MONDAY, 20 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s positive plans for Western Australia; Malcolm Turnbull’s plan to privatise Medicare; former candidate for Farrer; Eddie Maguire; Liberal Party attack ad.
TAMMY SOLONEC, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR SWAN: Welcome to Bill Shorten our leader here to Swan for a second time and especially here to the Cannington Medical Centre. This is my local doctor, my children and I come here, and it provides an essential bulk-billing service for many people in this electorate, especially people who can't afford to go to the doctor or can't afford to pay to go to the doctor. They provide a fantastic service and it's a real pleasure to have Bill here.
BILL SHORTEN: Thanks Tammy, that was Tammy Solonec, the Labor candidate for Swan. I'm also accompanied by Matt Keogh, Labor's candidate for Burt. It's great to be back in Western Australia again and talking about arguably the most important issue in this election. This election is a referendum on the future of Medicare. And Mr Turnbull has been caught out with his plans to privatise the payments system with his $5 million taskforce. Malcolm Turnbull says that he's changed his mind but the problem with this is that no-one believes you, Malcolm. No-one believes Mr Turnbull when he says that he has the best interests of Medicare.
If you want to protect Medicare, you vote Labor in this election. Mr Turnbull shows not by his words, but by his actions, what is really the danger facing Medicare. Mr Turnbull set up a privatisation taskforce. He’s commissioned the Productivity Commission to investigate options to privatise the delivery of human services by the Federal Government. And, third, and perhaps most importantly of all, the Abbott and Turnbull cuts are a threat to the very heart of Medicare. Do you know what these cuts are? The GP Tax, increasing the price of medicine, attacking bulk-billing for pathology and diagnostic imaging services, or to put it in plain English, putting up the cost of a mammogram by $100, the cost of breast cancer diagnoses by $300, treatment for melanoma by $1,000.
You can't trust the Liberals when it comes to Medicare. If Mr Turnbull wants to be taken seriously on Medicare, he must reverse the Abbott and Turnbull cuts. Nothing else passes muster. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten, Malcolm Turnbull says you are lying when you say the Government will privatise Medicare. What is your response?
SHORTEN: Well, we've seen this film before, haven't we? When Malcolm Turnbull says never ever will he do anything bad to Medicare, remember Tony Abbott said we would never see cuts to health and education, and we know how that film ended. We saw cuts to Medicare, we saw cuts to education. When the Liberals tell you ‘never ever’, get very nervous. Don't believe what Malcolm Turnbull's words are, look at his actions. It is a matter of record that they intend, if re-elected, to freeze GP rebates till 2020. That will mean that bulk-billing will become a thing of the past for many Australians. Malcolm Turnbull has a plan to get rid of the bulk-billing incentive to pathology laboratories and diagnostic imaging services. The sheer practical consequence of a vote for Malcolm Turnbull on July 2 means $100 upfront to get a mammogram, it means $300 for breast cancer diagnosis, i t means $1,000 for an Aussie trying to deal with melanoma treatment. Mr Turnbull's cuts contradict his words. If he really cared about Medicare, he would reverse his cuts. The reason why he can't reverse his cuts to Medicare is he's giving the money away to large corporates in tax cuts which are not in the best health interests of Australians.
JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull's denials on this point are blunt, repeated and very simple to understand. Are you telling us that he is flatly lying to the Australian people? If you can't use the word lying don't we need to move to a topic where there is a real disagreement?
SHORTEN: Tim, let's be really straight here about what he is saying and what he is doing. You know that Mr Turnbull is cutting the bulk-billing incentive to pathology laboratories. He is banking a $650 million save to the Liberal bottom line. What he is doing in the process is he is going to put up the cost of going to get an X-ray, a mammogram, treatment for breast cancer or, indeed, a range of other important things like melanoma treatment.
The fact of the matter is Mr Turnbull is freezing GP rebates for six years. You don't have to take my word for it, take the word of the Royal College of Australian GPs. You've seen their ads. They have felt so moved to oppose this attack on bulk-billing that they felt the need to make the unprecedented intervention in this election in the interests of the healthcare of all Australians.
Mr Turnbull will not be let off the hook. No one believes him when he says that Medicare will be safe under him. I'll leave it to Australians to look at the evidence. Privatisation taskforce, productivity commission report, cuts to the very basis of the heart of Medicare. What the Liberals don't understand, because they are so out of touch, is that when you attack bulk-billing, when you attack you are attacking Medicare. What they don't understand is that one of the secrets of the success of Medicare is one payment system run by the Government which ensures a downward pressure on costs. The Liberals want to Americanise healthcare. You are a student of history, Tim. For the last 30 years, ever since Labor introduced Medicare, the last 33 years since it was introduced in 1983, periodically the Liberals keep coming back at Medicare. They will never be satisfied until they dismantle Medicare.
What Mr Turnbull doesn't understand is that he thinks it's fair to give foreign aid to foreign companies but he won't invest in the health of all Australians. There couldn't be a clearer choice. I will not let Mr Turnbull move away from his harsh cuts and Tony Abbott's harsh cuts. We will fight to defend Medicare. It is the line in the sand in this election.
JOURNALIST: You launched your campaign in Sydney. Today you made a beeline for Perth. Are you feeling confident in WA and in the seat of Swan, and also that there are suggestions there could be a big swing in Pearce. What do you make of that?
SHORTEN: I know Labor's positive policies are issues that are biting with the Australian people. I'm in Western Australia because I respect the political views of West Australians. We've got great candidates running in the West, positive policies for Western Australia. Everyone knows that the West has been hard hit with the decline in the mining boom but only Labor has a plan to invest in blue collar jobs. Yesterday we announced our tax deductions to encourage small business to give unemployed people the opportunity to work. That is a pro-West Australian policy. We want to make sure young West Australians get the opportunities to do apprenticeships. That is very a pro-West Australian policy. We want to make sure we retain bulk-billing. That is a very pro-West Australian policy. We have a range of good policies and West Australians, like all Australians, want to see Medicare kept safe , up-to-date and protected in the harsh Liberal cuts. In terms of how we're going in the West, the truth of the matter is we are competing for every vote. Mr Turnbull last week declared the election was over, you can put down your binoculars, the race was over. As I said yesterday, Mr Turnbull, you ain't seen anything yet.
JOURNALIST: One of your candidates, Christian Kunde, has resigned following reports linking him to Islamic extremism. What does that say about Labor's preselection process?
SHORTEN: We have a high standard. As soon as I was made aware of the issue we immediately accepted his resignation, full stop.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor or you guarantee there will be no cuts you would make to the health or human services system, including trying to outsource aspects of the backroom operation to try and reduce costs?
SHORTEN: I can absolutely make the guarantee that we’re not going to sell off chunks of the Medicare system. Only the Liberals could think it is a good idea to sell off the payment system. Mr Turnbull has been caught in a trap of his own making. In Parliament, he loftily declared on record, in Hansard, that there was nothing wrong with outsourcing the payments system, full stop. Now he's realised Australians hate the idea and pretend the conversation never happened. Now we have a new Malcolm Turnbull. He is a weak leader and when under pressure will do and say whatever he thinks will get him through the next media interview or the next day of campaigning. Labor has a 40-year track record of standing up for Medicare. You can judge us by our actions. We've stood up for Medicare. I will fight for bulk-billing unfreeze the GP rebates. I will make sure you don't have to pay large up front fees to get the necessary blood tests or cancer treatment you need in the fight of your life. Mr Turnbull wants to give $50 billion away to foreign multinationals. I want to properly fund Medicare so that Australians can see the doctor when they are sick and not just when they can afford to see the doctor.
JOURNALIST: You've linked the Productivity Commission actions with this Medicare issue, which is actually about human services which some of the states have already agreed to. Can you rule out any parts or any efficiencies in human services system in the future and underneath your Government?
SHORTEN: Let's be clear. Scott Morrison signed a review to the Productivity Commission which opens up the whole question of the dismantling of the delivery of key government services by government. There is a big difference. There is a continent of difference between Liberal and Labor when it comes to dismantling our human services system, when it comes to the privatisation of Australian Hearing services, for example. When it comes to selling off the payments system. The truth of the matter is, that the Liberal Party are damaging, irrevocably, Medicare by their cuts to GPs, by the freezing of the GP rebate for six years. They are putting GPs, the front-line of our medical system, in an unconscionable position, where they either have to start charging more for patients a lot more to come see the doctor or they can't run their businesses.
We will rescue Medicare from the Government. It is the Liberals who are proposing to increase the price of prescription medicine. It is the Liberals who are making a paltry offering to our hospital system which is already overworked and overstrained. It is the Liberals with no plan to reduce elective surgery waiting lists for hip replacements and cardiac treatment, for all the things that patients sitting at home are waiting for a call from the hospital to say their surgery time is available. Mr Turnbull does not have a plan for the health system in this country. We do. We prioritise it.
JOURNALIST: Malcolm Turnbull said he will move swiftly to hold a gay marriage plebiscite by the end of the year. Would Labor still oppose a plebiscite after the election if it is the only way to legalise gay marriage?
SHORTEN: I intend to win the election. I intend to put forward legislation in the first 100 days. I hope that if we win the election Mr Turnbull drops his latest position of a plebiscite and goes back to the old Malcolm Turnbull position of doing exactly what we are proposing, full stop.
JOURNALIST: What is your reaction by the comments by Eddie Maguire in relation to Caroline Wilson? Is it acceptable in 2016 to talk about holding a female journalist's head under water?
SHORTEN: Absolutely not. Those comments were completely unacceptable. I just wish sometimes that people would think about what they are going say before they say it. Those comments are not acceptable.
JOURNALIST: As a Collingwood supporter and a member, do you think Eddie Maguire should go? You are good at getting rid of leaders, Mr Shorten, maybe it’s time to move a motion to the Collingwood Football Club?
SHORTEN: With respect, this is a serious issue. I stand by the last answer I gave. It is not a matter of football club elections, it is a matter of public figures speaking properly about these issues and I am not going to make a joke of it.
JOURNALIST: Catherine King said this morning that – or suggested that Labor would be open to enlisting the private sector with the process of IT modernisation with Medicare. Given that Mr Turnbull has flatly ruled out outsourcing, does this point of attack have any merit now and are you persisting with it because you believe it may resonate with voters?
SHORTEN: Jason, Mr Turnbull, his words are contradicted by his actions. Please don't fall for the fact that Malcolm Turnbull gets up in the morning and says something and then simply believe what he says. Look at his actions. It is actions, not words which matter here. Look at what they do and not what they say. If Mr Turnbull wants to protect Medicare, here is a simple test. Properly fund the hospitals. Reverse the cuts to the GP rebates. Reverse the cuts removing bulk-billing incentives for pathology laboratories. While you're at it, reverse the cuts you're making to increase the price of medicine.
If you are fair-dinkum about the healthcare system then you put your policy mouth where your actions are and you are consistent. The problem with this fellow is he's just saying this now because he is desperate. They've been caught out on their privatisation plans. They have been caught out by this Productivity Commission reference which opens the door, it’s got all the weasel words for privatisation behind it. Mr Turnbull knows that he is presenting Australians a second-rate health future. He is more interested in giving tax cuts to millionaires or interested in defending negative gearing subsidies going on forever and he's more interested in giving large banks and foreign companies a tax cut than he is in the health of the nation.
Labor says this election is a referendum on Medicare and we will fight for the best health policies which we present to the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: What has really happened is Labor and unions have been calling up voters knowing that the Government has a plan to privatise the back payment system but they're simply saying they're going to privatise Medicare. The scare campaign has worked in that sense hasn't it?
SHORTEN: Well the fact of that matter is that Mr Turnbull's health policies are scary. The truth is what is scary in this situation. Malcolm Turnbull is freezing the GP rebate for six years. Do you understand what that means? That means that bulk-billing will become something that you talk about in a museum. They are cutting the bulk-billing incentive for people seeking mammograms, for people seeking breast cancer analysis and diagnosis, for people seeking the treatment of melanoma-related cancers. The fact of the matter is that Mr Turnbull and his Liberal team are not good for of the health of our Medicare system.
Labor is fighting this election, and I said on Day one right down in Beaconsfield, that this election would be about choices and trust. We make the choice to prioritise funding and defending Medicare. We can be trusted on the health of Australians for our defence of Medicare. Mr Turnbull has made a choice to choose the large corporations and the vested interests. Mr Turnbull has made the choice to make cuts and persist with cuts, not only Tony Abbott's, but his own cuts, to all of the range of services which I have been explaining in this press conference. Mr Turnbull knows he is a in trap of his own making. He's picked the wrong issues, he's backed the big end of town over the healthcare of Australians ,and Labor will fight to defend Medicare against all of their measures. Final question, please.
JOURNALIST: There is a Liberal Party attack ad that was released last night, it includes a tradesman who says you are coming after his investment property. Have you seen the ad? Are you worried about wealthy tradesmen revolting against the Labor Party?
SHORTEN: I have even seen your Vine on the ad. To be honest, that is where I saw it. The problem with the Liberal ad is exactly the same problem with Mr Turnbull. Australians can spot a fake when they see one. Thank you, everybody.