WEDNESDAY, 30 MARCH 2016
SUBJECT/S: Turnbull Liberal’s cuts to health; ABCC
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks for coming out this morning, we're here in St Vincent's hospital to highlight what a debacle we are seeing when it comes to health policy. We had the Health Minister of the nation this morning on radio admit that she has not been party to any of the discussions with states and territories about our public hospital funding.
What that makes abundantly clear is that Malcolm Turnbull is not interested in the patients who are in our public hospital system, he's not interested in the nurses and doctors who have been struggling to do more with less and less resources in our public hospital systems. What we can see is that Malcolm Turnbull is after a political fix for the mess that they have created by taking $57 billion out of our public hospital system.
The only job that Malcolm Turnbull cares about is his own. He doesn't care about the patient; doesn't care about doctors; doesn't care about our public hospital system. We've seen this debacle unfold over the course of last two weeks, but it really has been three years in the making - 2014 Budget, $57 billion cut out, Government constantly saying oh no nothing to see here, we haven't cut money out. Now on the eve of an election we've heard the figures of $1 billion, $3 billion, $5 billion, $7 billion to health and education. The Health Minister doesn't know what's going on, I don't think the Government does but I can tell you who does know and that's the patients and the staff who are working in our public hospital system. This Government has been a disaster for health and I'm delighted to be joined here by Bill Shorten who's going to have a few more words to say.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Catherine and good morning everyone. First of all, I just want to thank the hard working staff at St Vincent's for the remarkable work they're doing helping people deal with the biggest challenges in their lives, battling cancer. Catherine and I were privileged to talk to five different patients, none of whom asked for the illness which has beset them but all of them having to draw deep upon personal resources, upon emotional strength and also relying upon the hard working staff at this hospital.
The patients here are in the fight of their lives and they deserve a government who will back them up in the fight that they're having. I feel very strongly that the Liberal Government cuts to hospitals are causing injury to people who are already battling and doing very hard. The patients here need strong representation; they need to make sure that our hospitals are not brought to the brink of crisis.
The difference couldn't be starker between Liberal and Labor. Not only when it comes to fighting for jobs and schools but fighting for properly funded hospitals. All that Mr Turnbull and his Liberals want to do is give multinationals a tax cut, yet our hospital system is at the brink and all we see is Mr Turnbull trying desperately to save his job by offering a band-aid solution to our hospitals.
The cuts that the Liberal Party have inflicted upon hospital funding have cast the ability to provide proper care to patients into great doubt. This is a problem of the Liberal Party's making. For over two years, nearly three years, the Liberal Government in Canberra has denied that there have been cuts to the hospital system. Now as an election approaches, Mr Turnbull and his team have been dragged kicking and screaming to try and put together a band-aid solution for hospitals. Well it's a band-aid for a bullet hole inflicted by Liberal Party cuts.
The patients of Australia need people who are on their side. Catherine and I and Labor will make sure that we properly fund our hospitals. We will have more to say about how we do that as we get to the election, but one promise I can make to the patients here, to the staff here and indeed families all across Australia, is that Labor will always do a better job standing up for Medicare, standing up for hospitals than Mr Turnbull's Liberals who are just focused on the election and saving their own jobs. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Labor promised extra money for schools and hospitals in 2011 without a proper plan to fund it, how would you try and meet the rising costs now?
SHORTEN: Well it's not right to say that Labor hasn't got a proposal to fund schools and hospitals. We would do it by the following ways: we wouldn't increase income taxes in Australia like Mr Turnbull and Scott Morrison are proposing to do. We will make multinationals pay their fair share. We'll have an increase in the tobacco excise, we'll clamp down on excessively generous superannuation tax concessions at the top end. We will tackle negative gearing and make sure that first home buyers can compete on a level playing field, but also make sure that the money which goes there can instead go to helping fund our hospitals and our schools.
For Labor, this election is all about choices. We choose to be on the side of the hospitals and its patients and work staff. We choose to be on the side of schools, students and parents. We choose to be on the side of Australian jobs and the ability to buy your first home. We are not on the same side as the Government when it comes to corporate tax cuts and now we see this new idea from the Liberals to increase income taxes, seven different income taxes across Australia. This Government at the heart, its proposition, Mr Turnbull's proposition is to increase income taxes on Australians. They played around with increasing the GST for six months and they've shelved that idea temporarily. Now their idea for the Budget is to pass the cost of the Budget onto household budgets by increasing income tax. That's not a solution to help the sick and it's not a solution to help families every day.
JOURNALIST: The Victorian Government flagged High Court action over these funding cuts. Will Labor reverse these funding cuts?
SHORTEN: Well, as I said in my opening, you can always trust Labor to stand up more for the hospitals and Medicare. Labor's not interested in the cuts that Mr Turnbull's carrying out to bulk billing. We're not interested in the cuts which he's doing in hospitals. What Labor will do is closer to the election, Catherine and I, will unveil our policies. But one thing is for sure, when you look at the scoreboard, Labor Governments are far more in touch with the needs of every day Australians when it comes to making sure we can decrease the waiting time in our emergency wards, that we put in money to help decrease the waiting time for elective surgery. These cancer patients are pretty inspirational. I don't think anyone who's met them would fail to be moved, they're not looking for any medals, they're not looking for any pat on the back but they do expect a Government, to whom they've paid taxes their whole working life, to be there when they need them. No-one looks for cancer. It's a big and terrible battle. I've seen it even in my own family. But one thing is for sure, you need to be confident that when you're going through the fight of your life, you've got champions in Canberra who will be there alongside you to make sure that your hospitals, your nurses, your doctors and the services you need are being properly funded. Only Labor can be trusted to properly fund our hospitals and the patients of Australia and their families deserve nothing less.
JOURNALIST: Would a future Labor Government reverse any decision to give States control over income tax levels?
SHORTEN: This proposal by Mr Turnbull, I mean, Mr Turnbull changes his mind between morning and night. Two months ago, he said the income taxation proposals that were being proposed by the South Australian Premier didn't make sense. Now, he can't get his GST increase up to 15 per cent for the time being, he's scrambling around looking for an idea. So, he's gone back to something which he rubbished two months ago. And let's be really straight forward, what Mr Turnbull and the Liberals are proposing is allowing States the ability to levy income taxes. We used to have one universal taxation system in Australia. Mr Turnbull is undermining universal taxation in Australia, that means he's undermining universal health care in Australia. I can guarantee Australians a Labor Government will not give income tax powers to State and Territory Governments. Australians already pay quite a lot of tax. If Mr Turnbull's only suggestion to fix up his Budget is to increase the costs on household Budgets, well it's a bad idea.
JOURNALIST: Bob Hawke actually considered this back in 1991 to give States more control over income tax rates, so it's not just a Coalition proposal?
SHORTEN: I am sorry, when you're going back into the archives to look at what's been proposed, I don't find that persuasive. A Labor Government that I lead will not give States the power to increase income taxes or to levy income taxes. Ordinary Australians, already pay a lot of tax. No, I think I've got a better idea than Mr Turnbull's plan to increase income taxes. I'll make multinationals pay their fair share. I'll make sure that we don't have excessively generous superannuation tax concessions for people who already have millions and millions of dollars in superannuation. A Labor Government will stop wasteful Government spending, including the discredited Emissions Reduction Fund which was Tony Abbott and now Malcolm Turnbull’s idea to pay big polluters for poor environmental results. A Labor Government will tackle negative gearing going forward. What we'll do is make sure that anyone who is invested under current tax laws still have those tax laws applying to their investments. But we are concerned and we saw it again as recently as the last few weekends. You've got first home owners, perspective first home buyers not having a level playing field with foreign investors who can claim our negative gearing tax laws to get an advantage over first home buyers. By changing these laws and giving first home buyers the chance to be part of the great Australian dream that their parents and grandparents enjoyed. We'll also save money for the Budget.
Labor has fully funded and costed policies. We've been doing the home work for nearly the last three years. By contrast, Mr Turnbull's Government is divided. They've got Tony Abbott out on the rampage. They've got Arthur Sinodinos who's got a lot of explaining to do, while he won't reveal the identity of corporate fat cat donors. Why is the Liberal Party fighting so hard for their own jobs, fighting so hard against each other for the jobs they have got? Fighting so hard to protect corporate donors, yet when it comes to hospitals and health care, all they've been doing for the last two and a half years is fighting Australians, pretending there haven't been massive cuts. You've got the poor old Health Minister, she's out on radio today hapless and helpless saying she doesn't even know what's going on in a negotiation with the States about the future of our hospitals in two days’ time. All of this shows that Mr Turnbull has proven to be a massive disappointment over the last six months. All he's doing is rushing around, trying to put together band-aid solutions for the hospital system of Australia which deserves better so Mr Turnbull can simply keep his job. And now Mr Turnbull's come out with perhaps the silliest idea of his six and a half months, which is to allow all the States and Territories to increase income taxes. No, Mr Turnbull doesn't have a clear policy for the hospitals and Medicare of Australia, unlike Labor.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on another subject, do you think that the chance of an early election has been minimalised by Malcolm Turnbull's call to count backbenchers and support the ABCC?
SHORTEN: I've given up trying to work out what is going on in Mr Turnbull's head. To be honest, I'm not sure he keeps the same idea from morning to night time. I get the impression that Mr Turnbull desperately just wants to call an election on the day that best suits him to keep his current job. Labor's ready whenever the election is called. We're focusing on positive plans for Australians. Labor has plans which will increase jobs, properly fund our hospitals, protect Medicare against privatisation. We've got real action planned for climate change focusing on renewable energy and we're certainly going to make sure that our schools are properly funded, our universities are accessible to middle and working class kids. Labor's got positive plans which promise a fair go for all and opportunity for all. Today, after meeting some of the remarkable patients and staff at St Vincent's cancer care, I am more convinced than ever that what this nation needs is a Labor Government properly funding our hospitals, so when you're really sick and you need help, you have a Government on your side.