Transcript - Radio Interview - ABC North & West Late Afternoon

10 March 2022

10 MARCH 2022

NARELLE GRAHAM, HOST: First this hour we've had some big promises for outback health today. Federal Labor is saying they will put $13.35 million of taxpayers money towards Yadu Health in Ceduna and that fits in with a state Labor promise of $2.5 million funding to support construction of accommodation for extra health services in the same area, Ceduna. My colleagues at ABC Eyre Peninsula, they have been reporting on the problems at Yadu Health clinic for quite a while. The building is falling apart, there's mould, there's asbestos, part of the roof fell in after rain, and the health service has said to the ABC in the past that it hoped to get some money from that Closing the Gap funding. So that's a $1 billion funding bucket that the Federal Government announced, and this is of course of taxpayer money. It's all taxpayer money, your money. The issue came to the attention of Labor Senator Marielle Smith, and she's been working on it. Today there is a funding announcement, it depends on Labor getting in at the federal election. It also was an issue that was brought up at today's leader debate in the South Australian election. So, I will bring you the audio of what was said there. Let's first go to Senator Marielle Smith, who is the Labor Senator for South Australia. Welcome to you.
MARIELLE SMITH, LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Thanks Narelle, great to be with you.
GRAHAM: You are not up for election this time around either are you?
SMITH: No so I'm a couple of years into my six year Senate term, so not up for election until the next election round.
GRAHAM: Which I think is important to point out given, you know, at this stage that there are so many people that are up for re-election but not Marielle. So, welcome you visited the health centre in August of last year but how were the problems first put on your radar?
SMITH: I had this issue first raised with me on a trip to Ceduna as you mentioned, and then I was also contacted by members of the community in Ceduna and from Yadu Health specifically, just desperate for a fix. I mean, the situation that Yadu Health where we've got asbestos, we've got mould, we've got the roof falling in. Last week, we literally had a staff member electrocuted after the rains had come while he was at his desk trying to do his job. These issues have been going on for years and they need a fix, the fix is urgent. We've had people walk through that building, politicians walk through that building, look around go yep, this is terrible and then just keep on walking. So, the community in Ceduna wanted a fix, Yadu Health wanted a fix. They reached out to me, and I've been really proud to advocate for them.
GRAHAM: Senator Marielle Smith, the Labor Senator for South Australia is my guest. How much funding does that service get?
SMITH: In terms of the total funding, I don't have a figure for you there that would be a mix of funding in terms of its operational budget, but the issue we're talking about here specifically is around infrastructure. So, the building itself is just beyond repair. It's in a catastrophic state and that's what they've been seeking an increase in funding for. If they can fix the infrastructure, one they can deliver their services better and more safely for their staff and patients. But also, it gives them an opportunity to do even more in the community. So, when we're talking about health, there's obviously health funding for operational issues, but this is about infrastructure, and we need an urgent fix on the infrastructure at Yadu Health.
GRAHAM: Okay, and the money that Labor is promising does that come from the Closing the Gap funding bucket?
SMITH: That's correct, yes. As it should, I mean that that funding bucket is there specifically for this type of project. And I have been calling on the Prime Minister, on the Health Minister in the Senate, on your program, in other forms of media. I've written to them both as well, calling on them to release the funds from that bucket which is specifically designed for these types of projects to go to Yadu. Now those calls have fallen on deaf ears at the moment. I'd also love the Liberal Government to come out and match this commitment. I would love this to be a bipartisan issue where politics wasn't involved, because the health needs of the people of Ceduna and of Yadu Health are much, much greater than politics, but I have no choice. I've been calling for this funding to be committed. It hasn't been committed, the only people who've been listening to me on my Labor colleagues and that's why I've secured this commitment.
GRAHAM: Okay. And I mean, you did speak to us in August of last year and we certainly have not had any information or any announcement of funding from the current Government on this. So, what you say is fair, how did it get into such a bad state of repair? Which is why I arc back to the question about how much funding it does get and whether or not there is money within that operational budget for it to have been kept, for it to have been continually maintained?
SMITH: Well look, this is exactly the issue Narelle. So, it's been the victim of bureaucratic buck passing for a long time. The State Government saying it's a Commonwealth problem, the Commonwealth not stepping up to do it. At the end of the day, if you put your hand up to be in government, if you put your hand up to be in parliament, at some point, you just have to put your hand up and say, well okay, we'll take responsibility for this, we’ll stop passing the buck. This is something which needs to be fixed, and we'll fix it. I think the Commonwealth should take on the bulk of that fix. That's why we've made this announcement. There is the fund there to do that but it's also important and I want to acknowledge the State Labor team's commitment of $2.5 million to fund additional allied health services. That's them taking responsibility too and that's really important. I know your listeners hear all the time that you know, it's always someone else's problem, someone else's responsibility. At the end of the day, if you're an elected official, sometimes you just need to put your hand up and say yes, I'm going to fight for a fix for this, I'm going to find a fix
GRAHAM: $13.35 million is a heck of a lot of money. I mean that that must be a fantastic building. Is that just for a new building?
SMITH: It is for the new building and also the fit out for what are, you know, healthcare services, which aren't always cheap. But look, this serves thousands of people. It's not just for the Aboriginal population, as well it’s for the broader population in Ceduna. Many thousands of people and I believe that that this community deserves really high-quality health care. Now the reality with Yadu, Narelle, is we know if there was a clinic in Burnside which was in this state of disrepair, it just wouldn't be allowed to continue so why should that happen in Ceduna? People in Ceduna deserve really high-quality health care. There's huge inequities between our cities and the regions. So, I make no apologies for saying yes, Ceduna should have a great health clinic and yes, that that deserve the funding to actually deliver that properly.
GRAHAM: All of these promises that have been made, and I know that you're saying we're going to allocate $13.35 million from an existing fund at the federal level, from a $1 billion Closing the Gap fund. So that money is there. But what about at the state level? Are we talking about having to sell assets to pay for promises?
SMITH: In terms of the state level, I'd suggest you have Kyam Maher on because I don't do their budgets but at the federal level, we have a fund, $254 million for health infrastructure, which is already allocated, that's already accounted for. So, the money that we're talking about this $13.35 million commitment, it's already provisioned for within the budget. I'm not talking about extra funds. I'm not talking about taking something away from someone to give it to someone else. It's there. I just want the Government to spend it. I want them to get that money out the door. So, we don't have a situation where people at Yadu Health are being electrocuted. Where we don't have a situation where the roof is falling in on them. The money is there.
GRAHAM: Senator Marielle Smith, Labor Senator for South Australia. Thank you