WEDNESDAY, 22 JUNE 2016
SUBJECTS: Medicare, Housing affordability, Climate change, GST, People smugglers, Scott Morrison's comments on homophobia.
BILL SHORTEN: Thanks very much Angelo and it's lovely to be here in the electorate of Reid. The critical question for Australians to decide, for voters to decide, on July 2 is the future of Medicare; where it goes. Labor is implacably opposed to the overt or covert privatisation of our system. Privatisation occurs when you increase the proportion of health payments made by individuals as opposed to the Government. Put another way, Labor is against the increasing cost of health care being put on family budgets. We are against making families pay more for Medicare. The fact of the matter is that if the Liberals are re-elected on July 2, you will pay more for your health care. You will pay more to see a GP. You will pay more to see a specialist. You will pay more for medicine. You will pay more for your tests.
The challenge in this election and the key question at the heart of the Medicare debate is the future direction of Medicare. On July 2, voters will have a very clear choice. If the Liberals win, this will be a green light for the Liberals to take our Medicare system down the US road. By contrast, I will keep fighting to defend Medicare against the ruthless cuts of the Liberals and what they would do to Medicare. Medicare is probably the most important issue. There is no issue any more important than Medicare in this election. There are other issues, but we will keep talking and fighting to defend Medicare. The truth of the matter is, if it is not affordable, if it is not accessible, if it is not for everyone, it is just not Medicare. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: The AMA has rejected your claim that the Government will privatise Medicare and it has backed the case to fix what they say is the scheme's rusty payment system, so you are clearly at odds with the nation's peak doctors body. What do you say to them. Are they wrong?
SHORTEN: I don't accept that characterisation at all. People are entitled to their opinion about the importance of keeping the payments system in government hands. Labor is absolutely committed to keeping the payments system in government hands. You talk about the AMA and I thought that the interview with the head of the AMA was interesting as they went to the end of the interview, earlier this morning on a radio station. He made it very clear the major issues for the AMA in this election are what the Liberals are doing to hospitals and what the Liberals are not doing to help GPs. He made it very clear that Labor has the best policies for our health care system.
We will fund hospitals to a superior level than the Government. We will unfreeze the GP rebates which make such a difference in our health care system. Everybody knows, if the Liberals get re-elected, 14.5 million patients will pay more to see the doctor. The Royal College of Australian GPs has made it clear, by their estimation, a third of all GPs will have to stop bulk billing. The Liberals have made it clear they want people to pay more for the price of medicine. When it comes to Medicare, we will fight to save Medicare. We will fight to stop shifting the burden from Government to private citizens for the cost of health care in this country.
The Liberals have a deep-seated philosophy. They believe you should pay for your medical care and the medical care you get depends on what you can afford. I don't share that view. Universal access to Medicare is a basic Australian standard.
REPORTER: The AMA says the current payment system is outdated. It needs big investment. Would Labor be willing to make that big investment?
SHORTEN: Labor has always been prepared to modernise our system. What we are not prepared to do, is outsource the payments system to a large bank, to a foreign multinational. That is the thin edge of the wedge of the dismantling of the Medicare system as we know it.
The heart of Medicare is bulk-billing, a one-payment system. The heart of Medicare is making sure you can afford to go and see the doctor. If the Liberal Party win the election on July 2, you will pay more to see the doctor. You will pay more for your medicine. You will pay more for tests. It means Medicare, as we know it, will be changed. We are determined to fight for Medicare.
REPORTER: A report today says your negative gearing changes would lead to average home value losses of 15 per cent to 4 per cent. Do you think these reports aren't affecting voters and, secondly, have you taken into account the hikes in state taxes on foreign investors into your policy?
SHORTEN: First of all, what is affecting voters is the inability of their adult children to be able to afford a first home. What's affecting voters, is when people in Sydney turn up to bid for a house, they are competing against investors and speculators who are receiving a tax subsidy, paid for by everyone else, when they buy their 10th investment property. What affects voters is the death of the Australian dream to be able to afford your own home.
The fact of the matter is, some people have had to leave Sydney to be able to afford a home, buy their first home. That is not the future I want for my kids. That's not the future I want for anyone's children. In terms of reports and the Government campaign, the Government has said before the election, they said there are excesses in the negative gearing system. No less a figure than the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, said in Parliament, there are excesses in the negative gearing system. As soon as Labor came up with sensible reforms, which are prospective not retrospective, this Government has ran a million miles because they would rather play politics than recreate the Australian dream of housing affordability.
REPORTER: Just on state taxes though?
SHORTEN: Sorry, I'm not running for state Premier. You'll have to take that up with Premier Baird.
REPORTER: The NSW GST share has fallen to 81 cents in the dollar. Can you change the entire allocation system to look after NSW?
SHORTEN: The GST process, in terms of allocating GST amongst the States, is set by an independent process. I am sure, as you have travelled with me to Perth, other people would like to change the process their way. It is an independent process. What we will do to help people in NSW, is we will make sure their schools are properly funded. We will make sure hospitals are properly funded. We will make sure it is still possible to come to the doctor and not have to pay an up-front fee to see the doctor. What we will do, is we will help NSW by building good infrastructure. We will make sure there are apprenticeships for young people from NSW. We will make sure NSW has a first-class NBN system.
Some of the challenges which Premier Baird is facing are because they have a dilettante, an out of touch Federal Government who, for the last three years, has squandered opportunities. Do you know they have managed to increase the net public sector debt on all Australians, the Federal Liberals, and they have tripled the deficit? I accept Premier Baird may have challenges in terms of his funding structure, but he needs to ring Malcolm Turnbull to sort out some of those problems.
REPORTER: Will there be more boats, people smuggler boats under a Labor Government?
REPORTER: Not only the AMA but the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Consumer Health Forum and the Australian Health and Hospitals Association have all expressed some support for private elements in the backroom functions of Medicare. Can you name one authoritative health voice that supports your position of no back room private involvement in Medicare whatsoever? If you can't, why shouldn't we see this as a giant election scare campaign?
SHORTEN: First of all, Steven Duckett who is a very distinguished health professional made it clear the privatisation is when you increase the proportion of private payments in the health care system. We do not support the Government's measures. Whilst we are talking about experts and peoples' opinions, I challenge people to find anything in the AMA or the Royal College of GPs or Consumer Health Forum, which supports the freeze on the rebate to GPs for six years. I challenge anyone to find anyone who thinks it's a great idea to get rid of the bulk billing incentives for pathology labs and diagnostic imaging. I challenge anyone to find anyone to say it is a good idea to increase the cost of medicine. I challenge anyone to say the Liberal Government's cuts to hospitals are going to serve the health care of this nation.
Let me be really clear. The Labor Party is committed to defending Medicare. The Government and Labor have distinctly different choices about the future of Medicare after July 3. If the Liberals get elected, they will take it as a green light to help dismantle key parts of the system. They will take it as a green light to go ahead with their cuts. The freezes to the GP rebate. No lesser body than the Royal Australian College of GPs has said 14.5 million patients will pay more to go and see the doctor if the Liberal Party is re-elected with their policy of freezes for six years.
REPORTER: What is your party going to do to protect and preserve our environment for future generations?
SHORTEN: Labor is committed to real action on climate change. Climate change is an issue which Malcolm Turnbull used to be a champion of, but now he has just shrunk into taking his expert advice from Tony Abbott. We are most committed Australia does its bit to make sure future generations of Australians don't have to pay a greater cost because we didn't act on climate change. We are committed to renewable energy being part of our energy mix of 50 per cent. We are committed to zero net emissions by 2050. We are committed to reducing our carbon pollution by 45 per cent by 2030.
In doing this, we will do so through a clear path with a number of elements and ingredients, by prioritising renewable energy. There is $2.5 trillion of investment estimated to be available in the Asia-Pacific region over the next 20 years. We want some of that to come to Australia. We are greatly disturbed under successive Liberal Governments in last three years, we have shed nearly 3,000 renewable energy jobs, when the rest of the world has added on two million. We've also said as part of our policy, our path towards improving our actions on climate change is to improve vehicle emissions standards, to slow down the rate of land clearance. We've made it clear we want to be up for modernising our electricity generations system. And of course, we will make special exemption for our emissions intensive trade exposed sector and we will underpin all of this by our support for an emissions trading scheme which is intern ationally linked.
REPORTER: You are here in Reid, it missed out on funding in the State Budget. As a federal leader, would you be prepared to fund Concord Hospital?
SHORTEN: We have committed to improving the funding of all hospitals. Mr Turnbull came in with a remarkably low offer which is effectively a cut. We have proposed providing extra hundreds of millions of dollars in each State over the next four years for better hospital funding. We have also proposed extra funding because we want to make sure we do something about reducing elective surgery waiting lists. Right now, as we talk here, there are literally tens of thousands of Australians who are waiting at home for a call from a surgery or hospital or their specialist to say there is a bed available, they can have that procedure which they want to do.
These are the procedures in the health system which actually we need to be standing up and speaking out for. Hip replacements, treatment for cardiac conditions. These are the issues of every day Australians. Labor's prioritised the health needs of everyday Australians by properly funding our hospitals to help deal with emergency waiting lists and emergency ward waiting times and elective surgery waiting lists.
Labor is in touch with what is really going on out there. That's why we have decided not to give a $50 billion tax cut to large corporations and instead rather than making that massive hole in the Budget, use some of those scarce and valuable taxpayer dollars to promote and look after the health care of all Australians.
REPORTER: Do you believe you can still win this election? If you do, why don't you start giving positive policies rather than just days and days of scare campaigns?
SHORTEN: First of all, I don't accept the characterisation that we don't have 100 positive policies. For the sake of time I won't read them all out to you. Let me just go to the core positive issues in this election. We will prioritise the health care of all Australians. That is why we are such staunch and reliable and trusted defenders of Medicare. We know and when you say it is a scare campaign, the truth of the matter is, what the Liberal Party is proposing to do to health care is scary.
The idea that doctors' surgeries won't see an increase in rebate for six years, that's just bad for the health care of Australians. The idea you have to pay more for your medicine, that is just a bad idea. The idea they want to cut the bulk billing incentives for things as important, as mundane but as crucial, as breast cancer diagnosis, treatment of melanomas, mammograms.
It's not just health care where we have got positive policies. Education, we want to make sure that every child in every school in every postcode gets every opportunity. That's why we are backing in fully the first 10 year plan for education to provide the long overdue certainty which our school kids, their parents, taxpayers and teachers want. We are also proposing to take real action on climate change as I announced to an earlier question.
We are fair dinkum about tackling the hard challenge of affordability for first home buyers. People said for 30 years, the property industry and the vested interests, you can't touch the tax subsidies they get. We won't for existing investors, which is positive, be will make the long term structural improvements to the Budget because we are willing to be a Government that leads and just doesn't follow vested interests.
NBN is another very positive plan. Under our priority, getting back to having fibre in our NBN, not a second class technology which Malcolm Turnbull has tried to sell us. We want to end that sort of irritating circle that people see in the middle of their screens because they just can't get the connection they need or the speeds are too slow. This is holding Australia back. I can promise two million Australian households and businesses under Labor will get access to first-class technology.
These are all really positive plans. NBN, renewable energy, schools, health care, housing affordability and also we are proposing to do something about some of the public transport issues around the country by investing in nation-building infrastructure and, just on the way through, if we're just concluding on some of the positive propositions. We want to put apprenticeship and TAFE back at the centre of our jobs strategy. Did you know under the Liberal Government, 415,000 apprentices were there in 2013 when they got in and it is down to 295,000. That's not scary that's a disaster. What we want to is support more apprentices. We want more apprentices employed in government jobs. We are also very committed to helping save the steel industry. Our package clearly is much superior to helping Arrium, which employs thousands of people in NSW as well as Whyalla. We have a plan for peoples' jobs. I appreciate the opportunity to r efocus the debate a bit more on the positives.
REPORTER: Scott Morrison's comments on homophobia today. He said frankly people with strong religious views have been subject to dreadful hate speech and bigotry as well. It was in response to Penny Wong's speech last night. Do you think people out there who are Christian actually are exposed to that sort of same hate speech that gay Australians are exposed to?
SHORTEN: I think it is regrettable Scott Morrison has felt the need, or the relevance deprivation, to include himself in Penny Wong's remarkable speech. I do accept people of faith sometimes get a hard time. People are entitled to their views in this country and people of religious faith are entitled to respect just like people who hold other views. What I don't understand is why the Treasurer of Australia feels the need to drive across two paddocks, cross three rivers and get to a bridge to talk about Penny Wong's remarkable speech. How is it when Penny Wong speaks about her experiences, Scott Morrison feels the need to inject himself into that speech.
The truth of the matter is, Penny Wong is a remarkable Australian. People of religious faith in this country are entitled to their religious faith and they are entitled have their views without necessarily facing a whole barrage of analysis either. But at the end of the day, I would just like Scott Morrison to talk about the Budget, I would like him to talk about why he is doing the $50 billion corporate tax cut and why are he and Malcolm Turnbull so keen not to have a banking Royal Commission in this country? Why are they running such a protection racket for the banks they won't even let the banks have to experience a Royal Commission and deal with the legitimate concerns of millions of Australians?
REPORTER: You said today bulk-billing is at the heart of the Medicare, and that one payment system, is it strange then at this clinic we're at today it is $57 to go to the GP, effectively a $20 co-payment?
SHORTEN: Well effectively that just highlights the need to make sure we still have bulk-billing across our medical system. Not everyone bulk bills in this country. What I don't want to do, is be the author of a policy which discourages bulk-billing. For me it is about patient care. For me it is about making sure people can afford to see a doctor when they need to, not how much money they have. Let's be really really clear here. Bulk billing is at the heart of Medicare. The ability of Australians to be able to go and see a doctor and not have to find an up-front fee beats hands down the other health care systems in the world in my opinion.
I will fight for bulk-billing. I will fight for the ability of Australians, regardless of their financial circumstances, to be able to see a doctor when they need it. It is a fair thing, when we travel overseas, we talk about our Australian passport and we love it. But to me this is as much an Australian passport as the passport we travel on overseas. To me this is what is good about this country. To me this is a birthright of Australians, not to have a million dollars and still be able to go and see the doctor when you need to. This card matters to me.
REPORTER: Since you put it on the record this morning, can you share with us where you went to a strip club and with whom and –
SHORTEN: No, it was many years ago, no not at all.
REPORTER: Can I get your response to Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, has comments a boat was sent back to Vietnam earlier this month. He has also taken the opportunity to say that Indonesia is watching very closely and they believe if there is a change of Government in 10 days, the people smugglers will be back in business and people will be back on boats coming to our country.
SHORTEN: You have got to love the Liberal Party central headquarters. It is the old break glass issue isn't it? There we go, spread a bit of concern and say that somehow Labor has a different policy to the Liberals when it comes to deterring boats. This is proof positive the Liberals have run out of anything positive to say about themselves.
Mr Dutton, and indeed I said earlier in the debate, one of those scarce debates when I could find Mr Turnbull and be in the same room, you know they both tried to run this line, on July 3 with a different Government there will be a different policy. They should be ashamed of themselves, sending out a signal to people smugglers that somehow there is some lack of national will to deter people smugglers.
We have made it perfectly clear. I had the courage to take this issue to my Labor Party in the July national conference last year. I lead my party, not something which I think anyone reasonably thinks Malcolm Turnbull can assert with any confidence. I led my party and I said we will turn back boats. We will deter people smugglers. The Liberals know this and they should be ashamed of themselves, giving the business model of people smugglers a bit of a jolt in the arm by playing tawdry partisan politics. This matter should be above politics. This matter is about the safety of human life. This is about turning boats back. We will do what is required to deter the people smugglers full stop.
REPORTER: On the weekend, the Liberals are having their official launch. What do you want to hear from Malcolm Turnbull?
SHORTEN: I want Malcolm Turnbull to explain to Australians why he thinks a $50 billion corporate tax cut is a good idea. I want Malcolm Turnbull to explain to Australians why he will move heaven and earth not to have a banking Royal Commission? Quite frankly, Malcolm Turnbull has got bad policies before the launch. I suspect he will still have the same bad policies after the launch.
What I would like to see Malcolm Turnbull do, is explain why he won't fund Medicare to the same extent we will? Why he won't unfreeze the GP rebate? Why he is getting rid of the bulk-billing incentive for pathology and diagnostic imaging? Why he is increasing the price of medicine? Why he won't match Labor's policies to properly fund our hospitals? I wouldn't mind if he was at it, on top of talking about why he won't have a banking royal commission and why he won't defend Medicare like Labor? I also want him to explain why he won't fund schools properly? Why he won't give 10 years of certainty and I also want him to explain why on earth he thinks it is a good idea to give big corporations a $50 billion tax cut. Last question.
REPORTER: I wanted to ask you on Medicare, are you ruling out any private sector involvement to try and improve the payments system? I think that is what the AMA is calling for. They think it is broken, they are saying that the payments system is broken, something needs to happen. It may need outsourcing from the private sector. Are you ruling that out completely?
SHORTEN: I am ruling out the privatisation of our payments system. What I will also do, is I will back up what the AMA is saying and perhaps you can ask the Government why is it they don't agree with the AMA about unfreezing the GP rebate? Why is it they won't back the call of doctors across this country to properly fund our hospitals? When we talk about the future of Medicare, this is a key question in the July 2 election.
There is no issue any more important than Medicare. Voters will make a decision about the future of Medicare in this country. They can vote Liberal and see bulk billing reduced by a third of doctors. They can vote Liberal and see it cost more to go and see a doctor, pay more for medicine, pay more for those vital tests or they can vote Labor and not go down the American path of health insurance. Not privatise key parts of the system and make sure it is your Medicare card, not your credit card that determines the level of health care in this country. Thank you. I did say last question. Cheers.