FRIDAY, 24 AUGUST 2018
SUBJECT/S: Liberal party civil war; Labor’s plans for a fair go for Australia.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hi everybody, how are you going? Thanks very much for coming to St Vincent's Hospital. It's such a pleasure to be here with the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, at a world class facility right here in my electorate of Sydney. We're visiting the hospital today, because while the Liberals are fighting each other and divided in Canberra, we are determined to get on with the things that matter to ordinary Australians. And of course our world class health system matters.
St Vincent's Hospital, the St Vincent's Network loses about $4.8 million over the years 2017-2020 under this government's funding cuts. And of course as Bill has said, we will more than restore the funding that has been cut from this hospital, from hospitals right across Australia, so that the hard working staff that we've been meeting with this morning can do what they care about, which is healing sick Australians. We're in the Emergency Department this morning, and we what we know is that the $4.8 million dollars that has been cut from this hospital group, would see an extra 7,000 emergency department visits. That funding is the equivalent of 7,000 visits to the Emergency Department. And we heard from the staff how much pressure they're under. This is a very busy, very successful emergency department and the thing that they said would make the biggest difference - more resources.
Of course we're here visiting this hospital, while the Liberals are in Canberra engaged in chaos. What we know for certain is that it doesn't matter who emerges as the Prime Minister in half an hour or an hour's time, because all of the candidates supported the cuts to this hospital. All of the candidates supported cuts to schools. All of the candidates supported $100,000 university degrees. All of the candidates supported cuts to the pension, cuts to the energy supplement, a pension age of 70. All of the candidates supported cuts to penalty rates, and all of them supported $80 billion of big business tax cuts instead of investing in our world class health system and the education system that would give our kids the best chance in life.
The reason I'm so proud to be here with Bill Shorten as part of his united Labor team, is because we are focused on the things that make a difference in the lives of ordinary Australians. Jobs with decent pay and conditions, a world class health system, a great education for their kids. That's what we're focused on, and under Bill's Leadership, we have the most comprehensive plan of any Opposition hopefully going into government, and we've been united and disciplined for five years.
Bill thanks very much for visiting the electorate today.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much. Good morning everybody, it's great to be here. First of all I just want to thank the staff and the workforce at St. Vincent's Hospital because you remind me that politics should be about you, the people of Australia, you who help heal the sick and look after their families. Do you know, in the last few days the staff here from the emergency ward to the intensive care unit, have been working so hard, along with the cleaners and the allied health professionals and the ambos and everyone, but every person I've met this morning has said what on earth is going on in Canberra.
I've said to the workforce here, and I say this to my fellow Australians - this week is perhaps the most farcical week ever in Australian politics. I obviously don't know who's going to be the latest Liberal Prime Minister. I don't know because they haven't chosen one yet. I don't know also because I don't know if the losers in this contest will even accept the outcome. In fact I, and like most Australians, there's a lot more that we haven't been told by the Liberals than we have been told. But one thing we do know is changing leaders does not mean you can change the division in the Liberal Party. You can change leaders, but you can't unite the Liberal Party. What we intend to do is focus upon the people of Australia.
Perhaps though one thing I should say is that if Mr Turnbull is unsuccessful and the spill motion gets up, I just want to be the first to say to Malcolm Turnbull your party has not treated you as a Prime Minister should have been treated. He and I have our disagreements, but what I don't believe is this is the way that this should end for Malcolm Turnbull.
I believe that we should have a contest of ideas in this country. It shouldn't just be the case that Labor watches as the Liberals implode. I believe that what we've seen here is a very brutal conduct of a campaign to tear down the leader of the Liberal Party, in a most cold and unfeeling way, but it doesn't appear to have been very competent at all.
Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, are these events in Canberra handing you the next election?
SHORTEN: No, what these events in Canberra are doing are creating disillusionment with the Australian political system. Do you know yesterday the government, even though they have the numbers in the Parliament, they actually decided to close the Parliament rather than do their day job.Imagine the mess this country would be in if all the doctors and nurses and allied health professionals just said, we're not going to go to work today because we all find it too hard. I think it's the lack of leadership in Canberra - the people who work in this hospital and our health system across Australia, they work hard with insufficient resources, they don't necessarily get all the support they should. So for me, it's not about me or Mr Turnbull or any of the other Liberal contenders. We need to get on and repair the people's confidence in Australian politics.
JOURNALIST: Of the three candidates, who do you fear most?
SHORTEN: None. It's not for me to worry about who they pick. What I worry about is that their policies are taking money from hospitals and giving them to the top end of town. This is a government where no matter who the salesman becomes, they can change the salesman, they're still selling the same hopeless product. This country works best when we invest in health care, invest in schools, invest in proper wages for working people, when we prioritise working and middle class Australians. This is a government who is out of touch and they think that by changing the salesperson, somehow they can change the product. It's a poor product for Australians.
JOURNALIST: Given the prospect of a by-election in Wentworth, when do you anticipate the election will be held? It’s likely it could be in four weeks.
SHORTEN: Do you mean a general election or Wentworth?
SHORTEN: I think you raise a very serious question which no doubt the Governor General will have to consider, and no doubt the Liberal Government have to consider. The Prime Minister did say yesterday he thought that whoever replaced him should have an election sooner rather than later. I think it's clear also this week, this is a government who quite frankly can't govern. They all find it too hard. I want to say to the workforce here, Tanya and I and Labor, we are 100 per cent united, we're 100 per cent stable, and we're 100 per cent on your side. We want to make sure that people's wages get moving again and that people get properly funded health care in this country.
JOURNALIST: What about the question of Peter Dutton’s eligibility to sit in the Parliament under Section 44? Should that be tested in the High Court? Is the Solicitor General’s advice adequate to not have to deal with that question?
SHORTEN: Yes the question about the eligibility of Peter Dutton, it would appear that the Solicitor General has said that he's okay, but with caveats. I don't know if that's really satisfactory. If this person's going to be the alternative Prime Minister of Australia he shouldn't have a constitutional cloud over his head. I'm sure he would have been the first to lead the posse if some other Labor MP had a Section 44 constitutional eligibility cloud over their head. I think it needs to go to court. Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: You say that your party is united, but the Labor Party is not immune to the similar kinds of issues, we've seen that in the past. What can you say to people that really can solidify that comment?
SHORTEN: For five years we've been united. The proof is in the pudding. In the time that I've been Leader of the Opposition, they got rid of Tony Abbott and they got rid of Malcolm Turnbull. We're still here and we're united. I think the proof is in the conduct of the last five years. Actually, someone sent me a Tweet last night and they made the point that other than John Howard, in the 21st century in Australia I've led a political party for the longest period of time.
JOURNALIST: Yes but you've been involved in knifing two Prime Ministers yourself. I mean how can you assure Australians that a Bill Shorten Government brings an end to this decade of chaos and isn't a continuation of it?
SHORTEN: One, because we've got the experience and we've shown that we're united. And I think even our most fair minded critics would acknowledge that we have been a united operation. Two, if you needed to be reminded, watching the farce of this last week shows that it's just a disaster for any political party. And three, we changed the rules of our political structure so what the Liberals are doing to their guy, just couldn't happen under our rules.
JOURNALIST: The vote for a spill was 45/40, so 40 voted against a spill?
SHORTEN: So that means that Malcolm Turnbull is no longer the Prime Minister of Australia. That has not been decided by the people of Australia. It's been decided in the back rooms of Parliament by Coalition conservative powerbrokers. Because 45 people don't want Mr Turnbull, Australia has a new Prime Minister which has not been elected by the people. The margin also shows the deep division. The Liberal Party can change their leader but they can never unite.