Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Ipswich - Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Tony Abbott’s attack on Medicare






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Tony Abbott’s attack on Medicare, Queensland election.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It is great to be in Ipswich West with our great local candidate, Jim Madden, talking to people about the issues that matters in Australia, in Queensland and in politics. Today, talking to a range of shoppers and parents back from holidays, doing the shopping, getting the kids school shoes and looking after the kids during school holidays, it is clear to me that the Abbott Government policies of having a proposed debate and a discussion about an increasing GST on items not currently taxed, and it shocks local residents and shoppers of Ipswich.


It is also clear to me that Queenslanders, like all other Australians, are really upset and concerned at the Abbott Government’s sneaky pre-Christmas ambush of the healthcare system, where they have put in rules which start next Monday where your hard working GPs, the frontline of healthcare in Australia, are now going to have much smaller rebates. They are losing up to 20 dollars in rebates unless they see patients for 15 minutes or longer. What we see is Tony Abbott before Christmas in a sneaky fashion, has launched a surprise attack, another broken promise, to kill off bulk-billing in Australia, to take out almost 20 dollars from each doctor’s visit, so people are going to have to find that gap or doctors will stop bulk-billing or people will just stop going to the doctor.


The healthcare of any one of us should be important to all of us. Healthcare in Australia should not depend on your credit card, it should be based upon your Medicare card. The quality of attention you get when your children are sick or a loved one in the family needs to see a doctor, shouldn’t depend upon how much money you have in your pocket. We should keep defending the Medicare system we’ve got. The Abbott Government has put in new rules, they’ve bypassed the Parliament, and they are trying to wipe out bulk-billing in Australia.


So I wish to state today, alongside Jim Madden, Labor’s candidate for Ipswich West in the upcoming state election, that the Labor Party will at the early possible stage move to disallow Tony Abbott’s Christmas ambush on sick people and GPs in Australia. We do not support, we do not support taxing people to go to the doctor. We do not support Tony Abbott’s broken promises when it comes to health and hospital care in this country and in this state.


Happy to take any questions you’ve got.


JOURNALIST: What are doctors telling you in your conversations with them?


SHORTEN: I think that doctors were initially just surprised at the Abbott Government, who were so keen to put a tax on going to the doctor. When the Abbott Government couldn’t get that through the Parliament, I just think doctors were surprised and betrayed that Tony Abbott would do it through the backdoor, his government, his LNP government in Canberra, and make it more expensive to go to the doctor. Doctors are outraged. GPs do not need Tony Abbott sitting in the consulting room alongside them telling them how long they can see a patient, how long they should treat a patient. I don't think Tony Abbott and his Government are a very good government for Australia, but I'm sure they're shocking doctors and they shouldn't be involved in the healthcare of telling GPs the best way in which to see their patients.


JOURNALIST: Is there not a need to discourage GPs who practice six-minute medicine?


SHORTEN: Well first of all we are so fortunate in this country to have so many well-trained GPs. GPs and indeed nurses and frontline health practitioners, save the taxpayer money. The Abbott Government is creating a crisis to justify breaking a promise and it's not on. I would trust the AMA and GPs to know more about how to treat sick people than Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey or Campbell Newman. Why does Tony Abbott think that he is a better expert at what GPs do every day in their surgeries, than GPs? I don’t believe he is. Labor is on the side of patients and GPs, and we say to Tony Abbott hands off our GPs, hands off our Medicare.


JOURNALIST: Just two question from Canberra, you might have to repeat. Why hasn’t Labor decided to disallow Medicare rebate changes?


SHORTEN: Great question. First of all, Labor is stating very clearly today, and I am stating today, we will move at the earliest stage possible to disallow this Christmas sneak attack on our Medicare system. Furthermore, it's been important, everyone knows that the Abbott Government pull the old political trick of bypassing Parliament, of rushing a regulation in before Christmas, then they change their Health Minister, then they've gone on holiday, and they expect Australia to swallow their shoddy, shonky broken promises and new taxes to go to the doctor. Labor has been consulting with doctors, we've been listening to people. Our position is unequivocal, it's in black and white. We will oppose Tony Abbott absolutely changing the rebate system for our GPs, making it a lot harder, and through this sneaky back door method. We will say to Tony Abbott you are not going to damage the Medicare system if we've got anything to do with it.


JOURNALIST: Is it a good thing to encourage doctors to spend more time with patients?


SHORTEN: First of all, let's talk about our GPs and put in a plug for hard-working GPs. If you've been an experienced doctor of 25 and 30 years and you see a child who's got a particular condition, it might not take you 15 minutes to diagnose what needs to be done, but I know that it's taken you 30 years to get to this point. So why on earth is Tony Abbott starting to try and put a price on every aspect of medicine, but not understanding the value of what our GPs do? The best way to have a better health system in this country, sit down with the clinicians, sit down with the GPs, with the nurses, sit down with the patients.


Tony Abbott is so arrogant. They dreamed up a way to bypass Parliament and they've unveiled in the middle of Campbell Newman's LNP campaign in Queensland, a savage attack on the health system of Queensland. And I've got a question for Campbell Newman. Why have you said nothing to your LNP Senators in Queensland about this issue? I have rung Queensland Labor Senators, they are all going to vote against this regulation. They are determined to oppose this regulation. Why hasn't Campbell Newman done what I've done and stood up for Queensland, stood up for the health system in Queensland?


JOURNALIST: A court in Melbourne has granted bail to a man accused of supporting terrorism. Any comment?


SHORTEN: I haven't seen the matter, sorry.


JOURNALIST: You said you would move to disallow this, does it mean you've been in conversation with crossbenchers about striking them down by disallowing?


SHORTEN: I'm lucky that I’ve still got the same Shadow Health Minister we had before Christmas now and Catherine King has been working hard and having discussions with a range people, including crossbench Senators. I don’t think you need to be a Rhodes Scholar to work out that Tony Abbott, by taking a 20 dollar rebate away from every visit to the doctor, or many visits to the doctor, is going to mean that a) that doctors will stop bulk-billing or b) means that patients are going to have to pay a lot more money to go and see the doctor, or c) the worst outcome of all, people just won't go to the doctor. See, this government doesn't get healthcare in Australia. They think by making it harder to go to the doctor, somehow you cure the sick. Oh no you don't. What it means is that people will get sicker, older people on fixed incomes will delay going to the doctor and their conditions will worsen, parents will have to make difficult choices between the school books, paying the bills and of course their kids' health. We shouldn't be doing that to Queenslanders. In fact to talk about the impact on Queensland of the double whammy of Tony Abbott and Campbell Newman being in charge of health and hospitals, I might get Jim to say a few words.


JOURNALIST: Just one final question before we lose you, how long do you plan to stay on the hustings?


SHORTEN: Well I plan to visit Queensland while ever I'm the Leader of the Opposition. This election hasn't changed anything in that regard. Ever since I became Leader of the Opposition, I'm deeply conscious that Queensland is a state of great opportunity, but it’s also got plenty of problems. Campbell Newman has cut jobs, we’ve seen massive cuts to the hospital system and education in Queensland, and TAFE. I'll keep visiting and I’ll keep speaking up for Queenslanders as long as I'm in my job. In terms of the immediate election, we will continue to keep talking about the issues. Campbell Newman doesn't want to talk about Tony Abbott, but I'm afraid I mark Campbell Newman down for this. What we need in Queensland and what you always need, and Queensland has had previously a strong tradition, Premiers who will stand up to Canberra, regardless of the politics, in the interests of Queenslanders. Why hasn't Campbell Newman come out and given his view on the GP payments? Why hasn't Campbell Newman been ringing the LNP Senators in Queensland and the LNP backbenchers and said ‘hey, you're a Queenslander first, you’re Tony Abbott's man second, stand up for the patients of Queensland’? I might just get Jim to add a few words.


JIM MADDEN, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR IPSWICH WEST: I'm very concerned by what Bill has said about Medicare fees and the GST. The cost of living is a major issue in Queensland, particularly for people with fixed incomes, and any effect on the cost of living for them is deplorable. But the major issue in Queensland with regard to cost of living is the ongoing increase in electricity prices that has happened under Campbell Newman's watch, and I don't know whether cost of living is the issue for Campbell Newman that it should be.


JOURNALIST: What are people saying in Ipswich? You know, like, this used to be a Labor seat?


MADDEN: People in Ipswich are talking about 24,000 public servants being sacked when the Premier said, when he was running for Premier, that the public service had nothing to fear from an LNP government. They're concerned by ongoing increase in charges. They're concerned by what you might call the arrogance of the Campbell Newman Government, how they treat people, how they deal with people, how they make decisions without community consultation. That's what I'm hearing from people. But the major issue, the two major issues in Ipswich West are asset sales, people of Queensland have indicated they don't want asset sales, but the number one problem we have in Ipswich West is unemployment and we need to find more jobs for our young people. We currently have a situation in Ipswich West where one in five of young people, when they leave school, cannot get a job. That's just a deplorable situation but I'm confident that the policy of the Queensland Labor Party can address that issue.


JOURNALIST: As a Labor candidate Jim in Ipswich, if you can't get elected here?


MADDEN: I think I agree with you, but you have to remember the current member is an LNP candidate and twice previously Ipswich West has been held by conservative members of Parliament, so they hold it for a while but then we win it back and we generally hold it for a while.


SHORTEN: Any last questions?


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, I'd just like to know your alternative plan to make Medicare more sustainable?


SHORTEN: First of all, let's not buy the argument that Tony Abbott, the LNP have a plan to make Medicare sustainable. It isn't a plan for Medicare to discourage sick people going to the doctor. It's not a plan for Medicare to take away and discourage bulk-billing. It's not a plan for Medicare to charge people more and just punt it into a future fund for research. So the Abbott Government hasn't even got on the playing field of Medicare reform. But what we know, and what you get with Labor, is when we work on our ideas about the future of health care, one, we start from the position, is it good for Medicare and how do we defend it? And we've proven that. And secondly, you've got to talk to doctors and nurses and frontline practitioners. No one in their wildest imagination imagines that when Tony Abbott and the others dreamed up this latest attack on ordinary people and the cost of going to the doctor, that they consulted anyone.


And as one pretty perceptive shopper said to me, the real shame is Tony Abbott may be on holiday, but unfortunately his policies are not on holiday. And that's why it's so important in this state election to get a strong representative who'll stand up to Tony Abbott.


Thanks everyone, have a lovely day.