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27 April 2021

RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC South East NSW, Breakfast

Tuesday, 27 April, 2021

SUBJECT: Rural GP Services, Child Care, Affordable Housing

SIMON LAUDER, PRESENTER: Now lots of issues have been coming up across the South East lately about access -access to doctors access to staff access to housing. Last week you heard from Narelle Meyres. Narelle has worked at Bermagui Preschool for over 20 years and says she's never seen the local sector hit so hard by shortages.

NARELLE MEYRES, BERMAGUI PRESCHOOL: When we advertise the staff. We normally had lots of applicants and get to pick you know, the cream of the cream. But last year we advertised through the radio through media through the local high schools, employment agencies and had one application

LAUDER: To discuss this and other issues we are joined by the Member for Eden-Monaro, Kristy McBain, Good morning.


LAUDER: Thanks for joining us again. Are you hearing similar stories from elsewhere across the South East?

MCBAIN: Yeah, we're hearing those stories from a range of businesses, especially hospitality and tourism businesses who have been unable to, you know, get chefs, waitresses, bar staff, barristers, the whole works.

It's something that I think many businesses are struggling with the moment. And we know that the lack of rental accommodation and affordable housing plays into this as well and was one of the reasons that I brought the COVID-19 taskforce chair to the area to speak to local businesses, and also charities who are seeing people that for the first time who are really struggling.

LAUDER: Can the COVID-19 taskforce do anything to address issues as big as the housing shortage in regional Australia?

MCBAIN: Yeah, the COVID-19 task force will be putting together a report that will go to the Labor Party, and will help inform policy to deal with some of the big issues as we make our way out of this COVID pandemic. And for us here, obviously, it's more than just COVID. We've had significant issues for some time with a prolonged drought, bushfires, floods, border closures.
So there are some regions, I think that have definitely been hit harder than others. And I think as is one of those with the cumulative effect of disasters that have happened in this region.

LAUDER: And the difficulty of attracting GPs to regional areas has been highlighted by what looked like the impending closure of Bombala's Medical Centre, and the latest development is an additional local medical officer to be based at Bombala. What more needs to be done to make our medical services in the South East more secure.

MCBAIN: I think that it is obviously becoming a big issue, we have seen the decline of rural GP practices. And many of those GPs are telling us that it's because of the regulation in the sector. I mean, the costs to become accredited are huge. You know, it's hard to compete with corporatized practices that have large footprints, and they are having trouble attracting young doctors to the area.

When I met with the Bombala Street Clinic in Cooma, who own that the Bombala Clinic itself. You know, they gave me a copy of their rural GP magazine, and the advertisements for positions in there is quite large across the state. But, you know, we sign on bonuses of half a million dollars to work in Bankstown, it becomes very difficult to compete in the regional areas.

It's fantastic that we have found an interim solution with the work of the Southern New South Wales Local Health District and John Barilaro, our Bronnie Taylor. There needs to be some structural change, I think in the entire system. And that involves both the Health Minister and the Rural Health Minister in the federal government playing apart.

LAUDER: We're hearing similar concerns from Eden and I guess the broader concern that as you know, your local GPs reach retirement age, they're worried that there's no one to replace them and that other larger clinics, I guess, have more clout and more to offer, could we see the end of an era when it comes to these family run clinics in regions?

MCBAIN: Yeah, and I think that's what local doctors are warning us about they're quite concerned and we have seen in Bombala, for example, Dr Pate, you know, probably stay on much longer than he intended to because he felt a sense of duty to his community. But in the end had to make the decision to retire, which we don't begrudge him for.

I mean, he been a fabulous servant to the community, but we are having trouble attracting young doctors down here to take over these practices. And we actually have to start planning for that now. I mean, presently in New South Wales Government, there is an inquiry into regional and rural health.

We know from all the statistics that our health measures are much less than those in in the city. And sometimes that's because we do not have the access to doctors and specialists that others have. I don't think any of us, you know, believe that we'll have specialists at a door all the time. But we do expect that we will have a GP service. So, you know, we have to start planning for what we are being told by the sector, and that is that they are having trouble attracting GPs to the region.

LAUDER: Okay, now, coming up to May, it's budget time, I'm sure you've got your own wish list, but the Business Council of Australia has already campaigning for the government to make it easier for women to get back into work by fixing childcare and paid parental leave. Do you think there'll be any movement on that front?

MCBAIN: I hope so, I mean, the Labor Party some time ago announced a plan to change the childcare structure, and scrap the cap that's currently in place, lift the maximum rate of the childcare rebate to 90% for most families, which would allow families to take on extra days of work. At present, taking on a fourth or fifth day of work can sometimes end up costing you more in childcare fees, then you actually made in a week, so I'm hopeful that they will do that.

We know that Australians pay some of the highest childcare costs in the world. They've increased by 35% over the last eight years. And we want to see more women and more men in the workforce. Whether you're the stay at home mum or the stay home dad, it'd be great to get you into the workforce if that's what you intend to do and I think it's about giving families choice.

LAUDER: Just back to the housing issue. Kristy McBain, Nick from Candelo rang in to ask about the viability of including a ratio of affordable housing in any subdivisions, or particularly for men, says Nick. And he's wondering if that's a possible strategy to address the housing crisis. What do you reckon?

MCBAIN: Yeah it is and we have seen that done in some of the high rise developments that take place in the in the inner cities. And I guess it's up to state governments and councils to work with developers to make sure that we are having affordable housing in any new subdivision mix. I think the statistics show us that the largest cohort of homelessness is now women over 55.

But we know right across this region, there are a number of people who are moving from house to house who are taking a caravan from place to place who are in a series of short term measures and don't have any long term stability. We're seeing families who are living in not ideal situations.

So there really has to be something done and attention has to be brought to this. You know, I met with service providers in Cooma last month. And they're saying exactly the same thing as many people on the coast are saying and and that is that more and more people are coming forward who have issues who cannot get housing and whose jobs are now pending because they don't have a permanent location to go.

LAUDER: Kristy McBain obviously a lot further to go on that one. Thanks very much for your time this morning.

MCBAIN: Thanks Simon


Media contact: Ian Campbell, phone 0417 482 171