WEDNESDAY, 30 JULY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget, Medicare Locals, Health Cuts, GP Tax, Internet Tax, Victorian Politics, QANTAS; EU & US Sanctions on Russia, Mining Tax
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here at a Medicare Local in the inner eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I’m here with my Shadow Ministerial colleague Catherine King and Local Member of Parliament, Anna Burke. We’ve been privileged to see the remarkable efforts of 90 health professionals helping serve 197 GP practices covering a population of well over half a million Victorians. Medicare Locals again remind us of what is important. This is an unfair Budget. If you want to make sure that the vulnerable and sick people get the best care, you don’t do it by putting a new GP Tax. We’ve seen the impact of a GP Tax talking to the health professionals. We will see people discouraged from going to the doctor when they should go, when their sickness and illness is in its early stages and what will happen is it will just force up the cost of the system.
The sick and the vulnerable will become more sick and more vulnerable as a result of this unfair GP Tax and on top of this, when you look at what's happening with ordinary Australians, we see a GP Tax, we see a Petrol Tax, and now this Government's even proposing an Internet Tax. It is a lie-fecta of taxes and the GP Tax should go. I’ll just say this to Tony Abbott he should stop objecting to the Senate blocking his GP Tax and recognise that every Australian thinks it's an unfair tax and it should be axed. I might hand over to my colleague Catherine King to talk a bit more about the GP Tax and Medicare Locals.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks very much Bill, it's lovely to be here at the Medicare Local in the inner east with my friend and colleague Anna Burke and really yesterday what we saw at the Senate Estimates hearing on out of pocket expenses is that basically, pensioners are going to be faced with a choice. With the Abbott Government's GP Tax pensioners are going to be faced with a choice of whether they can feed themselves or feed their families, whether they can turn the heating on or whether they can access the medicines and the GP services that they need.
Tony Abbott's GP Tax is unfair. It is unfair to put a barrier in the way of primary care, the most efficient part of our system where we've seen today at the Medicare Local the important work that they're doing in asthma prevention, in managing chronic disease and keeping people out of hospital. Tony Abbott needs to scrap the GP Tax, it is unfair, and certainly from Senate Estimates yesterday we heard from the AMA, we heard from the Consumers Health Forum, we heard from the Grattan Institute, we heard from the Nurses’ Union, just what the impact of this GP Tax will be on Australia's low and middle income families and particularly on those families who are already suffering some of the highest out of pocket expenses when it comes to health care in the OECD.
SHORTEN: Thanks Catherine, are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Labor was the architect of Medicare Locals. An examination by Deloitte has found that Medicare Locals spend taxpayers' funds paying park fines and giving farewell presents to staff and once spent nearly 40 per cent of the money allocated to it on administration, is this acceptable?
SHORTEN: Medicare Locals are helping all of their communities for which they operate. If Tony Abbott really wants to help the sick and the vulnerable, he'll scrap his GP Tax, I might invite my colleague to talk a bit more about the good work that Medicare Locals are doing.
KING: Thanks, I've been visiting Medicare Locals across the country, something I see that Tony Abbott nor his Minister for Health appear to want to do. And those Medicare Locals are providing after hours services, they’re providing drug and alcohol counselling services, mental health nurses in communities that have not had access to these programs ever before. They have done population health planning, so that for the first time the Federal Government can in fact, if they want to find out what are the smoking rates in local neighbourhoods, in Local Government Areas and local communities and how as we as a country, do we do something about that. So, all of that information, all of that data is at risk with Tony Abbott's decision to abolish every single Medicare Local across the country. Remember before the election he said no Medicare Locals will close, we know that is a broken promise, every single one of them is closing and all of the services that Medicare Locals are providing in communities across the country are under threat.
JOURNALIST: You said there was a risk the funds granted may not have been allocated to the areas for which they were intended and funds may not be allocated to frontline services, is this a failure by Labor to properly implement Medicare Local?
KING: I note that Deloitte only looked at six of the 61 Medicare locals and again I would reiterate, I have been visiting Medicare Locals across the country and the services they providing in the 18 months they've been in operation are critically important for local communities. Critically important to actually deal with issues around prevention, providing that we actually have better services and they are the architects for us to actually implement health reform in a more efficient way across the country.
JOURNALIST: You haven't actually said though that the findings of this report are unacceptable. Do you think they are unacceptable?
KING: Of course we want to make sure that public funds are expended appropriately, of course we want to make sure. What I am focused on is Tony Abbott promising that no Medicare Locals would close, that Tony Abbott promised there would be no cuts to health and what we have seen is Tony Abbott cut health, Tony Abbott close every single Medicare Local and now make it more expensive for people to visit a doctor with this GP Tax and make it more expensive for people to access the medicines that they need.
JOURNALIST: A question to Mr Shorten in relation to The Age dictaphone story? How have you seen the handling of the issue?
SHORTEN: I'm not going to provide a running commentary on this matter. What I did say yesterday is that Daniel Andrews has taken responsibility for these events. These events should not have occurred. But what I’d also say is I haven't seen the Liberal Party in Victoria take any responsibility for the Budget mess and the unfair GP Tax which Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are inflicting upon Victorians. It's time that the Victorian Government stood up for Victorians and stopped the trashing of our public medical system and a GP Tax on especially low income and middle income Victorians.
JOURNALIST: Is it a sackable offence?
SHORTEN: Again, I’m not going to provide a running commentary on the matter.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, some people are have said that Qantas should stop flying over Iraq; do you believe that the airline is compromising passengers' safety by continuing to fly over the country?
SHORTEN: I think like everyone who catches aeroplanes, we've all been shocked at what happened to MH17. The idea that we once felt safe in an aeroplane and now all of a sudden we have seen this terrible, terrible event. What I also know though is that I cannot imagine a set of circumstances where Qantas would put people's safe in jeopardy. I think the Minister needs to come out and support that proposition, but I do not believe that Qantas is putting people in harm’s way.
JOURNALIST: Should Australian tighten sanctions on Russia like the EU and the US has?
SHORTEN: I understand the unease which a whole lot of people are feeling about Russia, but I support Tony Abbott here 100 per cent. Our job is to make sure we can recover the remains of these poor Australians and the people living in Australia who have died in this terrible, terrible event. Our priority should be the recovery of the remains and it should also be the safety of our police personnel in eastern Ukraine. I don’t believe that any of the other discussions going on elsewhere in the world are appropriate in terms of what is being called for and I support what Tony Abbott is saying here on this matter. It is about the recovery of people and it is about the safety of our police officers. That is the only game in town for Australia right now.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the mining tax only raised $600,000 in three months. Is it a failed tax?
SHORTEN: I wish the Federal Government could work out what they want with this mining tax. In their own budget papers they say that the mining tax is going to raise over $3 billion and they’re scrapping the tax because its therefore they think it is a bad idea for the multinational mining industry. Now we are seeing reports that it is not raising as much money as the Federal Government going to say. The Federal Government needs to come clean. Why exactly are they scrapping this tax? Is it raising too much money or not enough?
JOURNALIST: Is Australia doing enough to stop the bloodshed in Gaza?
SHORTEN: I believe that Australia should be supporting an immediate ceasefire. I think everyone has been appalled and upset on the images we see on our nightly news of the dreadful violence in Gaza. What Labor is calling for is an immediate ceasefire. Peace is the only thing which we can support.
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