Sky News Regional Breakfast with Jaynie Seal

JAYNIE SEAL: The NSW Opposition is demanding Premier Chris Minns honour his promise to provide more funding for sick kids in the regions. In 2022, Chris Minns pledged to help Little Wings, a charity that helps sick children in the bush, to access specialist healthcare. The organisation has been asking for $600,000 annually to be able to fuel and maintain an additional aircraft provided by the Federal Government to keep up with demand. This week, the government said it would provide $400,000 for a single year. Well, joining me live is Minister for Regional Development and Local Government and Territories, Kristy McBain. Minister, thank you so much. Always great to see you. So, I just spoke to the CEO of Little Wings, Claire Pearson, and a mother, Libby, who uses the service for her child. The mother, Libby, wanting more help for our children in the bush. I asked them to send messages to you and Bronnie Taylor, who unfortunately is now unwell today. Claire saying she's grateful for the financial support, but health care is not a priority, it's a human right and wanting more action rather than noise. What would you say to those comments?

KRISTY MCBAIN: I agree with her. As someone who lives in regional Australia, far too often we are spending hours and hours in cars to get our kids to specialists in a whole range of different places. It's why the Federal Government's been really heavily focused on trying to build up and strengthen the Medicare system since we came to government. There's been some big dollars spent. $3.5 billion in making sure that we can triple the bulk billing incentive. The former government froze Medicare rebates for six years, which has led to a significant degradation in general practice right across the country. We've provided some significant dollars, over $65 million dollars to the Royal Flying Doctors Service. I've seen the difference it can make on the ground. I was in a place called William Creek in outback South Australia last year, where the Albanese Labor Government's invested a million dollars to have a permanent Royal Flying Doctors clinic available on the ground there, so that when those Royal Flying Doctors are coming in, they've got a dedicated space where they can treat patients before they fly them out of there, or just for their generalised clinic. It is really important that we continue to invest in healthcare. It's clear the Labor party is the only party interested in making sure that Medicare is strengthened and that our health system is working, including incentives to get more doctors and nurse practitioners out into our country areas by waiving HECS fees. We're also creating the first ever medical school in the Northern Territory, because we know that when people are able to train locally, they're more likely to take up a job locally. It's really important we continue to support our regional universities, to allow people to take up those skill shortage areas in the regions in which they live.

SEAL. So, I guess speaking on behalf of Claire and Libby, Claire, first of all, saying that they only need a couple of hundred thousand dollars more. They've got the $400,000 and need a total of $600,000. It's just for the fuel. You know, there's 90 per cent of them are volunteering. I guess they're calling for more funds, but not a huge amount. They did some PwC reports that said it's actually going to save them about $38 million if they do get these funds.

MCBAIN: It’s important to make sure that we've got strengthened healthcare right across our country, particularly in our rural and remote areas. I've got no doubt the Minns Labor Government will continue to work with Little Wings to make sure that the situation can be addressed. We're doing what we can in this space as well. It’s important that governments of all persuasions right across the country continue to invest in healthcare, particularly in rural and regional areas.

SEAL: The NDIS Minister’s overhaul passed the lower house last night, as you and people on the NDIS know. I spoke to Sam Connor just before, who's the former People with Disability President. She has a disability herself. So, many people, she said, are feeling traumatised. They're worried they will get forced back into an institution. This is the second landmark reform for Labor, Medicare being the other. Would Labor consider doing the same to Medicare for what they're doing to NDIS?

MCBAIN: Labor is the party of reform. We are the party that brought in Medicare. We are the party that brought in the NDIS, because everyone deserves to live with independence and dignity. The NDIS has been blowing out in costs. There is fraud in the system, which is why we've been heavily focused on addressing a number of the issues that we've found since coming to government. We do have to make sure that the system is working as it was intended to work. It's why Bill Shorten has made sure that we have people with lived experience working in the NDIA. It's why when Bill Shorten announced the review, he had people with lived experience leading that review. It is important that we are working with participants in the system, with plan managers in the system, to make sure that it is going to work for the people it's intended to work for. It is important that there is reform to the system. No system's ever designed perfectly the first time around, but with Minister Shorten, you've got someone who's actually invested in it, who has been there since its inception, who wants to see it work the way it was intended. We want to make sure that the dollars in the system are actually going to the participants that need the dollars, and not getting caught up by service providers who are perhaps doing the wrong thing in the system.

SEAL: All right, we do have to wrap it up, but just quickly, Minister, you've got an announcement that you're going to bring forward today about funding for repairs for Brown Mountain.

MCBAIN: That's right, in my part of the world, many people will know the Snowy Mountains highway, particularly around Brown Mountain, has been the subject of a number of land slips. There'll be a further $1.9 million invested in Brown Mountain, to make sure that we can deal with the land slippages, through eleven-meter soil nails going into the side of that mountain to shore it up for the number of commuters moving between the coast and the capital. A great investment with the Minns Labor Government, making sure that we're dealing with those road issues. As we've said on this program a number of times, it's incredibly important to make sure there's more investment in our roads and we're getting on with that job, in conjunction with the Minns Labor Government.

SEAL: All right. Especially for the start of the long weekend. Plenty of people, no doubt, travelling to the ski fields and on those roads. Stay safe, everyone. Minister Kristy McBain. Thank you so much. Always great to see you. See you again, same time next week.

MCBAIN: Thanks, Jaynie, and go the Blues tonight in the women's State of Origin. We didn't do too well last night, but hopefully the women get it done tonight. 

SEAL: Yes, well said.