SATURDAY, 28 MAY 2016
SUBJECTS: Sunbury Child Health Hub; Labor’s plan to protect Medicare; Indigenous Affairs; Constitutional Recognition; Schoolkids Bonus; Australian Flag; Safe Schools
ROB MITCHELL, MEMBER FOR MCEWEN: Good morning, everyone and welcome to McEwen, and particularly, welcome to Sunbury. Sunbury is one of the fastest growing regions in Victoria, one of the fastest growing towns and healthcare is something that is front and centre. When Labor talks about putting people first, we are talking about putting healthcare front and centre in this election campaign. It is something so important for our community and with people like Paul and Phil and the team here today, it just shows how good Allied Healthcare is in this region, and how important it is that we have the healthcare to grow with our communities. I would especially like to welcome Bill here today. Thanks for coming out, I will hand over to you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Rob. Good morning everybody, it's great to be here out at Sunbury and with the hard-working Rob Mitchell. Today is a really great announcement, not just for Sunbury, but it shows Labor's commitment to the outer suburbs of the big cities of Australia. Sunbury is a fast-growing region. Many of the people who work here are dual income and they make the commute daily into Melbourne. But what they want to make sure of is they have good healthcare services. That is why I am pleased that Labor, if elected on July 2nd, will provide $2 million to set up a children's health hub here at the Community Health Centre. What this health hub will do is that it will mean that parents will be able to come to one place to get the allied health services that children need in the early years to assist in their development and nurturing. It will pr ovide extra speech pathology, audiology, child psychology, physiotherapy. These are all of the services, which whilst relatively inexpensive are what make the difference in terms of the best development and the best start in life for our future generation of Australians. In fact again, this announcement, as all our announcements this week have reflected, show that Labor is committed to protecting Medicare, defending bulk-bulking, to prioritising the health of all Australians. It is a bit of a compliment that the Liberal candidate, Chris Jermyn, turned up here today, obviously keen to meet one party leader in the Election. But I understand that he was questioned about what is the Liberal healthcare policy. To be fair to this poor fellow, he said he didn't know. Well, I do know what the Liberal health care policy is so I am happy to explain the contrast; The Liberal healthcare policy if Mr Turnbull is re-elected will mean that 14.5 million Australians pay more to go to see the doctor. That is the consequence of the Liberal health policy if Mr Turnbull is returned on July the 2nd. I said at the start of this 8-week election campaign that this election is all about choices. Labor has chosen to provide $49 billion across the next 10 years in better funding for schools and Medicare and healthcare. Mr Turnbull has chosen to provide $50 billion of taxpayer money in a tax giveaway to big business. We choose health, Mr Turnbull has chosen big business.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, given your speech last night; If you're elected Prime Minister, would Labor commit to a Federal financial compensation scheme to members of the stolen children generation?
SHORTEN: What I said last night was that Australia, even though after 25 years of reconciliation, still has a long way to go before Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are truly equal. The fact of the matter is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have a life expectancy of 10 years less than other Australians. The shameful fact of the matter is that there is still systemic racism prevent in pockets of Australian life. The shameful fact is that young Aboriginal men in this country at the age of 18 are more likely to go to jail than to go to university. I didn't outline any spending announcements last night. But I also know this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy might not win Labor the election, but we could change the nation forever and for the better. That's the point of reconciliation; justice and equity for all Australians. Lauren.
JOURNALIST: If there was no added funding announcement last night, how will Labor try and end this systemic racism?
SHORTEN: Well, we have put forward a series of announcements, even in the last two days. What we want to do is provide opportunity to empower Aboriginal communities to take control of their own future. It was fantastic for me, a real privilege for me, on National Sorry Day on Thursday to talk to survivors of the Stole Generation. It was a real privilege for me to see successful Aboriginal health services really making a difference to lives and health outcomes of young Aboriginal men and women. It was a real privilege for me to go on country to meet traditional owners on their country and see the very successful Aboriginal ranger program in action. The Aboriginal rangers, 775 full-time equivalent positions, are actually preserving the national estate for all Australians. They are doing it on country and they are also doing it on our coastlines. And again, last night, I had the great opport unity to listen to Tom Calma, the head of Reconciliation Australia and Senator Pat Dodson, Labor's Senator from Western Australia, to talk about the need for us to move on not just with constitutional recognition, but a truly equal partnership between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in this country.
Sorry, I am just going to give everyone one question and came back the other way.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, last night you said that 'without a future framework agreed on with Aboriginal people, arguments about 1788 will plague us'. Australia is the only Commonwealth country without a treaty with it's first people. Are you opening the door to a treaty similar to that of New Zealand and Canada?
SHORTEN: What I said last night was that since 1788, there have been arguments going on between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people. The truth of the matter is that whilst we dispensed with the discredited theory that when Captain Cook came here and the first convicts landed here, that this was an empty land, or Terra Nullis - whilst we have dispensed with that out-motived theory which said there was no one here before the first European settlement, we've been having ongoing arguments since then about the place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country. What I said last night isn't something that which is going to change the big issues of this election. But it is important that as I am offering myself for the highest position in this land, we talk about the hard issues as well as the big issues. And there has been no harder issue than the equal treatment between non-Aboriginal people and Aboriginal people in this country. We've seen the extinguishment of native title. We saw a generation of children taken from their families. We still see the unfair incarceration rates; it is more likely that if you are a black man in Australia, that you could end up in jail than if you're not black. These are real issues and they're not issues that should be swept under the carpet. It's not the only issue in the election, I understand that. But it is important, as we talk about constitutional recognition and the bipartisan support that we've had so far from that from both Liberal and Labor, that we recognise that's not the only issue to advance the relations between Aboriginal Australians and non-Aboriginal Australians. And what we need to do is look at a post-constitutional recognition settlement which incorporates practical reconciliation and symbolic reconciliation.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you talked about the systemic racism. That might be a confronting thing for Australians to hear about their country. Can you give some evidence of that systemic racism?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, before you just quote that part of my speech, there was another 800 words in it and what I want to say is that I made it clear that most Australians are not racist and many Australians stand up everyday for their fellow Australians. But I think if you just want to look at the history of sport in this country as an example. People forget that Pastor Doug Nicholls, who went on to become Governor of South Australia; when he was first playing footy for the Carlton Football Club - Robbie barracks for Carlton - there was a white trainer there who refused to rub him down after the game because of his skin colour. Doug Nicholls then went on to play for Fitzroy. And when Doug went into that change room after a match or a training session, he sat on one side of the changing rooms because he didn't cause an issue or be embarrassed. Hay den Button, great Australian footballer, great Fitzroy champion, great Australian athlete, when he came in, and he was the leader of team at Fitzroy, he came in and sat down next to Doug Nicholls. That sent a message to that playing group that Doug Nicholls was a member of the team first, an Aboriginal Australian second. But we've seen Michael Long have to confront these issues. We've seen Nicky Winmar have to confront these issues. We've seen Adam Goodes, great Australian have to confront the unthinking-sort of racism we see. Now the point about those stories about football is that everytime racism occurs, there is a story of triumph beyond it. I am looking forward to doing the Long walk today with Michael Long. I was with him when he did his first walk to Canberra to help support his walk up there. This is a matter of some importance. Sport has been one of the ways we break down racism in our society but even at the top of the pinnical of achievement, we still see Aboriginal athletes having to encounter in their careers, racism. That's what I meant. Tim.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, if you ever did have the underdog status, you don't now according to major opinion polls. Can I ask you first, do you accept that you no longer are the underdog and second, do you get a sense of a mood drifting Labor's way in the last few weeks or not?
SHORTEN: Well I think that objectively that we have been the underdogs and when you look at the number of seats that Labor is required to win in this election – 21 – the sort of swing required to do that has been achieved very rarely in Australian history so that’s why I understand we’re the underdogs. But what I also learned in the first three weeks of this campaign as I move around this fantastic country of ours is people are looking at our positive policies. There’s no doubt that there’s great disappointment in Mr. Turnbull since he took over, remember he rolled Tony Abbot on the basis of new economic leadership and we’ve just seen three economic plans from him. A 15% GST, letting State’s levy income taxes and now we’ve got this useless and hopeless plan to give away $50 billion of taxpayer mone y to big business – a ram raid on the Australian economy and a ram raid on the Australian budget, and what that effectively means what they’re promising is a 1% increase in GDP over the next 10 years. Is that really the best of the Malcolm Turnbull experiment? Is that how ambitious he really is for Australia? Give away $50 billion in tax giveaways to big business in return for a 0.1% increase on average to GDP each year. The people are having a good look at that and are saying is Malcolm Turnbull seriously choosing to spend our money on big business over the next 10 years? By contrast, I believe the fact that Labor will choose to have a well-funded school and education system, that we will make sure that 14 ½ million patients don’t have to pay more to see the doctor after July 2. Australian’s are havin g a good look at our commitment to jobs, education and Medicare. There’s a long way to go yet but we will, every day, go positive, we will go for the big picture for Australia, we will put families and people first in our policies, so I’m looking forward to the next five weeks.
JOURNALIST: Just returning to an issue from yesterday, can you make it clear, at what point on which day was the decision made to scrap the Schookids Bonus?
SHORTEN: I think that the last straw to scrap the Schoolkids Bonus – a very difficult decision – was with the release of PEFO. Now, we’ve looked, and we’ve been planning our positive policies for a year and a half generally. And we’ve been crunching numbers and looking at our options to make sure we can fund all of our promises. But I think in the last six weeks there have been sledgehammer blows to the credibility of the Turnbull Government. We see the rating agencies say that our triple-A credit rating is under threat. That’s a serious, serious problem for Australia. Then we saw the budget and we finally have revealed that the Liberals have tripled the deficit. Tripled the deficit. And then the last straw of course is PEFO which shows the true state of the budget, the most independent numbers, so in the days after PEFO, we had the discussions and on Thursday we make a decision – as hard as it is – that we will prioritise Medicare and schools and defending family payments with people of low incomes and we’ve made the hard decision not to restore the schoolkids bonus.
JOURNALIST: It was on Thursday that you made the decision.
SHORTEN: I’m saying it was made for us by PEFO and the Government’s maladministration of the finances and I gave the rest of my answer to Jason.
JOURNALIST: Now that you have seen those PEFO numbers, can you promise voters that there won’t be any further broken promises or backflips over your old policies?
SHORTEN: Well I don’t accept the characterisation about broken promises or backflips at all. What I can promise the Australian voter is that if you vote Labor on July 2, we have well-funded policies but we’ve made choices, we’ve made different choices to Mr. Turnbull. Mr Turnbull has chosen to give tax cuts to the highest income earners in Australia worth $17 billion over the next 10 years. Mr Turnbull has chosen to provide $50 billion in a giveaway to big business.
By contrast Labor has chosen to defend bulk billing, to defend Medicare, to keep downward pressure on the price of medicine, to properly fund our schools. I choose the families in Sunbury that they should get allied health professionals, the speech pathologist, the physiotherapist. Mr Turnbull has chosen the largest multinationals in the world operating in Australia and give them $50 billion. This election is all about choices and we'll keep choosing families, small business and everyday people, and Mr Turnbull will keep choosing the big end of town, every time, on a discredited economic theory. Which as I said earlier in an answer to the question, $50 billion in giveaways to big business, for what, 0.1% GDP growth every year? What a useless, shocking decision that is
JOURNALIST: Just coming back – I’m just look looking for an answer to whether you support a financial compensation scheme for members of the stolen generation?
SHORTEN: Too early to tell.
JOURNALIST: Too early to tell?
SHORTEN: When I say that, I’m saying that my speech was about identifying the problems. We are not contemplating a financial scheme of the manner of which you were just outlining then.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, the decision to not restore the schoolkids bonus was on Thursday, did it have anything to do with the interview with David Feeney he had done the night before?
SHORTEN: We made our decision on Thursday and it was the last straw was PEFO.
JOURNALIST: It wasn’t David Feeney?
SHORTEN: No, the law straw was PEFO. In an ideal world, we would be in a position to restore the schoolkids bonus. These are hard decisions. Decisions that count. Now, when you look at what this government has done, remember, Mr Turnbull promised Australia new economic leadership. And for six months, they took us on the sort of dance of the 7 veils, would they, wouldn't they have a 15% GST. Now they want to have 15% GST. And if the Liberals are re-elected on July 2, watch the 15% GDP climb right back out for all Australians, then Mr Turnbull said at Penrith, famously 2 days before the COAG meeting with the First Ministers of every state, he said that he wanted to allow states to introduce a state income tax on Australians. Double taxation. That was his economic plan too - After his 15% GST hike, plan 1. And now we have economic plan 3 of the budget, and at the same time he wants to give $50 billion away to big businesses, part of that would be $7.4 billion to the four big banks. Does anyone seriously think that giving 7.4 billion dollars in extra profits to the banks helps to grow the Australian economy? Of course it doesn't. So we've been looking at the threat to the AAA credit rating, we’re looking at the tripling of the deficit and we’ve looked at PEFO. And what Labor is prepared to do, is make hard decisions. In a perfect world we would love to restore the schoolkids bonus, due to expire under the Liberal government, but we simply can't at this point, we simply can’t. Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: Were you always planning on making that decision on Thursday, or did Mr Feeney's interview accelerate your plans?
SHORTEN: You guys may well be interested in the process. I'm interested in the decision. And what we’ve done is, all of our decisions, and I might just say going back to when we unveiled our first positive policies last year, Labor has been preparing for this election, and our strategy to be competitive at this election is to offer positive policies to the Australian people. That’s why we’re offering well-funded and clearly funded policies to defend Medicare, to protect the price of medicine, to make sure that the Sunbury community health centre can get extra allied health professionals so the people of the outer suburbs of this part of Melborune can make sure that their kids grow up with the equal services to any other part of Australia.
JOURNALIST: You said you didn't agree with the characterisation of these that it's not a broken promise, but how is it not a broken promise when you've been campaigning on it for 2 years?
SHORTEN: Glad you asked that question. Let's be clear, we don't have to like everything the government does. And when we speak against things the Government does, that is contingent on the financial wreckage that this government leaves us at the time of the election. I don't like a lot of decisions that this government has made but with the financial mess that Turnbull and Co are making of the Australian budget and the budget position, we have to make priority decisions. Now, we've chosen responsibly to defend Medicare. We think the best thing we can do, the single best thing we can do, is make sure that we defend bulk billing, make sure that 14.5 million patients don't have to pay more to go to see the doctor. I think the best thing a Labor government can do, is make sure that everyone's children, no matter the wealth of the p arents, the suburb they live in, the financial circumstances which the kids find themselves growing up in. We want to make sure that every child gets every opportunity to be the best they can be in well-resourced schools. It’s all about choices.
JOURNALIST: But fundamentally, it’s still a broken promise is it not Mr Shorten?
SHORTEN: Not at all, because what we're doing, is making sure that families will be better off. There's still more government cuts in terms of family payments which we absolutely vehemently oppose. But it's about priorities. The choices here though are between Medicare, schools, the cost of medicine on one hand - Labor's priorities, or Mr Turnbull giving $50 billion away in a ram raid on the Australian budget, to provide a giveaway to big business over the next 10 years to deliver the mediocre and miniscule total of 1% GDP growth across the next 10 years. Is that the best that Malcolm Turnbull can do? Give $50 billion away out of the budget, to deliver just a 1% increase – at best - over the next 10 years, and indeed, as some commentators are saying it will take even longer. What a hopeless economic plan. Final question.
JOURNALIST: It you think the Australian flag is racist? This is the claim made by the safe schools coalition coordinator Ross Ward. She’s made that claim, and what do you think of it, and are you concerned does this pass reflection on the safe school’s program. Does it amplify any concerns about it?
SHORTEN: No, I don't think the Australian, I love the Australian flag. Can we just, so that, in fact that anyone doesn’t take it in any other way. I love the Australian flag. I'm very proud of it. In terms of Safe Schools coalition, I don't buy that sort of tenuous lunar right logic, that says because one person has criticised the flag, that somehow we shouldn't have anti-bullying programs in our schools? I’m not going to conflate the two issues, but let's be very clear, I love our Australian flag. Everyone have a great day and I'll see you at the Long Walk.