MONDAY, 28 MAY 2018
SUBJECTS: Labor’s $4.5 million investment to TazReach to improve access to medical specialists in Tasmania; Polls; by-election; ALP National Conference.
JUSTINE KEAY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BRADDON: Welcome everyone, I'm Justine Keay, I'm Labor's candidate for the Braddon by-election. I'm joined today by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, our Shadow Health Minister Catherine King and Tasmania's Senator Anne Urquhart here at the Devonport GP Superclinic. This is a great announcement for the people of the North West of Tasmania, we'll hear a bit more about that today.
Not long after I was elected I was brought to this clinic by Doctor John O'Sullivan who told me about his concern about the funding cuts to the TazReach program and what that would mean for people in this community and in other communities across this electorate, in the West Coast of Tasmania, Circular Head, and King Island as well. It means that there are people in this community that are having great difficulty accessing specialists here. What I did in Parliament was raise this on a number of occasions, but also last year I wrote to every member of this community asking for them to share their health story with me. Sadly too many people told me about the number of times they had to go interstate to access specialists, at their own cost because they felt there was no hope here in Tasmania to access the specialists that they need when they need it.
So it's really great that I'm here today with Catherine and Bill, I've been lobbying hard to find something that would make access to specialists here on the North West coast and the West Coast a lot easier and Catherine and Bill have more to say, Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Justine, and first of all I'd just like to thank the staff of the centre we're visiting. It's very impressive to see the work they're doing to help provide quality health outcomes for their patients. I'm really pleased to be here with Justine and Catherine and Anne to announce that a future Labor Government would restore the cuts to the TazReach program, and indeed put $4.5 million into North West Tasmania to make sure that people living here get the same access to doctors and to specialists.
I'm a father, I understand that kids don't get ill during work hours and they don't always get ill during - in the middle of town. What you've got to do is find the care when you need it. That is why it's important that we get the specialists and I'm talking about cardiologists, I'm talking about ear, nose and throat experts, I'm talking about mental health professionals, that we can get them out to the communities of North West Tasmania. So Labor is committed to making sure that the health of all Australians matter, no matter where you live, no matter what your postcode, no matter what your financial circumstances.
It really was dreadful that a couple of years ago the current Liberal Government just cut the funding to TazReach. Everyone knows that Tasmanians were already getting in many cases, a second-class deal from Canberra when it comes to health care. I think it's disgusting that we've got people waiting so long in such large numbers to get the sort of elective surgery which on the mainland people take for granted. I think it is wrong that the North West Regional Hospital has had funding cut. I think it's wrong, that we've seen the out of pocket costs of going to see a GP increased by $8 for Tasmanians. I think that we need to do better, and I particularly think we can afford to do better, because currently the Liberal Government in Canberra, Mr Turnbull and his friend Mr Whiteley can find billions of dollars to give to the big banks. I mean what is wrong with this out of touch government that they think it's more important to give billions of dollars to large corporations, than to put millions back into making sure that Tasmanians have got access to quality health care.
To finish where I started, the staff here are doing a great job. But why is it that people should skip medical treatment, have to face long travel times and increased costs just to get health care that other Australians take for granted. That's why only Justine has got a plan for Braddon, to make sure that people of this marvellous part of Australia, get the sort of quality health care that parents and patients all over Australia reasonably, already expect.
And I'd like to hand over to Catherine to talk a little bit further about our exciting announcement today and then we'll come back and take some questions.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks very much Bill, and it's terrific and I thank the staff particularly here at the Devonport GP Superclinic and to Justine and to Anne and to Bill. This is an incredibly important part of the health care of the North West of Tasmania. I was here two weeks ago speaking to Doctor John about what has happened in this Superclinic. Of course, Labor invested in this Superclinic to not only provide better access to GPs for people, but to make sure that other health care services started to come into this region.
We then funded partly the TazReach program, and the Liberals came and cut that. In 2015/2016 they cut $2.5 million out of this program. A program that sees cardiologists, ear, nose and throat specialists, psychiatrists, optometrists, a range of other allied health professionals here accessible in this community. When you’re travelling two hours from Queenstown to come to see a GP, you don’t then want to also end up having to wait a year and a half to see a cardiologist that your GP has referred you to, and those are the sorts of things that are happening as a result of this funding being cut.
TazReach, a $4.5 million commitment from Federal Labor if we're elected at the next election, will mean that those specialists can come back here. We know that when I visited here two weeks ago, some of the rooms up on this floor are empty, and they are empty because they used to be filled with specialists who were actually servicing this community here. Your health - nothing is more important than your health, and I know that Justine has been an extraordinary advocate for the health of this region. She's raised it in Parliament, she's raised it with me continuously, she’s raised it with Bill, she's brought me here to the GP Superclinic to talk to the GPs about it, and today we're honouring Justine's commitment to this region and announcing this funding. And I want to thank Bill particularly for bringing this to our attention because the people of north west deserve to have Justine back in Parliament advocating for their health care services.
SHORTEN: Thanks very much, are there questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten is this funding commitment contingent on Labor or Justine or another Labor candidate winning this seat at the next federal election?
SHORTEN: The only thing that this funding is contingent on is Labor winning the next election. I don't mean here, I mean nationally. You know there is a very clear choice for Australians at the next election. If you want to hand away tens of billions of dollars to the top end of town in unjustified and discredited tax cuts, vote for Mr Turnbull. But if you want to make sure that our hospitals are properly funded, that we're reducing our waiting lists, that parents can get their kids to see the doctors when they need to, well then you'd vote for Labor at the next election.
JOURNALIST: With more voters preferring Anthony Albanese over you for leader, are you just a place warmer for Anthony Albanese?
SHORTEN: You're going to the polls which were published today. I think you would all agree, that I've made a practice of not commenting on the polls when they are good, bad or indifferent. But you also go to the issue of numbers. I’ll tell you the numbers which I focus on, it's the fact that this government is cutting $14 from pensioners for energy over every fortnight. It's the fact that the out of pocket costs to see a doctor for a mum taking her kids to the doctor has gone up by $8. It's the fact there's a thousand people in North Western Tasmania waiting in some cases, for up to a year to get elective surgery which mainlanders take for granted. It's the fact that there's been nearly a million dollars cut from the North West Regional Hospital. These are the numbers that matter and as you know I don't talk about the polls.
JOURNALIST: But are you worried that you could be dumped at the Labor National Conference if you lose one of these by-elections?
JOURNALIST: Will you lead Labor to the next election?
JOURNALIST: Do you take any comfort that at least Labor voters prefer you as leader over Anthony Albanese?
SHORTEN: Well we're here today because we are determined to make sure that Tasmanians get proper health care. As I've said earlier in answer to your first question, I don't talk about the polls but that's not something new, as I haven't made a practice of focusing on the polls. But I tell you what we do focus on in the Labor party, it's what sort of health care Australians get. I think it is incredible that we've got this government proposing to give the equivalent of $7.5 million a day to the Commonwealth Bank, yet they can't find the money to get a heart specialist or an ear, nose and throat specialist in this facility to make sure the people of North West Tasmania get health care. I think I speak for most Australians when I say the two most important things in life are your family and your health. I think it shows you how out of touch the government is and their candidate Mr Whiteley, that he thinks it's more important to provide a tax cut to banks. Justine and I, and Catherine and Senator Anne, we all believe it is more important to provide quality health care for your kids.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, how relieved are you that your party's divisions on offshore processing will not be aired at the Victorian Labor Conference?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, it was a very good conference over the weekend, and what we did is we talked about our ideas for the future. When it comes to offshore processing, I've made it clear that we will make sure that people smugglers don't get back into business. But I've also made it clear that I think this government hasn't done enough to help resettle the people in these facilities, and indefinite detention shouldn't be used as an excuse to avoid regional resettlement.
JOURNALIST: Independent Senator Steve Martin has been a regular on the Braddon campaign trail here with the Liberals. Do you think he is preparing to join the Liberal Party?
SHORTEN: I think it's important that crossbenchers actually vote independently and are not just a proxy vote for the Liberal Party. If you want to see proper health care in the North West of Tasmania from the West Coast, to Circular Head, to Smithton right through to Devonport and Burnie, then you vote for Justine. Look, we are going to make this by-election an opportunity to send an important message to Mr Turnbull. If you want to give tax cuts to big banks and big multinationals and mega businesses, vote for the Liberals. But if you want to make sure that you can get your kids to see a specialist when they need to and that you can afford to, then you vote for Labor and Justine Keay.
JOURNALIST: Did you extend an invite to the independent Senator to catch up with him today?
SHORTEN: No, I'm here supporting Justine. It wouldn't surprise you but I think Justine is the best candidate. And when you look at it, I think we have got some facts to help back that up. The reality is that Mr Turnbull and Mr Whiteley have got careers in banking. They support tax cuts for big banks, they support $17 billion for big banks. Do you know they both opposed the royal commission into banks. I think a lot of people in Tasmania are frankly surprised to discover that Mr Whiteley, who is running around again, voted six times against a royal commission into the banks. Why is it that Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party, and Mr Whiteley have run a protection racket for the banks so fiercely over recent years? I just wish that the government had joined with Labor two years ago to start this royal commission into the banks. I also wish that over two years ago, the current Liberal Government in Canberra and Mr Whiteley hadn't voted to cut services to North West Tasmania. I just say to the Liberals, the health of Australians, the health of Tasmanians is much more important than keeping the big banks happy with you.
JOURNALIST: Is it appropriate for Barnaby Joyce to accept cash for an interview with a commercial television network and will Labor ensure that those be properly declared on the parliamentary record?
SHORTEN: I think I am going to stay out of this issue. That's what I said yesterday. It's up to Mr Joyce to explain himself and his conduct.
JOURNALIST: Is it hypocritical for him to have accepted that?
SHORTEN: I think his colleagues -
JOURNALIST: Should he declare it?
SHORTEN: Look Mr Joyce has to comply with all the requirements for disclosure, that's goes without saying, I agree. All things have to be appropriately disclosed. But really, when I look at what people here in Tasmania tell me is important, I think they have a passing interest in what Mr Joyce has done or not done, but I tell you what they do ask me, what are you going to do to fix up our hospitals? How do you make sure we get the sort of health care which people on the mainland get? What people in Tasmania want to see Labor do, is not focus on just the mistakes or actions of members of the government, they want to know what are our positive plans.
We have already said and we actually said months before the by-election was announced, we said that we wanted to put $30 million back in to reduce the waiting lists. Did you know that because of Labor's positive policies in health care, we think that we can reduce the waiting lists in Tasmania from 6,000 to 3,000. That's what people want us to do. If you are living with pain in your knees or you need a hip replacement, you don't care about what Barnaby Joyce has done, you just want to know when you are going to get to see the doctor and when you can get the pain to go away.
JOURNALIST: Just on the company tax cuts, a majority of voters in today's Newspoll want company tax cuts. Yesterday though, you declared victory on the issue. Have you jumped the gun?
SHORTEN: Not at all. Let's be clear, Mr Turnbull's corporate tax cuts are dead, buried and cremated, he is just too silly and arrogant to realise that. When I travel around Australia, when I travel through North West Tasmania, they don't come up to me and say, gee it is a good idea that the banks are getting $17 billion. What they say is, will you politicians please look after us, that's what we put you there to do. Justine has got a plan to look after people. The best thing we can do in this country, is make sure that when you're sick, or someone you love is sick, you can see the GP, you can see the specialists and that you can afford to do so. That's what we're going to do. We are going to put health up as number one, this government wants to put corporate tax up and I will keep fighting against the corporate tax because when you give tens of billions of dollars to these large corporations, someone has got to pay for it and we've got to ask ourselves, where is the money coming from? Every extra dollar that goes to the Commonwealth Bank, or Westpac or ANZ or NAB, is a dollar less we have got in our in our kids' schools, it’s a dollar less we've got to help the pensioners with their power bills, it’s a dollar less to help people when they are sick.
JOURNALIST: Given the results in the poll, isn't it worth looking at those tax cuts?
SHORTEN: Listen, I don't need a poll to tell me a dumb idea when I see one. I tell you what I think, and by all means, we will see it in the by-election and we will see it in the general election: Mr Turnbull and Mr Whiteley, the former bankers, they can do everything they can to stop a royal commission or to help the banks get $17 billion, I'm backing the health needs of Australians. As I said earlier in this press conference, the two most important things, your family and your health. Labor is committed to making sure that we prioritise people’s health.
JOURNALIST: I have two questions if that's ok, one is on health. First, you've been talking about the royal commission into the banks, ASIC has asked for more funding to embed it's staff in the nation's banks, is that a good idea?
SHORTEN: On the principle, it sounds very solid. Again, when you hear a good idea, you've always got to remember someone has got to pay for it. That's why we are not going to give $80 billion to the big corporations and the banks. Every good choice that people have means that we have got to pay for it somehow. That's why Justine Keay won't vote for the big banks getting $17 billion, and very fact that we are talking about the banking royal commission, it was despite the fact that Brett Whiteley and Malcolm Turnbull didn't want to have it, but Labor won that argue and we are going to win this argue too.
JOURNALIST: Four Corners has revealed that the majority of out of pocket costs that customers are getting in health care are due to specialists and surgeons either charging inflated fees or charging illegal booking fees. What will Labor do about that?
SHORTEN: I am going to get Catherine to supplement that answer.
KING: Thanks very much. The core issue is transparency around fees. We've had very little transparency around specialist fees in the last few years and I think that's going to be a very important part of making sure you do that. But what you also don't do is freeze the Medicare Benefit Schedule for six years meaning that out of pocket costs to see GPs and specialists have absolutely sky-rocketed under this government. The Government has ripped $3 billion out of Medicare as a result of the freeze on the Medicare Benefits Schedule and that's partly why out of pocket costs have been growing so much.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, one more thing.
JOURNALIST: Does Labor support a woodchip mill at Dover in Tasmania's south?
SHORTEN: I haven't turned my mind to this issue at all. Might I just say in closing, as this is the first chance I've had to be with Justine since the nation's longest by-election was announced by the Prime Minister. This by-election is a chance to send an important message to Mr Turnbull. The message that we think that people need to send, or that people have the chance to send is, do you want corporate tax cuts? Do you want to look after the big banks? Do you want to give them billions of dollars more? Or do we want to reverse the sneaky cuts which are baked into the health and education budgets of the nation. It is a very clear choice. A vote for Justine is a vote to make sure that we don't cut funding to hospitals, we don't cut funding to schools and to TAFE and to universities. A vote for Brett Whiteley is a vote for corporate tax giveaways of $17 billion to the big banks, a part of a much bigger package to go to mega-companies and multinationals. Labor has got the interests of Tasmanians on side because we want to prioritise being able to afford to see a doctor, a specialist, when you need to not when Mr Turnbull thinks you can afford it.