Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Belconnen - bbott Government cuts to the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement; National Dementia Awareness Month

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP

BELCONNEN

MONDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government cuts to the Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement; National Dementia Awareness Month; Iraq; National Security; Kurt Steel; Tony Abbott’s unfair budget; Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's great to be here at Kangaroo Waters with my colleagues Shayne Neumann and Senator Helen Polley. Today is the start of National Dementia Awareness Month. Let me first of all just commend the staff of this facility who have in their care 100 plus senior Australians, plus many more they support living outside of here. One of the challenging issues that they have to deal with here is of course dementia. There are 16 residents staying here who, on July 1, each lost $16 daily payments which were pooled to provide extra resources for older Australians living with dementia and related diseases. Today is not only the start of National Dementia Awareness Month, it's also the one-year anniversary to the very day that Tony Abbott in his ruthless pursuit of votes in Australia before the last election uttered those memorable words that under a Government that Tony Abbott led, there would be no nasty surprises and no pathetic excuses. And we have seen what a lie that statement was to the Australian people. It's been one year since Tony Abbott wilfully misled the Australian people and we’ve seen all the problems that have happened since then. When he said there would be no nasty surprises, did he tell Australians about the GP Tax? No. When he said there were no nasty surprises, did he tell Australian motorists and families about increasing the Petrol Tax? No he didn’t. When he talked about no nasty surprises did he tell Australians about cuts to hospital funding and school funding? No, he didn't. He also said there’d be no pathetic excuses.

We’ve seen since the Government's Budget, that this is a Government who blames everyone but themselves. They blame the media, they blame the experts, they blame the people for not understanding all the pain and why they are causing it. They blame the Opposition. This is a Government who can be best described by nasty surprises and pathetic excuses. But the nastiest surprise of all, and its formidable competition amongst cutting payments to the unemployed to nothing, creating $100,000 degrees, I think that amongst the nastiest surprises of all is cutting the $16 payment, daily payment to people living with dementia. There is no way that this Government can justify cutting this modest payment which provides thousands of Australians living with dementia the opportunity to have extra therapy, extra activities. If the Government wants to be summarised for nasty surprises and pathetic excuses, it is the cut to this dementia and related diseases supplement. Tony Abbott should immediately reconsider and change the decision to cut the dementia supplement. Surely we can have a moment of bipartisanship in National Dementia Awareness Month and say that the needs of people living with dementia and other diseases should be put ahead of grubby politics, broken promises and election lies. By 2050 there will be a million Australians living with dementia. How much does this Government really think they are saving the Budget by making the lives of people with dementia harder than they otherwise would be?

I might just invite now my colleague, Shayne Neumann to say a few words. What I’d also though, before I do that, I wish to just go on the record again and state, is that the argument, the fights in Parliament, about the matters in Iraq need to be put in the following context. Australia, Australian Labor and the Government all support taking action against the evil activities, and I use the words evil activities deliberately, of the Islamic State. Right as we speak now, men and women of the RAAF, highly trained professionals, are going in harm’s way to provide humanitarian relief. I think it is really important for both the people serving our interests overseas and their families here, that they understand that the Australian political system and our Parliament does support the work of these fine men and women and I'm grateful for the humanitarian relief they’re supplying. I might hand over to Shayne to talk again about National Dementia Awareness Month and these terrible cuts.

 

SHAYNE NEUMANN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGEING: Well thanks, Bill. The staff in this facility do a great job. Can I say this, 330,000 Australians with dementia. Dementia is the fourth-leading cause of disease in this country, the third leading cause of disability in this country and as Bill correctly said, by 2050 we'll have a million Australians with dementia. The consequences of these cuts which were not talked about by Tony Abbott when in Opposition is that family members will have to go into residential aged care facilities in the future and there is a probability that's correct, and provide the kind of daily support, assistance, therapy and activities which aged care providers who would have received this supplement, had it continued, would have given and offered to these residents. So this is a tragic and shameful and disgraceful cut by a Government that doesn't even have a proper Minister for Ageing, and should be reversed. Labor's got a petition, we have thousands of people who have signed this petition. We urge the Government to reconsider this issue and reverse these cuts.

 

SHORTEN: Thanks, Shayne. I'm happy to take questions.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, is delivering weapons really humanitarian?

 

SHORTEN: I just might see if there’s any questions on, I’ll come to that, on dementia and what we’ve seen here today. If there aren't any questions on that - what's not humanitarian is to cooperate with evil by doing nothing. What's not humanitarian is to stand by and watch the genocide occurring in northern Iraq. I believe that the resupply of light weapons to the Peshmerga forces in the Kurdish part of Iraq is a sensible measure. We'll have more to say in Parliament today about where we think this is all going, but I want to be really crystal clear - this action, which has been taken, does have the support of the Opposition. Furthermore, it has the support, I think even more significantly, of the Government of Iraq. The planes which are resupplying into Kurdish parts of Iraq - and they have the support of the Government of Iraq – who have traditionally not got on with the Kurds or elements of the Kurdish leadership in the past. That shows you how seriously that the Government of Iraq take the threat of IS. I also note it's an international coalition of effort and our two aeroplanes are providing appropriate levels of assistance.

 

JOURNALIST: I take you point there, but is it a bit disingenuous to call the effort that you’ve described, the military effort, humanitarian?

 

SHORTEN: The objective is the humanitarian relief of citizens caught up in a struggle beyond their control. The best advice, which I’ve seen through the Government, is that the Kurdish Peshmerga forces are the best chance of civilians in that part of the world being safe. So it's sensible to help do something.

 

JOURNALIST: Is this where you draw the line, though? I mean, anything beyond this in terms of military intervention, where do you position on that?

 

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, let's not get ahead of ourselves. We haven't seen specific proposals about what else it would be. But I can answer your question unequivocally in terms of one line that would be drawn - we do not see and Labor has not seen and can foresee no set of circumstances where the case is made for formed-up combat elements of the Australian Army to operate in Iraq.

 

JOURNALIST: Is Australia at war?

 

SHORTEN: No.

 

JOURNALIST: Andrew Wilkie says we have crossed a line with SAS soldiers apparently escorting the military supplies to those Kurdish forces. Does that mean that we have troops on the ground essentially?

 

SHORTEN: No, Labor in 2003 did oppose the second gulf war, the second Iraq war for principled reasons. We don't see this as the same set of circumstances as then, but again, in answer to your question and to repeat what I said earlier to the other question, we don't see the case has been made for combat troops and formed-up units to be fighting within Iraq. We'll have more to say about this in the Parliament this afternoon.

 

JOURNALIST: Does it concern you two weeks ago, the Government made this decision two weeks ago and yet until yesterday insisted that no decision had been made?

 

SHORTEN: Well I'm not sure you're right about the timing of the decisions to resupply the Kurds.

 

JOURNALIST: Well ABC's understanding is two weeks ago.

 

SHORTEN: Well, that's their view. What I would like at is the decision and the consequences of the decision. It is the case beyond any reasonable doubt, that IS is committing great atrocities and needs to be stopped, and discouraged and prevented from further extending its evil reign of influence. The second thing is clear, is that we need to, as has been Labor's position all along, ensure that we cut off the flow of any Australian foreign fighters going to this zone of conflict. And very importantly, and I think top of the tree in terms of all of this, is the humanitarian relief of civilians caught up in a struggle well beyond their control and capacity to influence. I think the measures of the resupply are sensible steps. It's following a request from other nations, it's working in tandem with other nations, it’s working in tandem with the Iraqi Government. I wish that this conflict wasn't here at all. I wish that Australian men and women didn't have to go in harm's way. I wish that civilians in northern Iraq could go home every night safe from the evil nature of violent sectarian conflict, but that is not the case and we have to deal with the matters in front of us.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Greens leader Christine Milne has raised questions about whether it actually is legal according to international law. Do you have similar concerns?

 

SHORTEN: We'll outline more of our views in depth in Parliament today. In terms of the precedent and what the Greens propose, Labor didn't support that. The constitution does give powers of defence to our national government. The precedent has been that the national government can make decisions. Now the Opposition can reserve the right to oppose or disagree with them, but we do support the decisions that have been made so far.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten John Faulkner is calling for the Minister of Defence to make a statement on Iraq and there to be a subsequent debate on that statement. Is all of Labor calling for the same thing?

 

SHORTEN: Yes I have indicated to the Government earlier today [that] I think it would be appropriate to hear a statement in the Parliament, which we would respond to. So I've already indicated that to them. Yes, so John and I agree.

 

JOURNALIST: And is there a need for a Parliamentary debate?

 

SHORTEN: There will always be a discussion in the Parliament about these matters and that's why the Government, at our request, but perhaps they were thinking this anyway, should make a statement and I understand that is going to be the case today.

 

JOURNALIST: The Home Insulation Royal Commission report has just been released, just a few minutes ago. Do you know concede policy failure from Labor and from individuals, including Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett?

 

SHORTEN: I'm sure you'd appreciate that it's been released just as we’ve been here. My colleagues, with the relevant portfolio responsibility will be talking about this matter a little later this afternoon. I haven't seen it. But I can say that in terms of the tragedy of four people losing their lives, that's what matters to me. If there are lessons in this report which can improve safety so that other families never have to go through this again, then we will approach that appropriately. We are up for any improvements we can make to safety and the lessons. We are not up for a political blame game.

 

JOURNALIST: The report also heighted that Mark Arbib, the former minister had the most question marks over his role. Should he apologise, should he be doing anything in response to the report that's been handed down today?

 

SHORTEN: Just as I said to the previous question, like the rest of you, the report has literally just been handed down. My colleagues will be standing up a little later this afternoon. There is nothing I can add to what I said before.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you think that this Royal Commission was unnecessary?

 

SHORTEN: Again, I would just repeat what I said before, and I think you all understand that you've all been here with me. In terms of the report, for me what matters is that four young men lost their lives. What their families have gone through and what that all means to me is the upper most issue. I want to see better workplace safety. There have been previous reports extracting lessons from this program. My interest is first and foremost the safety of people going to work and of house holders. Let's see what the lessons are here. If they are constructive lessons about safety, then we’re all up for them. If there is political point scoring we haven't got time for that, the issue is too important.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, I was hoping you might please make a comment today, I know you put out a statement yesterday, just on a local matter, in relation to the tragic death yesterday of Kurt Steel, a much loved Labor person here in the ACT, and certainly a lot of interest today within the Canberra community and the media?

 

SHORTEN: Thanks for asking that. I heard the news late yesterday morning that a very capable young man, Kurt Steel, had been killed in a travel incident or travel accident in Bolivia, I think. I have been in touch with the family. I did know Kurt, he was incredibly impressive, I have spoken to his workmates in the last few hours since this news became known. I think it is an absolute tragedy that a 26-year-old full of life, full of potential, is taken six or seven decades before he might have reasonably expected to. He lived life, I’m proud that I knew him, I feel sorry for the people who will never get to know him. My thoughts are with his family and his friends. It's just a real tragedy, he was a lovely, lovely capable man. I might take one more question, thanks.

 

JOURNALIST: The Abbott Government has just seemed to have laid aside the MRRT Bill in the House of Representatives. Does Labor welcome the fact that the PM seems to be backing down, at least temporarily, on repealing the tax?

 

SHORTEN: The Government’s got a problem with its unfair Budget. The problem in this country is that we’ve got a Government who lied their way into office, they said there would be no nasty surprises or pathetic excuses, and every day we see more and more of their nastiness and pathetic excuses emerging. There is deep concern in the community that the Government's only idea to our future is to make the bottom half of income earners do the heavy lifting in Australia, which is crazy. When something as important as school kids bonuses is being attacked, only a Government full of Ministers who are so out of touch wouldn't appreciate that $400 for parents of a primary school child makes the difference between new shoes and second-hand shoes. It makes the difference between school books and school equipment, which they might not otherwise use. So I’m pleased if the Government is recognising that it needs to recalibrate its actions in terms of fairness. I just wish that they would pay as much attention to the 330,000 Australians with dementia and their families as they do to mining companies about the mining tax.

 

I said that would be my last question, but I'll see you all in Question Time I hope. Thank you.

ENDS

 

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