FRIDAY, 6 APRIL 2018
SUBJECT/S: Private Health Insurance costs; launch of Labor’s People Not Profits National Survey; GST; Liddell Power Station; energy prices.
LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HUMAN SERVICES: Good afternoon everyone, thank you for coming. I'm absolutely thrilled as the Member for Barton to welcome Bill Shorten and Catherine King to this wonderful electorate. Catherine as you know of course is the Shadow Minister for Health, and we all know who our Leader is Mr Bill Shorten.
We'd also like to thank St George Private for hosting us today, and thank Peter Ridley who is the CEO of St George Private, Craig McNally who's the CEO of Ramsay Hospital Group and Danny Sims who is CEO of Ramsay Australia, for hosting us here today.
We've also had the great pleasure meeting some of the people who are patients here. We'd like to really thank the generosity of Julie Flanagan who has had a spinal operation in the last couple of days, and had the great pleasure of meeting Isla who was only 24 hours old, and her mum Elyce and Matt.
St George Private as you all know is a world class hospital with sugical expertise in a range of practice areas. Kogarah is its home, in one of Sydney's great medical hubs, you only have to look around here to see that, for research as well as patient treatment and care. Many services here are not only - this service is not only for people in Barton, but right across southern Sydney. I'm so grateful as the Member for Barton to have both Bill Shorten and Catherine King here into this electorate, and I'll hand over to you Bill for a bit of a chat. Thank you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Linda. Good afternoon everybody, I'm sorry, I don't have a lot of time, I've got to catch a plane, but it is great to be here with Linda Burney and Catherine King to announce Labor's new survey, our national survey, People Not Profits - People Not Profits.
What we want to do, is we want to invite the Australian people into our trust. We want to listen to the Australian people and we want to hear from them, what they think is wrong with private health insurance, what they think needs fixing. The problem is this is something the government should be doing, but they are too distracted fighting themselves. But while they fight themselves, Australian families have seen their private health insurance bills go up by on average $1,000 since the Liberals got elected.
Now, Labor has a plan to do something meaningful about restraining the increase in the cost of living through private health insurance premium increases. What we've said is that for the first two years of a Labor Government, if we get elected, we won't allow premium prices to increase by more than two per cent per year, and in the mean time we will review the system to make sure we're putting downward pressure on the all-important health care costs in family budgets. So Labor has a plan.
But what we're also making clear today, by conducting a long overdue national survey of consumer attitudes about private health insurance, is we are putting the big private health insurance companies on notice. We are saying under a Labor Government you won't be able to continue taking Aussies for a ride, and the problem is that private health insurance companies have been taking Australian families for a ride and the Liberals do nothing. If Labor get elected, we will take back control and we will put people before profits.
I would now like to invite my Shadow Minister to talk further about this exciting new national survey which will let the people's voices be heard before the profits of private health insurance companies.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Thanks, Bill. Well of course yesterday we saw the Consumers Health forum actually come out and say that a survey that they have done of people across the country is in fact showing some pretty shocking statistics. We are seeing more and more patients paying more and more for the health care that they need. And truly shocking out of that report is that the number of people who have private health insurance, who have been paying private health insurance for years, who are paying substantial out-of-pockets, cancer patients paying $10,000 to $14,000 for the cancer care that they need.
That's why we've decided to go into this national survey, People Not Profits, making sure that consumers have the first say in what the Productivity Commission should look at. What are the good things about private health insurance, what do they value. But also what are the bad things, what’s actually happening for patients across the country with their private health insurance. The survey is an important part of Labor’s policy development process. It means that we are able to ensure that consumers have the first say about what the Productivity Commission will look into. We want to put People before Profits.
SHORTEN: Thanks Catherine, thanks Linda. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: With the survey, Mr Shorten, if people come back and say they don't want - or they want the rebate to stay, would you rule out any possible changes to that?
SHORTEN: We've ruled out getting rid of the rebate. We think it is important to encourage Australians to have private health insurance, but only Labor is going to be courageous enough to say no to the top end of town. We are saying to the big private health insurance companies, we want you to keep your fee increases down, Mr Turnbull wants to give them a tax cut and give them more corporate profits from taxpayer money.
We want the private health insurance system to work in the interests of consumers. Our message is very straightforward: we want to put people before profits. And we are doing what the government should be doing. We are launching a national survey to let the consumers of private health insurance tell us what's working and what isn't working. We trust the Australian people, we want to bring them into our confidence and hear their views about the future of private health insurance. We will defend the system, but what we won't do is write a blank cheque of taxpayer money and not get something back in return for consumers. It should be the consumers who run our health insurance system, not the big end of town.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Liddell power station, do you think there is a risk of an energy short-fall if it closes in 2022?
SHORTEN: The biggest risk to energy security, energy prices and climate change in this country is the Turnbull Government. Let's face it, energy policy in this country, be it the Liddell Power Station, be it renewable energy, be it cost of living prices for households, is all hostage to the internal civil war in the Liberal Party. We've seen Mr Turnbull face a proxy war for his leadership, when a group of his right-wing MPs formed a ginger group, a rebel group, to force Mr Turnbull to spend taxpayer money on propping up old coal-fired power stations. Mr Turnbull needs to rule out spending $4 billion of taxpayer money on very old coal-fired power stations in return for saving his job. It isn't worth the money. Mr Turnbull should just stand up, look his dissidents in the face in the Liberal Party and say, no longer will the energy prices of Australia be hostage to the civil war and culture of hate within the Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: Just on GST, we found out yesterday that the states will be getting about $3.5 billion more in their pockets next year. Does that take some of the heat out of your argument that they are being short changed by the Turnbull Government?
SHORTEN: The issue with funding for states in Australia is that Mr Turnbull has turned it into a hunger games. This time around, Queensland and New South Wales have gone back a bit and Western Australia has gone up a little bit, but the situation is not satisfactory. The real answer to the challenges of liveable cities, of infrastructure jobs, of more productive communities, of people spending less time in traffic jams across our big cities, of people in the regions being short changed on support from Canberra, the real answer for Mr Turnbull is not to wash his hands about the GST debate, and instead stop the $65 billion corporate tax giveaway to large companies.
There is a very simple solution to making sure that hospitals are well-funded, that schools are well-funded, that we have public transport in our big cities and good roads in the bush; it’s not to give $65 billion away to big banks, multinationals and foreign shareholders. Mr Turnbull only ever looks after the top end of town, and as far as he is concerned, everyone else, that's not his problem.
JOURNALIST: Just returning to the energy situation, do you support AGL plans regarding the Liddell Power Station?
SHORTEN: Ultimately AGL is going to make a commercial decision, but if we want to have new investment in our energy infrastructure which will force downward pressure on the cost of living for households and small businesses, we need coherent, national policy. How on earth can we expect investors to invest in our energy infrastructure in Australia if people don't know what the rules are? How on earth can Australia catch the wave moving across the world of investment in renewable energy, if this government can't even work out whether or not it likes renewable energy. The big problem for energy costs in Australia, for businesses, for households - the big problem for taking real action on climate change is Mr Turnbull can't make a decision because his own party hate him more than Mr Turnbull can look after the people of Australia. They should back 50 per cent renewables by 2030; they should back the new technology; they should back lower prices for households and small businesses.
JOURNALIST: The Budget isn't too far away. What would you like to see from it and what are your parameters for a good budget for Australians?
SHORTEN: First of all, what we have got to do is put people ahead of profits. What we need to do is make sure there is adequate investment in our hospitals and in our schools. I would like to see a reduction in the waiting lists for aged-care packages in Australia. I would like to see the regions receive their fair share of infrastructure investment. I want to see good, sustainable, full-time jobs created in Australia.
All Mr Turnbull is offering by contrast is a $65 billion tax giveaway to the top end of town. So the first thing I would like to see in the Budget is Mr Turnbull finally drop his addiction to the top end of town and keeping the big banks and multinationals happy. If Mr Turnbull wants to get a budget lift, he should drop the $65 billion of corporate tax giveaways to the big end of town, because if I'm elected Prime Minister, I will invest in people, not the top end of town.