This is the second of a series in which contributors to The Political Sword are attempting to fashion examples of messages that our Prime Minister might give in her 'Fireside Chats'.
The idea of Fireside Chats came from David Horton in a piece titled: The ragged trousered philanthropist on The Watermelon Blog. He spoke of when US President Franklin Roosevelt successfully used ‘fireside chats’ in 1929 during his term as Governor of New York. In this country, RG Menzies’ weekly broadcasts by radio during 1942 were similarly successful. They are well documented in the Menzies Virtual Museum.
The Rudd Government, and now the Gillard Government, has embarked on many reforms that will benefit both our economy and the lives of our people. The Government has a need to explain to the people what it has achieved, what it is planning, and particularly why it is proposing the substantial reforms it is. The idea behind ‘Fireside Chats’ is to clearly and unemotionally explain these important matters in terms that all can understand and accept.
This Fireside Chat is about health, and as that is not as gripping a subject as NormanK’s ‘A Price on Carbon’, I have kept it short – about ten minutes in duration. The words of the ‘chat’ have been kept simple and the message personalized by frequent use of the words ‘you’ and ‘your’.
In his book Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy, Lindsay Tanner quotes Robert MacNeil a former executive editor of a major American TV news show: “The idea is to keep everything brief, not to strain the attention of anyone but instead to provide constant stimulation through variety, novelty, action and movement…(assuming) that bite-sized is best, that complexity must be avoided, that nuances are dispensable, that qualifications impede the simple message, that visual stimulation is a substitute for thought, and that verbal precision is an anachronism.” As this is congruent with our own observations, particularly of commercial TV news, it is incumbent on anyone creating a fireside chat to observe these restrictions lest the message be lost.
Therefore to make the chat more eye-catching than the PM simply talking to the camera, graphics would be superimposed at appropriate places during the chat in a ‘picture in picture’ format in, say, the left top corner, as this is something to which a short attention span audience is accustomed. The placement of the graphics and the subjects of the images are in square brackets in italics in the text below. The PM would be visible at all times against a dignified background, possibly in parliament house.
Tonight I want to talk to you about your health and the health of your community.
We know how important good health is to us all. It makes it possible for us achieve our ambitions. It gives us feelings of wellbeing. We know too that a healthy community is a good place in which to live, and a healthy workforce makes for high productivity.
Yet many are not well; not all have the best of health. This is why we need a good health care system.
Your Government is dedicated to giving all of you the best opportunity to lead healthy happy lives by providing easily accessible and affordable health services near to where you live.
Yet many of you have had difficulty getting a doctor when you need one, and have endured long waits, often in overcrowded hospital emergency departments. So we have built GP Super Clinics [images of interior of Super Clinics with just a few patients] where communities have requested them, so that you can get quick access to good care when you or your family need it, especially after hours.
Because much of the illness in the community is preventable, we have placed great emphasis on primary care that is given by your family doctor, your GP, or a community nurse. We have funded the training of many more doctors and nurses to overcome the shortage.
GPs [images of a female GP consulting with a mother and child] are trained to prevent illness through immunization and advocating a healthy lifestyle. They are also trained to detect illness in its early stages when it is most treatable, as well as treating established disease.
Lifestyle conditions afflict too many in this country. Obesity is widespread, even among children, [images of obese persons] and combined with physical inactivity and a poor diet too often leads to heart problems, diabetes, joint problems and some cancers. Alcohol and substance abuse, [images of social effects of alcohol] along with smoking, have caused havoc, especially among the young.
That is why your Government has taken action to curb binge drinking in teenagers through its alcopops legislation, [images of alcopops being consumed by adolescent girls] which has reduced the sale of those products, so attractive to adolescents yet so dangerous.
In a further attempt to reduce smoking, the Government will soon introduce plain packaging for cigarettes with dire health warnings [images of Nicola Roxon with plain packages and warnings]. The tobacco industry is fighting this tooth and nail because it believes it will reduce its profits, but we are determined to press ahead because we believe plain packaging will discourage young people from taking up this dangerous habit that kills over 15,000 Australians each year and costs well over half a billion dollars in healthcare.
The prevalence of mental illness is on the rise and is affecting both old and young. Suicide is high and leaves tragedy in its wake. Last year 2000 people took their own lives; 300 were young people between 15 and 24. Substance abuse is rising and with it violence.
The 2010 Australian of the Year, Professor Pat McGorry, [image of Pat McGorry with Julia Giillard] has strongly advocated for increased funding for mental health for the ‘headspace’ and other programs, so in this year’s budget several billion dollars was allocated for this purpose over the next four years. Mental health is a top priority for the Government.
As the population ages, the number of older people needing support is rising steadily [images of older people in their homes]. As more and more baby boomers reach retiring age the demand for services for the elderly and places in retirement homes will rise steeply and place great pressure on this sector [images of nursing homes with residents].
The incidence of serious chronic illness in older people, such as cancer, will rise, and dementia will become more and more prevalent [more images of older persons with Julia Gillard]. And the prevalence of disability in both old and young demands our attention [images of disabled persons with carers].
Governments must respond by providing more qualified staff, more carers, and more facilities to care for our our elderly and disabled citizens. Your Government is acutely aware of what needs to be done and has allocated funding in this year’s budget. Carers are in special need of support [images of carers caring for patients].
In the 2009-10 budget a multi-million dollar allocation was made to build a network of cancer clinics, particularly in regional areas [several images of cancer clinics, perhaps with one being opened by the PM]. Many have been built and one for the Albury region was announced recently. These bring cancer care closer to those who suffer from this distressing condition.
Remoteness from large specialized centres has been a longstanding drawback for those living in rural and regional areas. The National Broadband Network [images of NBN installations, perhaps the opening of the Armidale one] will reduce that remoteness by enabling consultations between rural patients and city specialists via super fast broadband [moving image of a remote consultation]. It will enable monitoring of the chronically ill and disabled in their homes and will thereby reduce the pressure on hospitals and nursing homes [image of elderly person monitored at home], and e-health will enable your health records to be available to any health care provider that you consult, no matter where [image of health record on a computer].
With the aging of the population the cost of health care will continue its steady rise to the point where at mid century all of a state’s budget will be consumed by health care costs alone, leaving none for other essential services, unless different funding arrangements are made.
This is why the Federal Government has entered into an arrangement with the states to share healthcare costs, with 50% being funded by the Commonwealth [image of COAG meeting over the health care agreement].
Federal and state governments will contribute to a single national pool for hospital funding to be administered by an independent national funding body. Hospitals will be funded based on the activity they undertake. Independent local hospital networks [images of local hospitals, staff and patients] will be responsible for managing public hospital services and the funding to provide those services.
This will take some of the pressure off state health departments and will give greater responsibility to those actually delivering the care.
The new arrangements are designed to contain rising costs and reduce the far-too-long waiting times for elective surgery and the long periods in hospital emergency rooms that ill patients endure while waiting for treatment or admission.
We are determined to remedy the problems with the hospital system we all know about by providing enough beds, sufficient well-trained staff and easy and rapid access.
The Government strongly supports Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Private Health Insurance, which we believe should be means tested, and medical research.
Your Government places healthcare, along with education, at the top of its priorities. It has already devoted countless billions to health, and in the recent budget has allocated still more.
Compared with other countries we know that Australia has a fine health care system, but we also know that it can be improved in many areas.
Your Government is determined to bring about these improvements and to complete the health reforms begun in the Government’s last term so that all Australians can have the high quality health care and support that all deserve, where they live and when they need it.
I ask that you join with me in achieving that aim.
Thank you for your attention.
Is this what the public needs and wants to know about the health system?
Would they listen to it?
What do you think?