There was a decision to ensure that only those surgeons that are recognised by the national colleges are allowed to use the title – surgeon.

I’ll let Roger deal with that in particular.

Alright, it’s been a privilege. Thanks guys.