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Transcript of Doorstop Interview – Senate Courtyard 18 September 2012

 DUTTON:  I want to announce today that the Coalition will be moving to disallow the motion brought forward by the Government to close the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme. The Coalition wants to fight on behalf of cancer patients and people suffering from chronic disease, who are desperate for dental work. Many of these people have been left mid-treatment by the Government’s premature closure of this scheme.

We for a long time had offered sensible changes and reforms to the scheme but the Government has been intent on closing down the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme, in spite of the good efforts it provides to dental patients, simply because it was a scheme designed by Tony Abbott. There is a nineteen month gap between when this scheme closes and the Government’s new scheme starts. We think that a lot of Australians will be captured during that time, living and suffering with pain and they should be receiving dental services, instead of having to wait for nineteen months, before they can receive any services from this Federal Government. This is a policy that is more about politics for the Government, than it is about any person getting their teeth fixed. I want to make sure we can help those people who are contacting us, right across the country now, putting in place at least some arrangement between now and July 2014.

Now I want to ask very sincerely for the support of the independents on this vote, because people in their electorates are suffering from chronic diseases and they can’t get this dental work done. The Government offers nothing for those who are suffering, with a lot of pain because of dental disease, they offer them nothing until July 2014. That has to change. I want the independents to support the Coalition’s position so that we can restore some integrity to the system.

TOM CONNELL (SKY): Have you sounded out the Greens or the independents about this so far?

DUTTON: We’ve had discussions over a long period of time with both Richard Di Natale from the Greens and the independents. Obviously the Greens abandoned their decision in the Senate to block the closure of the scheme, when they did a deal with the Government. The gap here is the nineteen months. Okay the Government wants to start their own scheme but to have nothing in place, for nineteen months, when people are suffering from chronic disease, when people are going to miss out on services they would otherwise receive, why would they have this gap of nineteen months? That’s what I think the Government needs to answer.

SUE DUNLEVY (NEWS LTD): Mr Dutton are [inaudible] you saying that’s not enough?

DUTTON: I am saying that people will wait and languish on public waiting lists before the new scheme starts. People will wait a couple of years to get the services they would have been able to get today under the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme. Don’t forget that these are people with the most serious of conditions. They are being referred to dentists because that’s what the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme was about. These are people who will live with considerable pain waiting a couple of years on the dental list or for some of them until July 2014 and that is not good enough. I want to make sure the independents really consider this position because the Government should put in place something which provides support, even on a limited basis, to people who suffer from a chronic disease, who need this dental work and need it desperately.

REPORTER:Will the Coalition be supporting [Inaudible]

DUTTON:We won’t oppose the Government’s move but I’ll say this. There are some considerable design failings in what the Government is providing. The Coalition wants to see investment into dental and that’s why Tony Abbott designed the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme. But think about this, the Government is talking about putting say 2 million Australians onto the doorsteps of dentists in eighteen months time and yet they will provide no extra dentists or extra dental services. I just don’t know where the chairs are sitting vacant, around the country in dental surgeries. What will that mean for consumers? It will mean an upward pressure on prices that they’ll pay their dentist. It’ll mean longer waiting lists for people who want to get in to see a dentist. So again the Government has good intent on this policy but they just can’t get the design right. I think that for the Government this is more about politics than it is about good dental policy.

REPORTER: The Government and the Greens have said that this scheme is poorly designed and that its budget has blown out and that’s why they need to rein it back.

DUTTON: Well modify it and put something in place for the next nineteen months and help people who have chronic disease get the dental work done that they need. I am happy to look at a compromise situation. Two years ago, I said to Nicola Roxon that we would support sensible changes if the Government had concerns. They completely ignored that offer of support because they wanted to close this scheme down. Not because they were worried about rorts or they were worried about overspend. Their sole motivation in this space has been to close the scheme down simply because Tony Abbott created it.

REPORTER: It costs a billion dollars a year, how would a Coalition Government cover the cost?

DUTTON: The Coalition will, as we have always done, provide proper costings, will provide sensible policies and will do that in good time before the next election. The Government is in government at the moment and they have the responsibility of delivering these programs. They have closed this scheme down for political purposes and they are going to have a nineteen month gap. So put something in place that provides support to people who are suffering in pain everyday. These are cancer patients who are contacting us and members around the country, including the independents. The independents need to listen to those cries for help, support the Coalition’s position and get the dental work they need over the course of the next year and a half.

REPORTER: [inaudible] Would you commit to [inaudible]?

DUTTON: As I say, we’ll make announcements before the next election but we are keen to see a greater investment into dental but I don’t want to see it in a way that’s going to drive up prices for everyday patients and in the end the Government spend a lot of money and not get the services that they wanted. Everybody wants to see people and pensioners, people who suffer from chronic diseases, get the dental treatment they need. That’s why we are asking for the independents to support the Coalition, to stop this inequity and to put in place something, some sort of arrangement which will provide help and support, to long suffering patients. Under the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme they can get that support today. But of course the Government has closed that scheme down for them and there is nothing available to them until July 2014.

Thankyou very much.

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