Subjects: Labor $7 million investment in Royal Flying Doctor Service in Tasmania; Tasmanian tourism plan; Labor’s investments in infrastructure in Tasmania; Benefits of Labor’s health policies for Tasmanians.
ROSS HART, MEMBER FOR BASS: Thank you everybody for coming here to Western Junction, Launceston Airport, which is the home of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, here in Tasmania. This is their aeromedical base. Great to welcome my colleague Brian Mitchell and of course, Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition, for a very important announcement today. I'm always very pleased to have Bill here in northern Tasmania because my constituents know that it is vitally important to elect a federal Labor government. It is vitally important that we deliver extra funding for health. This is part of our core commitment towards health here in Tasmania. The Liberals have cut $35 million from health in Tasmania. Labor is putting that back. Labor is making the additional investments not just here in Bass with additional investments for mental health, $15 million for mental health, but important infrastructure with respect to the RFDS. Their Aeromedical Transfer Station here is very important as part of an integrated investment in health in Tasmania. Welcome, Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon, everyone. Before we start, I'm happy to take questions in this case from the local media. We've had a national press conference. I'm here today to announce that because of Ross Hart's advocacy, supported by Brian Mitchell, a Labor government, if we're elected on May 18, will invest $7 million into the Royal Flying Doctor Service here in Tasmania. Just a little bit of background of what the RFDS does in Tassie. As you'd be aware the Royal Flying Doctor Service celebrated its 90th anniversary last year and they've been in Tassie now since 1960. They perform a very important function in terms of healthcare in Tassie. From the Bass Strait islands to the more remote communities. People should realise that whilst Tasmania geographically is not as large as some of the mainland states there are a lot of remote locations. The RFDS has been an important part of providing proper healthcare in this area. But it needs some more money. It needs to be properly integrated into the health system which Tasmanians receive elsewhere. So this $7 million will go to upgrading the hangar facilities. It will go towards providing better mental health, better dental health, better support of a whole range of local government areas. This $7 million courtesy of Ross Hart's advocacy is part of Labor's ongoing commitment to make sure that Tasmanians enjoy the same quality of healthcare in Tasmania that people on the mainland enjoy. Over to some local questions.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) Are you concerned that people in northern Tasmania’s arts community might feel dudded by the $50 million MONA pledge and see it effectively as a handout to a wealthy entrepreneur in the state's south?
SHORTEN: In my experience, people in the arts community throughout Australia are always pleased when the arts gets a lift anywhere. So, I don't think that people do begrudge MONA. That has been a private investment which has never relied on any federal support. Our investment we are providing Tasmanian tourism is $120 million. $50 million of that will be to MONA for public spaces, amphitheatres and the like. Tasmania has got a world class arts and tourism story to tell and we want to make sure that flagship ventures like MONA can be used to attract people to Tassie. When people come to Tasmania they don't just go to the south. Labor will certainly work with the local arts community to further develop projects in the north and the north west.
JOURNALIST: Have you been approached to fund or are you considering funding aerobridges for Hobart and Launceston airports and improving commuter safety.
SHORTEN: We've provided some funding in our policies for Hobart airport. What we're doing in terms of providing greater support for infrastructure in Tassie though is quite extensive. From the Bass Highway through to the bridge through to a range of different projects. I don't have any specific knowledge of an approach about an aerobridge but again we are in a position to talk to Tasmania about infrastructure because we have made the serious economic reform decisions. We are not going to give money to multinationals. We would rather see Tasmanians receive their fair share. And if I might make the point, not about aerobridges but about health, Labor's really proud of the fact that of all the things we are doing in Tasmania we think the fact that we are providing over $100 million specifically for health projects in Tasmania is exactly what Tasmanians are looking for. You shouldn't have to wait longer in Tasmania for elective surgery than you do in parts of the mainland. That's why we are very pleased with our $30 million to help blitz waiting lists in Tasmania. When you add that on to the $15 million mental health hub we are doing in Launceston, when you look at the $4.5 million we are doing for Tazreach to supply services in North Western Tasmania. Add that on top of the fact that Tasmania has had $35 million cut from its hospitals, including local hospitals here in Launceston. We are going to put all of that money back. Add that to the fact that we are going to tackle the out of pocket costs of people seeing the GPs. Add to that our $2.8 billion national hospital fund which will see Tasmanian hospitals receive greater support and add to that our $2.3 billion support to help tackle the out of pocket costs for cancer patients. Tasmanians, the best health offering for them comes from an elected Labor government in Canberra.
JOURNALIST: The Greens came to Launceston yesterday and they announced their national health policy and they are looking to see dental care included under Medicare. Do you have a response to that?
SHORTEN: There is no doubt that oral hygiene is an important part of a person's health. It was Labor who pioneered the child dental benefit services. I think that when you look at our health offerings though Labor has got the best offerings of the mainstream parties, indeed of the parties. The reality is we were down here in fact just a couple of days after Parliament rose, Ross and I and Catherine King announcing greater support for people going through the fight of their lives with cancer. So when you look at our hospital fund, when you look at the fact we are reversing cuts that this government has done to hospitals, when you look at our investment we are going to make in cancer treatment and helping with the out of pockets there. And of course our announcement today for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Labor really is the party you can trust when it comes to the health of Tasmanians.
JOURNALIST: Will you work with the Greens though on more coverage?
SHORTEN: We will have a look at what everyone has to say. But I want to make it clear that if we form a government we will be a Labor government not an anything else government. Thank you everybody.