TUESDAY, 22 MARCH 2016
SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s attack on Medicare and cuts to pathology; Malcolm Turnbull puts his own future ahead of Australia's future; Labor’s positive plans for the future of Australia
LAURA FRASER HARDY,CANDIDATE FOR BONNER: Hi my name is Laura Fraser Hardy and I'm the Labor candidate for Bonner in the next federal election. It's been good this morning to be having a chat to Bill Shorten and Terri Butler about Medicare and at the end of the day we all know that cuts to Medicare are going to affect the access for ordinary Australians to the health services they need. I think that's going to be an issue that we're going to be talking about over and over again and throughout the course of the federal election. So now I'd like to hand over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much. Good morning everyone. It's great to be here at Sullivan Nicolaides, where they see hundreds of patients daily and they do thousands of vital lifesaving blood tests to make sure that patient care gets the best possible treatment. I am here on day one of Malcolm Turnbull's 103 day election campaign. I'm here in the electorate of Griffith with Terri Butler and also accompanied by Laura Fraser-Hardy, Labor's hard working candidate for Bonner.
On day one of this election campaign, I am here to talk about Medicare. Medicare is one of the big issues in this upcoming federal election because the health standard and the community standard of care of Australian patients is a very important matter. The difference could not be starker between Labor and Liberal. Labor believes that it should be your Medicare card, not your credit card which determines the level of health care you get in this country. The Liberals, however, and Mr Turnbull are making savage cuts to Medicare and to the safety net which millions of Australians count upon. In particular today, we're campaigning against the harsh and unreasonable cuts to pathology bulk billing in Australia. 12 million Australians have pathology tests each year for important conditions, like chronic illness and diabetes, like the detection and treatment of cancer. Pap smears and mammograms, these are all fundamental to the quality of health care and patient care in Australia. It defies belief that Mr Turnbull and his Liberals have come up with a plan to basically eliminate bulk billing for much of pathology tests in Australia. This won't help save the taxpayer any money because if people put off getting vital medical tests at an early stage because they can't afford them, they just get sicker and the taxpayer ends up paying more. So, Mr Turnbull's attack on Medicare is bad for the quality of patient treatment in Australia and it's actually bad news for taxpayers. Now, Mr Turnbull loves to talk about what an exciting time it is to be Mr Turnbull. The truth of the matter is, if you are a patient, anxiously waiting for a diagnosis of whether or not you have cancer, it is not an exciting time. If you're grappling with diabetes or if you're dealing with a range of other medical conditions which require pathology testing, it is not an exciting time to be an Australian when Mr Turnbull is in charge of your health budget.
Labor's making it clear to all Australians, we will protect Medicare, we will save Medicare from Mr Turnbull and his Liberal cuts and on day one of 103 of the election, Labor's fighting for Medicare. It appears though that 24 hours into the 103 day election campaign, that the Liberal Party is at war with itself. We've seen today, Mr Tony Abbott say that a lot of what Malcolm Turnbull's doing is due to all of his hard work. The truth is that 80 per cent of the laws which Mr Turnbull has in parliament were designed by Mr Abbott but now, Mr Turnbull's trying to rewrite history and pretend that isn't the case. Under Malcolm Turnbull it's the same cuts to Medicare. The same $100,000 university degrees. The same cuts to family payments. It doesn't matter who's in charge of the Liberal Party, be it Mr Abbott, or Mr Turnbull, it is all continuity with no change. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull said today that he thinks the crossbenchers are less supportive of the ABCC Bills than they were this time last year. Does that suggest to you that he expects the Bills to fail and he expects an early election?
SHORTEN: I think we all know that Mr Turnbull panicked and he's put his own electoral plans ahead of the plan for Australia. It's clear if Mr Turnbull really cared about these matters, why has it taken him six months to even raise the matter? Why is it that last week in parliament, when all the experts were predicting Mr Turnbull might raise this legislation which now he so desperately wants that he'll make taxpayers pay millions of dollars to reconvene parliament. If Mr Turnbull really believed in what he was doing, why hasn't he done anything since September of last year? The truth of the matter is that the real issues in this election are jobs, a fair taxation system, backing in climate change and fighting climate change by real policies on renewable energy. Standing up for Medicare, properly funding our schools, having the opportunity for first home buyers to be able to compete on a level playing field with the property speculators. That's what this election is about. Over the next 103 days, Labor's looking forward to the opportunity of putting out our positive plans for Australia's future. Standing up for Medicare, properly funding our schools, having the opportunity for first home buyers to be able to compete on a level playing field with the property speculators. That is what this election is about and over the next 103 days, Labor is looking forward to the opportunity of putting out our positive plans for Australia's future.
JOURNALIST: How much is the 103 day campaign going to cost taxpayers as far as travel? And seeing as we are effectively in the campaign now do you hope to have more debates with the Prime Minister?
SHORTEN: I'd look forward to having any debate with the Prime Minister in the same room, the truth of the matter is you'd have to ask Mr Turnbull how much his stunt is going to cost Australians. It is a very extreme move that he's done and you have to ask yourself if the ABCC legislation was so important, why didn't he do it last week when all the Parliamentarians were in Parliament? Why now is he reconvening Parliament for three weeks at great cost to the taxpayer? Last week Mr Turnbull wasn't sufficiently motivated by these issues to even debate them in Parliament; this week apparently it's all he can think of. The truth of the matter is that Mr Turnbull wants to have an early election on 2 July, he doesn't have a plan for Australia, all he has is a plan for his own re-election.
JOURNALIST: Bit of a local question but 103 days to go. How important will Queensland be, how many times will we see you back in the sunshine state?
SHORTEN: My wife would definitely expect me to say this, she's a Queenslander, but Queensland is very important, always has been, always will be under a Labor Government. What we believe is that Mr Turnbull's taken Queensland for granted. There's been no plan to properly fund the hospitals in Queensland, not just in the south-east, but right through regional Queensland. We think it's important that Queenslanders are able to access pathology tests without having to pay the increases that Mr Turnbull is going to inflict on them. The truth of the matter is that the subsidy which Mr Turnbull wants to take away from blood tests such as performed by the hard-working scientists and staff working here; this subsidy is worth 20 per cent of a bowel cancer test, it's worth between 12 and 15 per cent of other crucial tests including diabetes and pap smears. Mr Turnbull has no idea how ordinary Australians try and look after their health if he's seriously trying to get rid of these vital bulk-billing subsidies. Queensland will be very important when it comes to fighting for jobs. We've seen how regional Queensland has been hard hit by the downturn in the mining boom and it's not enough for Mr Turnbull to spend $18 million on an ad campaign talking about an ideas boom. What Queenslanders want is real jobs, they want real infrastructure and they want those resources spent now.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor use its numbers in the Senate to shut down the Senate when it's recalled and double bluff the Prime Minister?
SHORTEN: Well, I think we all know that Mr Turnbull's made an extreme political manoeuvre, it's a political game and it seems to be a panicked response. Now Labor Parliamentarians will of course attend the Parliament when it's reconvened and we'll work very hard and we'll see what information the Senate has before it and we'll find out more about Mr Turnbull's intentions. But the truth of the matter is that the Parliament has been reconvened which will cost millions of dollars of taxpayer money when Mr Turnbull couldn't even be bothered voting on these measures or even raising them in the Parliament since he's been elected- since he was appointed Prime Minister by his Liberal, National Party Caucus Room. So Mr Turnbull's got some explaining to do and really, when Australians think about the issues that are important at the next election, it's jobs. It's jobs, Mr Turnbull, it's not your job, it's Australian jobs. It's fair taxation Mr Turnbull, it's about first homeowners being able to compete on a level playing field with property speculators buying their tenth house. It's about renewable energy driving an effective response to climate change. It's about properly funding our schools, our TAFE and our universities and it's also about making sure that your Medicare card not your credit card determines the level of health care. Labor is up for all of the positive debates, because unlike Mr Turnbull who's only got a plan for his own election, we've got a plan for Australia.
JOURNALIST: How hopeful are you that Tony Abbott kicks up his sniping from the sidelines? Is he your only chance of winning this given that Newspoll shows your numbers are barely budging?
SHORTEN: The Australian people will decide who forms the next government of Australia, and I'm hopeful with our positive plans for the issues which I've gone through previously in this press conference; jobs, fair taxation, housing affordability, renewable energy, schools, healthcare, Medicare. I'm very optimistic that Australians will respond well to a positive plan for the future. In terms of Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull there is clear bitterness there. The whole world can see it, and you get a sense there's even more they'd really like to say to each other and get it all out on the table. The fact of the matter is, within 24 hours of Mr Turnbull calling the election, it is clear that the Liberal Party is at war with itself. There are the Turnbull supporters and then there are the Abbott supporters and then of course, there's the Scott Morrison supporters. How humiliating for the Treasurer of Australia, the economic wingman to the Prime Minister to go out an hour before Mr Turnbull says the Budget will be on May the third and he says it's on May the tenth. Deep down Mr Morrison knows that not only was he humiliated by a Prime Minister who couldn't even be bothered telling him an hour before when the Budget was going to be, but I don't think Mr Turnbull cares what Mr Morrison thinks. No, there's great dysfunction and division at the heart of the Liberal Party. In contrast, my united team are working on positive plans so that the kids get a proper education in the schools, so that patients can get bulk-billing when they need a blood test, so that we have real action on climate change, so that we've got a Government in Canberra fighting for Australian jobs right up and down the Queensland coastline. This is what really matters to Australians, not Mr Turnbull's political games.
JOURNALIST: Have the conversations you've had with crossbenchers, is there any way that this legislation can get up?
SHORTEN: Well, Mr Turnbull knows everyone's views. Mr Turnbull also couldn't be bothered raising this legislation for the last six months, but Mr Turnbull's happy to spend millions and millions of dollars of taxpayers' money, reconvening a Parliament, when he couldn't even be bothered getting the Parliament to debate it last week. We all know a stunt when we see it, we all know an extreme measure of panic when we see it. The real issue is that Mr Turnbull's fired the gun on the date of the next election, which is in 103 days’ time and within 24 hours of Mr Turnbull calling a long election campaign, the Liberal Party is at war with itself. You know, the legislation which Mr Turnbull has in the Parliament, 80 per cent of it was designed, dreamed up and driven by Tony Abbott when he was leader. Now under Malcolm Turnbull we still see the same cuts to Medicare, we still see the same cuts to schools and hospitals, we see the same inaction on renewable energy and climate change and it doesn't matter who's running the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull, it's all continuity with no change.
JOURNALIST: Queenslanders have paid their fair share of income taxes (inaudible) across the board. Do you think we're entitled to feel ripped off?
SHORTEN: I think that Queenslanders should feel let down by the Liberal National Government in Canberra. You're quite right. There should be Cross-River Rail, that project should be moving along and the Canberra Liberal National Government have done nothing to help congestion in South-East Queensland. There should be more work going on in infrastructure up and down the regional centres of Queensland. They are not getting their fair share of money. They can't even get any money out of Mr Turnbull to help with the stadium in Townsville. We see the Queensland Nickel plant going under at a rate of knots. We don't see Mr Turnbull working up much of a sweat there to do anything for those workers who've lost their jobs. I can promise Queenslanders that we'll make sure your hospitals are equal to any in Australia. I can promise that your schools provide your kids in every postcode in Queensland the same opportunities as occurs anywhere else in Australia. I can promise Queenslanders with our policies we'll start turning around some of the damage happening to the Great Barrier Reef and the lack of action on climate change. I can promise Queensland parents and their adult children that the adult children won't be priced out of the housing market, because they've got to compete with taxpayer-funded subsidies for people buying their tenth property investment or speculative investment. For Queensland, the issues are straightforward as far as I'm concerned - jobs, home ownership, proper education, well-funded healthcare, Medicare and hospitals, real action on climate change. That's what Labor offers Queensland and we are up for the fight for the next 103 days because unlike Mr Turnbull and his LNP we're united, we're not interested in playing games in Canberra. We just want to get on with the job of offering a positive vision for everyone in Queensland. Thank you everyone.