TUESDAY, 5 JULY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Division in the Liberal Party; Labor’s positive policies; Labor’s positive plans to protect Medicare; One Nation
SUSAN LAMB, MEMBER-ELECT FOR LONGMAN: Good afternoon everybody. Thanks for coming out. Can I start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land where we meet today and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. I've been really humbled with the level of support I've received during this election campaign from my local community here. And today it has been really great to have Bill with me to come back out to my local community, speak with local people and say thank you for that support. So Bill it has been great to have you here today and welcome back.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you very much. Good afternoon everybody, it's great to be here in the electorate of Longman. I'm here because I want to thank the voters of Longman. I want to thank them for giving Susan Lamb a chance. She's an outstanding, outstanding candidate. I also think it is important that after an election where the whole nation has been convulsed to go and vote, with promises of stability and action, it's important that we front up as leaders of political parties and talk to the voters afterwards to thank them and acknowledge their role in keeping this country a great country.
It's in that vein that I also have to say there is a very real chance that Malcolm Turnbull is considering calling a snap election in the mistaken belief that this will sort out his own problems. Mr Turnbull has given us the instability in his own party and the instability in the Senate. He now needs to genuinely concentrate on making the 45th Parliament work. He needs to put the nation first, not put himself first. Everyone knows there is great instability in the Liberal Party, but he shouldn't contemplate or consider resolving the instability in his own party, by asking Australians to go to an early election. Labor will work with all parties in this Parliament. And we've got a clear policy program, including saving and protecting and defending Medicare. Mr Turnbull needs to genuinely concentrate on making the Parliament work, and he shouldn't be considering any options for an early election to deal with the dissent in his own ranks or the unstable Senate that his reforms have given Australia. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what evidence do you have that Malcolm Turnbull is considering a snap election?
SHORTEN: We know that Malcolm Turnbull promised stability and he justified this election by changing the rules of the Senate voting and now what he's done is given a very unpredictable Senate. Doesn't matter what your political affiliation. A lot of Australians have woken up and realised we have got some extreme parties now in the Senate and this is leading to instability. And it is an open secret. Your media outlet and many others are reporting daily the instability in the ranks of the Liberal Party. Mr Turnbull is being backgrounded against. You have got Tony Abbott's supporters out there feeling pretty vengeful for the Liberal losses which have occurred. Mr Turnbull may well be tempted to say this is all too hard and he will just go to an early election and put himself first but not the nation. Australians expect us all to genuinely work together on the issues that we agree upon and Labor got a very clear mandate to safeguard Medicare, to improve our needs based funding, the Gonski principles in education, to take real action on climate change, to deliver first class NBN and stand up for Australian jobs.
JOURNALIST: On Medicare, how do you take the Prime Minister's ascertain that you effectively duped the nation about the privatisation of Medicare? What evidence was there?
SHORTEN: Okay. Four bits. One, he's freezing the GP rebates for six years. That will mean GP surgeries all around Australia will have to get rid of bulk billing. That's what the Royal Australian College of GPs has said. Two, he's increasing the price of prescription medicine. Three, he's scheduled cuts to the bulk billing incentives for diagnostic imaging and pathology, blood tests and x-rays. Four, he's only providing half the extra funding to hospitals that we are. Sorry, let me answer your question. When you do these four massive multibillion-dollar cuts to our health care system, you are undermining Medicare as we know it. And wait, sorry. I listened to your question in good faith. And as for Mr Turnbull's plans with his $5 million taskforce to privatise the payment system of Medicare, he only retreated on that in the dying weeks of the election, when Labor called him out. Medicare requires affordable, universal access to our medical system, it's what Australians pay their Medicare levy to do.
I see today that Malcolm Turnbull has made one of his rare public appearances in the safety of a voter free environment in a tall city building in the middle of Sydney. Well, I need to just remind him that this election wasn't just people looking at Malcolm Turnbull, and saying that they didn't want him as Prime Minister. A lot of what happened on Saturday was people agreeing with Labor and the issues that Labor was talking about, including making sure that they don't damage Medicare. Mr Turnbull says he wants to rebuild trust of the Liberals in terms of the way Australians view him on Medicare. Here is a four-point plan Malcolm: Don't increase the price of prescription medicine, improve the funding offer to hospitals to match Labor, don't cut the bulk billing incentives for x-rays and blood tests and unfreeze the GP rebate. That would be an act of trust.
JOURNALIST: None of those points though, five of them in fact, not four, are any evidence that there was an intention to privatise Medicare?
SHORTEN: Jim, I understand that the Prime Minister is trying to litigate the fact that the Australian people got it wrong and that he can be trusted on Medicare. I think we remember that blue electronic wall paper he made in terms of a television ad, where he says he will guarantee Medicare. You can't guarantee Medicare when you make it more expensive to get an x-ray or blood test. You can't be guaranteeing Medicare when a third of GPs will be unable to offer bulk billing. You can't guarantee Medicare when you're increasing the price of prescription drugs and you certainly don't guarantee Medicare by not properly funding the hospitals of Australia.
JOURNALIST: Do you accept it's a cut, not a privatisation?
SHORTEN: I accept that what he's doing with his cuts is moving the burden of Medicare from the Government to the private individuals. Sorry, up the back there.
JOURNALIST: Counting has started again today, are you confident (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: There will be three outcomes, won't there? Labor will form a government, Liberal will form a government or there will be a hung Parliament. The Australian people have spoken. I accept their verdict. I recognise that people want to see this Parliament work with all of the people that have been elected to the Australian Parliament. We're here being positive. I'm out here thanking voters for giving us the remarkable, capable Susan Lamb. I was in Western Sydney yesterday. Everything I said before the election I intend to keep my word on after the election. For me, this election was about reflecting the issues, the aspirations and dreams of Australian people. Whoever forms the government, I'm determined to keep faith with the promises I made to people. I promise Australians that we will fight the cuts to Medicare, I promise Australians we will properly fund our schools. I promise Australians we will get to the bottom of this 457 visa rorts undermining Australian jobs. I promise Australians that we will fight for a Royal Commission into the banking industry. I promise to take real action on climate change, to make sure apprenticeships and TAFE don't just end up in the museum but have got a real future. And I promise to make sure great suburbs get access to first class technology. We have a great platform. Mr Turnbull, what he brings Australia is instability, a very divided party, and he's given us characters in the Senate which I think will make it hard to work with him.
Sorry, I happy to come to you in a second.
SHORTEN: Certainly I've being ringing Independents and crossbenchers. But I have to say, that's the difference between Labor and the Liberals. We don't treat people from other political parties like they're beneath us. I respect that people vote for other candidates, but what we will do when I speak to crossbenches - and indeed, when we work with the Liberals, I am prepared to work with the Liberals by the way - is that we will stick to our policy principles. If Mr Turnbull wants to be trusted on Medicare, he needs to pass those tests I set: Don't increase the price of prescription medicine because the pensioners and older Australians don't want that. Don't cut bulk billing incentives because people going to seek blood tests and x-rays to deal with matters like cancer, need to be able to afford to see the specialists and get these tests. Don't freeze the GP rebates because the GPs of Australia are the front-line, the family doctors, are the front-line and they do a lot of the health care in this country. And properly fund hospitals. Our nurses and doctors need more support, not less.
Sorry Jimmy, I will give you your third in a second.
JOURNALIST: Fewer Australians are voting Labor with their first preferences at about 36 per cent - what will you do to get that higher?
SHORTEN: We will stick to our guns. The fact of the matter is that we secured in two-party preferred term the second largest swing against a first term government in the history of federation. I just want to thank the voters of Australia for giving Labor another look after 2013. But what we will do to engender and improve our support is we will keep finding good candidates like Susan. We will make sure our issues are those which people want us to talk about. We will fight for Medicare. Mr Turnbull is now talking about Medicare as if he's discovered it and can be trusted on it. This is a desperate statement from a man desperately trying to stave off and keep his own job. When we talk about Medicare, we actually mean what we say. We won't support the increasing the price of the prescription medicine, we will unfreeze GP rebates, we will properly fund hospitals, and we will reverse the cuts to bulk billing incentives so that people can get timely assistance and medical assessment when they are in the fight of their lives.
JOURNALIST: With the crossbenchers, have you made commitments to them, in exchange for their votes, their support, should you be in a position to form government?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Peta Credlin says Malcolm Turnbull is the man that broke the heart of the Liberal Party, what do you make of those comments?
SHORTEN: She’s right.
JOURNALIST: Are you confident of winning Forde?
SHORTEN: As they say, the votes are in the mail. We will find out that so I won't preempt what happens there. But I know Des Hardman is a very good candidate. He is a radiographer in the local hospitals. He understands the importance of issues like, for example, Medicare. I'm confident that we have put the best possible candidate forward in Forde and I'm confident we have got the best issues, so therefore we will just have to wait and see, won't we?
JOURNALIST: The SMS campaign - did it come out of the Queensland state branch of the Labor Party?
SHORTEN: Yes, they've taken responsibility for it.
JOURNALIST: On which basis do you allege Mr Turnbull is planning a snap-election?
SHORTEN: Well, it is the classic sort of feature of Malcolm Turnbull. We saw that memorable election night speech, I think, at 12:30. You know, without a doubt, I thought just a man who was blaming everybody else for what had gone wrong except himself. And of course, he is got a Senate which under his new voting rules, is particularly unworkable for him. He is not renowned for being particularly up for negotiation, it is his way or the highway. He has got backbench in revolt . He has got a push to have Tony Abbott back in Cabinet. This is a divided government led by a weak Prime Minister so I have no doubt that the easy option for him would be to pull the rip cord and look at having another election but Australians don't want that. And what I want to say to Australians is we're prepared to work with the other parties. We've articulated a full policy agenda across every issue but I just want Mr Turnbull to genuinely concentrate on making the 45th parliament work, rather than sneak off and look for the easier option of blaming everybody else and seek another election.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) evidence this is going on.
SHORTEN: It's just his track record, blame everyone else, isn't it?
JOURNALIST: Do you agree with the Prime Minister that Australians are disenchanted with the major parties?
SHORTEN: I think they're more disenchanted with Malcolm Turnbull than they have ever been before. Sorry, Jim, I will give some of the others a go.
SHORTEN: Well, it is a free country. People can vote for who they want but I do agree that a lot of what she said is racially inflammatory. I am concerned that Malcolm Turnbull has opened the door and let the genie out of the bottle again with his changes to the voting system. I hold Malcolm Turnbull responsible for the re-emergence of One Nation. If he hadn't made the changes - he and the Greens political party, actually, I will give them a tick along the way for this too. The Green political party and Malcolm saw a way they could control the Senate, either of those two parties, then Malcolm has called a double dissolution and he has given us a system which a lot of people struggled with on the ballot paper and many of you know that. And now what we've seen is the emergence of parties which I think are challenging, in terms of the fabric of unity in this country. What we want in this country is for us to work together. What we want is to concentrate on the issues of mainstream Australia. I really think Malcolm Turnbull, in his sort of - in his voting reforms - has done a grave disservice to this country and he has given us instability. I might take one more question.
Sorry, I am going to give some of the others a go.
JOURNALIST: Would you be willing to work with the Coalition in the Senate to ensure some of those extreme or unstable parties you mentioned, to receive only a half term rather than a full term in the Senate?
SHORTEN: Well, let's cross that bridge when we get to it but one thing is certainly very clear here, Labor will stand up for all of the diversity in Australian society. We don't support watering down racial hate speech laws, we don't believe in prosecuting or picking out different groups because of they're of different religious faiths. This country is an immigrant nation and we want to make sure that we keep social cohesion. The Labor Party won't go missing on the hard debates. My concern with Malcolm Turnbull is whenever there has been a challenge he folds to the right of his party. He wants to give us a divisive plebiscite on marriage equality. He is not committed in any fashion, I think, to standing up on climate change. He has let Tony Abbott run his policy there. The challenge we have in Australia at the moment as we are trying to work out who has won this election and who controls what seats, is we have got a weak Prime Minister, hostage to the right wing of his party. He has got instability within his ranks, he has instability in the Senate and what I'm saying to Malcolm Turnbull is: work with me, and we'll make this 45th parliament work. Of course, let's save Medicare, let's reverse the cuts, let's properly fund our schools, let's take action on climate change and the rest of Labor's platform, but, Malcolm Turnbull, you created this mess, don't look for the easy option of just bringing on an election and blaming everyone else.
Thank you, everybody. Great to be back in Longman.