Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Brisbane - Tony Abbott’s attack on Medicare; Queensland election; GST on fresh food






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s attack on Medicare; Queensland election; GST on fresh food; Petrol prices; Jobs.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It is great to be here in Annerley in the state seat of Yeerongpilly with Labor's candidate Mark Bailey. I’m also accompanied, as I visit the Annerley Medical Centre, with our Shadow Spokesperson for Health, Catherine King and hardworking local member, Terri Butler.


We are here to listen to GPs, to listen to patients about what Medicare needs. And it is very clear this morning, GPs and patients right across Australia do not want Tony Abbott's $20 fine which he is now putting on bulk-billing and visits if you take less than 15 minutes to go to a doctor. Before Christmas, Tony Abbott said he wanted to change the way that GPs charge and take money out of the system. Then even closer to Christmas, in a sneaky fashion, Tony Abbott bypassed the Parliament and issued regulations which means that next Monday, January 19th, in the middle of the holiday season, all of a sudden, GPs will have to subsidise an extra $20 for patients coming to see them or even worse, patients will have to pay an extra $20 just to go and see the doctor. Labor has decided that we will disallow this regulation. We will stop Tony Abbott's new taxes on going to the doctor.


This morning, I am personally asking Tony Abbott and his Government to take the regulations off the table. They don't come in until January the 19th. The reaction in the community is widespread – it’s unanimous. GPs, nurses, clinicians, parents and patients, all in one voice are saying to the Abbott Government, do not add extra charges and taxes to go and see the doctor. Tony Abbott can stop this damaging, confidence sapping, bulk-bill attacking, Medicare undermining measure due to start next Monday. He can simply tell his Health Minister to say we are taking these proposed regulations off the notice paper. Tony Abbott can stop this terrible attack on Medicare today and we are calling upon Tony Abbott to stop the confusion, to stop the attack on Medicare. You tried last year with the co-payment. You are trying again this year with the co-payment and now extra taxes. Tony Abbott cannot be trusted with Medicare. He should drop this bad idea right now.


I might ask my colleague, Catherine King to further talk about the dreadful attack that the Abbott Government and the Liberal policies are conducting on Medicare in Australia.


CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks very much Bill and it is great to be here also with Terri and our State Labor candidate Mark as well. This is of course Tony Abbott's latest attack on Medicare. On Monday, doctors are faced with the awful choice of having to either charge patients extra money, an extra $20 in some circumstances, potentially even more, or take a substantial cut in their income. What sort of Government thinks it is the way in which you have health reform is to take $3.5 billion out of the health care system and put people in the circumstances where cost is the deciding factor on whether they access the care they need for their kids or whether they can keep well. GPs are the most efficient part of our system and this latest salvo on Medicare is again an attack by this Government on our universal health insurance scheme. It is an attack that Tony Abbott has form on. We saw a collapse in bulk-billing when Tony Abbott was Health Minister and that is what we wants to do in this country. He wants to drive bulk-billing down and Labor will certainly stand against Tony Abbott's attacks on Medicare and make sure Medicare continues as the core of our health care system.


SHORTEN: Thanks Catherine. Are there any questions?


JOURNALIST: Clearly universal health care has become so expensive, some say too expensive. How would you find the money to be able to provide it?


SHORTEN: I don't buy the assumption at all that our Medicare system is in a crisis. I am very, very suspicious of those who say that you have got to put extra taxes and charges, you have to make it harder to go and see a doctor. The amount of money that Australia spends on its health care system compared to many other parts of the world is far less. Universal health care is one of the distinct national advantages of this country - it is part of the Australian way of life.


For 40 years Labor has stood up for universal health care. Labor believes that the health of any one of us is important to all of us. Labor believes it should be your health care card not your credit card which determines the level of health care you get in this country. The Abbott Government doesn't care about health care in this country. They want to create a two-tier American style system and also, if they really did care and they say there is a crisis, why is it that the extra billions of dollars which they are using to attack bulk-billing is going to be sent to some future fund for research, not used to deal with the alleged crisis which the Government is manufacturing?


JOURNALIST: What will you do to fix six-minute medicine?


SHORTEN: First of all, we need to get Tony Abbott out of the doctors' waiting rooms of Australia. Tony Abbott is not a very good Prime Minister and his Government is not a very good Government, but they shouldn't be trying to tell GPs how to administer health care and medicine in this country. So when we talk about Tony Abbott's attack on doctors providing care, what I know is that skilled doctors, the ones we met here today, they’ve spent many years studying and they have spent decades more building up relationships with the parents and the kids and the patients. Talking to that lovely family in the medical consulting room, they made it very clear that because the GP, because of his training and the ongoing relationship he has with their family, it is possible for him to do sometimes speedy diagnosis and other times have to take more lengthy analysis. But what we get in Australia with our GPs is world class. Tony Abbott should leave the doctors waiting room and leave medicine and curing sick people to the people who know how to do that  job.


JOURNALIST: Are you pleased that Campbell Newman has come out in support of removing this extra charge?


SHORTEN: Well, Campbell Newman, couldn't you just see his fingernail marks on the concrete being dragged to come out and disagree with Tony Abbott. Campbell Newman loves to use the word strong but he is a pussy cat when it comes to dealing with Tony Abbott. Campbell Newman said there are no Federal issues in his election. Only when Campbell Newman's job is threatened do we see Campbell Newman coming out and criticising his boss in Canberra. If you want to get fair dinkum health care at the state level, vote Labor. If you want to get fair dinkum Medicare at the national level, vote Labor. You can't trust Liberals or Nationals when it comes to health care in this country.


JOURNALIST: The Australian Medical Association Queensland came out this morning and said we are in a state of emergency when it comes to obesity. $11.6 billion is being spent to combat it. What would you propose that we do differently? Effectively they are saying that we need to stop fast food outlets being within a kilometre of schools and we need to subsidise fruit and vegetables for those who are most at risk. Is that something Labor will consider?


SHORTEN: Healthy eating and obesity are big issues in Australia's health. I will make one comment and then hand over to my Shadow Spokesperson Catherine King to further talk about Labor’s views. Here is one tip if you want to make sure that we are eating more healthy in the future: don't put a GST on fresh food. Putting a new tax on fresh food will discourage people and it goes to the very heart of what you said, the choices the time poor parents make between processed food, fast food and fresh food, the choices we make when we are time compressed are already difficult. But when you’ve got to pay an extra 10 per cent to buy your mangos, to buy your pineapples, to buy your pawpaw’s, to the buy the other great fruit of Queensland – 10 per cent more -  that’s not going to help the health of our kids. Here’s Catherine.


KING: What you also don't do, which is what the Abbott Government did, is cut $300 million out of the  national prevention programs that we had with States and Territories, which were targeted at healthy kids, healthy workplaces, healthy communities which ran obesity programs in local communities across this country which have now been slashed to the bone. And Bill is right, what you don't put a GST on fresh food. What you also don't do is tax people when they want to go to the part of the health care system that keeps people well. Where you get advice about how do you start exercising more, how do you manage diabetes, how do you stop smoking? All of those prevention measures that our GPs do every single day. That is what you don't do.


JOURNALIST: Bill, can I just ask you a couple of Canberra if you don’t mind. What is your reaction to regional motorists being ripped off by petrol chains refusing to pass on a plunging petrol price? Could the ACCC do more?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, let's never forget that Tony Abbott, after he got elected, has broken his election promise and put up petrol taxes. But I, and all of Labor are concerned about making sure that people in the bush get the same deal that people in the cities get. I am concerned of reports that people in the bush are paying a lot more for petrol than in the city. Long overdue for the ACCC to investigate this. We will support whatever measures we can to make sure that the people of the bush, the people of our regions, get the same deal as people in the cities when it comes to petrol


JOURNALIST: Why do you think the ACCC is not investigating? Surely they’ve got enough power?


SHORTEN: Well, I think the Government has been prodded into action and we will expect the ACCC to come back with the facts and the figures and the information. What we have to do is not give up on the issue of saying because you live outside the big cities of Australia, that somehow you’ve got to be treated as second class. Labor doesn't believe that has to be the case.


JOURNALIST: On jobs, do you think the Federal Government can reach the target of creating a million new jobs?


SHORTEN: Well Tony Abbott boasted before the last election that he would create a million new jobs. Today newspapers across Australia are revealing that for the lie that it is. There is a real jobs problem in Australia. Since Tony Abbott got elected unemployment has gone up not down. And nowhere is that more clear than Queensland. When Campbell Newman got elected over three years ago, unemployment was at 5.5 per cent. It is now the highest levels of unemployment in main land Australia. Once upon a time Queensland was known as the jobs mecca of Australia. Now it’s got a real challenge with unemployment. I have been travelling up and down regional Queensland, something I think Tony Abbott should do, and you just see the high levels of youth unemployment. There is a real jobs problem and Tony Abbott and his Liberal Government unfortunately are part of the problem not part of the answer. Perhaps one more question if there is one?


JOURNALIST: Do you think the statistics on unemployment, how they read them that a person who works for one hour a week is considered employed. That that should that be reviewed, it should be a more equitable way of measuring unemployment?


SHORTEN: There are always debates about how you measure unemployment. But one thing is beyond doubt; in Queensland, the sad fact is in 2015, unemployment has been rising. The sad fact is across Australia, with Tony Abbott and the Liberal Government, their policies have not helped to increase employment. Unemployment and the number of Australians without work has gone up and up under the Abbott Government policies.


Thanks everyone, see you on the campaign trail.