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Prime Ministerial visit first in 25 years

Monday, 29th March, 2010

* Prime Minister Kevin Rudd cuddling six-month-old Abbie Kelly. * Prime Minister Kevin Rudd cuddling six-month-old Abbie Kelly.

Mr Rudd breaks 25-year drought

Yesterday's whirlwind visit to the city was the first by Mr Rudd and the first time a prime minister has visited Broken Hill since Bob Hawke in 1984.

"Well, you know something, it's my first time to Broken Hill," Mr Rudd said. "I understand there've been a couple of Prime Ministers who've been here before. "It's about a quarter of a century since the last one, and about a quarter of a century between that one and the previous one.

"Let's make it a more regular visit in the future." Mr Rudd was accompanied by the Federal Minister for Rural and Regional Health, Warren Snowdon. They chatted with locals while visiting some of the city's crucial services including the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Broken Hill hospital.

"It's great to be out in Broken Hill today, and great to be out here with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and great to have had a chance to visit the Broken Hill Base Hospital," Mr Rudd said. He boarded one of the Flying Doctor's planes and was briefed by pilots and medical staff before being taken on a tour of the newly renovated RFDS base by executive director Clyde Thomson.

"This is very impressive," Mr Rudd said. He met a number of locals at the airport, including a six-month old baby, Abbie Kelly. The Prime Minister then went into the city where he had morning tea with the local branch of the Australian Labor Party. He ordered a coffee and had a glass of tap water and politely declined an invitation to come to a bar for something stronger. "If it was 5 o'clock I would," he joked.

Mr Rudd then moved on to the hospital where he chatted with staff, patients and medical students. The Prime Minister congratulated the students on their studies and praised the efforts of hospital staff."What you see out here is this great dedication by health professionals who are passionate about their work," Mr Rudd said. "Talking to these young doctors over here in their third, fourth, fifth year of medical studies, from centres as far removed as Sydney, from Adelaide, and even from the great state of Queensland, can I say that impresses me."

Following this, he met behind closed doors with GWAHS staff, the Riverina Division of General Practice, the University Department of Rural Health, the RFDS and Broken Hill City Council Mayor Wincen Cuy. On departure Mr Cuy presented the Prime Minister with a copy of The Richest Lode, a book on Broken Hill's history. Mr Rudd said he would certainly return to the Silver City. "Well, you'll see me back," he said. "I think this is a great part of Australia. It's contributed hugely to the national economy over the decades and the centuries."

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