MONDAY, 5 SEPTEMBER 2016
SUBJECT/S: Turnbull Government’s cuts to Medicare; banking Royal Commission; free trade agreement with UK; G20 Summit; multinational tax avoidance; foreign donations; Climate Change Authority
TIM WATTS, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR GELLIBRAND: Welcome to Altona North Medical Group. I'd like to thank Doctor Mukesh Haikerwal and all the medical professionals here at this facility for hosting myself, Bill Shorten and Catherine King here today. The Altona North Medical Group is something that in Melbourne's West we're really proud of. It's a brand new facility, one that's trying to take an integrated approach to patient care. It's trying to tackle the social determinants of the health of the residents in Melbourne's West. It's a facility that provides holistic care. We have dieticians here on site. There are cooking classes upstairs, and really dedicated medical professionals who are trying to do everything that they can to improve the health of local residents in Melbourne's West.
Unfortunately, facilities like this can't do the best that they can for patients without the support of a Government that is working to the same goal. And unfortunately, the current Government is doing everything it can to increase the cost of going to a GP, increase the cost of medicine, increase the cost of getting pathology tests, and not adequately funding our hospitals.
That's why I'm really pleased that Catherine King and Bill Shorten are here today to see the great work that the Altona North Medical Group is doing, and to keep the pressure on this Government to adequately support the work that they're doing. So on that note I'll hand over to Catherine King, the Shadow Minister for Health, to talk about what she's seen here today and the importance of the Government supporting their efforts.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks Tim, and can I thank particularly Dr Mukesh for having us here at Circuit Health today.
The West really is, I have to say, is showing the way. From this terrific integrated General Practice we have here. Also making sure that you've got pathology, you've got specialists available here to people in the West. Alongside the fantastic Western Bulldogs Men of the West Health Program, something that Labor was very, very proud to fund in Government. The West is really showing the way when it comes to healthcare.
This week is Women's Health Week, and we know we want to use this week to provide the opportunity for women to really look after themselves. To make the appointment for those screenings, for the tests that women need, to make sure that you don't delay in getting those important tests.
We know however, that for one in seventeen women, cost is a real barrier to accessing healthcare. We know one in seventeen women already delay going to see a general practitioner because of the cost of going to see a General Practitioner. We know one in ten women delay going to see a specialist because of cost. And what is the Turnbull Government doing about that? It is of course making it worse.
What sort of Government thinks that it's OK to put a barrier in the way of women accessing general practice? A barrier by the way of cost. The continued freeze of the Medicare Benefits Schedule, the cuts to pathology and diagnostic imaging, the cuts to specialists - women being able to access specialists – all are making access to healthcare in this country worse and are making health inequality worse.
So this week, in women’s health week, we want to make sure that this Government understands that it has not learnt the lesson from the election. That it needs to immediately unfreeze the Medicare Benefit Schedule, it needs to ditch it's cuts to diagnostic imaging and pathology, it needs to stop trying to increase the price of medicines and it needs to properly fund our hospitals. And I'll hand over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everybody and I want to thank Mukesh and his team for the marvellous job they're doing here at this very remarkable medical operation.
If only Malcolm Turnbull would fight as hard for Medicare as he does to defend the banks against a Royal Commission, Australia would be doing a lot better. But Malcolm Turnbull still hasn't got the lesson from the last election. Two months on, he's increasing the cost of going to the doctor, he's increasing the cost of medicine, he's still persisting with cuts to bulk billing rebates which will affect the price of getting X-rays or blood tests, and of course he's not properly funding our hospitals. If Malcolm Turnbull found last week difficult managing the Parliament because of our clear determination to have a Royal Commission into the big banks, he hasn't seen anything yet when it comes to our determination to defend Medicare.
For me and for Labor it's a black and white issue and it should be for every Member of Parliament, including every member of Mr Turnbull's backbench. The black and white issue is this: you've got a choice. You can either be a friend of Medicare or a friend of Malcolm Turnbull, but you can't be both. And we will certainly be making Medicare and the defence of Medicare a very important issue when we return to the next sitting of Parliament.
Happy to take questions on this and other matters.
JOURNALIST: How important will a free trade agreement be with a post-EU Britain?
SHORTEN: Well, any trade agreements we can get which are in the national interest are obviously going to be of good benefit. It's a little ironic, just on 40 years ago, Britain left Australia so to speak and decided to do a deal with the European Union or the ECC as it was then, and the European common market now. 40 years on, history repeats but I think we should try and endeavour to reach a mutually beneficial agreement if we possibly can.
Again, it just shows, though, that some of the rhetoric which Mr Turnbull's tried to use in the past about Brexit was slightly fear mongering. There are opportunities for Australia to improve our trade ties not just with Britain but also with the EU, and of course this would be a matter if our Government was elected which we would pursue with the equal vigour of the current Government.
JOURNALIST: What do you hope Australia gets out of the G20 Summit in China?
SHORTEN: I'd like to see a real crackdown on multinationals. I believe that multinationals who shop around and pick low tax jurisdictions, they forum shop so they can make profits in big countries like Australia, and then manage to have their taxable treatment of the profits in low tax jurisdictions elsewhere. That undermines Australian tax laws, so I'd like to see real action on multinationals. I also think it's really important that the G20 addresses questions of fairness and inequality.
You can't have sustainable economic growth, no matter where you are in the world, if you've got a greater division of the haves and the have nots. I do also wonder if Mr Turnbull is going to give the rest of the world a lecture about the GP tax just like his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull did in Brisbane two years ago.
JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott was the predecessor.
SHORTEN: Yes - sorry when you say Tony Abbott was the predecessor that's right, but you never know these days do you.
JOURNALIST: Has Sam Dastyari explained to you the circumstances of having a Chinese company pay a $1600 travel bill?
SHORTEN: As I said on Friday, I've spoken to Mr Dastyari; he should've paid this himself and I've certainly explained to him my unhappiness with what he has done. He has made clear to me that he has learned his lesson.
JOURNALIST: How do you choose the Top Education Institute? How does that come about?
SHORTEN: Well I've just said to him that he shouldn't have done it and he said he won't do it again.
JOURNALIST: So calls from Liberals to sack Dastyari are over the top?
SHORTEN: Well, I notice Christopher Pyne was hyperventilating on TV or radio this morning. I think Mr Pyne is very keen to talk about anything but his management of the Government numbers in the House of Parliament last week. I think Australians were amazed that Liberal MPs go home early, they knock off early, and of course, our commitment to fighting for a banking Royal Commission is undiminished. In terms of Liberals calling for Labor MPs to you know, be disciplined, that's hardly news, is it?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten why are you demanding the Prime Minister use the G20 Summit to address foreign donations. Wouldn't that be improper for such a forum?
SHORTEN: No, they have lots of discussions with large companies. All the meetings that happen at the G20 aren't all just government-to-government. And I think that Mr Turnbull doesn't even need to travel to China to do something on foreign donations.
Labor has a record of seeking reforms to electoral laws. We think a donation greater than $1,000, it should just be disclosed and it should be disclosed in real time, not waiting months and months until we find out who paid for what. Also what we believe is that foreign companies shouldn't be able to make donations to Australian elections and Australian political parties. I think these are simple reforms which will go a very long way to helping improve confidence.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Chinese President's comments that Australia needs to create a more fair, transparent and predictable environment for foreign investment.
SHORTEN: Well I think it's fair to say that the Australian Government made some decisions on foreign investment which took too long to make. When we talk about some of the transmission and distribution facilities in the New South Wales electricity market, if we were going to say that these assets were off limits for state owned enterprises to purchase, we probably could've done it a lot earlier than what we did. I mean everyone knew the identity of the bidder for the state owned enterprise. So I think it’s consistency.
I do support the decision not to allow that particular sale to go ahead but I can understand frustration, not just of people in Asia, but everywhere. We've got to make sure that everyone knows the rules when they go in rather than surprise people a long way into a commercial transaction. I think that gives us a reputation for being unpredictable and that's not what we want in global markets.
JOURNALIST: Two members of the Climate Change Authority have accused the body of diluting its advice to government for the sake of political expediency. Do you believe this is fair criticism Mr Shorten?
SHORTEN: Everyone knows that whilst the Liberal Party changed their leader from Tony Abbott to Malcolm Turnbull, they didn't change their climate change policy. Last place is no place for Australia when it comes to tackling the harmful effects of climate change. The Liberal Party are not committed to real action on climate change, and Malcolm Turnbull can't implement real action on climate change because the right wing of his own party and the National Party simply won't let him act on climate change. Thanks, everybody.