THURSDAY, 23 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECT/S: Labor commits to re-open Medicare centre in Eastwood; Manus Island; infrastructure funding; Bennelong by-election; Cabinet leaks; Foreign Policy White Paper.
KRISTINA KENEALLY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BENNELONG: It is absolutely my pleasure to welcome Labor Leader, Bill Shorten to Eastwood, in fact to welcome him for the fifth time here to the electorate of Bennelong. It's terrific to see Bill here, he's brought along his colleague the Shadow Minister for Health, Catherine King, and it's an absolute delight Catherine to have you here as well.
On the day that Bill and I, just a week ago, stood and announced that I was nominating for Labor's candidate for the seat of Bennelong, I told Bill a story. I told him, how I took my son up to the Ryde services centre here up at Top Ryde in order to lodge a Medicare form. This form couldn't be lodged online, couldn't be posted in, it said quite clearly: must be lodged in person.
So there we went, we went up to the Ryde services centre. When we got there the staff told us it was going to be an hour wait, and then they suggested to us it might be better if we came back on the following Tuesday. Now I looked around at all of those people sitting there, up there in Ryde, members of my local community - I was really angry on their behalf. I was angry because they were just there to sort out their Medicare matters, they were just there to sort out their Centrelink matters, and there they were waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting.
The reality is that the Liberals in April 2015, shut the Medicare office here in Eastwood - they shut it. Every day that Labor was in office, from 2007 to 2013 there was a Medicare office here in Eastwood serving this local community, this aging community, this diverse community. They had their own Medicare office right here in Eastwood, co-located with medical services, co-located with shops, co-located with the train station just behind me. That means it didn’t just service the people of Eastwood, it served the people on their train line, in Epping, Denistone, in West Ryde, in Meadowbank - all those people who jump on a train and come here to Eastwood and get their Medicare matters resolved.
John Alexander stood on the floor of parliament and he crowed about the Liberals decision to shut this Medicare office. He stood there and put on the record that it was his Government that was doing it, and he said it would be a better outcome for the people of Bennelong. It's not John, it's not.
Let me abundantly clear - Liberals you closed this Medicare office. You broke it, you own it, and you broke the hearts of the people of Eastwood when you closed this Medicare office.
I have been tirelessly bringing this issue up with Bill Shorten and Catherine King, since I was preselected as Labor's Candidate for Bennelong and I'm absolutely delighted today that they're here with me to announce that if Labor is elected at a general election, we will reopen the Medicare office here in Eastwood to serve the people of this community, to serve the people right across Bennelong who will have better access to Medicare services.
Labor delivered Medicare, Labor created Medicare with this promise - that no matter how much money you had in your back pocket, you will get to see a doctor when you need to. Only Labor properly funds Medicare and only Labor will protect it.
I'm absolutely delighted to welcome Bill Shorten our Labor Leader, our Labor spokesperson for Health, Catherine King here to the Bennelong electorate today. Thank you so much, Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much. Good morning everybody, it's great to be here in Eastwood with Kristina Keneally and my colleague Catherine King. I've said that this by-election is an opportunity for the voters of Bennelong to send Malcolm Turnbull a message. A message that they're not happy with the direction of the Liberal Government in Canberra.
And there is no issue, any more important than Medicare. Labor can be trusted on Medicare, the Liberals cannot be trusted on Medicare. Right across Australia, Australians are feeling the pinch of increased health care costs because Medicare has been frozen, the patient rebate has been frozen. Right across Australia people are doing worse, the health system isn't working as well, because we've seen unfair cuts to Medicare and to patient rebates which leave patients worse off.
So I've said that this by-election is about sending a message, including a message on Medicare. The Liberals closed the Medicare office in Eastwood, Labor will open the Medicare office in Eastwood. This is a chance for local resident to send a message to Malcolm Turnbull: hands off Medicare, we want our Medicare office back in Eastwood. This in Eastwood, is a referendum. If you don't want your Medicare office in Eastwood, vote for John Alexander and Malcolm Turnbull. If you do want your Medicare office opened in Eastwood, vote for Labor and Kristina Keneally.
Only Labor can be trusted with Medicare. Only Labor believes that it should be your Medicare card not your credit card which guarantees you quality healthcare in Australia and that fight back, to protect Medicare, starts on December 16 and Labor will reopen the Medicare office in Eastwood and the Liberals won't.
And again, points up for Kristina Keneally, John Alexander said it was an exciting change to close the office. Only people who are truly out of touch think that it's an exciting change to withdraw services from ordinary working people. Kristina Keneally's first comment when we were scoping out the opportunity for her to run in the Bennelong by-election, she said Bill, we've got to reopen the Medicare office in Eastwood. That's the very first thing she raised with me if she was to be the candidate. We can reopen Medicare in Eastwood, if you vote for Kristina Keneally.
Thank you very much, and I'd now like to hand over to our Shadow Health spokesperson, Catherine King to talk further about this positive policy we're offering the voters.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks Bill, and it's great to be here in Eastwood with our fantastic candidate for Bennelong, Kristina Keneally. If it isn't bad enough that the Turnbull Government closed the Medicare office here in Eastwood, that is not the end of it's cuts to our Medicare system. We know that the freezing of the Medicare rebate is ripping an extra $2.2 billion out of Medicare as we speak, for the next three years. We know that patients here in Bennelong are now paying more to see their doctor, more to see their specialist, every single day because of the cuts that Malcolm Turnbull has made to our Medicare system. We know there are 6,000 patients here in the seat of Bennelong who delay going to see their GP because of the increased out of pocket costs. 12,000 patients here in Bennelong delay going to see a specialist because of increasing out of pocket costs.
Malcolm Turnbull has cut Medicare, Labor will reopen the Medicare office here in Bennelong. You can only trust Labor when it comes to Medicare.
SHORTEN: Thanks Catherine. Are there any questions for us?
JOURNALIST: Kristina, when you were Premier, data shows housing completions and approvals dropped to their lowest level in a decade. What do you say about that?
KENEALLY: I think we're talking about Medicare first, so are there any questions on health? I'm happy to come back to that later.
SHORTEN: Any questions on Medicare?
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) especially around the sort of issue of the Medicare office, how have you found the reaction from the community?
KENEALLY: This community knows that the eyes of the nation are on them. Bennelong is comfortable with the eyes of the nation on them. They are frustrated with this out of touch, lousy Government. They are frustrated with this lousy Prime Minister and they are frustrated with the chaos and division that's going on in the Liberal Party in this Liberal Government.
The people of Bennelong know that this is there change to speak not just on behalf of themselves, but on behalf of Australia. This campaign is energetic, I am really energised every morning I'm out talking to voters, talking to members of my local community. We were at Top Ryde this morning, it was terrific to be able to have that time with the local constituents. They are quite energetic and they are looking forward to December 16.
JOURNALIST: Are you aware of the video from 20 years ago of John Alexander that's been released today - well, it's been on YouTube, but has been highlighted today?
SHORTEN: Yes I did read about the video. Let's be straight here, Mr Alexander has apologised. The comments are crass, stupid and wrong. The apology has probably been waiting for 22 years, and I suspect we've only heard an apology because this video has now been reported. But the comments are crass, they're wrong, their stupid and the apology, I think is 22 years late, and I think it's only come out because we've got a by-election.
JOURNALIST: Did Labor dig it up?
JOURNALIST: Kristina Keneally, Cory Bernadi's Party the Australian Conservatives, they've unveiled a candidate. A staunch campaigner for the No vote on same sex marriage. Is that issue going to hurt you in this seat, do you expect that he will highlight that?
KENEALLY: I welcome all candidates - it's the great thing about democracy. We have a democratic system where people get to stand up and put forward their point of view. I make this point, Mr Alexander and I agree on this issue. We had the same point of view that parliament should have dealt with this matter and should have dealt with it on a conscience vote and unfortunately for Mr Alexander he lost that argument within the Liberal Party. I think what people want to see is that parliament get on and deal with this issue. Labor stands ready to have the parliament re-opened, it's Malcolm Turnbull that's shutting it down.
JOURNALIST: What do you expect from the Australian Conservative Candidate for this seat? Are they a threat?
KENEALLY: You'll have to ask the Australian Conservatives what they expect to do in this seat.
JOURNALIST: How difficult does it make the preference landscape?
KENEALLY: Oh preferences are a matter for political parties, nominations close today and we'll wait and see who throws their hat into the ring.
JOURNALIST: Kristina you've said that you oppose Labor's policy of offshore detention, do you still carry that view?
KENEALLY: In fact, I have an article in the Guardian - you can read it, where I actually explain how I support Labor's policy on refugees.
JOURNALIST: So can you just elaborate on that view?
KENEALY: You know what, you are well and truly free to look that up online I'm not here to do the research for you.
JOURNALIST: By the same token you must have an opinion if you’ve written a Guardian -
SHORTEN: Let me be clear about the refugees' question because whilst it's something to ask Kristina and she's made clear her view, I actually think there is a more substantial issue underlying the community’s concern. I'm like most Australians - we don't want to see the peoples smugglers back in business. But I'm also like most Australians, we do not believe that indefinite detention is the only way to deter peoples smugglers. I am frustrated, I think like nearly all Australians that this current Government has allowed this pressure cooker to build over four years and I just ask Malcolm Turnbull, please do the deal with New Zealand. If New Zealand want to take some of these people and PNG and these people are happy to go to New Zealand, why are we getting in the way of a fair solution?
JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop is calling for a formal investigation into Cabinet leaks, what are your thoughts on that?
SHORTEN: Well I think Julie Bishop's comments are astonishing for two reasons. First of all, she's confirmed that the Cabinet is leaking on itself, but what is even more astonishing is that Julie Bishop has chosen to call for an investigation into her colleagues. The Turnbull Cabinet is eating itself and Julie Bishop has said she doesn't have confidence in her Cabinet colleagues, so why should Australians have confidence in the Turnbull Cabinet?
JOURNALIST: Kristina when you were Premier you lost about four Ministers in nine months, what do you say about that?
KENEALLY: I'm here today running as the Federal Labor Candidate for Bennelong. I am running to represent my local community because I am tired of what this Liberal Government is doing to the people of Bennelong, is doing to the people of Australia. Malcolm Turnbull is breaking families, his cuts to Medicare are hurting families, his cuts to education are hurting families. There are five schools here in Bennelong that are at capacity and the Liberals have no solution except to throw up some temporary buildings. The Liberal’s slow NBN is hurting Australian families and hurting families particularly here in Bennelong. Malcolm Turnbull said that by December 2016 every household would be connected to the NBN, one in ten households in Bennelong is connected to the NBN.
I am standing for Federal Parliament to represent my local community on issues that people are really angry about and they want this Liberal Government to stop talking about itself, to stop talking about its own division and dysfunction and start functioning for Australia. The best way we do that is send a strong message to Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals on December 16 - enough of this lousy Government.
JOURNALIST: But your record as Premier surely is fair game, it's relevant to you putting yourself forward in this election isn't it? Why wouldn't there be scrutiny?
KENEALLY: Pardon me?
JOURNALIST: Why wouldn't there be scrutiny?
KENEALLY: I am standing here in front of my local community asking for their support. The response that we have had to this campaign has been energised. The people of Bennelong know that this lousy Government is not delivering for them, is hurting them. They know that the cuts to Medicare are hurting, we heard Catherine King talk about how people are paying more to see a specialist, people are paying more to see a GP and people cannot access the Medicare offices right here in Eastwood that the Liberals closed. These are the key issues that are top of mind to the people of Bennelong and they're the issues I am fighting for on their behalf.
JOURNALIST: You say you want to improve education funding for Bennelong but when you were Premier records show that you slashed it so why should people believe you this time.
KENEALLY: Look at the Productivity Commission official figures, look at the Budget. They clearly show education funding increased in every key area under my Government.
JOURNALIST: What about infrastructure though, Ms Keneally, it was limited wasn't it in your reign? You had bridge on Victoria Road, a controversial one but that was about it?
KENEALLY: You know what let me talk about that because that really affects the people here in Bennelong. As Premier I delivered federal funding for the Parramatta to Epping rail link. Who cut that? Who stopped it? Who didn't build it? The Liberals here in New South Wales. So don't talk to me about infrastructure and the Liberals, the people of this community know very well, they suffer what John Alexander tells them. The four most congested roads in the state are in Bennelong. John Alexander stood up the other day and made that astonishing statement. The four most congested roads in New South Wales are in Bennelong. What was his solution? His solution was to fund a data collection system that would monitor traffic. That's not a solution John Alexander, that is not a solution Liberals, we know that the traffic is bad. If there was a Parramatta-Epping rail line operating as it would be today under what we had funded, well it would make it a lot better. People could go from Parramatta to Carlingford to Epping over to North Ryde and Macquarie Park.
JOURNALIST: Are you actually stacking your infrastructure record up against what we see in the current Liberal Party - Liberal State Government?
KENEALLY: I am making the point, I am making the point that the Liberal Government cut a rail line in this community. I am running as the federal member for Bennelong because the people of Bennelong deserve to have a strong voice, one that stands up and fights. This is my community, I am fighting with them, alongside them. We are going to send a clear message, we want to send a clear message to Malcolm Turnbull - enough of your awful Government.
JOURNALIST: With regards to Manus, it was Labor policy at the time - do you take any responsibility for what's happening now with the security operations?
SHORTEN: Well it's four years on, in fact it's been - we're now in the fifth year of a Liberal Government. At some point the Liberal Party's got to lose the excuses and stop blaming Labor for everything. I mean, if they want to blame Labor for everything they should hand over the keys to the government and let us get on with fixing the mess. It's been over four years, over four years. Now we're up for deterring the people smugglers absolutely, but keeping people in indefinite detention, not even - denying them even food and water, this is not the Australian way.
We as a nation are cleverer, more generous and more compassionate. Being strong doesn't mean you've got to be cruel by the same token. Please Mr Turnbull, please Malcolm, just step back from the proud position and just let the New Zealanders sort out taking some of these people. I also just want to go back to the vein of some of the questions before where a journalist asked about - used the word lost.
In the last month Malcolm Turnbull has lost his Deputy Prime Minister, he's lost ministers, he's lost the President of the Senate, he's lost cabinet solidarity, he's lost a map to Bennelong. Why won't Malcolm Turnbull come to Bennelong? Malcolm Turnbull will not come to Bennelong, he will not come to Queensland, he won't even come to parliament any more. So if we talk about lost, that's one bloke who is very, very lost.
Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: Just about the Foreign White Policy that was released. Do you think it has the right thrust about it and particularly given some of the challenges that we're facing in the region at the moment?
SHORTEN: The report's just been released; we're going to study it carefully. My colleague Senator Penny Wong gave a very thoughtful contribution last night about - for Labor, one of the important pillars of our foreign policy is the American Alliance. So we will study the policy. I just want to make a promise to Australians who are a bit sick and tired of the Punch and Judy show and you know, the constant blame game.
When it comes to foreign policy, Labor won't do what the Liberal's did when they took over. In the event we form a government, we will carefully use the constructive work of this Government, we won't simply junk it because it was done by Liberals. So we are looking for the value in the report, in the long-term national interest. We're not interested in just nitpicking and trying to score a cheap headline.
JOURNALIST: Do we need to build alliances more proactively, particularly given the rise of China?
SHORTEN: Labor doesn't share the same fear about the rise of China, we welcome the rise of China and we welcome the strength of the American Alliance. Labor is capable of managing relationships with the rising economic influence of China and the legitimate aspiration of the middle class of Asia to do better and also with our traditional alliances with the United States. Labor understands this and we will take a considered sensible policy view and we will make sure that we keep working with the Americans and of course, we will work with the economic rise of not just China but other nations in Asia.
Thanks, everybody, I'll see you on the campaign trail.