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Doorstop: Wyndham Vale GP Super Clinic

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
WYNDHAM VALE GP SUPER CLINIC


WEDNESDAY, 23 APRIL 2014


SUBJECT / S: Tony Abbott’s GP Tax; GP Super Clinics; University fee increases; Commission of Audit; Labor Party Reform.


 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. It’s great to be at the opening of the Wyndham Vale GP Super Clinic, an initiative started by the Labor Government. The Western Suburbs of Melbourne and the growth suburbs of the cities of Australia need access to good quality medical care as the suburbs grow.

 

What we see with this GP super clinic is the provision of GPs, dieticians’, psychologists, occupational therapists and indeed in the not too distant future dental care here in one of the growth corridors of Australia’s big cities. What we also need to see is to make sure that families in the growth suburbs of Australia and indeed Melbourne western suburbs generally have ongoing access to universal Medicare. Reports today reveal in the western suburbs of Melbourne reveal 91 in every 100 people using the doctor rely upon bulk-billing. That is why people are so concerned at the Abbott Government’s twisted priorities where they are clearly flagging they’re going to break an election promise with a new tax on people going to the doctor.

 

The Abbott Government, if it unveils in the budget a GP tax affecting people going to see the doctor, ordinary Australians will be the losers of an Abbott’s Government’s broken promise. In Australia we need to maintain Medicare, accessible healthcare for all, we don’t need new taxes on people going to see the doctor. In Australia it should be your health card which determines the level of health care you get, not your credit card. This is a broken tax reflecting the twisted priorities of the Abbott Government.

 

We call upon the Abbott Government don’t introduce a new tax on people going to see the doctor, instead get rid of the paid parental leave scheme for millionaires giving an extra $75,000. I might ask my colleague the Shadow Minister for Health Catherine King to make a few comments at this point.

 

CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: It is fabulous to be here with my colleague Joanne Ryan and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten at the opening of this fantastic GP super clinic at Wyndham Vale.

 

The GP super clinics in particular are designed to integrate primary care and to keep people out of hospitals, to provide opportunities for people to come to visit their doctor but then have seamless care to be able to access speech pathologists, to be able to access psychologists, to be able to make sure that they have access to the management of chronic disease - chronic conditions in a way that is not possible in the current health care system. That's what they were designed to do. They are a very proud Labor reform.

 

What they are designed to do in particular is to make sure people can continue to access GPs, and that's what the Abbott Government appears set to be trying to destroy. The introduction of a GP tax, a $6 fee every time you visit a doctor means that you are putting a barrier in the way of people accessing a GP. By putting a barrier in the way of people accessing a GP means that people will have to make decisions based on whether they've got the ability to pay, not what their health care needs are.

 

It is a ridiculous thing to do if you are trying to reform the health system. This is the part of the system that is in fact the cheapest part of the system. It's where you want people to go in order to prevent ill health, to make sure they are managing chronic conditions and as they start to age that they are able to actually access the health care they need. Reports today particularly show it will hit the Western suburbs of our cities the most. Western suburbs like the suburb that we are in today that rely so heavily on bulk billing. Reports also today show it will hit people over 55 far more than any other members of our community. Self-funded retirees who, as they age, are accessing GPs and need to continue to access GPs but of course are on fixed incomes.

 

It is a ridiculous tax to impose, it’s a ridiculous barrier to put in the way of people accessing GPs, and it's not the bay you go about reforming the health care system.

 

SHORTEN: We're happy to take any questions.

 

JOURNALIST: Is there any mechanism to, if they introduce this $6 tax, is there any mechanism in the Parliament to block that?

 

SHORTEN: Well, I'll go to part of the question and ask my colleague to answer the rest of it. Let us be very clear, a GP tax is the thin edge of the wedge. It will lead - if the Abbott Government can break its promise to introduce a tax, it can certainly break its promise to not increase the tax. We will see people on fixed incomes, self-funded retirees, people over 55, poorer people will be unfairly hit by the GP tax. It is a bad idea and if the Government want to have twisted priorities it should reconsider its approach on its $75,000 per millionaire paid parental leave scheme. I might ask Catherine to further answer the question.

 

KING: It will depend what mechanisms they use. If it's through budget bills we have to make decisions on how we manage those or whether it's through regulation. I do see reports today that in fact States and Territories might kick up. I know many of the States and Territories are very concerned about what this is going to mean for emergency departments at hospitals, and obviously very concerned already about what that is going to mean for the numbers of people actually presenting with the lower category, category 4 and 5 presentations to emergency departments.

 

We'll be working pretty closely with both States and Territories and within whatever mechanism we have in the Parliament to make sure this GP tax doesn't go through. But the real issue is that Tony Abbott has clearly shown this is his priority. He thinks people should pay more to visit the doctor at the same time as introducing a rolled gold paid parental leave scheme. It is a ridiculous priority to have in health. If your trying to reform the health system, this is not the way to go about it.

 

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what's your response for Maurice Newman's support for this plan?

 

SHORTEN: Why is it that the people who are best off in society always say the answer to Australia's problems is to slug the poor with a new tax? The Abbott Liberal Government and their key advisers are out of touch with the real needs of real Australians. Putting a new tax on going to the doctor will put cost-of-living pressure on families, it will stretch emergency departments and if you want to save money the Abbott Liberal Government should dump its paid parental leave scheme which will see multimillionaires able to access an extra $75,000 for paid parental leave. The Abbott Liberal Government has got the wrong priorities and they shouldn't be putting new taxes on ordinary Australians.

 

JOURNALIST: Would a future Labor Government remove this co-payment?

 

SHORTEN: No doubt in my mind that we will oppose the co-payment being introduced and we haven't given up had fight to make sure that Medicare remains a universally accessible health care scheme. Let's be really clear, there's a big difference between the Abbott Liberal Government and Labor. Labor believes the medical care you get in Australia should depend on your health care card, should not depend on your credit card.

 

JOURNALIST: The Group of Eight universities is pushing for student fee deregulation. What do you feel about that?

 

SHORTEN: I think that the Abbott Liberal Government is mishandling the pre-budget speculation. There are rumours running rife. We've seen concerning rumours affecting pensioners, people who need go to the doctor, and now university students are the next in line for these concerning rumours and speculations.

 

It is absolutely the case that what we don't need in Australia is students and their families having increased debts to go to university. We don't support caps and making it hard for children from all backgrounds to be able to go to university if that's what they want to do. We want to make sure kids from regional communities still get access to university. It is time for the Abbott Government to come clean on what it intends to do with the future of university funding and the future of hundreds of thousands of university students. There are many, many families in Australia who are already paying high student debts now and the Abbott Liberal Government needs to make clear if they intend to increase, or allow the increasing of student debt even beyond what it is now.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you think it would see some students priced out of the university market so to speak?

 

SHORTEN: Labor's goal for Australia is that when kids finish school they can pursue a trade or they can go to university depending on what they want to do. We want to make sure that the children from all backgrounds and all postcodes and all parts of Australia, if they want to go to university, get the opportunity for further education. The Abbott Government needs to make very clear whether it intends to be part of increasing student debt, making it harder for children from all backgrounds to go to university and making harder for children from regional Australia to go to university.

 

JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to Daniel Andrews about your speech yesterday? Any response from him? Does he support your reforms?

SHORTEN: Yesterday's speech was about rebuilding the Labor Party. For Federal Labor to be strong at the next election, to be able to advance the case for ensuring there are jobs for all, ensuring kids get access to education and there's proper health care, the Labor Party needs to rebuild therefore we need to be a membership-based party not a faction-based party.

 

We need to ensure we have the best possible candidates representing Labor at the next federal election, and we need to make sure people from all walks of life feel they can join the Labor Party and have some involvement in Australian democracy. The debate I've given my speech yesterday, the debate will now move to the stage of the Labor Party and its various branches discussing the principles. I expect that what I've outlined will occur over time, and I look forward to the Labor Party across Australia encouraging new members, engaging in the reforms and the rebuilding process which I have outlined.

 

I also would say very, very clearly that Daniel Andrews and his team in Victoria are doing a very strong job and I believe they provide a real alternative for Victorians at the next State election

 

JOURNALIST: Can Daniel win?

 

SHORTEN: That will be up to the voters of Victoria but there's no doubt that Daniel Andrews has articulated strong policies in terms of infrastructure and unclogging our roads, supporting our public transport, the better funding of schools and hospitals.

 

JOURNALIST: What do you say to critics who say that your reform speech yesterday will do little to change the highly factionalised culture within the Labor Party or dilute the disproportionate power of the unions within the party?

 

SHORTEN: I want to see that the Labor Party is the political arm of no one but the Australian people. This rebuilding process will not occur overnight. Yesterday marked a campaign to rebuild the Labor Party. I believe that the changes, which I have outlined, the principles which I have put forward for rebuilding the Labor Party will succeed over time, they will be successfully.

 

I believe we will see the Labor Party becoming more of a membership party and less of a faction-based party. It is not easy for some people to give up power. That's what I'm asking some people to do, but it is in the best interests of the Australian people and all those who trust and want the Labor Party to do well to articulate the policies which matter, be it on defending Medicare against the Abbott Government, promoting better schools, supporting jobs, that these rebuilding process continues and it succeeds.

 

JOURNALIST: How long is it expected to take?

 

SHORTEN: Rebuilding is a constant process. It started with the leadership ballot last year. Yesterday I announced directions for the Labor Party in terms of opening up our processes. We want people to believe that politics is worth being involved in. You can't encourage people to get involved in politics if they don't think they're going to not have a say. What I enunciated yesterday is a rebuilding process. Australians want to see Labor change. They want to see us have the right policies for the next election. Part of that is the Labor Party encouraging people to its ranks. We want people to join us and we offer them a new democratic contract. If people join and get involved in the Labor Party, we will give them a say in who the candidates the Labor Party present to the Australian people are.

JOURNALIST: Joe Hockey’s giving a speech tonight where he may flag some of the findings of his Commission of Audit, do you know what’s in the gun?

SHORTEN: The Abbott Liberal’s should be ashamed of the game of hide and seek they’ve played with the Australian people over the last weeks and months. They’ve known about their Commission of Audit for quite a long time. They hid it from the voters in Tasmania, they hid it from the voters in South Australia and they hid it most recently from the voters in Western Australia. There’s nothing which this government doesn’t do that doesn’t put politics first and people second.

So I think that Joe Hockey should just release his report, he should have provided it ages ago, he should be straight with the Australian people. You can’t go wrong trusting the Australian people with what your idea are and let Australians make that decision rather than the Abbott Government playing hide and seek with the Australian people about the truth.

JOURNALIST: Going back to party reform, critics have said that if you really wanted to reform the Labor Party you’d reduce the 50 per cent control unions have over state conferences. Why haven’t you done that?

SHORTEN: I’ve been a member for a union for a long time and I know that the reforms I’m doing propose the substantial handing away of power from some people to many other people. These are real reforms which will go to rebuilding the party, giving people a say, a greater say in who they pick to be their representatives goes to the fundamental redistribution of power in the Labor Party so that we can rebuild the party to be strong at the next election so we can have a strong platform we can fight for the issues that matter to Australians, jobs, education and healthcare.

JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to union leaders in the aftermath of your announcement yesterday?

SHORTEN: I’ve certainly had consultations with lots of people in the Labor Party before and after I spoke yesterday. I am determined that the Labor Party will rebuild, I will let nothing divert me from the path of helping and leading the rebuilding of Labor so that people have a renewed sense of faith, hope and trust in the Labor Party and optimism that Australian politics and involvement in Australian politics can improve people’s lives.

JOURNALIST: In particular have you spoken to union leaders?

SHORTEN: I’ve spoken to plenty of people including people from unions, including people form the broader community. What I made very clear yesterday and this is, hard truths are not easy to face but they need to be faced up to, is that the Labor Party can no longer just be the political arm of trade unions; it needs to be the political arm of only the Australian people.

I make very clear our invitation to all Australians, be it in small business, living in the growth corridors of the big cities, people living in regional towns, women and men alike. If you want to see this country change for the better we invite you to be part of the change you want to seek. We invite Australians to be involved in the Labor Party. We want your ideas, we want your energy and we will give you a new democratic contract that we will give you the opportunity to have a say in who are the representatives that govern you. Thanks everyone.

ENDS

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