FRIDAY, 20 MAY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Turnbull slugs average families $400 a year under GP tax; AFP raids
ED HUSIC, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE SHADOW TREASURER: Welcome everyone to Mount Druitt. This is an important stop from my perspective as the Member for Chifley, and here's why: in this area, within Chifley, 99 per cent of doctors bulk bill. 99 per cent of doctors bulk bill. If you freeze the Medicare rebate in the way that Malcolm Turnbull is doing right now, practices like the one we were in earlier have two choices: they either absorb the cost and make it harder for them to remain in the area and provide service to the constituents I represent, or they pass the cost on. And if they pass the cost on, it costs up to $14.40 extra for people to visit the GP. You heard this morning that in some cases people will not go to their GP for help. And in this day and age it is simply unacceptable in Australia that people will forego going to a doctor because it cost too much. And for me as the representative in Western Sydney, there is no way in the world I can tolerate that type of situation being forced on the people I'm proud to represent.
So Bill Shorten’s decision yesterday to unfreeze the Medicare rebate is a huge decision that benefits families right here in Western Sydney and those families that Emma Husar, our Labor candidate for Lindsay is seeking to represent as well. And we're very delighted to have both Bill and Catherine King here to talk about something that will make a huge difference to lives of people right here in Western Sydney and in other parts of the country. Thank you Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Ed, and it’s great to be in your electorate at Mount Druitt. And it's great to be here with Emma Husar, our hardworking candidate for Lindsay. Today we're here to again talk about the importance of defending bulk billing in the Australian Medicare system. Labor yesterday announced a fantastic plan which will help bring relief to our GPs who are the frontline of our medical system. They are the people who uphold Medicare. If we can protect bulk billing, if we can save bulk billing then we save Medicare. This election is a referendum on the future of Medicare. The choice couldn't be clearer. You can vote Labor and make sure that we don't see bulk billing collapse in this country, or you can vote Liberal with a collapse in bulk billing. I said yesterday, and I say again today, this is a battle for the future of bulk billing. This election is a battle for the future of Medicare. It's a battle where the lines are drawn very clearly.
Research today shows that if you're a parent, if you're parents with two children of school age, if we don't take the steps that Labor's doing, if we don't save bulk billing, working parents, two kids, it's going to cost them an extra $400 just to go and see the doctor. If you're couple pensioners with chronic disease, it will cost you $440 extra. This is the basics of going to see the doctor. What it means is that some people in Australia will put off going to see the doctor because they don't have enough money. That's a dreadful outcome and it also means, as Dr Lyn told us next door, the Government currently pays $37 to go and see the doctor. If patients get defeated by a $20 extra fee, having to be levied on patients, it will then cost the taxpayer $1,000 in an emergency ward hospital per day.
Labor's committed to sensible change, sensible improvements to Medicare, defending bulk billing and the other good thing is that we can pay for our promises. All Mr Turnbull wants to do is give a cut to big business of $50 billion. I'd now like to ask my Shadow Health spokesperson, Catherine King, to talk further about our sensible plans to save bulk billing.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks very much for that, Bill, and it's terrific to be here with Ed and Emma in Mount Druitt. This is a general practice I've visited before. It's one of the great examples of general practice in a community that has high rates of diabetes, high rates of cardiovascular disease and really benefits from having such a fantastic general practitioner such as Dr Lyn who is the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners 2015 Doctor of the Year, and you can see why when you go into this practice.
We already know today that there is one in 20 Australians who do not go to see a general practitioner or delay going to see their GP because of cost. That is not a circumstance, that is good health policy. We want people to go to see their GPs when they need to for prevention, to make sure we're managing chronic disease. The outcomes we are seeing from this practice when it comes to diabetes, because of the work of the doctors, the other allied health professionals and nurses that are working here, are the core of Medicare. The Medicare rebate freeze, which Labor has committed to lifting as of 1 January, will make an enormous contribution to ensuring that these practices can continue to bulk bill and that GP access is affordable for all Australians.
That is the core of Medicare and why I am so proud that Labor is committed to Medicare, committed to general practice and primary care, and making sure that patients across Mount Druitt can continue to access important general practice services.
SHORTEN: Before we ask questions about Medicare, I just want to make a brief statement about matters overnight involving the Australian Federal Police and the Turnbull Government. It is an extraordinary and unprecedented event that the Turnbull Government has called in the Australian Federal Police to investigate the leaking of documents which embarrassed and exposed the Turnbull Government. We know that these revelations have shown massive NBN cost blowouts and unacceptable delays for millions of Australians.
This is about the right for the public to know the truth. Mr Turnbull is going to extraordinarily long lengths to stop Australians from finding out the truth about the cost blowouts in NBN. He is going after whistle blowers and he's smearing his political opponents. The public has the right to know the truth and whistle blowers deserve protection. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, I understand you spoke to Commissioner Colvin at about five o'clock yesterday. In that conversation did you convey any concerns about the timing of these raids given the election campaign and would you have appreciated prior – some prior warning from the AFP about them?
SHORTEN: First of all, the Commissioner tried to ring me at 4:02. I missed his call. I saw I had a missed call from him. I rang him at five o’clock, or five minutes to five, thereabouts. We spoke for one minute. He indicated the fact that the AFP were going to visit the Senator's office and that was the extent of the conversation. And I will not ever interfere with a police investigation and if I had asked the sort of the matters you were even going to, I think that it wouldn't have been appropriate for me to do.
And I will also make clear, Mr Turnbull has said that somehow Labor's questioning the integrity of the AFP, I'm questioning Malcolm Turnbull's integrity. We know what this is all about. This is about the right of the public to know and the media to publish. I believe that we need to get to the truth of what's really happening in the NBN. I understand Mr Turnbull's embarrassment that he doesn't want the truth out, but I believe in an Australia where the media can publish, where journalists can do their investigations without fear or favour. That's what we're fighting for here.
JOURNALIST: Are you saying the Government has leant on the AFP to orchestrate these raids to throw your campaign off the rails?
SHORTEN: I'm saying that this is the Turnbull Government embarrassed about the last three years of NBN. And who was the for most key minister in charge of the NBN for most of the last three years? None other than Malcolm Turnbull. This is about an arm of the Government, the NBN, seeking an investigation to shut down the truth. Why is it that this Government doesn't want Australians to know information about the cost blowouts of the NBN? Why is it this Government does not want Australians to know that under Malcolm Turnbull's leadership Australia has slipped from 30th position in the world to 60th? Why is it that Malcolm Turnbull is so determined to stop Australians finding out the truth or the media being able to publish the truth?
JOURNALIST: What about the level of the imputation you're making here drawing the Government into this police action?
SHORTEN: Well, let's be clear. The police have said that the NBN have asked them to launch this investigation last December. And let's talk about the NBN. I don't think Australians are going to fall for the idea that the NBN lives on a different planet to Malcolm Turnbull. He was their Minister. When he thought there was good news from the NBN Malcolm Turnbull would have the happy snaps and the photos and the selfies and all the rest of the razzmatazz with the NBN. The NBN has two shareholder minister directors. Sitting on their Board, the Board is appointed by the Government. It is funded by the Government. Let's be really clear about this. This is the Turnbull Government embarrassed by the lack of performance by NBN, launching an investigation designed to go after the whistle blowers. If the Government's got nothing to hide, if the NBN is the success story that they say it is, why on earth are they going to such lengths to discourage the publication of the truth?
JOURNALIST: Are you saying that Government agencies are politically compromised by virtue of being Government agencies, having Boards appointed by the Government?
SHORTEN: I am saying that Mr Turnbull is politically compromised by the poor performance of the NBN. Hang on, Jason, you asked a serious question, I’m going to do you the courtesy of giving you a serious answer. You asked about compromise. I tell you who is compromised in this country – it’s Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm Turnbull has been in charge of the largest infrastructure project in Australia's history and it's a disaster. In 2013 he promised before the election it would cost $29 billion. It's now $56 billion. I think Australians have a right to know this. He promised a rollout of such ambition and scope and it's never materialised. Let's put aside anything to do with the police at this point and ask this simple question - is Australia a better country or a worse country because these documents have been published? Is Australia a better country or a worse country because we have seen the extent of the incompetence and the ineptitude and the addiction to secrecy of the Turnbull Government? We all know the answer to this question. This country and its people always do better when they're told the truth.
JOURNALIST: Is Mark Dreyfus fit to be an Attorney-General given he is implying these raids have undermined the confidence in the AFP?
SHORTEN: Don't you love the Liberal Party? Whenever they're under pressure they want to chuck of mud at the Labor Party. The truth of the matter is the NBN was promised to be $29 billion and it's now $56 billion. The truth of the matter is the numbers are very ugly. The truth of the matter is the that Government - and the NBN is part of the government - this Government can't distance itself from the NBN when it suits it. This Government has overseen some of the worst developments in NBN that we have seen.
JOURNALIST: Is Mark Dreyfus fit to be an Attorney-General given he is implying these raids have undermined the confidence in the AFP?
SHORTEN: Don't you love the Liberal Party? Whenever they're under pressure they want to chuck of mud at the Labor Party. The truth of the matter is the NBN was promised to be $29 billion and it's now $56 billion. The truth of the matter is the numbers are very ugly. The truth of the matter is the government - and the NBN is part of the government - this government can't distance itself from the NBN when it suits it. This government has overseen some of the worst developments in NBN that we have seen.
JOURNALIST: The AFP has said the government has had no bearing on their decision today. Are you saying you don't believe the AFP and Mark Dreyfus said the AFP should have thought more and been more cautious about perceptions - Mark Dreyfus says the AFP should have thought more and been more cautious about carrying out a search during an election campaign, isn’t that the Labor Party trying to influence the AFP?
SHORTEN: I have made it very clear that this AFP investigation was initiated at the behest of the NBN Co. The NBN Co is the flagship of Malcolm Turnbull's time in government. This government cannot distance itself from the actions of the NBN Co. We know it's an unmitigated disaster. I think the public have the right to know the truth, don't they? You, the media, have the right to publish the truth. I think whistle-blowers should have the capacity to do their work and make sure the people of Australia find out what they want. Don't take my word about the importance of whistle-blowers. I found a quote from none other than our Malcolm Turnbull, but of course this is before he was PM so we know that he is prone to changing his mind now he is in power. But he said on 4 August 2009, "So whistle-blowers and leaks are part of the Canberra culture. And many would say they are very important - they're a very important part. Without whistle-blowers being prepared to reveal what they see as wrong doings on the part of governments, then a lot of wrong doing would go unrevealed."
JOURNALIST: Are you alleging the government has directly requested or asked NBN Co. to actually instigate this investigation? If that is what you are alleging do you have a shred of evidence to back it up?
SHORTEN: First of all I don't accept the assumption of your question that there is the government and then there’s NBN Co. You are making out that they're two complete strangers that wouldn't know each other if they pass each other on the road. The truth of the matter is that NBN Co. is a creature of government. And it is in conceivable that NBN Co. would launch a police investigation and not make it clear to the owner of the company what is happening.
JOURNALIST: You're not backing up Mr Dreyfus here, aren’t you admitting he's gone too far and got it wrong?
SHORTEN: No not at all. And I want to make it clear that when I talked about two shareholder Ministers, there are two shareholder Ministers and the government appoints people on the board. It's inconceivable that Malcolm Turnbull, who was the government Minister for the NBN Co... It is inconceivable that when you have one of the largest government business enterprises in Australia and that is without doubt, that they would launch police investigations. These are relevant matters which you tell boards of directors. It is in conceivable that this government business enterprise is acting like a sort of a rogue gunman unbeknownst to government what they're doing. I don't buy that at all. Let's also be really straight up about what's happening here. There have been national security Cabinet leaks, the government doesn't seem to have pursued them with the same sort of vigour. I don't know what they've done there. But we are clear that when there are documents and these documents don't go to national security. They go to the performance of a company and these documents, many of them I understand, when Labor was in government, Labor just put online. But this government is so arrogant, so egotistical that you are not allowed to publish any bad news even if it affects billions of dollars of money and millions of Australians not getting the NBN Co. that they deserve. There is also that issue. Malcolm Turnbull used to believe that whistle-blowers were part of the culture and served an important role. What does he say now...
JOURNALIST: Will Labor introduce public interest protection for whistle-blowers who leak to media in this way?
SHORTEN: I think that is something we now have to consider.
JOURNALIST: Have you or any member of your staff ever leaked any confidential documents to the media?
SHORTEN: I don't think this is relevant to this at all. Certainly there is none that I can recall. But I don't think that's relevant to this issue. The issue here is pretty straight forward. I know there's a desire to ask questions, but let me have a crack at some answers first. It is really fundamental here what is at stake. The public have a right to know if billions of dollars are being wasted. Why is the government working so hard to deny the truth to Australians? Why is the government working so hard to chase down whistle-blowers when the facts of themselves speak of their importance and they should be in the public domain?
JOURNALIST: Do you support Mark Dreyfus's suggestions that the AFP has become politicized? I don't think you have made that clear?
SHORTEN: I have said very clearly and I am happy to say again, the integrity of the AFP is not the issue here at all. The AFP has a job to do. But let us not fall for the idea that somehow the NBN Co. operates in this marvellous universe independent of the government. If the NBN Co. had a story or a fact which the government thought would serve its political interests, you would have a conga line of government Ministers queuing up for the selfie. The government cannot pretend that it would not know about significant matters investigating, calling in the police. What business in Australia when it calls in the police for what it would be perceived as a major matter wouldn't notify its board?
JOURNALIST: You've told us what Commissioner Colvin said to you in that one-minute conversation but we don't know what you said to him.
SHORTEN: I said thank you for letting me know.
JOURNALIST: You didn't say it's not a good idea? You didn't question the timing?
SHORTEN: Let's be clear, Mark. I don't want any imputation that I would interfere in a police investigation. I know that is not what you are going to. But let me be very clear: Commissioner Colvin rang me, I rang him back. We had a discussion which I noticed on my phone lasted a total of 60 second, put in the traditional how are you, thank you. He informed me of this. I said thank you for informing me, that's it. What I also know here is that the AFP is only following something which the NBN Co. has commissioned and you've got to ask yourselves why is it a state secret that PM Turnbull and his various government agencies would go to such lengths to keep away from people? This information, much of it is already online now, it deserves to be out there, doesn't it? Why is it a secret that the costs of the program have blown out to $56 billion? Why is that such a dreadful secret except a political government who are embarrassed by their own ineptitude? This is Malcolm Turnbull working very hard to protect his tattered reputation. The only job he's done in government other than be PM is being Communications Minister and that has turned out to be a complete train wreck and this is what this is all about, keeping the truth from the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: You've said that Malcolm Turnbull as well as the NBN called in this investigation. Does this mean you are calling the AFP Commissioner a liar when he says there was no influence by government?
SHORTEN: No, and I will say it again clearly. The NBN Co. have called the investigation. But what I am not doing is saying the NBN Co. is some separate entity from the Australian Government. It's owned by the government. The board of directors are appointed by the government. It has shareholder Ministers, it has a Minister - I'm pretty sure you and I have both seen Malcolm Turnbull spruik about NBN in the past. The only problem is that when the news got bad all of a sudden that became a state secret. That is not the way we should be running this country. This country should be about the right of you, the media, to publish facts. It should be about the right of journalists to pursue issues without fear or favour, fearlessly as you do. It's about the right of the public to know if Mr Turnbull has wasted so much money or not.
JOURNALIST: You just said there have been national security Cabinet leak, the government doesn't seem to have pursued them with the same sort of vigour. Do you believe the government has pursued this?
SHORTEN: I think the NBN Co. has asked the AFP. All I am -
JOURNALIST: But the government.
SHORTEN: Again, you keep saying that the government is something different to the NBN Co, it's not. Just look at any of Malcolm Turnbull's propaganda he puts out about his time as PM, it's about the NBN Co. You can't want the NBN Co. as your pet when the news is good and then act as if it's a rogue agent with no line of sight to its decision when it's about covering up for your ineptitude for your decision as a Minister
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that Mr Dreyfus's comments were appropriate or whether they inappropriate in relation to the way in which the AFP acted.
SHORTEN: Let me be even clearer than that question, Mark Dreyfus has my confidence. One more question.
JOURNALIST: Are you suggesting that Malcolm Turnbull and Mitch Fifield have colluded with the NBN Co to set this up during an election campaign? That seems to be what you're suggesting, there's some collusion between the government and NBN Co. to set this up now?
SHORTEN: No I'm not. I'm saying in December last year, an arm of the Malcolm Turnbull Government, the NBN Co., asked the police to pursue an investigation into this matter. At the heart of this matter is a revelation in documents which have been printed in the media which show massive cost blow-out, massive delays. The NBN Co. is a national disgrace in the cost blow-out and the lack of service to Australians and I think Australian taxpayers deserve to know when Malcolm Turnbull has been wasting their money. Last question, thank you....
JOURNALIST: What is the damage this investigation has to the Labor Party two weeks into the campaign?
SHORTEN: I think the revelation that Malcolm Turnbull has managed to expand the cost of NBN from what he promised to be in 2013 from $29 billion to $56 billion, I think that is massively damaging. It is not even massively damaging alone for Malcolm Turnbull. This investigation is not about me or Malcolm Turnbull. It's about the Australian people. The Australian people who pay their taxes, who go to work, have a right to know if they've got a government who can't roll out NBN on time, have a right to know that the time tables for NBN have slowed down remarkably. They have a right to know that Malcolm Turnbull's inflicted an inferior proper technology and crippling NBN's future because of their short sighted technology decisions. Most importantly they have a right to know that the costs have blown out from $29 to $56 billion a year. I’ll finish on this note, as I said. Is this nation better or worse off because we know there's been a massive blow out in costs? Is this nation better or worse off because we know there's been a massive delay in the rollout of NBN? Of course this nation is better off. The government should not be afraid of the truth, it should not hide the truth, it should own the truth. See you at our next function.