Bill's Transcripts

Radio: ABC AM - Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Tony Abbott’s attack on Medicare






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Tony Abbott’s attack on Medicare; Queensland election.


ASHLEY HALL: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten spoke with our political reporter James Glenday.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Labor believes that Tony Abbott and the Liberal National Government's proposal to cut rebates to GPs will one, hurt bulkbilling; two, make it more expensive for people to go to the doctor; and three, GPs all around Australia are telling us it's bad health policy.

JAMES GLENDAY: When this was first announced by the Government you said that you were open to considering this move. Are you just being populist by opposing it now? The Health Minister Sussan Ley has called it a ‘sneaky backflip’.

First of all, we seriously consider what the Government proposes on all their issues, but there's been no doubt that any reasonable person, when examining the evidence and the submissions of the AMA and GPs all around Australia, this is a terrible idea.

GLENDAY: Is Labor still worried about so-called six minute medicine though, those large bulk billing practices that turn patients through quickly?

SHORTEN: Labor's always committed to seeing how we can improve the delivery of health services but when you go and talk to GPs, they make this very good point to me which I found very persuasive, these GPs say sometimes we can see people in quicker than 15 minutes but that's because we've got 10, 20, 30, 40 years of experience. No one believes that this is about medicine or health care in Australia. They all think it's about a government who can't get their way on their GP tax.

GLENDAY: The Abbott Government says it wants to make Medicare financially sustainable. Do you believe that Medicare, as it currently stands, is financially sustainable?

SHORTEN: I do not believe there is the crisis in Medicare that this government is using to confect and justify and camouflage its unfair changes.

GLENDAY: But I guess can our nation still afford Medicare as it is though? Because at the moment it seems like you will not accept any changes to it at all.

SHORTEN: No I don't think that's fair and when we were in government we constantly made improvements. But there's a way you do change in Australia, and it's not just Medicare. The way you do change is gradually, you reach out and consult people. Just as the Campbell Newman Government in Queensland has a well justified reputation for being arrogant, so does the Abbott Government. Can we really point to long, detailed plans about reviewing and reforming medicine? Of course not.

GLENDAY: It's a new year and you said that in 2015 Labor will be defined by the power of its ideas. How are you going to fix the Budget?

SHORTEN: Well, you're quite right. We want to talk about ideas in 2015, but I have to say, the Abbott Government's got off to a very shaky start haven't they?

GLENDAY: But that's what the Abbott Government's doing, what will Labor do –


SHORTEN: It is, but the reason why –


GLENDAY: What are Labor's ideas for the Budget?

SHORTEN: Well the reason why I'm going to that is, it'd be good if the Abbott Government could give Australia breathing space from their bad ideas, but they seem to start the new year the same way they finished last year. But yes, you're right James, we will, through this year, develop our policies, and one thing we will do – we'll talk to nurses, we'll talk to patients, we'll talk to clinicians, we'll talk to the AMA because that's the way, if you want to make change in Australia, you've got to bring people with you, and this is a government who's only interested in cutting and slashing.

GLENDAY: So you'll be consulting first and then unveiling ideas this year?

SHORTEN: Yeah, isn't that the right way to do things?

GLENDAY: At the moment, you are spending a lot of time on the hustings in Queensland. Given the recent polls and Labor's position in the State Parliament, do you think that the ALP has a realistic chance of winning the state election?

SHORTEN: I think it's a very steep climb. Nearly four years ago Queenslanders only returned seven Labor MPs out of 89, one of the worst defeats in political history in Australia. Annastacia Palaszczuk and her team, to get Labor back on the board, have done a really good job. I think it's a very hard election to win.

HALL: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten speaking to James Glenday, and AM sought an interview with the new Health Minister Sussan Ley or any other minister about the fate of the Government's Medicare plan. So far we've had no response.