FRIDAY, 2 SEPTEMBER 2016
SUBJECTS: Protecting Medicare; majority Government losing votes in the House for the first time in over 50 years; political donations; Andrew Fifita
ANDREW GILES, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR SCULLIN: It's fantastic to be here in Lalor this morning and to be here with the Labor Leader, Bill Shorten and health spokesperson, Catherine King. I say the Labor leader, not the Leader of the Opposition, because this week Bill Shorten has been Australia's leader on all the issues that matter to Australians.
Today we've been visiting the Rochdale Medicare Group, and the doctors and patients there about how Medicare is still the most important issue to them. It's an issue that Labor has led on, and we will continue to do so. I'd like to invite Catherine King to say a few more words about what we've heard and how we will be responding.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thank you very much Andrew. It's terrific to be here and to have been at the Rochdale Medical Centre meeting with Dr Jim and a number of other doctors and allied health professionals.
We know that this Government was sent a test at the last election. It is now two months since the election and the day after, Malcolm Turnbull said that he had learnt his lesson when it came to health and Medicare. But what have we seen in the last two months? Absolutely nothing. The same health policies, the same freeze on Medicare.
What patients and what doctors are telling us here at this practice this morning is that their practice is under pressure. The doctors are under pressure, and their patients cannot afford to pay Malcolm Turnbull's ongoing freeze when it comes to Medicare. We know also on 1 October, this Government is getting rid of all of the bulk billing incentives for pathology. That will have a huge impact on patients here. Enough is enough, frankly.
Malcolm Turnbull should have learnt his lesson at the election on Medicare, and myself, Bill Shorten and every single member of the Labor Party will be out there every single day, however long this short-term Government's going to last, to make sure that they do get the message when it comes to Medicare. That we end the freeze, we don't proceed with cuts to bulk billing incentives for pathology and diagnostic imaging, we properly fund our hospitals and we don't continue the appalling attacks on Medicare that Malcolm Turnbull is pursuing.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Catherine and good morning everybody. The election is over but the fight for Medicare has only just begun. And this week in the Parliament we saw stuff up after stuff up by a Prime Minister who has no authority over his Party or the Parliament.
The Prime Minister asked Labor to support changes and repairs to the Budget but then he had a $100 million black hole in the legislation he was presenting to the Parliament.
On superannuation, that is a complete stuff up. He's so hostage to his backbench that he cannot keep his ironclad commitments before the election, which means there is great uncertainty for the investment prospects of many superannuants.
Then we've seen the Government vote against a banking Royal Commission and justice for the victims, the many tens of thousands of victims of our big banks and dodgy financial planners.
And he is still persisting with savage cuts to Medicare which undermine our universal healthcare.
And to top off a bungled week and savage cuts, Mr Turnbull lost complete control of the Parliament. The first time in 50 years that a majority government cannot win a vote on the floor of Parliament.
Mr Turnbull has no authority over his party, whereas Labor, we will never give up fighting for justice for the victims of bank rip offs and financial planning rorts. We will never give up pursuing a banking Royal Commission. It doesn't matter if it's today or tomorrow, next week, next month or next year, Labor will win the debate about a banking Royal Commission. It is a matter of time.
And Labor will never give up, for every day of Mr Turnbull's administration, in our efforts to save and protect Medicare from Mr Turnbull and his savage cuts.
And, of course, Labor will never give up fighting for local jobs. Labor is focused on the needs of the people, Mr Turnbull is focused on the needs of the big banks and the vested interests. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Let's talk about the events of last night. This morning members of the Government have called it a parlour game, a stunt, were you playing parlour games last night, as Michael Keenan says?
SHORTEN: Labor wants to have justice for banking victims. Labor wants a banking Royal Commission, the Liberals just want to go home.
I don't think that the challenge of tens of thousands of people, a generation of Australians, who've have been ripped off and let down, it is not a stunt, it is not a laughing matter. I do not know why this Government is so determined to fight against a banking Royal Commission. Why they are so determined to give $7.5 billion of taxpayer money away to the big banks.
Labor's on the side of the people here. I wish Mr Turnbull would fight as hard for Medicare and for local jobs and for justice for the victims of banking rorts, as he does fight for the big end of town, for big banks and trying to make sure that he can keep protecting the banks from a Royal Commission.
JOURNALIST: Sam Dastyari has been in the news this week because of his acceptance of money linked to Chinese companies. Is Sam Dastyari fit to be on your front bench after these revelations?
SHORTEN: Senator Dastyari has learnt a very valuable lesson. He did disclose the payment and now he's contacted the Department of Finance about how he can repay it. That's a very important lesson to be learned.
The deeper issue is about donations. It is long overdue for all of the political parties to work together to improve the transparency and the political donation regime in Australia.
Labor has proposed in the Parliament to actually stop foreign donations. The Green political party and the Liberals keep voting against our proposals to reform political donations.
I do not see for the life of me why Mr Turnbull doesn't want to lower the threshold for disclosures to $1,000, or in plain English: if someone's going to give more than $1,000 to a politician for their campaign, I think that should be public and it should be public in real-time.
And I really don't think that we should be having a system which allows foreign donations into our system. Let's take this lesson and turn it into something valuable for the whole Parliament.
JOURNALIST: What have you said to Sam - Senator Dastyari about this? Have you counselled him about accepting money linked to China?
SHORTEN: Well there's two different issues here. But I've certainly counselled Senator Dastyari and what he made clear is that he's contacted the Department of Finance to repay the bill, he did disclose it. I think he's learnt a very valuable lesson which is very important. In terms of the role of donations from corporations, because there are Chinese people involved in companies does not make the donation wrong. But let us also be clear, if the public are going to have confidence in the transparency in our political system, in the honesty of our system and let's face it, many Australians are deeply cynical about politics, then I think Mr Turnbull has to join with me. What we can do is actually make sure that any donations above $1,000 are public, they're disclosed. That is the lesson and I don't think we should have a system where there are donations from foreign countries or from foreign individuals based in foreign country, full stop.
JOURNALIST: What have you said specifically to Senator Dastyari about this?
SHORTEN: I've answered that question, I've explained what I said.
JOURNALIST: Bill, have you been briefed by intelligence agencies about the risks posed by foreign political donations? There was a story about this earlier in the week. Have you had information from higher up in the intelligence community about this?
SHORTEN: I talk to our security agencies all the time. In terms of specific conversations, I don't think they'd expect me to reveal that.
JOURNALIST: There is very big story brewing in Sydney and New South Wales about a rugby league player who has been shown to have - be showing support to a man who is in jail after a one-punch fatal incident.
SHORTEN: Terrible, yes.
JOURNALIST: It’s very big news in New South Wales. This player is actually due to play in Melbourne against the Melbourne Storm. The family of the victim, how do you think they should react to this?
SHORTEN: I can't imagine what the Kelly family's gone through. It's been a shocking time. In terms of someone showing support for the person who committed the crime, people can have their private views but I don't support public displays of support here. I think the NRL needs to counsel this player. In terms of the family, my thoughts go out to them. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be reminded on a weekly basis at a football game of your loss. I really think it's a mistake, a grave mistake of the judgment and the NRL need to sort it out quickly.
JOURNALIST: Should he be taking the field this weekend?
SHORTEN: I think the NRL need to sort it out. I've made it clear I think it's a grave mistake of judgment. For me, my priority is the victim's family, not the person in jail and my priority here would be to not reinjure a family who is suffering trauma and grief. I think in this case, the NRL needs to make it clear that the victim's family come first. I wouldn't want this to be a giant media storm. I just think it should be dealt with. No family should have to go through what this family's gone through.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, following the vote last night, Anthony Albanese was speaking on Sky this morning saying that Labor would be quite responsible when it came to international travel for the Prime Minister. Where do you stand on that? Would Labor potentially limit any of his travel to big international events if you felt it was responsible to do so?
SHORTEN: We've made it clear. The Prime Minister has important international travel, he should be allowed to do that. We're not going to be petty. The Liberals when they were in Opposition, they used to make life hell for Labor in Government when it was a narrow margin. But let me be very, very clear, our Prime Minister, when he travels overseas represents Australia and I wouldn't expect - and no-one in my party expects – anything other than to allow him to travel to represent Australia. As the leader, I think he has a right. I mean the other thing I should say is when it comes to family circumstances, you know, a birth or a death, you know, we're not going to be stupid.
But on the other hand, this Government and Mr Turnbull promised a stable majority. He doesn't have a stable majority. It's taken them precisely two days of Parliament to prove that Mr Turnbull can't manage the Parliament. We've seen all of this week Mr Turnbull, he's picked the big banks over banking victims. He's picked Budget cuts to Medicare over sick people. He's picked cuts to superannuation and uncertainty over certainty for tens of thousands of superannuants.
He keeps making the wrong choices. This guy is turning bungling into an art form. So it's not our job to sort out every one of his mistakes but what we will do is work with Mr Turnbull. If he wants to heed the lesson of the election, which was two months ago today, on Medicare, he should simply reverse the savage cuts he's making to Medicare.
We will work with Mr Turnbull on justice for the victims of the big banks. We will work with Mr Turnbull about promoting local jobs, making sure that Australians are getting the jobs we need in the future. That's our agenda. But the problem is not only can Mr Turnbull not run the Parliament, he can't run his own party.
All of this week and the first week of sittings, Malcolm Turnbull said he doesn't regard talking about changes to Section 18C as being a priority. As soon as he says that, he's got 14 or 15 members of his party signing a petition in Parliament to do exactly what he doesn't want to talk about.
Mr Turnbull can't run his party, so how can he run the nation?
Mr Turnbull can't run the Parliament so how can he run the nation?
He needs to sit down and work with me. He's running around Australia acting like he can just give all the orders, clap his hands three times and we’ll stand up and do what he says. He should listen to the people on the banks, he should listen to the people on Medicare and he should listen to the people on local jobs.