Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Perth

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
PERTH


WEDNESDAY, 12 MARCH 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: WA Senate by-election; Colin Barnett and Tony Abbott’s health cuts; Tony Abbott’s secret Commission of Audit; Andrew Wilkie; Senate candidates; same-sex marriage; Manus Island, the Australian flag; Australian republic.

 

MARK MCGOWAN, LEADER OF THE WA OPPOSITION: We are here to talk about the Liberal Party's broken promises for Western Australia. Behind me is Royal Perth Hospital. This was the subject of two major promises by the Barnett Government to the people of Western Australia. They were at two elections, 2008 and 2013. And that promise was for a major redevelopment of this hospital. Now a couple of weeks ago, I did a tour through this hospital for a few hours. I saw the state of it. The fact that the Government has broken a $180 million promise to redevelop this hospital is shocking. They were elected at two elections on the basis of redeveloping Royal Perth Hospital, Western Australia's oldest hospital, relied upon by many people across the state, and indeed that gentleman just there was from Geraldton. The fact they were  elected on the back of that promise and on two separate occasions have broken it, speaks volumes about this government.

 

This is a dishonest, dysfunctional and divided government and Mr Abbott is saying he wants to follow Mr Barnett's lead. Now to me, that is not good enough. Healthcare promises should be delivered. On the back of that we know that Fiona Stanley Hospital, the new Fiona Stanley Hospital, the state has lost up to $400 million, or $400 million thereabouts, in relation to all of the failures surrounding the Serco contract and the IT system in that hospital. In particular I want to concentrate on one element. I want everyone across Australia to know that Fiona Stanley Hospital, state of the art, meant to be the best in Australia, and I expect in time it will be, we are currently paying $118 million to Serco to run that hospital with no patients, due to the Barnett Government's failure to have the IT system and workforce planning in place in time. $118 million for a hospital with no patients. That is frankly, hopeless and a waste of West Australian taxpayers' money of which every West Australian should be extremely disturbed. Now I might hand over to the others to talk about healthcare and Mr Abbott's promises and in relation to Mr Buswell or the sharks issue or the like, I might talk about those back at Parliament so we don't take attention away from this issue.

 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Mark. It's great to be here at Royal Perth Hospital where remarkable staff do remarkable things. But as Mark McGowan has said, this is an issue that the Barnett Government can't be trusted not to break promises about healthcare. Along with my Deputy Leader here, Tanya Plibersek, we’ve just had a look at the 35,000 signatures, 35,000 Western Australians asked that there be the redevelopment, the money be expended on having world class healthcare in Western Australia. This is 35,000 promises that the Barnett Government broke on healthcare. Our concern is that when you look at all these broken promises from the Barnett Government, why on earth is Tony Abbott saying that he wants to model himself and Western Australia on the Barnett Government?

 

Our concern is, as we know, that there is a Commission of Audit which has released a 900-page report full of nasty surprises. This report is being buried like a secret and it won't be made available to Western Australians until after they have voted in the Senate by-election. Healthcare is too important to allow the Abbott Government to cut, to copy the Barnett Government's cuts in healthcare. We are very concerned that the Abbott Government wants to add to the cost of living pressures of Western Australians by putting on a GP Tax. It is not unreasonable that if you want to take your ageing parents to get regular medical care, as they deserve, having contributed so much through their lives, why on earth do you then slug them with a new tax every time they go to the doctor? Why should parents with young children in Western Australia have to pay a GP Tax just so they can make their sick children well?

 

The problem with the Abbott Government is they won't tell us what is going on with healthcare. They want to break promises in healthcare just like the Barnett Government, and they have got secret plans which they don't even trust Western Australians to tell. Healthcare shouldn't be the subject of cuts by the Abbott Government. And if the Abbott Government just wants to copy the Barnett Government, that's bad news for healthcare in Western Australia. I might just ask my colleague, Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to make more detailed remarks about the importance of protecting Western Australian health from the Abbott Government’s cuts.

 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Bill. It's great to be here today with you. We have got the Royal Perth Hospital here in the background. This is a terrific hospital but it could do with an upgrade. It's an upgrade that was promised by the Liberal State Government on not one, but two occasions. 35,000 people signed this petition for an upgrade to the hospital. 35,000 people were promised on not one, but two occasions, an upgrade to their hospital, and 35,000 people have had that promise broken to them on not one but two occasions.

 

Unfortunately, that's not the only promise that's been broken when it comes to healthcare. We know that a number of commitments were made by the Barnett Government to provide a better health system to the people of Western Australia, and those commitments have been broken. There is the refusal to upgrade the Royal Perth Hospital. That is a $180 million promise that has been broken. We also have the debacle with the Fiona Stanley Hospital. It is going to be one of the world's best hospitals when it's finally built, but it is unforgivable we are spending $250,000 a day running a hospital with no patients in it. It is unforgivable to let the patients of Perth down to that extent.

 

But we also see cuts, for example, to the Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital, 40 beds closed at Sir Charles Gardiner, 200 staff to lose their jobs. All of this at a time when we know that Western Australia is short about 400 hospital beds. Why on earth would you be closing hospital beds when we are already short of hospital beds here? And more than $180 million taken out of regional hospital upgrades. We know that regional hospitals continue to be under pressure right across Western Australia as communities grow, as demographics change, those regional hospitals need upgrades. It's very clear where the need is. There is a clear plan to upgrade regional hospitals, money set aside. That's now gone by the wayside. Colin Barnett has refused to keep his commitment on those regional hospital upgrades.

 

And what Bill said is quite right. At the same time as you have got Colin Barnett breaking promises here at the Royal Perth Hospital and right across Western Australia when it comes to regional hospital upgrades, you have got Tony Abbott saying what a great government this is and how he wants to model himself on the Barnett Government and their delivery of health services. Well, that's a very alarming proposition for Western Australians. It's frightening to think that Tony Abbott will do at a federal level what Colin Barnett has done at a state level, refused to upgrade hospitals, close beds, sack staff, at a time when Western Australian health services are already under pressure.

 

Now if you look back to Tony Abbott's record when he was Health Minister, I think it tells you a little bit about what he’s got in store for the patients of Western Australia. When Tony Abbott was Health Minister, he cut $1 billion out of our hospital system, and in fact since coming to Government, despite promising at the last election not to cut health services, he has already cut another $500 million plus out of hospital services. One of the things that Western Australians will miss out on because of these cuts is a $10 million program that I agreed with the previous State Government when I was Health Minister, to offer outreach oncology services, so cancer services that would travel right across the state. One of the saddest things when I was Health Minister was knowing that if you lived in the country and you got cancer, your survival chances weren't as good as if you lived in the city. We know that country people find it hard to travel to get the treatment they need and that's why we spent more than $51 million building regional centres. But Western Australia is a very big state, and we know that people couldn’t always even get to those regional cancer centres. So we worked with the State Government here on a proposal that would take cancer services to people in isolated communities to make sure that they got the treatment they need.

 

That’s already been cut by Tony Abbott. That’s already gone. And if Tony Abbott gets a signal at this next election that the pact that he is on, cutting health services is fine by Western Australians, you can expect more of the same. When Tony Abbott was Health Minister he put a cap on GP training places, and that meant right across this vast state there were doctor shortages, not just in isolated communities, not just in the bush, but right here in metropolitan Perth, it was hard to get to see a GP. And that's because Tony Abbott made a deliberate decision, as Health Minister, to put a cap on GP training places. Now if you look at the numbers, between 2007 and 2013, we made sure there were 138 more GPs in training right here in WA and there are an extra 435 doctors employed, GPs employed in that time. If you look at nurses, there were around 4,500 extra nurses employed during that period and more than 1,200 extra nurses in training when we left government than when we came to government. Labor invested in the workforce shortages that are so critical to the care that Western Australians need, and what worries me about a return to the leadership of Tony Abbott in the health system, is that we will return to a time when it's hard to see a GP.

 

That's already started with the GP Tax that Bill was talking about. Instead of trying to increase the rate of bulk billing as Labor did in government, he is going to get rid of bulk billing all together. It’s going to mean that no Australian can go to the doctor without putting their hand in their pocket. It's turning our health system on its head. It's breaking every promise. Tony Abbott's already broken promises not to cut health funding and the State Government has already broken the promises, here we are at the Royal Perth Hospital, you have got a concrete example of a broken promise at the state level. This next election is an opportunity for Western Australians to send a very strong message that they support Medicare, they support our universal system and want to see more investment in the health of Western Australians. Thanks.

 

REPORTER: Mr Shorten, you seem very keen to mix state issues and Colin Barnett into this Senate election?

 

SHORTEN: We didn't ask Prime Minister Abbott as recently as yesterday to say that he thinks the Barnett Government is an example of the sort of government he wants to run. Tony Abbott chose to make Colin Barnett's performance an issue as reason why you’d vote for the Federal Liberals. We just look at Colin Barnett’s performance and make it a reason to vote for strong Senate representation in Western Australia which is voting for a strong Labor team to hold the Abbott Government to account.

 

REPORTER: It's a bit misleading though isn’t it to call this petition 35,000 broken promises. The petition's wording actually opposes the closure of RPH, the hospital is still open.

 

SHORTEN: Well first of all, if you were to ask each of those 35,000 people do they think the Barnett Government has been true to what they said, you’d get a resounding no.

 

REPORTER: How do you know, have you asked them?

 

SHORTEN: It's very clear that people who signed this petition want to see the hospital change and do better and have more resources. That clearly hasn't happened. We didn’t ask the Abbott Government to say that a vote for the Abbott Government is a vote for a Barnett Government in Canberra. The Prime Minister has made the Barnett Government’s performance a reason to decide if you vote for the Abbott Government Senators in Western Australia. We accept the challenge. We are happy to invite Western Australians, just as the Prime Minister is, to pass a verdict on the Barnett Government, to pass verdict on failures to keep promises in healthcare, and say well if you want more of Barnett Government’s policies and broken promises in health, vote for Tony Abbott.

 

We are just standing up for Western Australia to make sure they get proper healthcare. And that’s why you need to pick Senators from Labor, who are not members of the Government, who will make sure the Abbott Government's secret cuts, whenever they choose to tell us, hold them to account.

 

REPORTER: Were you aware that Julia Gillard tried to recruit Andrew Wilkie to the Labor Party?

 

SHORTEN: No.

 

REPORTER: Why do you think Mr Wilkie would be coming forward now with that information?

 

SHORTEN: I don’t know.

 

REPORTERS: You’re campaigning with colleagues today but where are your candidates?

 

SHORTEN: Our candidates are out working hard. The truth of the matter is that we need to get votes of many Western Australians, we need to make sure that people turn out and vote. What I would say to Western Australians who are frustrated at a second election because of the AEC losing 1,300 votes, is we live in a democracy. I would love people to agree with everything we say. I expect reasonably that some people won't. but what I would say to every Western Australian is this is our birth right. The quality of the government you get nationally depends on the interest you take. So like my Senate candidates who are out campaigning, who again I will be seeing later today, we all say to Western Australians, please vote on April the 5th. Democracy is the loser if you don't participate, and please vote for the Labor team. We will make sure you get proper healthcare.

 

REPORTER: We have seen Louise Pratt on this campaign tour but we haven't seen Joe Bullock. Are you hiding him?

 

SHORTEN: I caught up with Joe Bullock yesterday and we’ll be seeing him again today.

 

REPORTER: Will we see him, will the public see him on the campaign, standing beside you with the cameras rolling?

 

SHORTEN: Well not only will you get a chance to see him, you will get a chance to vote for Labor's team in the Senate. I'm curious how often you will see Tony Abbott. The issue here is he came in here for a flying visit, in and out in a day or whatever. Will we see Tony Abbott again in this Senate by-election? You will certainly see me, you will see the Labor team. We have had Shadow Ministers over here. We relish the opportunity to give Western Australians a chance to have the strongest possible Western Australian Senate team, and that I believe involves electing Labor Senators who will make sure that the government of the day, the Abbott Government, doesn't short change Western Australia's healthcare and break promises.

 

REPORTER: What is it about Joe Bullock that he’s being kept out of sight?

 

SHORTEN: Well he’s not.

 

REPORTER: Well how do you feel about him having the number one spot on your ticket?

 

SHORTEN: Fine. The issue here is that we have got a good Senate ticket. We want to make sure that we win spots. In the first count we won two spots. In the second count there was one went to Labor with the 1,300 missing votes. Western Australia is experiencing something we've never seen in the history of Australia. What we are seeing is a Senate by-election for the whole state. This is a marvellous opportunity for Western Australians to say to the Abbott Government, don't take us for granted, don't break your promises. We are not happy that you have got a 900-page report which potentially has nasty surprises for Western Australia, and you don't trust the voters of Western Australia to see what it is? I reckon that’s astounding.

 

REPORTER: There are internal rumblings though about Louise Pratt not getting that number one spot?

 

SHORTEN: No.

 

REPORTER: Will her and Joe be campaigning side by side?

 

SHORTEN: Yes.

 

REPORTER: Why is Joe Bullock such an outstanding candidate, he’s got the number one spot?

 

SHORTEN: Joe is a very good candidate, as is Louise, as are all of our candidates. And what we will do, is when you vote for the Labor team for Western Australia, you will not get a rubber stamp for the Barnett Government cuts in healthcare in Western Australia being repeated by the Abbott Government. What Western Australians want is strong representation, they want to make sure that the people in the Senate aren't simply going to be rubber stamps for the Abbott Government. We didn't ask the Abbott Government to make the Barnett Government's performance an issue in this election. Tony Abbott has.

 

We haven't asked the Abbott Government to be tricky and nasty with surprises about what they are going to do with their Commission of Audit and 900 pages. I think it's amazing, the cynicism of the Abbott Government, that they have got a 900-page report which they have received, and they are going to sit on it, they are going to bury it in the vault with the instructions ‘do not open until after the Western Australian Senate by-election’. This is remarkably arrogant not to tell Western Australians what you have in mind. There’s no accident, by the way, about the hidden or missing report which they won't release, that it's after the Tasmanian election, it’s after the South Australian election. There is no accident that they delayed even receiving the interim report until after the Griffith by-election. How on earth can we have an Abbott Government getting away with not even telling people what they plan to do. If it's such a good idea, tell people and let the people of Western Australia decide if the Abbott Government's plans in healthcare and everything else are good or bad.

 

REPORTER: Liberals say that having Bullock at number one shows that unions still rule the Labor Party. What do you say to that?

 

SHORTEN: What do I say about the Liberal Party criticising the Labor Party? Another day at the office.

 

REPORTER: But does it show though that the unions still run Labor?

 

SHORTEN: It shows that the Liberal Party doesn't like the Labor Party.

 

REPORTER: Mr Shorten, we’ve seen Louise Pratt many times at media events, we haven't seen Joe Bullock a single time. Why is that?

 

SHORTEN: I don't know all the events that you have been to. I certainly have seen Joe Bullock at events and campaigning. What I would also say to you about this is that what you get with Labor Senators, is you won't get a rubber stamp for Tony Abbott. It doesn't matter if you are a Liberal Senate candidate who may have played full forward for the Eagles or the Dockers, what you get is another rubber stamp for Tony Abbott to copy his ‘mini me’ mentor in Western Australia, Colin Barnett and to do to the health system federally in Western Australia, what the Barnett Government has been doing in Western Australia.

 

REPORTER: What do you think Mr Bullock’s views on gay marriage?

 

SHORTEN: Everyone is entitled to their own views on gay marriage. Labor has a conscience vote, I voted for it. Labor encourages diversity. What I think is remarkable on gay marriage and it’s worth all the Liberals in terms of Western Australia is, why does Tony Abbott not trust his team to vote with their conscience? Why does everyone have to vote according to Tony Abbott’s world view.

 

REPORTER: Given the recent criticisms of the Labor Party, is it such a good look to have someone of profound influence, someone who has been labelled a powerbroker of the WA Labor Party, heading the Labor ticket at such a late point in his career?

 

SHORTEN: If you are saying that a person's age means they shouldn't be eligible to run for the Senate, I don't agree with that at all. I think older Australians, in whatever walk of life, have got plenty to say. If we want to look at older Australians, the Abbott frontbench certainly benefits from the experience of a lot of Howard Government ministers who have been recycled. Two more questions thanks.

 

REPORTER: Is it a good look to have someone of that influence had who has been criticised in the past of having too much power in the WA Labor Party in the top ticket of the Labor Senate team, given your past history?

 

SHORTEN: As the earlier question on the same topic was about the Liberals are criticising Labor's team. I’ll tell you what I'm critical of, Tony Abbott simply wanting to inflict on Western Australia what Colin Barnett has done. What I'm critical of is that you have a government of Australia who so distrusts the voters of Western Australia that after two months of having a report, they won't release it. If you want to look at a cover up, that passes the test. Last question thank you.

 

REPORTER: There are reports today the Federal Budget won't be as full of doom and gloom as previously thought. What are your thoughts on that?

 

SHORTEN: The Abbott Government has had more kite flying on the Budget. I tell you what they should do if they want to help create business confidence, tell people what you are planning to do. I think it is a disgrace that the Abbott Government has got a 900-page report full of nasty surprises and they won't tell people until after the Tasmanian election, until after the South Australian election and until after the Western Australian Senate by-election. When you can't trust the Australian people and bring them into your confidence, that says more about the Abbott Government than Western Australians. I did say last question. I will take one more.

 

REPORTER: Manus Island has been compared to Guantanamo Bay overnight. Do you agree with that assessment?

 

SHORTEN: I was aware that there was some reports overnight, I haven’t seen the full context of the reports. What Labor believes in is that we need to have a policy which encourages regional re-settlement. We want to defeat the people smugglers. If the Abbott Government has more specific information about what has been happening at Manus Island, they have instituted an inquiry which Labor has called for. And I look forward, like all Australians, to getting to all of the facts in the matter.

 

REPORTER: Should we change the Australian flag?

 

SHORTEN: Sorry, I’ll just go to the flag question.

 

REPORTER: You didn't answer my question though, whether Manus Island is comparable, the conditions there, to a concentration camp?

 

SHORTEN: No I do not believe that. Concentration camps occurred in World War II. There were millions of people who died in them. I don't accept the comparison. That doesn't mean there shouldn't be a full inquiry to make sure that everything has been done according to Australian standards.

 

REPORTER: New Zealand is looking at changing its flag. Should we change ours?

 

SHORTEN: No, I believe that our flag reflects our history. Also with the Southern Cross it reflects the full diversity. As our national anthem says, people from all across the world have come to our shores. But I think our flag describes our history and the unique Australian identity we have. I do however support a debate about us becoming a Republic. I think it is long overdue to have an Australian Head of State but I do not support changing our flag.

 

I would also just say that that's one of those issues which does periodically come up when you are around the barbecue at home with the family, should we or shouldn't we. I would say that for the national political debate of this country, making sure that we have a proper healthcare system, not one which is subject to conservative cuts is probably a more important issue for me at this stage. I would say that fighting for Australian jobs, not seeing our jobs go offshore, that is an issue. Making sure that we have downward pressure on cost of living, that is an issue. Making sure our kids are getting access to the best quality education, access to trade training centres which are being cut by the Abbott Government. These are the issues which are on my mind when I get up in the morning, to make sure Australians have the best future possible and are not short changed by ruthless cuts in hidden documents, and voters have a say. Thanks everyone.

 

ENDS

 

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