WEDNESDAY, 1 FEBRUARY 2017
SUBJECT/S: Medicare 33rd birthday; job losses at Toyota; Malcolm Turnbull’s $50 billion tax cuts to big business; refugee resettlement deal with US; One Nation candidate; donation reform.
TIM WATTS, MEMBER FOR GELLIBRAND: Good morning and welcome to Altona North to this fantastic Circle Medicare Facility, a major medical facility in our community in Melbourne's West. We're here to celebrate the 33rd Birthday of Medicare with Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition and Catherine King, the Opposition Health spokesperson.
But before we move on to Medicare, I just want to note that five minutes up the road from where we stand right here today is the Toyota Altona Factory. Now the Toyota Altona Factory employs about 2,500 people in my electorate, in good high-quality manufacturing jobs. Unfortunately, since the election of the Abbott/Turnbull Government, these workers have had to put up with not just the threat to the livelihood, but a series of insults on the Abbott/Turnbull Government. They had put up with the Federal Treasurer standing up in the Parliament and daring their employers to leave the country. They had to put up with thousands of their jobs being sacrificed in the name of ideological extremism. And in the last Federal election, they had to have this insult - an insult added to this injury by having the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (inaudible) with his empty slogan of jobs and growth.
Every time Malcolm Turnbull said ‘jobs and growth’ this was just more salt in the wounds of these people who've lost their jobs. Yesterday these 2,500 people in my community were told the day that their jobs would end. This comes on top of 1,400 further manufacturing jobs to Williamstown shipyards.
If Malcolm Turnbull wants to talk about jobs and growth again at the Press Club today, he should start with an apology for nearly 4,000 people who've lost their jobs in my community since the election of the Abbott-Turnbull Government.
With respect to Medicare, I'm really pleased that Bill and Catherine are her today to celebrate the 33rd Birthday of Medicare. The principles that Medicare was established on are just as important today as they were 33 years ago. The principles of universal health care, the principles of equal dignity for everyone in our society and an equal ability to get health care. And importantly, the principles of public health, the principles that health spending is not just a cost to the Budget but an investment, the principles that if you encourage people to seek early care for their conditions you can better manage the chronic disease and you can minimise cost to the Budget. We want people coming to their doctors at the first signs of illness not waiting until the illness is much worse. Unfortunately, the Turnbull Government seems set on continuing its cutting approach to Medicare, undermining the fundamental foundations of this policy.
We've got a new Minister for the new year, but unfortunately, while there's a new Minister holding the scalpel, the cuts to our health care system hurt the Australian public as much as they ever have.
On that note, I'll hand over to Bill to talk about why we're here today. Thank you Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Tim. Good morning everybody. It's great to be here at this marvellous medical facility with Catherine King and Tim Watts to celebrate the 33rd Birthday of Medicare. Australians have had 33 years of universal health care. Australians have had peace of mind that when their loved ones, their children or their parents need medical care it's affordable. 33 years ago, Labor fought the Coalition to establish Medicare - and some things don't change. Now 33 years on we're still fighting to save Medicare from the Liberal cuts to health care in this country.
Under the Liberal Government, the cost of going to the doctor has fallen more and more on to people's personal costs and personal expenses. Australian families are forking out more of their own money than ever before to go and see the doctor.
We call upon Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberal-National Government on the 33rd Birthday of Medicare to get back to the basics which help everyday families. Malcolm Turnbull should, rather than pass a $50 billion tax giveaway to large companies, rather than giving tax cuts to millionaires in Australia, he should reverse the freeze of payments which goes to our local GPs - the front line of health care. He should reverse the cuts that he's making to health care in this country.
Medicare is too important to be a political football, where the Liberals cut the services for working and middle-class Australians and their health care, and at the same time we're giving extra money to the very well off and to large interests in this country.
Labor is very committed this year to fighting for Medicare. Quite often in politics, politicians are capable of telling people what to think and telling people what politicians think. But perhaps we haven't been so good at listening to people. This year Labor intends to listen to people talk about their experiences and what they want to see in the health care system. So we're launching a new website, it's called mymedicarestory.com.
We want to hear from Australians; what is working in the health care system - it's not all bad news, but we also want to hear what's going wrong. We want to hear people's thoughts and we want to hear what can be improved - where are the improvements that people think we can make?
So, mymedicarestory.com - we want to hear from people; what's working, what isn't working and what can be improved. Because Labor is the only political party strongly committed to saving Medicare from the cuts.
I should also just say, talking about cuts and difficult matters at the moment, as Tim Watts the local Member for Gellibrand said, physically a few hundred metres up the road from where we're talking about saving Medicare, nothing's being done by this government to save the jobs of car workers.
Toyota made a decision yesterday to advise people about the closure date of the car company. 2,500 direct employees are losing their jobs and many other thousands who supply and make automotive components will lose their jobs as a result of this decision.
Mr Turnbull has got to work out this year whose side is he on? Is he on the side of the big banks and the big multinationals to whom he wants to reward with tax cuts? Is he on the side of millionaires who he wants to pay less tax? Or is he on the side of those who need affordable, universal health cover in this country? Is he on the side of blue collar workers who are losing their jobs? The choice is for him to make. I'd like Catherine King to talk further about Medicare and then we're happy to take questions.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Thanks Bill and can I thank Mukesh and his team for having us here in this fantastic multidisciplinary practice which really does demonstrate how important and how much Medicare has changed over its 33 years.
We're here to celebrate the 33rd anniversary of our universal healthcare system. 33 years ago Bob Hawke stared down conservative forces and was able to introduce Medicare. It took two Labor Governments and two decades to imbed it as our universal health care system and never before has it been so important to actually bring the fight up to this Government when it comes to Medicare. We've seen since they came to office, continued attacks on our universal health care system, undermining its very fabric.
We know that today people are paying 7 per cent more to go and see and access their health care services than they were when the Abbott/Turnbull Government came into office. We know that more people are avoiding going to see a GP because of cost and many of those are some of our most vulnerable. We're seeing people in regional and rural Australia see doctors less because of the cuts that this Government has made. We’re seeing women in fact actually defer going to see a GP because again of the issue of cost.
This Government at every opportunity has undermined the fundamental fabric of Medicare. On the 33rd anniversary we're calling again on the Government to undo the freeze on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, to stop their cuts to pathology and diagnostic imaging and to lay off kids dental and to fund public dental properly. On this anniversary it’s important to remember why Medicare is important to all of us.
The website we've launched today provides an opportunity for Australians to tell us their stories, to tell us why Medicare has been important to them, what it’s done and what its changed in their lives. But also to tell us the things that are not going ok. Many Labor MPs were inundated over summer, not just about Centrelink but also about delays in Medicare processing. In some cases six to seven weeks before people were able to get their Medicare payment back. The Government is in denial about the problem, we want people to tell us their stories and on this 33rd anniversary, we say Happy Birthday Medicare, it's a system worth fighting for.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten on the imminent job losses just down the road at Toyota, what could the Government have done differently to save the 2,500 jobs?
SHORTEN: Well the Liberals when they got elected, we had a booming car industry, now we have none. What they should have done is sat down with the car companies to see if there was any way to help persuade them to come and stay in Australia. I mean the fact of the matter is that this is a government who can find $50 billion to give away to large multinationals and large banks. Yet when it came to try to encourage the car companies to stay in Australia, they did nothing and this is the real shame. What the Liberals want you to believe is that there is nothing that can be done in the world to save and support manufacturing. But what they should be doing is encouraging more apprentices, they should be making - that we have more Australian content when we give big contracts. They had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do anything about building the submarines in Australia. I think it is an absolute shame that we have lost our car industry in Australia and I know this government is doing nothing at all to help the thousands of workers who are losing their jobs.
JOURNALIST: Should it be up to a government though to try and prop up, I guess in a way, companies like Toyota to stay, if for them, it is not viable?
SHORTEN: Well this is a government who is happy to give $50 billion of taxpayer money away to large companies. This is a government who is happy to give $7.6 billion in tax cuts to the four large banks. The banks are making massive profits, why do they need the tax payers of Australia to be supporting a tax give away, full stop.
JOURNALIST: I mean obviously now we know Toyota is going, they've flagged it for three years that they would be leaving. Should the Government focus then on helping those workers who will now be looking for jobs? The State Government here has said the Federal Government hasn't done anything about it and they have contacted them in regards to it, so should they be focusing on that?
SHORTEN: This government has got no plan for everyday Australians. Their only plan is to give $50 billion away to large corporations and the other part of their plan is to get Australia to sign up to a trade treaty with America which America isn't going to sign. That's it. Malcolm Turnbull is formally out of ideas. This $50 billion tax cut for large companies is one of the worst ideas that we could do to the Australian economy in the current climate. How does Mr Harbour-side Mansion, justify $50 billion in tax cuts? This is how he does it. He says he will give $2 a day to workers, extra in 20 years’ time. That's Mr Harbour-side Mansion's plan for Australia, an extra $2 a day in 20 years’ time for Australian workers.
This really is trickledown economics, this is Malcolm Turnbull's crumbs from a rich man’s table economics. What he is basically asking Australians to believe is complete rubbish. He's asking Australians to believe that if we give a $50 billion tax cut to large companies, to multinationals, that in 20 years some of the crumbs will fall in the lap of middle and working class Australians in the prospect of a $2 a day pay rise. This is the worst possible time to have a $50 billion ram raid on the Australian economy.
I think a much better plan would be to make sure that Medicare is properly funded. I think a much better plan would be to stop treating Centrelink recipients as quasi criminals with robo-automated debt collections, many of which are just wrong. I think what Mr Turnbull needs to do is get out and about and listen to everyday Australians. That's what we're doing with mymedicarestory.com. We're not telling Australians what to think, we want to hear from Australians and find out what they do think. And we think nothing is more important than the health care of Australians and we want to hear their stories.
JOURNALIST: The White House has now cast doubt on the refugee deal saying that the President is yet to make a final decision on it. Do you hope that it does go ahead?
SHORTEN: I absolutely hope that the deal goes ahead, absolutely. Mr Turnbull said that Mr Trump has promised the deal will go ahead, so I assume that Mr Turnbull was being straight with us. I think it would probably be helpful if my opposite number just told people what’s really going on. I think Australians deserve that. I think people are sick and tired of politics as usual, all the tit for tat and the petty squabbles. I also think what all sides of politics have got to do is be straight with the Australian people. Mr Turnbull should just tell us what's going on.
JOURNALIST: What is your response to the One Nation candidate in WA who called single mothers "lazy"?
SHORTEN: I don't think that fellow is fit for public office full stop. Australian families come in all shapes and sizes. You've got nuclear families but you've got many Australians who live in blended families, you've got sole parents raising families. Parents have a hard enough time raising their children in the modern era - they don't need out-of-touch extremists vilifying them, making their life harder. In my experience, knowing the sole parents and the sole mothers, I think what they would rather see than politicians criticising them, is perhaps some of these politicians might help do the school pick-up, and help prepare the school lunches than give free advice from their ivory towers.
JOURNALIST: On child care, the Government will couple it's child care legislation with Family Tax Benefit cuts to pay for the legislation. Will you support it?
SHORTEN: Oh, this is classic Turnbull-economics; take money out of one pocket and give some of it back in the other pocket. Mr Turnbull's child care measures will see one third of families receiving child care worse off. And in return for that, what he is saying is he is going to cut benefit payments to families who are struggling to make ends meet. This fellow is so out of touch it defies belief.
JOURNALIST: With the website that you spoke about this morning, what will Labor do with that information?
SHORTEN: Well I invite people to go to mymedicarestory.com. What we want to do, is do politics differently and I think that the best place to start is health care because it is certainly absolutely one of the primary issues to Australians.
We want to hear people's experiences of Medicare and the health care system. We want to hear the good stories - it's not all bad news. We are not going to say it is but when people are encountering problems, especially with affordability, we need to hear that too. And of course, as users of the system, we want to hear what people think we can improve about it. And we are doing this for two reasons. The Government is still in denial about the problems of Medicare. They got a strong message from the voters of Australia at the last election. And they have still got their hands over their ears and stamping their feet and refusing to hear the problems.
So, what we are going to do is we are going to invite Australians to take back control of their politics. We want to hear their stories - the good news, the bad news and the suggestions for improvement. There is no issue more important than health care for Australian families. This is the 33rd birthday of Medicare. 33 years ago, Labor fought to build it. 33 years on, we are now fighting to save it from Mr Turnbull's savage cuts. Medicare gives piece of mind to Australian families, but sadly under the Liberals, people are paying more out of their own pocket for health care than ever before. We want to give a voice to the Australian people, insert it to the middle of politics and make sure their stories and experiences and views are getting heard and Labor can be trusted to always fight for Medicare.
JOURNALIST: You say your interacts with Australian people are going to be stronger than ever this year. Has that not happened in the past? Has that been a failure by you and Labor not to have that strong level of interaction and listening to the Australian people?
SHORTEN: Oh, I have always been a Parliamentarian who has prided myself about getting and amongst the people. One of the best things of 2016 was me doing public meetings, Townhall meetings - there have been 40 of them. We don't restrict who can come to them. You can have the protesters, you can have the true believers, you can the people who are just interested or people with a point of view. But what I want to do this year is change the format slightly. I just don't want to go and answer people's questions, although I am happy to do that - what I want to do is invite people to give me their views about where this country needs to go.
Australian politics needs to change. Yesterday, I outlined some further improvements in terms of the confidence and integrity of politics. You know, the issue with the former Liberal Health Minister Sussan Ley wasn't what she did, although that was an issue, the issue is that it wasn't just the Coalition who got marked down for that. A lot of Australians are angry; they think politicians are in politics just for themselves. So we have got to lift our game - everyone, including Labor. And so what we are saying is we had a three point plan. We've got to tidy up this ongoing cloud around expenses. We've got to make sure that people are confident that the expenses being incurred are legitimate. And we've also got to make sure that we clean up the donations system. We don't want foreign donations or foreign inspired donations distorting Australian politics. I do not know why the Liberal Party is so keen to keep the identity of donors who give up to $13,200 a secret. Labor believes it should be down at $1000.
But also along with donation reform, along with the expenses incurred by parliamentarians, the third leg of our plan is that we want the Senate, led by Labor to have an inquiry into the merits of a National Integrity Commission. We think that we've got to improve the confidence people have in politics. That's just the admission price to get Australians having a second look at politics because there is disaffection out there. But what we also need to do is make sure we are not talking about ourselves to ourselves. We have got to talk to Australians about what matters to them.
Yesterday, I outlined an agenda to save TAFE and for Australia to have the world's best national training agenda with apprenticeships right at the heart of it and public TAFE at the heart of the training system. And today, we're here saying that Medicare is part of what matters to Australians. If you are a mum and you've got kids with a temperature and a fever, you don't want to not go to the doctor because you can't afford to. And that's the sort of system we want; universal, affordable health care. So this year, we intend spend talking about how you put the nation first, how you put people first and what we want to do is talk about the issues that are important to people and of course, at the core of it is jobs. We believe you've got to stand up for Aussie jobs.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister's, I guess, mystery donation to the Liberal Party’s election campaign is still a mystery obviously. He made the donation after the 1st of July. Have you made any personal donations to the Labor Party in the past financial year?
SHORTEN: I can't speak for the other parties, but Labor politicians pay a proportion of their salary to the Labor Party, so yes I do that.
But, I have to say on donations; I don't understand why Malcolm Turnbull thinks it should be a secret how much he gave to the Liberal Party. He is going to have to tell someone at some point that it's going to be public. If I was Prime Minister, I wouldn't necessarily wait 510 or 570 days to be upfront with the Australian people. It's up for Mr Turnbull what he chooses to reveal or how much he has donated but it sounds tricky, it looks shifty. But the issue, as I said yesterday isn't even about the personalities - that's up for him and the media will pursue it and at some point, he is going to have to say how much he donated and I don't know why he is bothering dragging it out.
The real issue here is we need to reform all political donations. The real issue here isn't how much Malcolm Turnbull secretly donated or didn't donate or when he tells people, the real issue here is we want to have honesty in our politics, we want to have transparency. Let's lower the threshold so that anonymous donors can't hide behind artificially high thresholds of dollars. Let's make sure that we don't have any cent of foreign donations in our system. Donations reform is important.
If I can take one more question if we haven't concluded?
Thanks very much. Cheers.