WEDNESDAY, 28 MARCH 2018
SUBJECTS: Turnbull’s cuts to hospitals; marine parks; expulsion of Russian diplomats; Business Council of Australia; Malcolm Turnbull’s $65 billion tax cuts.
MEEGAN FITZHARRIS, ACT MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND WELLBEING: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Canberra Hospital. My name is Meegan Fitzharris, I am the ACT Minister for Health and Wellbeing. We are delighted this morning to have Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Opposition Spokeswoman for Health, Catherine King here visiting the very important Canberra Region Cancer Centre which was a partnership between the ACT Government and the Labor Government, and opened a number of years ago.
It has been wonderful to introduce Bill and Catherine to the magnificent health staff here at the Canberra Hospital and have discussions with them about the importance of continuing to invest in healthcare and the importance of governments making clear decisions about their priorities. As with Federal Labor, ACT Labor is absolutely committed to continuing to invest in public health services and of course, the wonderful public health staff at our hospitals. It has been a real pleasure to hear Bill and Catherine chat with our dedicated health staff here and I am delighted to introduce Bill this morning and hand over to him.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Meegan. It's great to be here with Catherine King at the Canberra Regional Cancer Centre and I acknowledge the presence of the ACT Minister, Meegan Fitzharris.
For the last three days, we have been debating corporate tax cuts in Australia. The Turnbull Government thinks that there is no more important priority than to hand away $65 billion to large corporations. But I found the visit to the cancer centre very grounding this morning because in the next three years, my opponent is cutting $715 million from hospitals. When I get to speak to the remarkable nursing staff here, the medical staff, and even more importantly the patients, it is a reality check about the priorities of the nation. $715 million is being cut from hospitals in Australia by this government. What that means in the real world is it means longer waiting times - not just for urgent procedures but even for elective procedures. What it means is that our nurses and doctors are being asked to do more with less. What it means is that our health outcomes for Australians are compromised. I got to speak to a couple of amazingly strong cancer sufferers who are doing their absolute best to beat the scourge of cancer.
Nothing is more important than a person's health and their family. That is the priority. That's why if Labor is elected, we will end the Medicare freeze, we will increase resources for hospitals and we will pull the private health insurers into line by capping the out-of-control premium increases.
Health of Australians is much more important than corporate tax cuts. I promise that we will do everything we can to stop giving away $65 billion from ordinary working Australians to big banks and multinationals and foreign companies. It is a very simple choice for me and for the Labor Party. We choose to prioritise funding our hospitals and health of the everyday Australians over big corporate tax cuts and we call upon Mr Turnbull to reverse his $715 million of cuts to hospitals. His priorities are simply wrong.
I would like to invite Catherine King to talk further about these cuts to hospitals.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Thanks very much, Bill and I too want to thank Meegan and the staff here at Canberra Hospital for hosting us here this morning.
Bill is absolutely right. What a contrast: we have just toured the integrated cancer facility here that was an investment from a Labor government. This is what good progressive governments do; they look after people's health. They ensure that people have access to healthcare that they need. They don't cut $715 million out of our public hospitals. Here at Canberra Hospital alone, that is a $15 million cut over the next three years. And that has a real impact for patients. 22,000 ED presentations that can't be funded. Over 4,000 cataract extraction that can't be funded and nearly 500 knee operations that can't be funded out of this hospital because of those cuts. That is what it translates to. That has a real impact on patients. When you see the debate that has been happening up on the hill, not far from here, about corporate tax cuts - it frankly makes many, many people feel as though politicians don't get it.
But Bill and Labor does get it because we know that investing in our hospitals, investing in healthcare, is the most important thing a nation can do and making sure we are looking after the nation's health, not giving big tax cuts to the big end of town is a priority for Labor.
SHORTEN: Thanks Catherine. Any there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Yes, Mr Shorten, on refundable tax credits - after today, all self-funded retirees who move onto an age pension will be caught up in your revised policy. These aren't necessarily wealthy people, they're nurses, they could be nurses here working at this hospital. What do you have to say to those people who will be caught up in this revised policy of yours?
SHORTEN: First of all I'd like to say to them that what you said is not correct. Labor will protect pensioners - always have, always will. To be specific about what we said yesterday, if you are a pensioner or a part pensioner, we will protect you. Now there is a small number of Australians who are pensioners who are connected to self-managed superannuation funds - this is a small number. What we've said is if you are currently a pensioner who has a self-managed superannuation fund you will not be affected. But what we're not going to do is create loopholes in the future where self-managed superannuation funds put a pensioner on them to try gain a tax benefit.
The reason why we are doing this long overdue reform is it's a question of priroties. Did you know that we're the only country in the world which gives an income tax refund to people who don’t pay income tax? That is not a sustainable system going forward.
You have to make tough choices. When I look into the faces of those cancer victims today, I am completely confident that Labor's priority to put them first, to reverse and challenge the cuts to hospital funding which Mr Turnbull's doing, that is more important to me.
If you want to have the world's best tax loopholes, vote for Malcolm Turnbull. If you want the best hospitals in the world, vote for Labor.
JOURNALIST: The Government has time now the lobby crossbenchers on its company tax cuts. How likely is it do you think that Derryn Hinch and Tim Storer will come on board and that that legislation will pass through the Senate?
SHORTEN: That's a matter for the crossbench Senators. But is this really all the Government's got to offer Australia? A $65 billion tax giveaway to the big end of town.
Labor is going to do everything we can to stop giving away $65 billion to the top end of town because the money's got to come from somewhere.
The big lie that the Government has refused to answer is where's the money coming from. If you're going to give $65 billion of tax cuts to big banks, to multinationals to foreign companies, then it's ordinary working Australians who are paying for it. They pay for it through their income taxes, they pay for it through cuts to hospitals and schools.
Politics isn't that complicated, it's about choices and priorities. I choose to make sure that ordinary working Australians have got the best health care in the world, the best child care in the world, the best schools for our kids and making sure they get income tax relief. Mr Turnbull prefers to look after the big end of town. I am up for Mr Turnbull turning the next election into a referendum: vote for the Liberals and you vote to give big banks and multinationals a tax cut. Vote for Labor and we'll make sure we fund our hospitals and schools and look after ordinary working Aussies with tax relief.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, a small number or not, do you think you need to revise this pensioner guarantee?
SHORTEN: No. I think that what we need to do is have an honest discussion with Mr Turnbull. Does he think it's fair that you could have $1.5 million in superannuation, you could be getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in share income, so you pay no income tax? Does he think it's fair that we give taxpayer money to people in the form of a tax refund who haven't paid any income tax? It's not sustainable.
But of course, we will protect pensioners and that's what we've announced.
JOURNALIST: Russia insists that the diplomats expelled yesterday are not spies, do you believe that assurance given by the Ambassador?
SHORTEN: No I don't. I support the decisions of the Government, I support the actions and the advice of our security agencies. We have to just call it straight here. What we saw in Great Britain was the Russian Government engaging in illegal behaviour, engaging in violent criminal activity, and what we also saw them do is not only were they chasing former Russians who are resident in the UK, but also their actions endangered the lives of British citizens. So what they did was well beyond the pale of what is acceptable and I think we should also just remember but we've never got to the bottom of who shot down MH17.
So I think if the Russian Government wants to regain some trust in Australia, I think they need to cooperate a lot more fully because 38 Australians were murdered that day.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor be lobbying the crossbenchers -
SHORTEN: Sorry, I will come to you next.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor be lobbying crossbenchers to have another crack at disallowing the Government's marine park plans?
SHORTEN: I think what the Government's doing on marine parks is scandalous. It's one of the largest withdrawals from environmental protection that we've seen in Australian history. We certainly would encourage the crossbenchers to protect the environment.
JOURNALIST: Is that on the cards sorry, will there be action taken soon again on that?
SHORTEN: Listen we all know the Government's a shemozzle, if you can predict what the Government is going to do 24 hours in advance, you're a smarter man than me.
JOURNALIST: Sorry Mr Shorten back to Russia, are you concerned on that cooperation there are- there's talk this morning that there could be a cold war situation developing is that a concern for you and for our nation?
SHORTEN: Of course it's concerning if you've got tension and conflict on the global stage but you have to draw a line in the sand sometimes and say enough is enough. I think not only is the world largely united in condemnation of what has happened but our Parliament is.
I might just say as Parliament is coming to a close before the Budget session, there's a lot that goes on in Parliament which is sort of you know, turns people off. There are some big issues and big arguments as well. I have a different priority to Malcolm Turnbull, his priority is big business, my priority is ordinary working Australians. But there are other times when the Parliament actually really does work well and I want to make clear when it comes to national security, the Government and I are on the same page and we are prioritising the security of Australians.
JOURNALIST: What about the cricket do you have any response to the three players being sent back this morning? The Foreign Minister this morning said that there's our reputation is being destroyed as a nation.
SHORTEN: I think my reaction was the same as millions of other Australians when we saw the footage of the ball tampering. I think it was shocking and I think that the nation was shocked. I'm not going to be one of these politicians who wants to dive in and start being the sheriff of every sport in Australia though. Let's see what Cricket Australia does, I think all Australians want to see Cricket Australia act on this matter, I think it's a very black day for cricket and I think Cricket Australia now need to get on and administer their sport.
JOURNALIST: Matt Canavan today will be announcing a resources 2030 task force essentially making the case for coal, is that something that Australians need do you think?
SHORTEN: Listen, the question I have for the Government is what are you doing about cost of living? If they want to have some sort of argument about some other issue that's up to them. What I wish the Government is doing today was dropping their corporate tax cuts. What I wish the Government was doing today was reversing their funding cuts to hospitals in Australia. What I wish the Government was doing today was offering a real plan to lower cost of living pressures on energy. I wish they had a real plan on wages. I mean, the Business Council of Australia, the trade union for the top end of town, walking around the corridors of Parliament trying to pretend that somehow if we give $65 billion to the top end of town miraculously they'll pass all of that money on to Australian workers.
The Business Council themselves did a secret survey and less than one in five CEOs said that they would use this money to improve wages and then today we've now seen that the Business Council of Australia, the best friends of Mr Turnbull, they put an initial draft letter out and I think it's just started to be reported, they put an initial draft letter out which they were going to write to the crossbench, and they wanted the business to commit to more Australian jobs, an increase wages when conditions are right. The letter that they were originally asking business to put out to crossbenchers wasn't exactly the strongest promise of actually helping ordinary everyday Aussies but then we find out that they were so sufficiently cynical that the letter they signed didn't even bother going to the initial commitments which the Government has said will happen to help everyday Australians with wages.
So, the fact of the matter is that we leave Canberra today, the Government of Australia's authority is so weak and so out of touch that even their friends in big business aren't even bothering to pretend that they're going to lift the wages of workers. This Government needs to get back to the basics. Stop worrying about the big end of town, start worrying about everyday working Aussies, that's what people want to see.
JOURNALIST: Sorry just to the question do you think that there's any merit to a taskforce that looks at issues of resources in Australia?
SHORTEN: We'll have a look at what Mr Canavan has to say but I wish they'd just start talking about everyday Aussies in terms of cost of living, out of control private health insurance premiums, energy bills going up and up, flat lining wages and all the Government wants to do is give a tax cut to the top end of town and increase the taxes of everyday Aussies. This is an out of touch Government.
JOURNALIST: A group of China academics have written an open letter saying accusations of racism should not stifle the debate into the Chinese Communist Party. Do you agree that the CCP uses allegations of xenophobia to avoid scrutiny?
SHORTEN: I haven't read the letter, I'll have a look at what the letter is about, thank you very much. Thanks everybody see you later.