FRIDAY, 3 MARCH 2017
SUBJECTS: National health summit; national security
CATHERINE KING SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Thanks everybody, well today something really remarkable is happening here in our Parliament. We have got Labor's National Health Policy Summit, 150 experts in the healthcare sector from across the country have come together to join Labor to help us develop our policies going into the next election. This is an unusual thing for a party to do to actually go out really broadly to a sector and ask them to actually help us develop our policies. And I am delighted that Bill Shorten today is giving the keynote address has really set the agenda for Labor as to where we think the next health policies need to go. I'm delighted we've been joined by so many people from across the country. It means they're hungry to actually be participating in a national debate. One of the things we know and what we've been told right the way across the course of the Abbott/Turnbull Government is they have completely lacked any vision when it comes to health. Completely lacks any vision and they haven't developed, they didn't develop their policies in Opposition, they didn't do the work and of course when they came in to Government all they did was slash and burn the health reform agenda. We don't want that to continue, we as a Labor party are driving reform, continuing to drive the vision for healthcare, ready for the next election. Thanks Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much. Good afternoon everybody, today is a really good day because the Labor Party is getting on with the job that I think Australians expect their parliamentarians to do. I acknowledge the work of Catherine and Julie, my senior Shadows in the health and aged care area. We're holding a National Health Summit, we've invited the experts and the people on the frontline and today we are listening to people, we're listening to the experts, we're listening to the people on the frontline and we're asking them for their views, their solutions. Labor is using every day in this Parliament to get out and talk to people, to listen to people and we know that for Australians they want to see us concentrate on issues important to Australians and there is no issue more important to Australians than healthcare. So we will be getting back to the Summit after this interview now. And we're looking forward to issuing a communique in coming days. We are starting the work of offering a health policy for Australia, a vision for affordable healthcare which prioritises preventative health, primary health, good hospitals, a Medicare system where it’s your Medicare card, not your credit card that determines the level of your healthcare. It's exciting work and we're looking forward to presenting the best possible health vision for Australians, not just for the next election but for the next 10 or 20 years. We're happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you ran a fairly negative campaign on health at the election, do you rule out using things like text messages and cold phone calls in the next campaign, are you going to just run a positive health campaign?
SHORTEN: We ran a very constructive campaign in healthcare. We helped save Medicare. Until we blew the whistle, they were going to privatise the payments system.
Unfortunately, this government still hasn't got the message out the last election. I don't think anyone would forget the Prime Minister's midnight tantrum on election night where he basically ignored the issues of Medicare and complained about a text message. The fact of the matter is, we are seeing significant cuts to the rebates which GPs get because they've frozen the indexation.
But when we talk about the freeze of Medicare rebates to GPs, let's call it for what that really is, the indexation increase, it goes to the patient, it's what the patient gets back.
So what this government's proposing to do is for many years to come, freeze the amount that patients get back when they go and see the doctor, this is unacceptable. And we don't take one backwards step for defending proper funding for hospitals, for fighting for bulk billing, that's what we will do.
But, of course, we don't see the Government as having a health policy at the moment, they've just got series of complaints about text messages. But I promise Australians that Labor's getting on with the job of a great health plan to look after Australians in the future.
JOURNALIST: On national security, Mr Dutton's out today saying that they may need to change the citizenship laws again, is Labor up for more changes to national security or is this just the Government beating the terrorism drum?
SHORTEN: Well, nothing is more important of course than the security of Australians, and Labor under my leadership has worked conscientiously with the Coalition to make sure that we can improve the security of Australians.
When it comes to fighting terrorism we're all in this together - and Australians expect us to do that.
I'm a bit surprised though, I saw Minister Pyne out there saying this wasn't a big issue, now Minister Dutton has rushed out and says it is an issue - I would like the Government to get their lines straight on it.
We'll of course look at what the Government proposes and be very constructive.
The real problem here is that the government should be fighting terrorism and not fighting each other. The problem is that this is a government which is deeply divided to its core.
And I've got no doubt that Minister Dutton has probably been spending as much time working on his leadership ambitions as perhaps this other more important work.
JOURNALIST: Have you identified any areas where we could tighten our terror laws?
SHORTEN: We'll work with the Government on that matter. I'm not going to reveal every national security discussion.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, putting aside the question of returning fighters and citizenship for dual nationals, those sorts of issues we've seen canvassed today, do you think the returning foreign fighters laws that have also been brought in the last couple of years, aren't they doing enough, or do you think they do enough to actually take care of this issue of [inaudible]?
SHORTEN: We have always got to be vigilant. These foreign fighters returning are of grave concern to Australians. What we will do is we will keep working in a bipartisan basis. We tend to take the advice of our security agencies. We don't like seeing some of the national security leaks we are seeing from the Government. But let me be really clear to Australians, we will keep working with the Government in the best interest of Australians. Australians expect nothing less from us.
Perhaps one more question and then we have got to get back to the summit.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that the OECD report is correct and that if there is a drop in house prices, there will be a much wider effect on the economy?
SHORTEN: For many Australians, the most important asset that we have is our family home. And for too many young and not so young Australians, the dream of first home ownership is simply out of reach. Only Labor has got a credible policy to tackle housing affordability. All the experts say it, I just wish the Government would stop being so stubborn and work with Labor to restore the dream of being able to buy your first home to all Australians.
Very last question.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) saying he couldn't do as good a job as he could in selling the Government's decision not to intervene in the Fair Work Commission's decision over penalty rates.
SHORTEN: Well this week, we saw Malcolm Turnbull confirm he supports the cut to penalty rates. Tony Abbott has confirmed his support to cut the penalty rates. Let's just be really straight about this. The one thing that sticky tapes together the unhappy ship of the Coalition is their pathological desire to reduce penalty rates. You know, we've seen this week, Government MPs say, called it 'a gift to young people', they say it's only a 'marginal matter' of workers on $30,000 lose valuable money in Sunday shifts they get paid. This Government is amazingly out of touch on penalty rates. They have tried to pretend that it has got nothing to do with them. This Government should listen to the voice of ordinary Australians. They should work with Labor, we should pass a law to make it impossible for this decision to cut penalty rates to go ahead now, and in the future.
Thank you everybody.