TUESDAY, 4 SEPTEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: Labor’s $11.1 million investment in a cardiac theatre for Rockampton Hospital; bullying in the Liberal Party; au pair scandal; energy; Labor’s plan for real jobs for regional Queensland
RUSSELL ROBERTSON, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CAPRICORNIA: So we're here today, and I want to thank my Labor team, the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, Shadow Health spokesperson Catherine King, Murray Watt, Senator, Anthony Chisholm, Senator and my teammate Zac Beers the candidate for Flynn. And we're here today to give the announcement of a cardiac unit for the Rocky Hospital, something that I've been working on for some three or four months with Paul Bell, the regional hospital director - hard work, and so excited it's come to fruition. Really excited for what this is going to deliver to Rockhampton locals and the broader Capricornia people, so it's a thrill to be part of this Labor team, and I want to thank my leader, Bill, for coming through for me on this one and I want to throw to Bill and let Bill talk in more detail on the proposal. Bill?
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Russell. Good morning everybody, it's great to be a Rockhampton hospital with Russell Robertson our candidate, Zac Beers, our candidate, our Central Queensland land, accompanied by Shadow Minister Catherine King and of course Queensland Senators Chisholm and Watt.
It was good to visit Rockhampton Hospital today and to talk to the staff and to talk to the patients here. I am more convinced than ever that Labor's announcement today of investing $11 million in new cardiac treatment facilities here in Rocky is exactly what the region needs.
I got to talk to Steph and I got to talk to Gus, I got to talk to other people who have had pretty complex heart procedures, and they and their families made it clear to me that when Central Queenslanders have to go to Brisbane to get treatment which other people take for granted, it's a greater strain, it's a greater stress, and, of course, it's a big cost.
So, today, Labor is going to say to Central Queenslanders, if Labor gets elected at the next election, you don't have to go to Brisbane to get heart treatment, you can get it right here in Rocky.
This is great news, not just for people in Rockhampton, but for people inland at Biloela and Emerald, right out to Longreach and of course in Gladstone. Our $11 million announcement will see new beds, a new ward, a new treatment facility, so that people can get very important heart treatments here.
It's a sad and challenging fact that we've got higher rates of coronary disease in Rockhampton than other parts of Australia, with diabetes, obesity, alcohol challenges, so it means that we really need to invest in healthcare in Rocky.
I'm going to ask Catherine King in a moment to talk about it, but the news is very straightforward from Labor. We don't want Central Queenslanders to have to go to Brisbane to get medical treatment, life-saving medical treatment. We want Central Queenslanders to get lifesaving medical treatment in Rockhampton, in Central Queensland, and we can afford to make this promise because we prioritise the health of Queenslanders over looking after the top end of town.
I'd now like to invite Catherine King, our shadow spokesperson, to talk more about our announcement and cuts under the Morrison Government to health care in Central Queensland.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Thanks, Bill. And, look, this is a terrific announcement today for Rockhampton Hospital, but also for Gladstone Hospital. And it's terrific to be here with Bill, with Zac, with Russell, with Murray and with Chris to make this announcement today.
About 1,400 patients are travelling each year to Brisbane to have cardiac treatment. And this facility here will mean that those patients - over a thousand of them, in fact - won't have to make that trip to Brisbane. It means that when they have their diagnosis, they can have that treatment immediately, whether they need a pacemaker, whether they need stents put in, and then actually stay in their community.
We know for the outcomes, the health outcomes for patients, it is much better to have that treatment quickly, much better to have that treatment here locally at home.
Labor wants to invest in our public hospitals. We know how important they are in our local communities. But what we've seen from the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government - hard to keep saying that, because they change all the time. But with the Morrison Government now, that what we've seen is under Morrison as Treasurer, he cut $700 million from our public hospital systems, $3.6 million from Rockhampton Hospital alone, $160 million to public hospitals in the state of Queensland.
Now, we know that means less nurses, less doctors, less outpatient visits, less surgeries, less elective surgeries that are available for people in communities across this country. This is a Government that does not care about our health care system, does not care about investing in patients, and this $11 million announcement today is a down payment that Labor is making for Central Queensland, for the care of people here in this community.
And I want to congratulate Russell and Zac in particular for bringing this proposal forward, talking at length to the hospital, understanding the needs. The hospital tells us this is the number one health priority for this hospital, and for this region, and I really do congratulate Russell for bringing this proposal forward.
SHORTEN: Thanks everybody. So, 1,400 Central Queenslanders will get lifesaving treatment in Rockhampton rather than having to fly to Brisbane. This is good news. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the PM is in Queensland today. Is there where the federal election will be won? Or are you confident of victory across the country?
SHORTEN: I'm not complacent at all. I'm in Queensland because I have a plan for Queensland. I'm in Rockhampton for the 11th time since I became Leader. I've spent 18 days in Rockhampton alone since I have been Opposition Leader, because I want to listen to people.
The old system of politics, where you fly in, fly out, you get the LNP take Central Queensland for granted, those days have got to come to an end. The reason why we are able to say we will invest in Rookwood Weir, the reason why we're able to say that we'll duplicate the road between Rocky and Yeppoon, the reason why we're able to talk about moving the Bruce Highway around Rockhampton, so we can ensure a greater flow of traffic and better plan for congestion and more jobs, the reason why we can propose, in Gladstone, the Port Access Road, or, indeed, in Rockhampton, $11 million for life-saving cardiac treatment, is because I'm listening to Queenslanders.
Labor has a plan for Queensland. It's a plan based on five years of hard work. But we've got a plan for every other part of Australia too. And the reason why I'm so motivated about being here, and indeed, every other part of Queensland and Australia, is because I want to restore the fair go back into Australian politics and Australian life.
What we're seeing is mounting inequality. I think this Government has wasted five years of the nation's life pursuing tax cuts for the top end of town, looking after their top end of town mates with their economic policies. But when I'm in the hospital ward, talking to a bloke who's had several bouts of open heart surgery, talking to his family and the stress of going to Brisbane and the cost and the effort, that's what matters to me.
When I talk to hospital nurses and orderlies about properly funding their hospital, that's more important to me than the approval of the top end of town and big business. That's why I think we've got a good case to sell.
JOURNALIST: What would you say are the strengths of the CFMEU given that numerous judges have ruled about misbehaviour, misconduct and illegal behaviour?
SHORTEN: First of all, I've got no time for any illegality, whether it happens in a union or in a big bank. So, I've got no time for any illegality. But I don't therefore think that you make unions illegal in this country, if you have individuals within them who are not adhering to the rules.
If it wasn't for the unions we wouldn't have public holidays and penalty rates. If it wasn't for unions we wouldn't have a strong minimum wage. I am capable of distinguishing individual acts of illegality from the whole institution.
But let's face it, the Government is talking about the CFMEU and unions because they've run out of anything to talk about with everyday Australians.
I would be more willing to listen to the Prime Minister on his complaints about union bashing, and him bagging unions all the time, if he was up talking about looking after the health of everyday Australians. If this Prime Minister hadn't voted eight times against penalty rates, I might have a little more respect for what he has to say about workplaces.
But under this Prime Minister, who no one voted for, they've cut schools, they've cut hospitals, they've cut penalty rates.
So, let's understand what the Prime Minister's tactics are: he wants to create a fight with the CFMEU because he's got no plans for Australians and their jobs, and their health care, hospitals and schools.
JOURNALIST: More female Liberal MPs have revealed allegations of bullying within their own party. Is this the same for, what do we need to do to improve the culture of Australian politics? And is there a bullying culture?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, bullying shouldn't be tolerated in any workplace and I do think that politics has become so destructive, and I think the politics of destruction does lead to a bullying culture. But the particular issues, but Labor has processes to deal with complaints.
What we're seeing now, and what shone a spotlight, a torchlight, on bullying in politics is Liberal women politicians complaining about the treatment they have received within the Liberal Party from their colleagues. I do think the Liberal Party has a women problem. I do think, because they don't have a lot of women in their ranks, now you have three different Liberal women politicians, Senator Gichuhi, the Member for Chisholm, Julie Banks, and now a Cabinet Minister, saying in the recent division and civil war that women were subjected to bullying in that most ugly and unedifying spectacle.
The Prime Minister can't simply say that's a matter for someone else. It's time for leadership. I might ask Catherine King to contribute, she's been around political life and she's a successful woman politician. I would like to get her perspective.
KING: Thanks, Bill. I think it matters, the amount of women who are in your party. I mean, we are very, very lucky that under the rules of the Labor Party, we are now nearly at 50 per cent of our party is women. A large number of our Shadow Cabinet and our seniors are women. There are lots of processes and avenues for people to go if there are issues that are raised. And I think that's one of the problems the Liberal Party has - it doesn't support women, it doesn't have enough women in its own ranks, and it also doesn't have enough women on their own frontbench. They've increased that slightly recently. But I think they genuinely do have a real problem with the way in which they treat women in their party. Our blokes, in our party, are incredibly respectful and deal with us well. We are equal within the party, and I don't think that the women on the Liberal side can actually say that that's the same for them.
JOURNALIST: So, there haven't been any instances of sexism and bullying within the Labor Party?
KING: If there are, they are dealt with really, really quickly. It is something that is frowned upon, absolutely and utterly, and there are people to go to. People to go to and talk those issues through and it is dealt with really clearly.
I've had women in the Liberal Party come to me, and they will tell you some of the treatment that they've had at the hands of their men, and it's quite shocking, frankly. Saying some of the things that they've said have happened to them, I think they've got a real problem with the way in which they treat women within that party. They've got a real problem with the numbers of women they actually have within their federal party as well.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, will Labor join with the Greens in putting a no confidence motion forward against Peter Dutton?
SHORTEN: Yes, we will. I think this au pair scandal has dragged on and we haven't heard all the answers. And let's get to the heart of the matter, ministers can, under the immigration laws, can exercise discretion. But when you get a discretion exercised within six hours because someone powerful contacts you from the AFL, I'm not sure that that fast track approach exists for all Australians. It's the inconsistency which I think has got people cheesed off.
I also have to say that you've got Afghan interpreters who served alongside Australian troops in Afghanistan. Australian military personnel said, in some cases, they're the difference between life and death, and are helping our troops to be able to carry out their missions and return home safely. How is it that Australian military personnel seeking visas and support for Afghan interpreters, who helped keep our ADF personnel alive, have got to go through months and months and can't get instant action from the Minister but in this current Liberal Government, if you get an email from someone powerful in the AFL, then all of a sudden it's red carpet service?
The other thing I've got to say is in Central Queensland, the Biloela community and beyond have been advocating for a Sri Lankan family to have their matter reviewed and looked at. 100,000-plus Australians have signed this petition. But that doesn't seem to have moved Minister Dutton. But if you're someone powerful, then you can get service which is very speedy.
I mean. the real concern, I think, driving all of this - and I've used those two examples, which seem quite meritorious and deserving of attention - as opposed to a perfectly nice but a French tourist, nice person, no doubt, is why is it that under Morrison and Dutton and the Liberals, it's who you know, not what you know? And I don't think that's the Australian way.
Sorry, and then I'll come to you. I'll make sure the Bully gets its go.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, on the same topic: are you concerned that Dutton says he has got a list of Labor's requests for clemency?
SHORTEN: Listen, some people under pressure get pretty ugly. I recognise that he's feeling pretty defensive about his own conduct.
Again, it's a bit like Morrison when he's under pressure for school cuts and hospital cuts and failed corporate tax cuts to the big end of town, wants to attack a union. Mr Dutton, under pressure over this matter, wants to attack Labor. I think that's what people hate about politics, what we're seeing is that the LNP, when they're under pressure, don't deal with the actual issues of substance, but instead they just want to attack the other side. We've got to get beyond that.
I would welcome nothing more than the LNP backing in our beef roads announcement for Western Queensland – half a billion dollars. I would welcome nothing more than the LNP backing Russell Robertson's proposal to see the Rockhampton Hospital get a cardiac treatment facilities.
I just say to Mr Morrison, no one voted for you, no one voted for your cuts but you have a chance to change politics by working with Labor, not always seeing the political in every policy issue. That's what I'd like to see happen.
JOURNALIST: Mr Morrison [sic], given the current energy policy, what do you plan to do to reduce emissions and power prices? And would be open to a royal commission into the energy sector?
SHORTEN: Well, what we need to do is provide policy certainty to encourage investment from the private sector into new energy generation. It's the lack of policy certainty which is driving prices up. Why would an investor invest in the Australian energy system to any great extent when they're not sure what the rules are? It's as basic as that.
In addition, if Labor gets elected, we're going to end the Government's war on renewable energy. We're going to have coal as part of our energy mix going forward, we're going to have gas as part of our energy mix, but I want to see more renewable energy encouraged. It is going to become the cheapest form of power, over a million Australians households already have solar roof panels on their roofs. Battery technology is very exciting, it means you have the ability to store that renewable energy when it's produced and it gives consumers power over their prices. So what we want to see is more renewables, more jobs, it will lead to lower power prices - that's the way forward. And yesterday we made an exciting announcement about ensuring that, when we produce gas in Australia, it's available for Australian industry and jobs and manufacturing, rather than just shipping it all offshore in export contracts.
In terms of a Royal Commission, I think the energy companies need to explain why there shouldn't be one. They've kept very silent. But if there was to be that sort of inquiry, it is important that privatisation and the impact of privatisation has had on power prices be examined. The LNP have had a fascination with the privatisation of energy and electricity operations for a very long time. The problem is that ever since we've had more privatisation of our energy system, prices have gone up and up. The benefits that Mr Morrison and others promised, in privatisation, haven't been delivered. So, privatisation and the impact on prices has got to be part of the terms of reference of a Royal Commission.
JOURNALIST: Pacific Island nations are demanding a ramp up in carbon reduction targets. Are you concerned that if Australia doesn't meet that, that those countries will turn to other countries like China for support?
SHORTEN: Australia can't afford to take our Pacific neighbours for granted. I've travelled to some of those islands, and some of those island nations, they've got special problems which we don't have on a continent the size of Australia. I think it is important that Australia is a good neighbour and we take their concerns seriously.
But we will get through that problem in our relationship in the Pacific with a Labor Government, because we'll make sure that we do more to encourage renewable energy in our system, which will lead to lower prices and help reduce carbon pollution.
Two more questions.
JOURNALIST: There's a leak today that Malcolm Turnbull was going to give Catholic schools more than $4 billion. Do you think this is payback for Scott Morrison?
SHORTEN: Listen, there's no doubt in my mind that Mr Morrison's honeymoon has been very short - shorter than a Las Vegas wedding. The reality is that when it comes to the disunity, it hasn't stopped. What we're seeing is the Government leaking on itself, taking announcements away, taking wind out of Mr Morrison's sails.
Let's go to the bigger issue than just the chaos and division: Scott Morrison voted to cut $17 billion from schools, Scott Morrison voted to cut funding to Catholic schools, Scott Morrison has voted to cut funding to government schools. When Labor said that there has been a cut, Mr Morrison and others tried to shout us down and attack us, as is their style.
The reality is there has been a $17 billion cut to schools. But what Mr Morrison shouldn't do is just look at Catholic schools and not worry about public education. Labor's got a policy to restore funding to low-fee Catholic schools. We've also got a policy to make sure that our state schools are great schools. We want to make sure that public education gets looked after. If the Government simply looks after one sector in education and ignores the parents and kids in public education, well, I think that would be a disgrace.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Queensland Labor passed a motion at State Conference to ban all live exports. Is that where we would be headed under a government you lead?
SHORTEN: No. We do distinguish between the sheep export trade and the cattle export trade, so no, it wouldn't be.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the Prime Minister has agreed to fund the $75 million federal share of money for the Port of Townsville channel widening. Do you congratulate him for that?
SHORTEN: Sure. We did announce this some time ago. If we get in, we would fund it. I am glad that the Government has adopted the same policy as Labor. That is good and I wish Mr Morrison would adopt some of our other policies.
Let's keep our fingers crossed that they adopt our approach on the ring road around Rocky. Let's hope they adopt our policy on Rookwood Weir and the funding of $176 million. Let's hope they take our policy in terms of the duplication - the first stage of the duplication between Yeppoon and Rocky. Let's hope they take our policies for $11.1 million for Rockhampton Hospital and another $380,000 in works for Gladstone Hospital which Zac has been keen the get up.
We don't mind if the Government takes our ideas. That's the way that politics should be, a contest of ideas. And I just want to promise Queenslanders, we have got to plan for Queensland and I am taking it to every part of Queensland. I understand that Queensland is more than South East Queensland and Brisbane and that's why I have been pleased to spend so much time, and I will continue to spend a lot of time in Central Queensland and North Queensland and Western Queensland because I think that when all parts of Queensland are going well, then all parts of Australia are going well.
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