TUESDAY, 24 JULY 2018
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plan for more Medicare support in Braddon: by-elections; Emma Husar; people smuggling; Meningococcal B-strain vaccination; NDIS fraud.
JUSTINE KEAY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BRADDON: Well thanks for coming here to the Patrick Street Clinic in Ulverstone and I'd like to thank Dr Emil, Jackie, Sharon and Kaz for having us today, and also to welcome Bill Shorten again to a wonderful part of our world. The weather's turned on again but that's not going to stop us going out and talking to more people in this by-election, there's only a few more days to go.
Clearly, the number one issue that I hear, that we hear - the Labor team, is heath. I'm just surprised that my opponent never, ever talks about the health system in Tasmania. We know it's in crisis, we know that people are waiting far too long to access elective surgery, they're waiting far too long to even get in to see a specialist. That's why Labor has committed more funding to reduce our elective surgery waiting list, more funding to bring specialists here and today we're announcing - for the 50 jobs that we've announced that go into Centrelink, 20 of those are for Medicare. It's about making sure that people in our community can access those services when they need it. There's no point waiting for far too long to get their Medicare claims processed. People here, it's an older population, they want to have those face to face conversations with our government employees, with the Medicare staff and Labor is there behind and backing in our community all the way.
So thank you again Dr Jackie for having us here and Bill thank you again for coming.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great Justine. This is a fantastic announcement. Through Justine's advocacy, what we're saying is we want to improve access to the Medicare system for people who live in Northern Tasmania and on the North-West coast. Now we did a town hall meeting last night, plenty of people there. The number one issue in the Braddon by-election is health care, and what Justine is doing is making sure that we improve access to health care.
The reality is that the Liberals nationally, have neglected health outcomes for Tasmanians. There are some really upsetting statistics which were given a human face last night. When I'm talking to older Tasmanians complaining that they have to wait and wait and wait to get elective surgery for matters which people on the mainland take for granted, in quicker periods of time, you know something is wrong with the way that the Federal Liberals are treating the health care of Tasmanians.
So what we want to do is we want to change that. In this by-election, we have announced that we will put aside $30 million across Tasmania, including 500 patient operations here in Braddon, to reduce waiting times. I don't know if you're aware but the average waiting time in Tassie, it's 45 days whereas on the mainland it's only 38. And when you look at the last 10 per cent of patients in Tasmania compared to the last 10 per cent of patients on the mainland, the wait in Tasmania is 313 days, where it's more like 258 days on the mainland. That's just not good enough and if those statistics don't wake Mr Turnbull and his Liberal Government up, what should wake them up is what we heard last night.
There are people waiting for hip replacements, for arthroscopies, people waiting for basic things which most of us take for granted. These are very painful waiting periods for people. We want to cut the waiting list. But the general problem of health care in Tasmania and indeed nationally, is that Mr Turnbull has been making it harder for people to access the Medicare system. And I include in that the freeze they've had for five years. You may not be aware but in Tasmania, the out-of-pocket cost for seeing a GP has increased by 27 per cent in the last five years. This is real money and this affects battlers the most. And the cost of seeing a specialist has gone up something like 43 per cent, the out-of-pocket costs. This is a disaster, that's nearly $70 of out-of-pocket costs to see a specialist, on average. This is real money and for Tasmanians this has a real impact on what is happening to people.
So we are going to make it easier for people to access the health care system. We have made a conscious decision, and I think Justine can take a fair amount of the credit. We are saying to Tasmanians in Braddon and Tasmanians right throughout the island, we are saying that it is hospitals before banks; it is Medicare before banks; it is patients before banks. That's what we're doing and our announcement today is part of our ongoing commitment to provide quality health care for all Tasmanian families.
We're happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: If you lose one of the by-elections do you concede it's likely you'll face a leadership challenge?
SHORTEN: Oh no not at all, and let's be clear the real problem about an outcome where Mr Turnbull, if he was to be successful in one of the two by-elections that he's actually contesting out of the five. The real problem is that he will take this as an endorsement of his policies. What you will get in Braddon is more of the same if you vote Liberal. More of the same waiting times, more of the same cuts to pensioner energy supplements, more of the same cuts to schools. I think it was very interesting today, the Tasmanian Education Minister, who is a Liberal, in fact his state electorate is the Braddon electorate, has written to the Federal Government, the Federal Liberal Government and he has broken ranks. He has said, listen we are not getting enough money for the kids with disabilities. Do you know this just proves that Justine is actually the best ally schools and education and teachers and parents and kids can have in this by-election. So the real problem if Justine doesn't win, it is not about me or Malcolm, it is about more of the same from the Turnbull Government. What we will see is banks before schools, we'll see banks before pensioners, we’ll see banks before health care. That's the issue and that's the problem of voting Liberal in this upcoming by-election. What I'm going to do is, I am just going to take people in a turn and then I will come back to you.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor have a better chance in this election if Anthony Albanese was leader given the polls suggest that's the case?
SHORTEN: No, what we are going to do is keep focusing on the issues. You know it's funny, half the time in politics the journalists complain that we talk too much about ourselves, and then as soon as we want to talk about the issues, some people want us to talk about ourselves. Well I'm not falling for that. What this by-election is about, it's about pensioners before banks, it's about hospitals before banks, it's about the sort of Tasmania you want to have. The big issues which I have seen, be it talking to people in Latrobe or talking to people in Smithton, talking to people in Burnie and talking to people in Devonport, the big issue for Tasmanians is they care about their families and their health. Justine has got the best policies to help look after families and to look after healthcare. For us, we'd rather give $17 billion to schools, rather than $17 billion to the big banks. For us it's more important to make sure that Medicare is actually accessible to Tasmanians, then making sure that the big banks get some more tax cuts at the top end of town.
JOURNALIST: Just on a different issue are you comfortable with having your own personal information on My Health record or have you decided to opt-out?
SHORTEN: Well I haven't decided to opt out and I certainly, the principle of being able to have information stored digitally is one which makes sense. But doesn't this government have a track record of turning everything they touch into custard. They've stuffed up the NBN. They've stuffed up the NDIS. They stuffed up the Census, and now they're jeopardising the My Health record system. I think the government needs to take a deep breath, climb down off their arrogant high horse and they need to extend the opt-out period. And I think it's interesting, when you've got prominent government backbenchers like the Liberal Member for Goldstein in Victoria saying he's opting-out, if Mr Turnbull's own Members of Parliament are opting-out, that should ring alarm bells for all Australians. I think the Government, with its track record of bad implementation, just needs to slow down and get this right, and listen to the concerns of the public, rather than arrogantly steam-rolling people and creating a real disaster.
JOURNALIST: Will you personally investigate the bullying allegations against Emma Husar and will you stand her down?
SHORTEN: We have got a procedure in place. The complaints were made to the New South Wales Labor Party. They're investigating it, and until that investigation has concluded I'm not going to add any more. Next question.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it is a political move by the Government to release figures on people smugglers ahead of the by-elections?
SHORTEN: I think that the Government is trying to goad the people smugglers and goad the boats. You almost get a sense that they miss them, that's the only issue they can talk about in the by-elections. The fact of the matter is that the people smugglers will not get back into business regardless of who is the government of Australia. We are as committed as the Government to stopping the boats. What we don't accept of course, is that people have to be kept in indefinite detention for the last five years. We certainly support the resettlement of some of these people in America. We think there is more that can be done to move these people on to other countries. But when it comes to the boats, they don't start again. The Liberals know that, Labor knows that, and I wish the Liberals would stop yelling out and goading the people smugglers to try their hand. The reality is that in Braddon, boats aren't the issue. In Braddon, the issue is health care, and a lot of people I talk to say, why on earth won't they properly fund hospitals and health care and seeing the doctors in Tasmania, but they are giving $17 billion to the big banks. For me it is all about hospitals and health care, not banks and multinationals.
JOURNALIST: Is it a cynical move though that these numbers have been released days before the by-election?
SHORTEN: Well you draw your own conclusion on that. The Government want us talking about people smugglers. The Government want to send a message out to people smugglers that, in the ranks of Australia, the people smugglers could be a chance again. They won't be. We don't want the dangerous voyages and unscrupulous voyages to restart. But I'm not going to get into what the Government want to talk about. When we knock on the doors here in Devonport, when we knock on the doors in Burnie and all of the other marvellous communities in North-Western Tasmania, they are not raising that with us. They want to know why their wages aren't going up but their energy bills are. They want to know why there are cuts to hospitals yet big banks are getting a tax cut. The voters I talk to want to know why everything is going up except their wages. They want to know why the Government is funding banks rather than looking after health care. They want to know why schools aren't getting properly funded so parents with kids with disabilities are not getting the support they should in the mainstream system in Tassie.
JOURNALIST: Will you accept preferences from Craig Garland?
SHORTEN: I actually want number one votes for Justine Keay. The reality is that we've got a very good candidate, we’ve got the best candidate if I could be so bold as to say that, and we've got the best policies. I would like to say to the Government as they sort of talk about preferences and small parties. I would say could you talk about pensioners instead. You know, the fact they are not giving $14 – the energy supplement each fortnight to single pensioners or $21a fortnight to couple pensioners, I think that is breathtaking. That's a far bigger scandal in my opinion than the debate about preferences and some of the personality politics that the Government want to talk about.
JOURNALIST: When and how did you learn about - first learn about the allegations against Emma Husar?
SHORTEN: My office notified me about Wednesday of last week.
JOURNALIST: And where did they get the information from?
SHORTEN: I guess they were told by the New South Wales Branch or maybe there was a media inquiry.
JOURNALIST: Have you counselled Emma Husar and are you confident she hasn't misused taxpayer funds?
SHORTEN: There is an investigation underway. I think she has been a hard-working member in her electorate, and I'm going to let the investigation by the New South Wales Labor Party run its course.
JOURNALIST: Just following up on a question previously, Bill and Justine. Should Labor be accepting and receiving preferences from someone who has a criminal record for assaulting a police officer?
SHORTEN: First of all, I'm not going to buy into the antecedents of the other candidates. If I was to do that, I'd be tempted to draw your attention to the fact the Liberal member breached the Electoral Act and pleaded guilty to that -
JOURNALIST: Would you equate assaulting a police officer to -
SHORTEN: No, of course I don't. Of course I don't. But you are asking me to comment about every other candidate in the field. I deplore any violence. I deplore violence against police, I deplore violence against women, I deplore violence in our community, of course. What I'm doing in this election is seeking number one votes for Justine. And indeed, I just want to make a point which hasn't been gone to yet, but I feel sufficiently strongly that I am going to just make this statement, and it is about the Meningococcal B strain. I think, and I ask Malcolm Turnbull to personally support providing free vaccinations against this dreadful disease. I think that we can find the money. Currently, if you need to get this care, if you need to get this vaccination, you pay for it yourself, $350-$400. I think that's dreadful. I actually am going to congratulate the South Australian Government for providing funding for it. I’d say to Malcolm Turnbull, and I'd say to the Liberals and Brett Whiteley, please do like Justine and I are doing - we raised this with the Government in 2016. It is long past the hour that we provide free vaccination against Meningococcal B. I mean what is the cost of a life, and the answer is there is no price which is not too high to pay and we should be providing that vaccination right now. And I'd ask the Government - this shouldn't be a political issue. For the sake of the kids, for the sake of the young ones, let's just provide that vaccination for free. I should also just say, later on today, I'm very fortunate to be visiting, as part of the Government House -Recognition of the Australians involved in the miracle rescue in the Thai cave system of the young teenage soccer team, the Wild Boars. I just want to say to the Aussies involved in that rescue, you did Australia proud, well done.
JOURNALIST: On Meningococcal, what do you make of the State Health Minister who hasn't faced the media for the past five days?
SHORTEN: He is collecting a wage but he is not doing his job. I wrote to the Government in 2016. I just think this argument that, you know there's a bureaucratic process, or that there's a lot of cost, you know, what is the cost of a human life? I really think that's one good thing that we could accomplish out of this by-election altogether. Last question by the way.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government has been forthcoming with potential issues with fraud in the NDIS?
SHORTEN: Listen again, a year and a half ago, we said to the Government that they needed to smarten up on potential fraud in the NDIS. So as usual, too little, too late. I think it's despicable if people are ripping off dollars which should be going to people with profound and severe disabilities. I think it is offensive, I think it is despicable. It is good that the Government is acting but it has taken a year and a half later, and I can't help but think when you look at the track record of the Government. They got the census wrong, they've stuffed up the implementation of the NDIS, the NBN has become a joke for too many Australians, and now we've got a cloud over the My Health Records. This is a government who can take any good idea and stuff it up on implementation. And in terms of the by-election, just to conclude, for us, it's all about hospitals before banks; Medicare before banks; seeing a doctor before banks getting a tax cut. It's about putting pensioners ahead of the banks. These are the issues which Tasmanians are talking to us, they spoke about it to us last night. And we are going to keep talking that message all the way to the by-election and all the way to the General Election. Thank you very much everybody.