FRIDAY, 25 MAY 2018
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s $10 million investment for a chemotherapy treatment service at Caboolture Hospital; Turnbull’s cuts to Caboolture Hospital; Turnbull’s cuts to Medicare; Turnbull’s sneaky and tricky tactics; by-elections.
SUSAN LAMB, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LONGMAN: Welcome everybody, welcome to the Caboolture Hospital, the hospital that is the centrepiece of public health care services here in the region, in the area of Caboolture. It's a hospital that sees around 50,000 presentations to our emergency department every year. It's a hospital that delivers around 2,000 new babies very safely into the hands of their new families every year, and of course it's a hospital that provides treatment and support for both patients and their families through illness and injury.
We are here today with Bill Shorten and of course, the Minister Steven Miles to make an announcement around Labor's investment into health care services. Investment of a chemotherapy service that will see support for over 300 patients every single year to get the services they need. Now for people that are at Woodford and at Bribie Island right now, they have to drive past their own hospital and head into Brisbane to go and get those chemotherapy services. I'll hand over to Bill now to make a few more comments about the details of that announcement of the chemotherapy service right here at the Caboolture Hospital.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Susan, and it's great to be here at Caboolture Hospital with Susan Lamb and of course, Palaszczuk Health Minister, Steven Miles. First of all, I just want to say how impressed I am by the staff I've met here, they're fantastic. They're working hard, they're looking after people. From the volunteers through to the paid staff, you can really tell when you're at a place where people care about how the patients are going and the families are going.
That's why it’s really pleasing for me to be able to announce a policy which Susan Lamb has been working on. I'm really pleased to announce that if Labor is elected at the next general election, we will put in place a new $10 million chemotherapy treatment centre. What that effectively means is eight chemotherapy treatment beds. Chemotherapy is a difficult process, but of course, it's a treatment which is so vital in defeating the scourge of cancer. What this will mean we estimate, is about 360 patients each year, and 3,600 chemotherapy treatments each year will be available. So it means that if you're battling with a diagnosis of cancer on Bribie Island or other parts of the Longman electorate, instead of having to drive all the way into the middle of the city, of the centre of Brisbane and get your chemo treatment there, the travel time would be cut in half and even better. And when you are dealing with a scourge like cancer, every little bit of help you can get on your side of the ledger, makes such a tremendous difference in dealing with such a difficult journey.
My mum had breast cancer. She had chemotherapy, she had treatment over a number of years. I see what it costs families and what it takes to help beat the scourge cancer. You know, sometimes in politics there are things you get to announce which is just doing the right thing. The treatment and alleviation of cancer sufferers here is the right thing, and you know, sometimes I don't mind admitting that when you have an idea which is, I think as positive and good for the people as this, I really hope that my opponent picks up the idea and does it himself. And you know, it's my fervent hope as someone who has seen the battle that people have to do with cancer, that Mr Turnbull takes our idea and agrees to it. I think a lot of people, not just in Caboolture, not just in Longman but right across Australia would say, well thank goodness. Most people think this is a pretty good idea and it would be really great, and I call upon the LNP and Mr Turnbull just to take this one off the political football field, and if they can agree, then I think we've all done a good day’s work here.
Of course, it is important to also rectify the cuts which we're seeing to hospitals. Caboolture Hospital has suffered a $2.9 million cut over the next three years. Labor, because of our priorities, we're not going to give $17 billion in corporate tax handouts to the big banks. We're not give $17 billion away to the big banks who don't need the money, instead though, we will reverse the cuts at Caboolture Hospital and hospitals right across Australia. I think that when you talk to Australians, they think the two most important things in life are your family and your health. That's why we're prioritising the health of Australians over the financial - the big, deep pockets of big banks.
I'm pleased as I said, to have Steven Miles here. Steven could also talk a bit further about Queensland's approach to making sure the hospitals are properly funded.
STEVEN MILES, QUEENSLAND MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks so much, Bill. You're exactly right, the nurses, doctors, health professionals, support staff, the volunteers here do a fantastic job looking after locals when they're sick. But they're doing it under increasing pressure. Malcolm Turnbull's cuts to Medicare are driving people into our emergency department who should have been seen sooner by a general practitioner. When they arrive here, the hospital itself is struggling under that nearly $3 million funding cut over the next few years. But also, Malcolm Turnbull won't even pay our hospitals for operations they performed as far back as 2016. Metro North Health is owed $128 million by the Turnbull Government which they just so far, have refused to pay.
The Palaszczuk Government invests in more and better health services - that's what we do. We have committed more than $250 million to the redevelopment here at Caboolture Hospital. But what we need, what I need as Queensland's Health Minister, is a federal government that wants to do the same. Only by a Labor Federal Government will be as committed as we are to work together to deliver more and better health services to Queenslanders. All Malcolm Turnbull is interested in is cutting them.
Susan's opponent here in Longman when he was last representing people in this area, stood by while Campbell Newman sacked more than 700 nurses from Metro North. If he could not stand up to Campbell Newman and his cuts then, how will he ever stand up to Malcolm Turnbull and his health cuts going forward?
JOURNALIST: Specifically, what cuts has Malcolm Turnbull made to Medicare?
MILES: So the freeze to Medicare, the reduction to the bulk billing rate for non-healthcare card holders has greatly reduced the number of locals who are able to access bulk billing. That makes it less accessible and less affordable for people to visit a doctor. What that means is more people are waiting too long to get treatment; their condition is getting more serious, they're ending up in our emergency departments. Roughly a third, in fact more than a third of the people who present to the emergency department here at Caboolture have conditions that could well have been and should well have been, treated by a general practitioner if only that was more accessible.
SHORTEN: Thanks. Sorry, let's put this little press conference back (inaudible). What questions are there?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, can I ask if an early election were called, an early general election, would you be able to go to that without a National Conference first, or is there some other mechanism you can use to amend the platform?
SHORTEN: Well, I think the genesis of what you're asking about is the pretty sneaky and tricky manoeuvre that we saw unveiled in parliament yesterday. I don't know what it is with this Prime Minister and long elections, he seems to love them. I think everyone is surprised and sceptical that the Prime Minister is clearly running away from the judgement of the Australian people. It doesn't take 12/13 weeks to hold a by-election. In terms of our National Conference, if Mr Turnbull thinks that pulling a manoeuvre to delay the judgement of the people is going to deter the Labor Party from campaigning, no it is not. The Labor Party will defer the conference. I understand that is what the National President has said. The conference will go ahead at a point in the future, but if Mr Turnbull thinks he going to catch Labor off guard he has got another thing coming. It does not matter how many tricks or stunts or lawyer games he plays, what really matters in this by-election, what matters in Australia is health and education, making sure that working people get a fair dinkum tax cut and making sure there is a proper plan for working and middle class Australians.
Again, I'm going to repeat this because it is important. Cancer knows no borders or boundaries. It knows no politics. I will just say that perhaps on this announcement today, the $10 million chemotherapy treatment Centre. 360 people to be treated, eight chemo treatment beds, 3600 treatments available in the years ahead each year. This stops people having to make the long drives down to the centre of Brisbane, and anything we can do to level the playing field on the side of people fighting cancer and their families we should do. It is my fervent hope that on this announcement, Malcolm Turnbull will just pick up the phone and say fair enough, good idea, let's do it. Then at least I think that will be a good note, where we show that all of us are behind Caboolture Hospital and the residents of this area.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, back on the by-election, the Prime Minister has said that the timing of it is Labor's fault because they could have organised by-elections - all the other ones were sorted last year. He's saying, do you take some responsibility for not forcing your Members to resign earlier?
SHORTEN: I think we all know that he is delaying it. The idea that we control the Speaker, ridiculous. The idea that we controlled the Electoral Commission, ridiculous. The date has been set by the Government. This fellow, my opponent, always has an excuse. He's always got an excuse for everything. In this case, the government is responsible for the delay. About half a million Australian voters are going to be without representation for three months. When it came to his own people they could knock together a by-election in the blink of an eye, but when it comes to areas where he's not so sure, where he doesn't want to face judgement on his company tax cuts for big banks, his cuts to hospitals and schools. Well then all of a sudden we have got every excuse under the sun why it can't happen quickly.
JOURNALIST: Just a question for Susan Lamb, do you think the date of July 28 was specifically chosen to give your main opponent Trevor Ruthenberg as much time as possible to build up a profile here at Longman?
LAMB: Look, I think the date of the 28 July as Bill said, was a pretty dirty tactic, but it's something that actually in two years of being the Member for Longman, I've come to expect. What we've seen is the government cancel Parliament once, they shortened Thursdays so their Members can get home early, which they tried once and failed. So it doesn't surprise me at all that this sort of approach or grubby tactic is something that they're played out here in Longman. But whether it's the 28 July, or whether it was 28 June, I'll be ready.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of your of your opponent Trevor Ruthenberg, he was obviously only preselected a couple of days ago.
LAMB: Trevor Ruthenberg was a member of the Campbell Newman Government. His boss was Campbell Newman, who was responsible for cutting front-line services right here at the Caboolture Hospital. Now he wants to be a member of the Government, he wants Malcolm Turnbull to be his boss. This election is not about Trevor Ruthenberg, this is about his commitment to an LNP Government to cut money from hospitals and schools and give it to banks and big businesses.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just to be clear, if there were an early general election, is there some other mechanism you could use to present a platform before that, other than a National Conference?
SHORTEN: We'll work through our policy with all of our constituent elements, I am not worried about that. We have been doing the work now for the best part of five years. What the Labor Party is concerned about is the same as I think, millions of everyday Australians. Our platform will be very clear. It will spell out that we want to see 10 million people, 10 million working Australians, like the nurses, orderlies and admin staff you see here, get a tax cut of about $1000 a year. We want to reverse the sneaky cuts to hospitals like the $2.9 million at Caboolture Hospital alone over the next three years. We want to reverse the cuts to schools. We want to make sure that kids from the Moreton Bay area are able to get to university or get an apprenticeship and do TAFE. Our policy platform is taking shape. We'll continue to consult not just with the Labor Party but with millions of everyday Australians. I've got no doubt when you line up in the upcoming by-election, it's a very, very important opportunity to send a message to Malcolm Turnbull; drop your tax cuts for the big end of town, drop your tax cuts for the big banks. Instead, reverse your cuts to hospitals, including Caboolture hospital. Reverse your cuts to schools and to universities and to TAFE. These by-elections are all about a message to Malcolm Turnbull about what sort of Australia you want to be in. The Labor candidates are standing on a platform of reversing cuts to hospitals, health and schools and making sure that working class people get a decent tax cut, and we are not going to support, unlike Mr Turnbull or his allies in One Nation, corporate tax cuts for the big end of town.
Perhaps one or two more questions?
JOURNALIST: In seats like Longman, these are seats you would need to win in a general election to form government. If this by-election is lost, will you accept responsibility for that?
SHORTEN: First of all we haven't had the by-election, it's been hard enough just to even get Mr Turnbull to set the date of the by-election. I have to say, in two seats in Western Australia, Mr Turnbull is not even turning up. Mr Turnbull has already given up half the seats. No, we're going to keep fighting every day to the by-election and to the general election to make sure we are a nation who prioritises the health care of all Australians over the profits of the big banks. We want to be a country which means that you can promise your kids a chance to get an apprenticeship, or go to university and get educated in a well-funded school. We want to be a country which prioritises your Medicare card, and make sure that your Medicare card, which gives you a good quality of health, not whether or not your credit card - you could afford a good level of health. Mr Turnbull is doing everything he can in the book to avoid the judgement of the Australian people. We say about the by-election, and I think Susan has pretty well summed it up, and I might leave it here - we say about the by-election, we are ready whenever you want to have it and we are ready for a general election whenever you want to have it.
JOURNALIST: But if this seat is lost you'd have to resign wouldn't you?
SHORTEN: I did say - I did say that was my last question, but it's nice to catch up with you. And I'll certainly be back again with Susan to talk about -
JOURNALIST: You did say one or two more questions -
SHORTEN: I did actually, but for you.
JOURNALIST: You would need to resign wouldn't you, it would be -
SHORTEN: You’re talking rubbish.
JOURNALIST: If this by-election were lost, surely your members would be looking at you as a leader saying this man cannot even hold on to a seat that we won at the last election, how are we going to go forward to the next general election?
SHORTEN: I don't accept the assumption in your theory, because under that Mr Turnbull should have already pulled the pin because he didn't even turn up to the Perth or the Fremantle by-elections. He's already lost them.