29 March 2020

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks for coming today. There are two issues I want to deal with. Firstly, Labor very much welcomes the announcements by the Government today of telehealth and mental health. They are what Labor has been suggesting and calling for for some weeks. It was important that every single Australian has access to telehealth rebates. Every single health provider and every single Australian. I trust that the telehealth rebate will also apply to doctors and health professionals working from home. Now that's not clear in the announcement but I trust that will be the case as well as Labor suggested. So this is a good step, a vital step and one that Labor has called for.

Also mental health. This is a good package, one that we again suggested and welcome. I make this point; the thing causing the most mental health anguish in Australia today is job insecurity. People are worried about where their job will come from, whether it will still exist. That's why wages subsidies are now urgent and have been urgent for some time. Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke will say more about that a little later this afternoon, but that is what's causing the most mental health anguish in Australia at the moment. But I do welcome the mental health package announced by the Government.

The second issue I want to raise is the potential closure of private and not for profit hospitals in the not too distant future next week. This must be fixed today. Everybody agrees that the elective surgery delay is necessary but it's quite clear there was a lack of consultation with Private hospitals, with Catholic hospital sector and with others. It is inconceivable that hospitals, Private and Catholic hospitals who currently provide up to a third of ICU beds across the country will have to close next week. That is unthinkable. It cannot be allowed to happen. They tell me they believed they had an undertaking from the Federal Government which has not been adhered to, not been honoured. The Prime Minister cannot blame the States for this. This must be fixed, fixed by him, fixed by him today. Doctors and nurses and health professionals working in private hospitals need the certainty. It is unthinkable that a hospital would shut next week just before we're expecting an increase in demand on ICU beds in coming weeks. It is very very important that this be fixed and fixed urgently. Thank you.