WEDNESDAY, 25 MAY 2016
SUBJECTS: Investing in ovarian cancer research; Nova Peris; Mr Turnbull and Alan Jones; Turnbull Government’s retrospective changes to superannuation; Heritage Bank; Banking Royal Commission; Election campaign; Mathias Cormann endorses Labor; Budget repair and Reserve Bank commentary; Asylum seekers; Newspoll
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks everybody. Well again I want to thank Ovarian Cancer Australia for hosting us this morning for morning tea, for a very important announcement in this election campaign. As we travel around the country, Bill and I are hearing some of the most personal and moving stories about people's health journey. People who have suffered from cancer, who are survivors of cancer. And no more so than the announcement that we are making today about an investment that a Shorten Labor government will make, an $8 million investment into an area that is really under-researched in this country, and that is ovarian cancer. Many, many people have been touched by ovarian cancer, and it is those stories that we are hearing across the country. We had Ann-Maree come to Canberra not so long ago telling her story, we've got Margaret also who is about to tell her story. It's those stories that really Labor has listened to. Labor has listened to and wants to invest in because we believe the survival rates for women with ovarian cancer are way too low, that we can do better in this country, and I'm very proud that we have with us today Ann-Maree, who is going to tell us a little bit about her cancer journey, and then Margaret will follow her, and then followed by Bill making the announcement.
ANN-MAREE: Well this is just such brilliant news for women with ovarian cancer. There's been no advancement in treatment options in 30 years. Imagine if that was the mobile phone. We're desperate for research to improve those survival rates, and that takes big funding commitments like this. I was really overwhelmed by the emotional response of both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Mr Shorten when I shared my story in Canberra. I told them 54 per cent dead within five years is the worst of any women’s cancer, and it's not good enough. And that research is the only way that we can change that. I lost one of my oldest and dearest school friends to cancer two weeks ago. If there had been investment like this earlier in treatment options, she might still be here. We really deserve some hope with this disease. Women living with ovarian cancer are not a lost cause. Hope is what today's commitment provides. So thank you Mr Shorten. It's a great step towards change after 30 years of standstill. It tells me that women with ovarian cancer are not a lost cause to you. And it means, after 30 years, maybe change is coming. Very simply it means more of us might survive. And that I might be there for my two little boys to watch them grow up.
MARGARET: Hi, I'm Margaret. I'm one of the lucky ones. I was diagnosed six years ago with ovarian cancer. I felt unwell and because of my husband, who made me go to hospital, I survived because I was diagnosed at stage two. Through ovarian cancer, I have met women who are stage four who are still battling to survive, because they were diagnosed too late. So, if we could find some way, like they do with breast cancer, to have a screening beforehand, I think it would be wonderful but there's just not enough money or research that goes into ovarian cancer to make it that every woman has a chance to do that. And thank you, Bill, for giving this money to us to try and help women who, unfortunately, will not be here in another few years’ time. If we can make it so that, like breast cancer, we have that research early, then we may save a lot of lives. Thank you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning, everybody, and I'd first of all like to thank Ann-Maree and Margaret for sharing their experiences with all of us. I've known Margaret for some time, she's a family friend and, of course, we all heard Ann-Maree speak in Canberra so movingly. The dream that we could assist mums grow old and watch their children grow up is a pretty noble dream. So Ann-Maree, Margaret and, indeed, Ovarian Cancer Australia, have been very influential in our thoughts that Catherine and I are announcing today. It's with great pleasure I'm announcing that Labor will fund collaborative research over the next four years into the causes of ovarian cancer and methods by which we can have better early detection. 1,500 women this year, thereabouts, will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Nearly a thousand will die from ovarian cancer this year. The early signs and symptoms cannot be screened at this point. There are symptoms which are often mistaken for other causes - tiredness, bloating, fatigue, going through menopause. The early detection of ovarian cancer will make a quantum difference in the successful treatment of ovarian cancer. Labor signed up to Ovarian Cancer Australia's approach, Vision 25-25. Increasing the survival rates by 25 per cent, the survival rates in the first five years after detection, to increase by 25 per cent by 2025. That's the goal which we set ourselves to. And that's why today I pledge an $8 million support and research over the next four years. Australia does well on global standings but we can do better for the survivors, we can do better for the families and for the memory of those who didn't survive. This is an ongoing challenge and indeed in this current election, there is a lot being said about health care and can we afford to have improved investment in health care? I believe Australia cannot afford not to increase our investment in health care. Be it the research, be it saving bulk billing, be it supporting the bulk billing of pathology tests and X-rays and ultrasounds, vital in the treatment of ovarian cancer. There is nothing which, in my opinion, highlights the difference more starkly in approach in this election than the challenge of properly funding health care. I believe that Australia cannot afford not to increase our expenditure on health care. If we look at the consequences of the conversation and the choices that get made at this election, it really does bear examination. On one hand, Labor and I, believe if we properly fund health care, we can provide Australians, make all Australians with the opportunity to be healthier and, indeed, when they get sick, to recover and live longer lives full of meaning. The alternative choice might well be to give tax cuts to corporations, but a nation which says that it cannot afford the best possible health care for Australians is a nation that's letting down Australians. We're happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Have you - the ALP executive about a new candidate for the Northern Territory? What is Labor doing to bring the business community on side?
SHORTEN: The Labor Party will work through its processes and we'll have a new Senate candidate for the Northern Territory in reasonably rapid time. In terms of Nova Peris, I had an opportunity yesterday to acknowledge her service. I would like to do so again today. It is not an easy decision to step back from public life but Nova Peris has never shirked it. She has been a champion for women in her career on the track and indeed in Parliament. She has my best wishes. She will be a contributor to public life and society whatever she chooses to do. The Labor Party has picked replacements in the past. We've got our processes to do so, we'll do so again quickly.
JOURNALIST: Given the controversy last time around, why not let the NT Labor branch take control this time and make the final decision? Would you like to see an Indigenous woman selected?
SHORTEN: The Party has got rules in an election period on how to pick candidates. And of course there's less than six weeks to the election. We'll consult, the Party will get this process right, I've got no doubt about that.
There was an earlier question, I neglected to answer where you talked about our relations with business. Labor has excellent relations with business but I don't think that the price of having excellent relations with business should be to spend $50 billion of taxpayer money on a tax cut. The best things I can do for business is make sure their workforce is healthy, the best thing I can do for business is make sure they have a well-educated and skilled workforce. And businesses understand the fundamental importance of these goals.
JOURNALIST: Would you like to see an Indigenous woman pre-selected?
SHORTEN: I would like to see the best candidate pre-selected. I've got a track record in my time of pushing for the pre-selection of Indigenous candidates. If you will excuse a little moment of boasting, we have Pat Dodson and Linda Burnie running. Very distinguished Indigenous Australians, and they're very distinguished Australians full stop. I'm more than confident that the Labor Party will pick a good candidate.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull seems to have made up with Alan Jones and attacked your negative gearing plans. We know that the public seem to trust the Coalition with the economy, how hard will it be for Labor to try to steal that mantle away?
SHORTEN: Whilst I haven't had a chance to study in depth the reconciliation interview between Mr Turnbull and Mr Jones, I do understand Mr Jones pushed Mr Turnbull on the question of retrospective changes to superannuation. Mr Jones knows, many Australians know, I certainly do, that the Budget, the election Budget of Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison, contained significant changes to tax treatment of superannuation retrospectively. Now I said on Budget Reply night, these changes had me gravely concerned of the retrospective nature of them. Some people say, and Mr Turnbull says, it's only some people with bigger superannuation accounts who are affected so who cares if it's retrospective? That's a simple summary of the proposition, including this morning on Jones. But the truth of the matter is we ask millions of Australians to invest in their retirement funds in advance of them being able to use it. We tell them compulsorily they have to save money for their retirement, which is very important, but part of the contract of telling Australians you have to save money for your retirement, you can't access it now, is that we don't change the goal posts retrospectively. What Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison have done is they have sent a shockwave through superannuation. Mr Turnbull keeps evading the issue. Peter Costello knows these changes are retrospective. Alan Jones knows they're retrospective. The Institute of Public Affairs knows they are retrospective. None of these people are particularly left wing in their view of the world. I know they're retrospective. The only people arguing for retrospective laws in superannuation are Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison. It is leading a cloud of uncertainty over every Australians' superannuation.
JOURNALIST: Heritage Bank in Queensland is objecting to Labor's use of 'people first'. I know you might have had your battles with banks but stealing their ideas? Will you take action after their legal action this morning?
SHORTEN: I don't accept your characterisation at all, Andrew, with respect. The Labor Party has been putting people first for 120 years. It's the idea upon which the Labor Party was formed. We are the party of the middle class and the working class families and individuals of Australian society. We are putting people first in our commitment to health care. The truth of the matter is this election is coming down to choices. Mr Turnbull's election Budget, a week before he formally called the election, chose to spend $50 billion in corporate tax cuts. Labor's chosen to spend $49 billion on education and Medicare. Mr Turnbull is spending people's money, he's just not spending it on Australian people. When I get criticised by a bank, I hardly call that a remarkable event because Labor is committed to a Royal Commission into the banking sector. We are not going to let go of this issue. We are the voice of millions of Australians who want to see a better ethical standard from our banking sector. Mr Turnbull never talks about a banking Royal Commission. When you hear a financial institution attacking Labor, I have to say back: why is it that financial institutions are so desperate to avoid the public scrutiny of a banking Royal Commission? If elected on July 2, Labor will implement a banking royal commission because we believe that the scandals need to stop.
JOURNALIST: There was a GP last week who took to Facebook to say an event had been cancelled, he was quite angry about that. Will you apologise to him and contact him to do so?
SHORTEN: First of all Jason, I should have mentioned it earlier, I just want to say happy birthday. I'm sorry you got the weather in Melbourne and not up in Brissie.
In terms of the arrangement of our events, we don't wish to inconvenience everyone. I am sorry if there was any inconvenience undergone, but I can make no apology for talking about health care for the last seven days. Mr Turnbull wants to say this nation cannot afford to invest in our health care system. I couldn't disagree more. The truth of the matter is what Mr Turnbull is doing is saying he doesn't have the money to invest in Medicare, in pathology bulk billing, in research into medical care but he has enough money to spend on tax cuts for large banks and major corporations. Mr Turnbull says we can't afford to do more for the health care of Australians. A leader who does not prioritise the health care of all Australians needs to change his priorities and, if Mr Turnbull can't change his priorities, he needs to change his job.
JOURNALIST: Mathias Cormann this morning has given you a ringing endorsement, are you glad to see he has seen the light?
SHORTEN: Well, I've been travelling all round Australia and Australians do want to hear a positive discussion about ideas about the future. We put a very clear proposition to Australians. We will choose to spend scarce taxpayer money on the health care needs of Australians, on the education of Australians, on the education of Australian children. Mr Turnbull will spend in an election the same amount of money except he will spend it on corporate tax cuts. As for Senator Cormann's comments, I guess it is the second Coalition Minister this week to come out in support of our policies. Sussan Ley famously said this week she would have liked to have convinced Treasury and Finance about adopting our health policies. I guess Senator Cormann officially terminated Mr Turnbull's scare campaign.
JOURNALIST: The Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens has sounded a warning. He says that the economy is vulnerable to future shocks and that whoever takes government will have to do years and years of budget repair. Do you agree with that outlook from him? What will you do on budget repair given some of your big-spending commitments in this campaign so far?
SHORTEN: I want to address the comments of the Reserve Bank but the second part of your question I want to go to immediately. Do not fall for the big lie of this election that because we've announced things since the formal election’s called, that everything Mr Turnbull announced the previous week in his Budget doesn't qualify as election spending. You and I both know that Mr Turnbull, in his Budget, made very clear political choices. He made a clear political choice, an election choice, to hand away $50 billion in tax cuts to corporations. He made a very clear political choice in his Budget to hand away $17 billion in income tax cuts for people in the very top tax bracket. He's making a very clear political choice to keep spending $32 billion on the people who are able to negatively gear. By contrast, Labor is making a very clear choice we will put the health care of every Australian first, that we will put the education of every Australian child first. Mr Turnbull is spending as much, if not more money than Labor, but he's just not spending it on Australians. In terms of the Reserve Bank Governor or the outgoing Governor's comments, I first of all would like to acknowledge his remarkable tenure as the Governor of the Reserve Bank. In terms of what he says about Budget repair, he's absolutely right. Budget repair has to be undertaken. I announced in my Budget Reply speech winding back the private sector loans scandal in TAFE and vocational education. That will add billions of dollars in saved government spending. We will not go down the path of Mr Abbott's and now Mr Turnbull's Emissions Reduction Fund which is paying polluters billions of dollars to keep polluting. We will not go ahead with the marriage equality plebiscite which most Australians know is $160 million of government money being wasted. Labor has a plan to reduce wasteful government spending. We have a plan not to spend $50 billion on tax cuts for corporations and we have a plan to ensure that Australians get the best quality healthcare and the best possible education. Any more questions?
JOURNALIST: On asylum seekers, is Canada shaping up to be the most viable option for a Labor Government in terms of resettlement if indeed you are elected?
SHORTEN: Well, on asylum seekers, let's get these three points clear in black and white. One, the people smugglers and the criminal syndicates who put vulnerable people in unsafe boats with the prospect of drowning at sea get no succour or sympathy from either Liberal or Labor. We are bipartisan in our determination to defeat the criminals who put people on unsafe boats and drown at sea. The second point needs to be clear, we do not believe that the consequence of deterring and defeating the people smugglers in their evil trade comes at the price of indefinite detention in Manus and Nauru and we would engage in regional resettlement with the sort of vigour we haven't seen from this Government in the last three years. And three, when it comes to negotiating with the governments of specific nations, I pledge that if we are elected I will put Richard Marles, our Immigration Minister, on a plane to talk to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. We will negotiate in a fair dinkum manner to make sure we have regional resettlement, but never again will we allow the people smugglers back into business. One more question.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree with the Newspoll this morning that Malcolm Turnbull is more arrogant than you?
SHORTEN: Unlike Mr Turnbull, I'm not going to start casting aspersions about my opponent. The truth of the matter is it is the Australian people who matter in this election, not what I think of him or he thinks of me. I think his scare campaign is running out of puff. The truth of the matter is we have got well-funded policies that prioritise healthcare which prioritise the health of all Australians. I never want to see an Australian who is sick deterred from going to the doctor, from getting the pathology test, from getting the help they need or prescription medicine because of cost. I don't agree with Mr Turnbull that improving the health of Australians is a cost. I actually think it's an investment. Mr Turnbull loves to talk about the economy. Let me be very clear, a healthy Australia is a healthier workforce. A healthy Australia is one where we end up spending less in the long-term on our health care. The same goes for education. If I can give the employers of Australia the best educated workforce in the world, then we will move ahead in leaps and bounds. We believe our policies are well funded and the way we pay for our policies is not by spending $50 billion of taxpayer money in giving a tax cut to large multinationals. The choice is that clear. Thank you everybody. See you soon.