TUESDAY, 3 JULY 2018
SUBJECTS: MRI licence for Caboolture Hospital; Turnbull’s NBN failure; Senator Leyonhjelm; One Nation preferencing the Liberals; by-elections
SUSAN LAMB, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LONGMAN: Welcome everybody here to the Caboolture Hospital. People in this region know just how critical health care services are. Here at the Caboolture Hospital we have amazing staff, we've got doctors, we've got nurses, we've got admin, we've got support staff, we've got amazing volunteers that are helping deliver those services to people in our community. But what Labor is also delivering, what Labor also can be trusted upon is making sure that we continue to invest and deliver on health services in the local region. You see, while Labor funds hospitals, what we know is Liberal Governments what they do is they cut hospital funding. Under Campbell Newman and Trevor Ruthenberg's LNP Government we lost 700 nurses in this local region and under Malcolm Turnbull and his LNP Government: $2.9 million ripped out of this hospital just here.
So today we're here at the Caboolture Hospital to make another very welcomed announcement , a commitment to health care services in the Caboolture region, it's a commitment for an MRI licence for the community for the community and I have been campaigning for this for a long time since 2015. It's a service that is much needed and I'll invite Bill now to share the details of this very, very welcome announcement for our region. Thanks everyone.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks everyone. Thanks Susan. It's great to be back. Caboolture Hospital with Catherine King and Susan Lamb and I acknowledge the presence of the Queensland Health Minister, Stephen Miles. Visiting this hospital reminds me yet again that health is the number one issue for Australian families and I'm really pleased today to be following up on our commitment to support better hospital funding and better health care for all Australians, to announce as part of our rollout of an additional 20 MRI licenced machines which will have Medicare subsidies available, we're going to have one in the Moreton Bay Shire region.
This region deserves more support than it's been getting in terms of MRI scanning machines. I want all Australians, regardless of the postcode they live in, to be able to access the best and most affordable health technology. I think it is a dreadful shame that in the five years of the LNP Government in Canberra, they've only issued about five MRI licences which are available for Medicare subsidy. What that practically means for people in this region is that because of this decision the cost of a scan will be four to six hundred dollars cheaper and that's just a marvellous assistance when you're battling cancer or you've got a family member who's been in serious road trauma or even you know on the weekend you've had a serious sporting injury. You should be able to access the best technology to help you on your recovery, to help you deal with your health challenges.
Labor is committed to putting hospitals and health care of all Australians at the top of the pile when it comes to issues, and we're very committed in this region to making sure the Moreton Bay Shire gets its fair share, its fair share, of health resources that the nation has. I'm really pleased that Susan Lamb's championed this issue. She has certainly campaigned with the community to make sure that there's more resources in the form of an MRI licenced machine with Medicare subsidies available. That's just going to create better health outcomes for local people. That's who Susan lamb is, she lives in this community, she's in touch with the everyday needs of people living here and she's most committed, she's a fighter for better health outcomes.
Now what I'd like to do is invite Catherine King to talk further about our fantastic announcement which is going to improve the quality of life and health outcomes for people living in the electorate of Longman and surrounding areas.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks Bill. I want to commend Susan, Susan has been championing the cause of getting an MRI licence for this region since I've known her, since I've been Shadow Health Minister and Susan has been in our federal Parliament, she has absolutely championed this cause and we've certainly listened to her. I was very proud when Bill announced in his Budget in Reply that we would provide 20 MRI licences, the first 10 to be in our public hospitals across the country. And the contrast, Labor when we were last in government, 238 MRI licences across the country. What have the Liberals done? What has Malcolm Turnbull done? There have been five. The latest one, one in Kalgoorlie, which was done as we understand it as a deal for One Nation to pass their income tax cuts to high income earners. That's apparently what you have to do in Malcolm Turnbull's Australia, you have to do a deal on tax cuts in order to get the health care that you need.
The MRI licence here, if you look at here, there are 160,000 people, one MRI licence in this region. If you compare it to the seat of Fisher, there are seven MRI licences for the same population. It's simply not good enough. We're very proud that here in the northern suburbs of Brisbane, that we're actually providing this MRI licence which will mean for people, being able to access those CAT scans at a more affordable level, but equally, for children we know that having a large number of x-rays or CT scans is actually a higher increase in the rate of cancer in children.
So it's actually a very important public health announcement that we're making today and I want to commend Susan for the great work she's done in championing the cause of people in the northern suburbs. And thanks Steven Miles for the Queensland Government for providing us advice as to the locations of these important MRI licences.
STEVEN MILES, QUEENSLAND MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thank you all on behalf of the Queensland Government. First of all, I'd like to welcome Bill and Catherine back here to Caboolture Hospital. This area is experiencing extraordinary growth and Susan Lamb is a powerful advocate for this local region, demanding the services that this growing population needs. This new MRI licence for the region will allow 3,000 locals to avoid out-of-pocket costs of between four and six hundred dollars when they need an MRI. This is on top of the recent announcement of a cancer treatment facility to be funded by a Shorten Labor Government here at Caboolture Hospital. As Health Minister, I need a federal government that will work with me to deliver more and better health services for Queensland. Unfortunately, I don't have that right now. This federal government isn't content with the $2.9 million it's cut from Caboolture Hospital. Not content with the tens of millions of dollars they're withholding from Metro North Health Services for operations performed as far back as 2017.
But we learned this week, reports that they intend to steal billions of dollars of Queensland's GST revenue. The reports in the Courier Mail suggesting that $1.6 billion a year might be taken from Queenslanders. And to give you an idea of what that would mean for health services or for services generally, that $1.6 billion cut would result in the loss of 170 nurses, 170 teachers, 100 police officers, 40 firefighters in Longman alone - imagine that across the state. We cannot afford to experience that kind of cut. Certainly, Caboolture Hospital can't afford to experience that kind of cut and I intend to ensure that Longman voters in a few weeks’ time understand just what this Turnbull Government is doing to health services here in Queensland.
SHORTEN: Thanks Stephen, are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, the MRI licence - can I just be clear on what's being offered? Is it an MRI - is it an MRI licence - what's the difference between that and an MRI machine. Would there be an MRI machine in this hospital?
SHORTEN: We estimate, and I'll get Catherine to supplement this answer - it'll cost about $4 million over the next four years but I might get Catherine to talk a little further.
KING: In order for an MRI to be able to rebate Medicare, it has to actually have a licence. There is a licence system and as I said under the Liberals, there's only been five of those licences issued compared to 238 with ours. It means that for hospitals like Caboolture, like Redcliff Hospital here in the north, that they can provide those MRI services without having to charge patients, so they can bulk-bill those services and the out-of-pocket costs that patients are experiencing when they go to an MRI without a MRI licence can be between $400 to $600. So those costs in fact will be borne by Medicare.
JOURNALIST: But I heard the statement was the MRI licence would be somewhere in the Moreton Bay area -
KING: That's correct -
JOURNALIST: So that means that the locals in Caboolture can't be sure whether it's going to be here or they have to travel to Redcliffe -
KING: So we'll consult with the Queensland State Government as to where the best location is for it in the north but what we've certainly identified, what we identified through the Senate inquiry that we held into MRI licences and through Susan's advocacy, where the best location in the north will be. But currently, there is not one at Redcliffe, there's not one here and that means that people are having to travel substantial distances to actually access a machine that attracts the Medicare rebate. And of course what will happen with some people is that they then end up having to go, they go to a machine then not realising that it doesn't have a Medicare licence and end up hundreds of dollars out of pocket.
JOURNALIST: And so you know, like anybody out in the street would want to know where is it going to be and when am I going to get it.
KING: We will consult with the Queensland State Government and obviously, the promise that we're making today requires Labor to win the next general election. We're very determined that win the seat of Longman. This is very much a crucial promise for us here in this seat. But certainly, after the general election, if we're lucky and are successful to win that, we will then consult very quickly with the Queensland Government as to whether that licence will be,
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, it is very hard to find anyone who thinks that the NBN rollout is going well. Why not commit now to just redo the whole thing, full-fibre just like Labor had planned in the first instance?
SHORTEN: You know, you're right. The Australian newspaper's right - the NBN rollout has been a disaster and I think that's spot on. And I'd certainly welcome that comment.
Beyond that, we can't just simply rip up everything which has already happened but what we can do is commit to make sure that anything which happens post us being elected, we'll see more fibre in the whole technology mix. But what we're also proposing - and what we'd really ask to Mr Turnbull now is he's really been the father of this NBN rollout and we all agree, it is - as you said - been pretty hopeless. What we would encourage you to do now is not wait to the next election but to actually put better technology into the solution now, because as every day goes on, he is taking us down the more second class path.
What Labor has announced, and we actually announced it here, is that we're going to put in new service standards for the NBN Co. You know, it upsets people but there's been 80,000 missed technician appointments to deal with NBN issues between July of last year and February of this year. That's small businesses who are offline for up to three weeks at a time. That's working families who have had to come home, miss time at work, just to make these appointments and they're not being made. We hear from chambers of commerce all around Australia, the economic cost of service faults.
So we will ensure higher service standards and we're determined to make the NBN, such as it is, perform for consumers and businesses.
JOURNALIST: But in the end, you're still going to have customers who are receiving - basically, they're going to be receiving a second class service compared to their neighbours or people in other -
SHORTEN: You're right. Mr Turnbull has created a digital divide in Australia with his second class technology.
JOURNALIST: But you could fix that.
SHORTEN: We've got to win the election first.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you condemn Senator Leyonhjelm's comments?
SHORTEN: Listen, I've seen his comments - they were seriously offensive. Well beyond any so-called line in politics, seriously offensive when he first said them and to be honest, I'm very surprised that he hasn't had the wit just to admit that they are offensive and apologise. So every day it goes on, he adds hurt to injury. Senator [Hanson-Young] is a very forthright politician, she doesn't need anyone to stand up for her in the way she does her job but she doesn't deserve this sort of hurtful language and offensive language. Senator Leyonhjelm should just stand up and apologise - full stop.
JOURNALIST: Will you call for him to resign?
SHORTEN: Well, he's not going to listen to me whether or not I call him to resign - he is in another party. But I would just say to Senator Leyonhjelm, most people in the street actually think what you said was seriously offensive. Most people actually think that what you said was stupid. Most people would expect you to apologise.
JOURNALIST: Do these types of comments prevent women getting into politics?
SHORTEN: I do think that sort of hurtful environment does discourage people from entering politics, including women. I mean what do the kids reckon when they see someone carry on like that? What sort of role model are they setting for kids and people who believe and engage in politics? Women shouldn't have to put up with this form of treatment, it's seriously offensive, frankly I'm amazed that he hasn't already apologised and I think most people are.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten another issue that's around from yesterday is the Nauru Government saying they won't allow the ABC to come to their country to cover Pacific Islands Forum. Do you have an opinion on their ban on the ABC and what should be done about it?
SHORTEN: Yeah I think our government should make the strongest possible representations to the Government of Nauru. At the end of the day the Government of Nauru is a sovereign government, they make their decisions but our government should stand up for the ABC not just sort of run up the white flag and say there's nothing we can do. I think it is important, the ABC is a public broadcaster of the highest repute, it's much more trusted in Australian life than the Government or indeed politics, I think we should get behind the ABC instead of give up.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten are you concerned about One Nation preferencing the [inaudible]
SHORTEN: No real surprise if Pauline Hanson's One Nation party are preferencing the LNP, I mean that's all they ever do in Canberra is vote for them.
I mean at the end of the day, when you're voting for One Nation you're not really voting for One Nation you're voting for the LNP. It's just a diversion on the ballot paper but it all ends up back with the LNP. If people don't want to see $17 billion go to the big banks, then you should vote for Susan Lamb. If people want to see the hospital funding being restored and improved, then you should vote for Susan Lamb. Only Labor is going to stand up to the LNP, the great pity is that whenever Senator Hanson may talk tough in Caboolture but when she gets down to Canberra, she can't wait to vote with the Government.
JOURNALIST: Labor won this seat on the back of One Nation preferences last time, by disparaging Pauline Hanson aren't you disparaging voters who may support her and may have toyed with preferencing Labor -
SHORTEN: No don't turn my words around, I'm making it very clear about Senator Hanson's policy and political performance. I'm not talking about her as a human being, what I am saying though is that a vote for One Nation is effectively a vote for the LNP. It may have a different mask at the front but behind the mask is a vote for LNP.
Senator Hanson if she was genuinely independent wouldn't be giving preferences to the LNP but she's not. To be honest, I'm not surprised, she was a Liberal and now she's returning the favour by making sure her preferences go to the Liberals. That's not disparaging her but I am critical of her policies and I'm not going to back down.
JOURNALIST: Are you concerned about the revelations on Four Corners last night about our biosecurity?
SHORTEN: I didn't see the Four Corners show last night, sorry. A couple more questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, white spot in prawns especially, still being moved into Queensland -
SHORTEN: Yeah I mean the Government talk - that has been a debacle by the Federal Government. They talk tough on strong borders but when it comes to biosecurity they've been missing in action. Our biosecurity, our crops, our agricultural commodities, and industries are just as important as the big banks, I wish Mr Turnbull would put as much time into biosecurity and protecting our aquaculture and our food industries as he does in protecting the big banks from a Royal Commission.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten just five minutes down the road here there's a lot of small businesses, we had a big debate last week about where Labor stood on small business tax, some of them don't - they're a bit doubtful about where you stand because of the shifting position last week. What's your message to them about why they should trust Labor with small business taxation when you're actually going to end up with a higher tax rate compared to the Coalition over the long term?
SHORTEN: No that's not right David, let me just go through and let me restate our position again: 99.8 per cent of Australian small and medium size businesses will pay if we are elected, the same or less tax than they would under the Liberals the day after the election. But what we're also offering small business is what we call the Australian Investment Guarantee, this is a much more targeted proposition which doesn't reward multinationals and big banks. What it is is if you currently, you're a business and you invest in equipment over $20,000, you're currently able to claim some of that cost over time against your tax bill. The money you outlay, you get it back in your tax.
What we're going to do is add 20 per cent on to the tax deductibility. So in fact, we're a better bet for small businesses but the other thing we'll offer small businesses is that when your kids are sick they'll be able to go and get to hospital and it’ll be properly funded. When your kids are going to school we'll make sure their schools are properly funded. We're also able to say to you that your customers will get their penalty rates back, we're also able to say the pensioners who come in the doors of your business will get the energy supplement which they're not getting under the current government.
So what we will do is not only look after small businesses, we're going to look after the people. If you want to vote for $17 billion for big banks then vote for the LNP. If you want to vote for further cuts to hospitals, vote for the LNP, if you don't want your kids to get a proper education and not be properly funded, then vote for the LNP, if you want pensioners not to get an energy supplement, vote for the LNP.
But if you actually want to put people first, if you want to put working class people, people in the middle class first, then you vote for Susan Lamb because she's the only candidate here with a proposition to give people $1000 tax refund every year, people who earn up to $125,000. And to finish this press conference, she's the only one with the plan to put an MRI licence into this area, to make sure you can get timely, quality, affordable medical treatment when you need it, that's Susan Lamb.