FRIDAY 1 JULY 2016
SUBJECTS: Labor’s positive plans for Australia; Labor’s positive plans for Medicare; CFA dispute; Indigenous Affairs; Independent Senators
MIKE FREELANDER, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR MACARTHUR: Welcome everybody. It's a great pleasure for me to introduce Bill. I'm Mike Freelander. I'm the Labor candidate for Macarthur. I'm a paediatrician. I've worked in Macarthur for the last 32, almost 33 years, caring for many, many thousands of children. I am very concerned about what cuts to our health services, particularly Medicare, on our public hospitals, is doing to the healthcare of the children I care for. This is a real thing. This is a real issue and this is a major issue for the upcoming election.
The cuts to health services are affecting people's health and there are many people who are avoiding healthcare because of the cuts. Now, I'd like to introduce Mr Bill Shorten who is the next Prime Minister of Australia who has come to this very iconic place, Tharawal in Airds in Campbelltown. Tharawal has provided a fantastic service to many, many children over many years and continues to do so. But the services they provide are at risk because of the cuts happening. So, it's with very great pleasure I introduce Mr Bill Shorten, Leader of the Australian Labor Party and next Prime Minister of Australian. Thank you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I'd like to acknowledge the Tharawal people upon whose land we are holding this press conference. I said at the start of this election it would be a referendum on Medicare. Now, today, we have the incredible sight of Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, trying to pretend there are no cuts to bulk-billing. It's there in black and white. It's in Mr Turnbull's budget. It's in black and white. Indeed, it is central to his economic plan. He has campaigned upon it for the last eight weeks. The cuts are severe and they are real.
Today, for Mr Turnbull, to pretend in answer questions, repeated questioning, on the Today Show, there are no cuts to bulk billing, this is a new low. It is outrageous. It is untruthful. He knows the facts are different to what he said on television this morning. Mr Turnbull is now running scared from the Australian people. The Australian people who are most concerned about his cuts to Medicare. Tomorrow the Australian people, I suspect, are going to send a very clear message to Malcolm Turnbull, hands off Medicare.
Tomorrow, this long election campaign concludes. In the last 24 hours, before Australians cast their votes, I just want to say to the Australian people we are ready to govern. We are ready to implement our policy agenda, our economic and social program for the Australian people. We are ready to serve. I hope we have done enough to earn the votes of the Australian people. It is now in the hands of the Australian people, this election. I make one last promise in this election campaign. If you vote for Labor, we will save Medicare and we will not let you down. Thank you. Any questions?
REPORTER: Mr Shorten, will you make a guarantee you are committed to all the saving measures you have released so far, regardless of whether you are in Government or Opposition?
SHORTEN: First of all, there is only one scenario which I'm dealing with 24 hours before the end of the election. It's to win this election. I absolutely promise, with complete transparency, the program we've outlined and presented to the Australian people will be the program we start implementing from Sunday. We have been very transparent and we have discussed our policy platform with great clarity with the Australian people. We could have chosen to take the low road, being a small target opposition, hope the Government will fall over under the weight of its own incompetence and mismanagement. We have decided instead to offer the Australian people a positive agenda. We have put out costed policies, more costed policies, with more detail than any Opposition in 30 years. So we stand by our measures and look forward to convincing the Australian people by 6pm tomorrow night we ar e ready to govern in the interests of all Australians.
REPORTER: You were straight out called a liar by Malcolm Turnbull about what you say he's planning to do for Medicare. But you have stopped short of returning the dig. Why is that?
SHORTEN: Because I am running for Prime Minister, I am not running for chief name caller of Australia. Do you remember when Malcolm Turnbull promised a whole brand new form of politics nine months ago? What a disappointment he's been. He has shrunk into this job. I am not interested in calling Mr Turnbull any particular name. I don't think Australians want that sort of politics. In fact, Mr Turnbull spent most of the last eight weeks talking about us. If you look at his last-minute address to the National Press Club yesterday, he spoke about Labor 26 times. He spoke about myself on nine occasions. He's hung up about us. We are interested in the Australian people.
The fact of the matter is, his budget released on May 3 does contain dreadful cuts to Medicare. The fact of the matter is, he is scrapping the bulk billing incentives in the future for X-rays and for blood tests. The fact of the matter is, he is freezing the GP rebate. No less a person than the new President of the AMA has said in response to the long freezes of the GP rebate, he's said not only are they unsustainable, he said GPs are at breaking point. The Royal College of Australian GPs has said 14.5 million patients will pay more to see the doctor. Mr Turnbull is running scared from the reaction of the Australian people. Australians don't like it when conservative Governments mess with Medicare.
REPORTER: This morning on Neil Mitchell you said: "I don't believe in second place being honourable." Does that mean if you lose the election you won't put your hand up again for the Labor leadership ballot?
SHORTEN: Well, at fear of repeating myself, I am determined to win the election. I am talking to millions of Australians who want to see Labor lunge with every inch of energy towards the finishing line. Labor's been on a journey for the last three years. Three years ago we were not united, and now we are. We have put forward a policy agenda. My whole team. I want to thank all of my members of Caucus and the broader Labor movement for the policy work we have done.
In the last eight weeks we committed, in a determined fashion, to talk about our story, our positive vision for jobs, education and Medicare; for NBN, for a Royal Commission into the banks, for fixing up child-care, for defending apprenticeships and we’ve spoken about our agenda across tens of thousands of kilometers in little Town Halls and in big meetings, on telephones, we have written to people, at the door stop and at railway stations. I'm very confident Labor can win this election.
When you ask me about what happens next, what I say to you, is there's millions of Australians who are putting and pinning their trust on Labor. I say to these people, we do not give up and we are confident and we believe there's a good chance we can win the election.
REPORTER: Mr Shorten, do you feel like strangling Daniel Andrews with a firefighter's hose over the damage the CFA dispute has done to your campaign in Victoria?
SHORTEN: No, I don't feel like ever strangling anyone to be honest. More seriously though, the CFA dispute has been a long dispute and it is greatly disappointing. See, I know what volunteers do, they are the heart of the CFA. I know how hard career firefighters work. I've seen the work of purely volunteer brigades, and I've seen the work of integrated stations. People work side by side. I've never met a firefighter who's not completely committed to the safety of Victorians and Victoria. This is an important issue. I don't want to rush the answer.
I get this dispute is greatly frustrating. But what I also know, is in every dispute there is a start, a middle and there will be a conclusion. What I also know, is it's a state issue. I understand, whilst Mr Turnbull is keen to use people as pawns in his pursuit of federal political power, the solution to this dispute lies in the hands of volunteer and career firefighters, the State Government and the citizens of Victoria. I'm very confident it will get fixed.
REPORTER: How do you feel about your colleagues making threats of retribution towards Mr Andrews and do you think this issue will cost you seats in Victoria?
SHORTEN: No, it's a state issue, fundamentally. Victorians are frustrated by the length of this dispute but they also can spot opportunism from 100 metres off. You and I both know, Malcolm Turnbull's not greatly interested in this issue, other than how it helps him federally. The real truth of the matter here, is we need this dispute to be resolved. The people most qualified to resolve this dispute are volunteer and career firefighters, the State Government and the communities of Victoria. Of that I have no doubt.
REPORTER: What are your plans for the Indigenous Advisory Council if you're elected?
SHORTEN: We've announced $15 million grant funding for the National Indigenous Congress. I think the best voice for Aboriginal people is the voice they choose. We think the more you empower communities to have a say politically over their future, that's the best way forward. In terms of Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull's structures, we're not going to go and change things on Sunday if we're elected. I want to make it perfectly clear, unless you empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to have a say in their own future, things won't get better. I will add as a bit of a footnote, my personal pride, under my leadership, we have more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders running for the Labor Party than ever before in the history of our party nationally. They're running in winnable seats and I certainly recommend a vote for Tammy Solonec in Western Australia and Li nda Burney in Barton.
REPORTER: In addition, on Indigenous affairs, there's been criticism there hasn't been an integrated policy from either side of politics to address the crippling disadvantage first Australians hold. I just wonder how Aboriginal Australians can have any confidence in either of the major parties, and, also, what would you do with the Indigenous Affairs Department? Would you move it out of Prime Minister and Cabinet?
SHORTEN: First of all, I've spoken about Indigenous policy on three or four separate days of the campaign. The very first announcement I made in this campaign was at Cairns West Primary school, all those eight weeks ago. That was about committing to having more Indigenous teachers. Currently the school population of Australia has about four to five per cent of the kids are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, but only one per cent of the teachers. That's not good enough. We're going to help sponsor and support more young Aboriginal people becoming teachers and the role models for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids.
We've also committed to closing the gap. I spoke at the 25th anniversary of Reconciliation about the importance of having practical Reconciliation, and symbolic Reconciliation. I think what I'm particularly looking forward to in a new Parliament, if we're elected, is I'll have Linda Burnie joining me. She's been Deputy Leader of Labor in New South Wales. I've got Pat Dodson, the father of Reconciliation, in the Senate for Western Australia. I'll have Malarndirri McCarthy running in the Northern Territory, replacing the very capable Nova Peris. Of course we've got Tammy Solonec who's a very skilled academic and historian representing Labor in Western Australia. We're running some other very good candidates in seats admittedly harder to win. I'm looking forward to the Labor Party being a party which gives Aboriginal people not just a say in policy, but puts Aborig inal Australians into Parliament, making laws affecting their own people.
In terms of the departmental administrative arrangements, one thing we have said is, Tony Abbott put everything in Indigenous Affairs into Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. What we're going to do is move the line operations back to the line departments. We'll keep the policy operations in Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Two other things, because they don't get a lot of airing in this election. One, is the rates of trachoma are unacceptable in Indigenous communities in Australia. We have rates of trachoma which would make a third world nation blush. We should be smarter and more generous and capable of resolving that. It’s part of my general desire to close the gap in healthcare, so we've put money alongside to target that. We've also made it clear we want to close the justice gap. It’s unacceptable, in Australia in 2016, a young Aboriginal man of 18 is more likely to go to jail than to university. It is an important issue for us.
I have to wrap up that question by saying our general schools policy is going to provide loadings for schools which have high proportions of Aboriginal kids at school. And of course, Medicare. The fact of the matter is, this operation here, which is remarkable, you would have picked up the great sense of community here, it depends upon bulk billing. When Mr Turnbull says there are no cuts to bulk billing, just speak to the GPs who operate here. Mr Turnbull cannot be trusted on Medicare. His cuts will literally harm the opportunities for Australians who don't enjoy great health outcomes, because he will increase the price of medicine, he will decrease the chances of bulk billing, he'll increase the cost of going to the doctor.
REPORTER: What is your advice to the swathe of Independent senators likely to be elected tomorrow?
SHORTEN: My advice first of all, is to people thinking about voting for them, don't take the long way around to a better Australia, just vote Labor. In terms of the Independent senators, we will see what the electorate pick. Remember, Mr Turnbull changed the voting system in the Senate. I hope he hasn't got it wrong. I hope the informal vote doesn't increase because he and the Greens cooked up this new Senate voting system. Whatever happens in this election, if we see longer queues, because of the time it takes to fill out the Senate ballot paper, if we see One Nation elected, if we see a greater informal vote, blame Malcolm Turnbull and the Greens, this was their idea.
REPORTER: Mr Shorten, has Bob Hawke let down Labor supporters and your candidates and the party by saying on the eve of the election you would lose it and have you spoken to him today.
SHORTEN: I love Hawkie and I think he was quoting the bookies. He's always taken a great interest in the bookies. If we're going to talk about what Bob Hawke said, let’s not just look at one thing he's been reported as saying, let's look at what he said on Medicare. Bob Hawke is the one who belled the cat on the privatisation taskforce on Medicare. Bob Hawke feels so strongly about defending Medicare, he put himself in an ad making it clear the Liberals have plans for a taskforce. Courtesy of him, and the mighty Labor Party blowing the whistle on Mr Turnbull's secret taskforce, they then backtracked on that. So I want to put on the record here today, the last day of the election campaign, thanks Bob Hawke for standing up for Medicare and stopping Malcolm Turnbull's plans.
REPORTER: Would you be willing to do deals with the lower house Independents, like Xenophon and not the Greens if you could form a minority Government?
SHORTEN: You are making an assumption about whether or not the Xenophon independents win any House of Representative seats. Let me be clear, we intend to form Government if we get enough votes. We intend to implement our policy program. We are the only party offering real policy on climate change, on a proper NBN, on a Banking Royal Commission. So long as people are willing to vote for our legislative program, we're willing to talk to them. I can promise Australians we won't be forming a Coalition with the Greens.
REPORTER: This marathon campaign is just a day away from finishing. You said you've enjoyed most of it so far. What will you miss about it when it's all over?
SHORTEN: Perhaps you guys!
SHORTEN: I meant that. I really did. What has been good about this campaign is the chance to talk about our policies. Opposition is a long journey. I've said I wouldn't have replaced any of last 1030 days, the good days and the bad days. I wouldn't change any one in my team who has worked alongside us. Three years ago, people said Tony Abbott would be in for three terms. Well, he's gone. Back after the 2014 Budget, if you read the conservative newspaper editorials, if you have time, they said Abbott Budget of 2014 was a masterstroke. No-one says that anymore, do they?
Remember when Malcolm Turnbull took over and rolled Tony Abbot out 55-45? Everyone said this was the end of the two-party political system. We are in for an era, a generation, of Turnbull. I'm not sure everyone is saying that now. What I love about my party and what I love about the last three years is we have been preparing for this election. We are united. We have put together a policy agenda. I know not every Australian agrees with every idea we're putting forward. But no-one can say we are short-changing the Australian people and hiding what we want to do. What we've done is take Australians into our trust, because we want to tell them what we want to do. We want to tell them what we'll do on apprenticeships and TAFE, make sure our schools and universities are properly funded and reinstate some of those CSIRO cuts which are so dreadful for the future of science. We will have a Royal Commission into the banking industry. We will make sure we have first class NBN. We will make sure we have a manufacturing industry in Australia and we'll stand up for steel. We will make sure first home buyers have the opportunity to compete equally in the housing market. We will ensure we'll close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. We will make sure women receive more equal treatment in our society. We will take real action on climate change. And, for the record, we will save Medicare and get rid of the cuts. Thank you very much, everybody. I think that was a lovely note to end it on. Cheers.