Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Darwin - Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals’ cuts to Medicare and pathology services; Liberals’ 15 per cent GST on everything

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP

DARWIN

THURSDAY, 21 JANUARY 2016

 

SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals’ cuts to Medicare and pathology services; Liberals’ 15 per cent GST on everything; South China Sea; Labor’s plan for the Northern Territory; Australia’s shipping industry and tax havens

 

LUKE GOSLING, LABOR'S CANDIDATE FOR SOLOMON: Hi everyone thanks for coming. Thanks for your patience. My name is Luke Gosling, I'm the Labor Candidate for Solomon which is Darwin and Palmerston. Darwin and Palmerston is the best place in the world to live. One of the biggest problems we have though, like most of the Territory is the cost of living. One of the things that's going to make it incredibly hard and for people to stay here and for us to grow the Territory is the 15 per cent GST, which is currently being planned by our opponents. This is going to be an absolute tax on the Territory. We are trying to build the Territory, we're trying to build Darwin and Palmerston and we can't do that with a higher GST, with cuts to health services, like these services that we're seeing today which are going to impact on Territory families. It's going to impact on all Territorians.

 

So it's really great to have Bill here in the Territory again because I know Bill is fighting this hard and is with us. Bill Shorten is with Territorians in this battle because Territory, the Territory people and the growth of the Territory cannot afford increases to the cost of living like a 15 per cent, like these cuts in health services. What we actually need is a Palmerston Hospital built. What we actually need is affordable healthcare for Territorians, so that we can build the Territory and at the moment it's just becoming harder and harder under Malcolm Turnbull, Natasha Griggs and their Party. So thanks very much for coming up Bill.

 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone, it's great to be here at Western Diagnostic Pathology. Seeing the great work they do to improve the health outcomes for all Territorians. I'm accompanied today by Luke Gosling, Labor's candidate for Solomon, and one of my Shadow Ministerial team, Warren Snowden, Member for Lingiari. We are here today to talk about two issues principally. First of all, the Turnbull Liberal Government are proposing terrible cuts to the bulk billing incentives for pathology treatment in Australia. Now the consequence of these $650 million-dollar cuts is really drastic for lots of Australians. Pathology is the back office of the medical system but the tests which I was privileged enough to see here being done today, help people deal with the life-challenging and life-threatening diseases of cancer, leukaemia - help people in their everyday battle against chronic illness such as diabetes, help ensure that women have greater chances of better health treatment through the provision of pap smears other and tests. All of this is on the line and under threat because Malcolm Turnbull's Liberal National Government in Canberra is proposing deep cuts which will mean that pathology services search as Western Diagnostic will have to charge co-payments. A co-payment is just another way of saying a new tax on going to the doctor to get those very necessary blood tests. There are 50 million tests done every year. In this region alone we see Western Diagnostic servicing an area larger than Spain and France and Germany and it is a marginal business in terms of the costs of providing the quality service and this will be the straw that breaks the camel's back on the provision of quality health care for Territorians especially those who live in remote parts of the Territory. Labor is against the madness of discouraging patients with a new co-payment, a new tax at the point of going to see the doctor which will discourage them from getting the preventive health care they need. And whichever right-wing economic rationalist bean counter in the Liberal team dreamed up the idea that somehow discouraging people from going and getting pathology tests at early stages of disease or illness thinking it's going to save the taxpayer money, well they've got rocks in their head. Because the truth of the matter is it's been proven that where you see co-payments in pathology services, people delay getting the treatment they need. Now, I don't blame those people. If you're trying to make ends meet if you're on a fixed income or if you're on a Government wage or if you're, you know,  personnel and you've got to feed the family, you sometimes will, with the best intentions in the world, delay the medical treatment you need but the point about that is if you've got a barrier to treatment and you delay the treatment you need because of costs, when you are sicker you will end up, you know, having worse outcomes for yourself and of course costing the whole health system more. Introducing a co-payment in pathology tests does not cure sick people, it makes them sicker.

 

But this is part of the general campaign Labor has against the Turnbull Liberals. They are out of touch, they say one thing and do another. And that is why for the life of me I do not understand why Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberal team do not just simply rule out a 15 per cent GST on everything. There is a debate going on in this nation where the Liberals have sort of entered the field and said, "We've got to consider it. We could make it work," false promises of compensation, but the truth of the matter is there is only one political party in Australia standing up for real Australians and that's Labor because we know broadening the base of the GST, including fresh food, education services, every time you go to the to movies to take the family out, broadening the base and paying more GST is bad for cost of living. Now, the Territory itself has a high cost of living and you know that but this GST, 15 per cent on everything, is estimated to add an extra $8,000, $8,000 to the annual budget of a family in the Territory. You know, look at our Defence personnel and their families. They've been treated, in my opinion, inadequately in terms of their wages and conditions since the Liberals got into parliament nearly three years ago but you've got Defence personnel families trying to make ends meet, they haven't had wage rises or anything significant there and then all of a sudden they've got to look at a 15 per cent GST on everything and of course when you leave Darwin and Palmerston and get further out into the Territory then the cost of increasing the GST will have a more magnified effect on the cost of living generally. So today I will be in Darwin and Palmerston with Luke, with Warren, we'll be talking to real people, we'll be making it absolutely crystal clear that the only way you can stop a GST going up in the future is by voting for Luke Gosling in Solomon and voting for Warren Snowden in Lingiari at the next election. Now, I was going to ask John and Ian who run these services to particularly talk from the coal face about the consequence of these terrible cuts to pathology services and the bulk billing incentive.

 

Gentlemen, over to you.

 

IAN MCPHAN (GENERAL MANAGER OF WESTERN DIAGNOSTICS): Thanks, Bill. Just firstly, it is fantastic that Bill's taken the time to go around and country and look at pathology services from different perspectives and what Mr Shorten has just mentioned in terms of the effect of co-payments is absolutely correct. What he has mentioned in terms of accountants making clinical decisions, that is changing the Medicare schedule on accounting principles rather than clinical principles is absolutely correct. So we can see that Mr Shorten has fantastic insight into pathology around Australia from those visits. Probably the unique element from the Northern Territory point of view and Warren was spot on with his insights into it as well being a resident of Alice Springs. We provide 300 to 400 services a day to remote Indigenous communities.The concept of introducing a co-payment, which as Mr Shorten said, the industry is now at a point where it is really the straw that's going to break the camel's back and co-payments are likely to be inevitable. That is not possible in Warren's area, and indeed the Northern Territory for particularly Indigenous health. In Indigenous health, the burden of chronic disease in Indigenous communities we all know about and this will have an impact on that. I would like to hand over to John Kruthers from Pathology Awareness Australia.

 

JOHN KRUTHERS, PATHOLOGY AWARENESS AUSTRALIA: Thank you. Just to further that, I think the role of Pathology Awareness Australia is to help people understand how critical pathology is. Prevention, early diagnosis is the foundation of good health care. Pathology is the main engine room of enabling that to occur. 70 per cent of all clinical diagnoses rely on pathology, 100 per cent of cancer diagnosis relies on pathology and in fact in the last 12 months one in two of every Australian, that's 12 million people, individually had a pathology test. So it is the foundation of good health care but it's not well understood. It's great that Mr Shorten to come and have a look inside the engine room and actually highlight what pathology is about, the professionalism behind it, the depth of science, the innovation that resonates with it but it is also an area that needs to be carefully managed and, if not actually invested in if we want to strengthen health care and manage those downstream costs which will hurt if we don't detect disease early. So pathology Awareness Australia is trying to enable that. We're asking people to consider going to our website "knowpathology.com", that's, 'knowpathology.com' where we can actually help understand what pathology is about, understand your tests that you're having today and hopefully better manage your health care. So again, thank you to Mr Shorten for your time today to understand what we're doing and the importance of the work we do and the impact it's having on health care in the Northern Territory and across Australia.

 

Thank you very much.

 

SHORTEN: Thanks, John and thanks, Ian. Are there any questions perhaps firstly on the pathology cuts and then we'll take questions on all the other issues of national political importance.

 

JOURNALIST: On pathology cuts, you said this is part of a broader debate about reform of GST, isn't that what needs to be had, a discussion of this without scaremongering? And if that's the case, what suggestions have you made to the Government about areas that they might admit from possible GST expansion?

 

SHORTEN: Let me go to the heart of your assumption. There's an implication in your question somehow that by taking about the Liberals' cuts that it's scaremongering. The cuts by Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party to the health system of this country are scary. All that Labor's doing is telling the truth on this. It's become fashionable these days to not expect the Liberal Government in Canberra, Liberal National Government, to not keep their promises, but at the last election people voted and they were promised by the Liberals and Nationals that there would be no cuts to health care. Cutting the bulk billing incentives for pathology tests, for diagnostic imaging is a broken promise and we're not going to let them off. Secondly, these are actually drastic cuts. What is sensible about telling somebody who wants  to check a diagnosis of leukaemia, someone who wants to treat diabetes and saying we're going to make it harder for you to go and see the doctor and get your tests. I'll tell you something about patients, I've never met a patient who wanted to be sick. They don't choose to be in the circumstances they're in needing these tests. But this country is rich enough and smart enough to be able to provide a universal health care system where it is your Medicare card, not your credit card, which determines the quality of health you get in this country and we are going to maintain that standard even if the Liberals are undermining it. The second part of your question was about the GST and let's have a debate. Well, for someone who wants to have a debate Malcolm Turnbull has been missing in action on the GST. His Treasurer earlier this week hypothecated and had a thought bubble that having the GST would allow corporate tax cuts. I tell you what, Scott Morrison, the Labor Party is not going to reward stealing from ordinary workers and families with a 15 per cent GST just so you can reward the big end of town, wealthy companies, with tax reductions. No way, not now, not ever. So when we talk about alternatives, I do not understand for the life of me why the LNP, why the Liberals, why Malcolm Turnbull seemed to drive past multinationals not paying their fair share of taxation and instead dream up crazy cuts like cutting the bulk billing incentive and also want to put a 15 per cent tax on everything which affects everyday families. There are alternatives to raising money in this country. And another thing they could do while they're at it is stop wasting taxpayers' money with the expensive boondoggle which is Tony Abbott's payments to big polluters to continue to pollute. There are choices. The Labor Party is different to the Liberal National Party. When we want to talk about reform, don't start with cutting health, cutting education and increasing taxes on ordinary Australians.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you support - does the Labor Party support Stephen Conroy's call for Australia to exercise freedom of navigation in the South China Sea?

 

SHORTEN: The Labor Party absolutely supports freedom of navigation on our seas. The best solution is to make sure that the immediate nations in that vicinity sit down and work through the issues through international forums. That is the long-term passage to peace.

 

JOURNALIST: Your Defence spokesman says Australia should conduct those navigation. Why is that necessary when the US has already done that?

 

SHORTEN: Just before we get on to Defence, and that's a very legitimate area of inquiry, are there any other questions on the health care and pathology guys because they mightn't have the same strong views on the other issues we're talking about. Thanks, ok, could you ask that question again?

 

JOURNALIST: Your Defence spokesman has said that Australia should have the right to navigate through that area. Why that necessary when the US has already done so?

 

SHORTEN: I think Stephen stating long-held bipartisan views about freedom of navigation in the seas of the world. Maritime trade is fundamental to the success, growth and prosperity of all nations and we absolutely support freedom of navigation and we will keep pursuing in international forums these propositions and support for these principles. Let me again restate for Australians, Labor and Liberal have a high degree of bipartisanship on these questions because we're all committed to the peaceful development of the rise of Asia and China and we're very committed to maintaining the security of Australia.

 

JOURNALIST: Would you like to see a unilateral exercise by Australia?

 

SHORTEN: I'm not going to start running the navy. I'll leave that to the navy.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you welcome reports today that Arthur Sinodinous has been cleared of corruption?

 

SHORTEN: I'm pleased for his family if those reports are correct. We only have some newspaper reports at this stage, there's not lot more light I can shed on the matter.

 

JOURNALIST: Just back on the GST, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, the Labor Premier, says we have massive and undeniable revenue problem that's affecting health and education and that there needs to be a national approach from both parties to fix this. If you're opposed to increasing the GST, what is Labor's plans to tackle the issue?

 

SHORTEN: Well your question has the assumption which I would like to talk about, about the problem facing Australian Government finances. It is true that State Governments are facing a fiscal cliff of cuts to health and education because of the broken promises of the Liberal Government in Canberra. Specifically, the Liberal Government in Canberra in the 2014 Budget proposed cuts of $80 billion to schools and hospitals. Labor at the time said this was a broken promise and we said it's the wrong way to take Australia. History's proven us right on both counts but now what's happened is the that the Federal Liberal Government, Malcolm Turnbull, has continued Tony Abbott's cuts to health and education and in fact as a bit of a hallmark of the Liberals over the Christmas period where they snuck out the trash, bad announcements, they said they were going to not fund properly schools in years 5 and 6 of the education promises which they previously said they were going to so there's massive cuts to schools and hospitals which is really bad for ordinary Australians so the States are faced with this financial cliff and so some said maybe a GST if all the money goes to schools and hospitals.

 

I take a longer term view. I do not believe if we want to build confidence in this country that you put a 15 per cent tax on everything. There are alternatives which I will come to but let me again explain why Labor is passionately opposed to putting a 15 per cent tax on everything. We need confidence. It's not just an issue of cost of living although that's foremost in my mind, there's an issue of small business and the sustainability of small business. If you talk to any small business - I have been going around Australia talking about this proposition of a 15 per cent GST - they say, Bill, we don't have the capacity to pass that increase on to our customers in many cases. We'll have to lay off workers. They say, Bill, you've got global volatility, with the stock markets not doing very well, the last thing we need in 2016 is a confidence-killing, wallet-closing GST 15 per cent on everything. And there are alternatives.

 

When Labor gets up in the morning we don't start as our default position, "how do we go after ordinary people?", we think the Federal Liberal Government needs to look at the excessive tax concessions that are rewarded to high net wealth individuals. If you have millions of dollars in your superannuation - and lets face it, most of us never will - but if you have millions of dollars in superannuation, you don't need the taxpayer - you and I and millions of people like us, giving you further tax cuts so you pay no tax on the interest you earn from your big lump of superannuation. Now that is a no-brainer and of course, though, it speaks volumes for the differences between Labor and the Liberal Nationals that we're standing up here in Darwin, in Palmerston, in Winnellie, speaking up on behalf of ordinary people and we challenge Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison and his Liberal team - have a look at what you can do to get multinationals to pay their fair share have a look what you can do to make the superannuation tax concessions a little less excessive at the top end and, by the way, have a look at what you're paying big polluters to pollute. So there are alternatives and Labor, when we look at it, judge us by our values. We will make sure there is no 15 per cent GST on everything because that's just not in the interests of the nation or everyday families.

 

JOURNALIST: It is not just Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison saying this, this is your state, a Labor State that's bleeding that’s saying we need more money for health and education and to do that we need a national approach that looks – that includes looking -  at an increase to the GST.

 

SHORTEN: I don't blame the state politicians. They've got an immediate Budget crisis, that's their frame of reference - schools and hospitals. But what I say is that I understand that they've effectively been taken hostage by the massive cuts that the Abbott-Turnbull Governments are imposing on schools and hospitals but what I say to Australians is I understand what happens at the kitchen table. I live in the real world. I understand that putting a 15 per cent tax on everything simply doesn't solve the problems. I get the scepticism and cynicism of pensioners who when Malcolm Turnbull says, "Everyone can be compensated’’ They say, "We don't want to be compensated, we just don't want the 15 per cent." I understand the challenges of Defence Force families in the Territory who've seen low wages growth, who say, "We're not going to get compensated." I understand small business who say, "We won't be able to pass the cost on to our customers in some cases but it will just strain our small businesses." It's a rotten idea and it should be put in the dust bin of history and that's where Labor is going to put it. One more question, thank you.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, when was the last time you had a Shadow Minister come up here to the Top End and make an announcement for policy and I guess the second part of that is what is your vision and plan for Northern Australia at this time?

 

SHORTEN: Our Shadow Ministers visit the Northern Territory a great deal. We do not see the Northern Territory as a place you fly over on the way to Europe or anywhere else. No, we've made lot of announcements and I'll just go to a couple of them to remind you but I'm very fortunate to be accompanied by Warren Snowdon - he can talk a bit more about the vision. I tell you what our straight-forward promises are. We want to make sure every kid in the Territory who works hard and gets good mark can go to  university and doesn't have to pay exorbitant fees. Another promise - if you want a pathology test in the Territory, we'll make sure you don’t pay a co-payment and we'll also make a promise to Territorians that you won't have to pay a 15 per cent GST on everything and by the way, while we're on a bit of a roll, we'll also make sure your schools are properly funded. That's what we will do. And I remind everyone we've seen the debacle of the Palmerston Hospital, a point which Luke's on at me all the time about. It was Labor who allocated the $110 million and while we're on a list of what we've done, Tiger Brennan drive, $70 million. I have a view of the Territory of a growing population, of an economy which has streets other than just resources. I think there is a bright future for the Territory, but what we have to do is make sure that families can keep pace with cost of living. But I’ve got Warren here, and Warren is going to cover everything I didn't get to.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you one more question?

SHORTEN: Sorry, I’m going to answer this gentleman’s question first, and I’ll do it with Warren.

 

SNOWDON: And I’ll be very brief. Just so you know, I am in the Shadow Ministry and I live in the Northern Territory. And I’m responsible for helping advise on Northern Australia, so you should ask me any time you like. And I need to tell you that we have a very coherent strategy going forward around Northern Australia, around North Australia infrastructure, around dealing with the issues for the people that live in the north, particularly people who live in the bush. You’ll hear more about them closer to the election, thank you.

 

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you to respond to Michaelia Cash’s comments which I’m quoting, she said ‘Bill Shorten’s relationship with militant unions are defined by clear tendencies and wilful subservience’, and she’s referring to NUA, and she also quotes you as talking about laws need to be broken, we’re going to get locked up in 2013, and says we need to act decisively (inaudible), what do you say?

SHORTEN: If you’re asking me to respond to a right-wing Liberal minister attacking me for standing up for working people, well, you know, what’s news in that other than to get the view that gets printed. What I say is that my dad was a seafarer. I’m very proud of what Australian seafarer’s do, and I’m very committed to the working conditions of Australian seafarer’s. I’m also very committed also to having Australian flag vessels. I think it’s a disgrace that we are seeing, even on the Australian coastline, fewer Australian flag ships, and we are seeing more ships flagged for tax reasons in tax havens in the West Indies, and it does worry me with the loss of Australian shipping, the environmental protections of the Australian coastline including the Great Barrier Reef. It does worry me that what we are seeing is tax regimes of tax havens being used to game the Australian shipping industry. I do not support mindless militancy. I do not support illegality. I do think all participants in the workplace, employers, employees and their representatives must always adhere to the rule of law. That is my very prod track record of 20 years. But I come from a seafaring family, I know how hard seafarer’s work, I value what they do – and just because what they do is beyond the breakers of the Australian shoreline, does not for me, absolve the responsibility of Australian policy makers to ensure that our seafarer’s go to sea in safe ships, that they are well paid, and that the shipping companies carrying Australian cargoes should pay proper taxes and make sure that Australian laws are being respected. So I say to Michaelia Cash: I get that you’re a paid-up member of the Liberal Party, I get that you’re probably not going to vote for me at the next election, but let’s never sell out Australian seafarer’s because they’re the backbone carrying Australia to the world.

ENDS

 

MEDIA CONTACT: LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT – 02 6277 4053