SUBJECT / S: Tony Abbott’s GP tax, Commission of Cuts, privatisation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Griffith by-election, heatwave, Coalition border protection secrecy, Coalition broken promise on education, Glasson campaigner parking in a disabled car park.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: [broadcast commences]… Terri Butler is Queensland born and bred, grew up in Cairns, spent her adult life on the Southside of Brisbane, she’s an accomplished and well-regarded lawyer standing up for people’s rights. And she’s also, I think even more significantly, a working mum. Her and her husband Troy are raising two great kids, the eldest of which will be going to kindergarten this year. So Terri Butler is well placed to be able to know the issues which affect working families and indeed all families dealing with the cost of living. She certainly as a working mum knows that if you have a few visits to the GP with your kids and if the GP Tax of Tony Abbott comes into place, all of a sudden that adds a big hit on your cost of living. There shouldn’t be a tax on taking your children to the doctor. But also what makes Terri Butler a remarkable Labor candidate for Griffith, is of course she knows how to stand up and fight for causes. What the people of the southside do not need is a Campbell Newman, Tony Abbott rubber stamp. Everyone has seen Tony Abbott talking about cutting and slashing with his commission of cuts, everyone knows that the Abbott Government is keen to copy the Newman Government in terms of cuts to health services, so the voters of Griffith are very fortunate to have as the Labor candidate someone who is in touch with the real world and knows what’s going on from day to day experience and someone who has a track record of standing up for her community. I’d like to hand over to Terri now.
TERRI BUTLER, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR GRIFFITH: Thanks for coming along today everyone. It’s fantastic to have Bill Shorten here, the Labor leader - it’s just been such a wonderful reception for him here at Carindale. We’ve been talking to people about the proposed new GP tax and people are really angry at this attempt to impose this tax on GP visits. We’re asking people to sign our petition to get hands off Medicare and to make sure that our universal healthcare system is maintained in this country, for the good of the entire country. We’ve been having a great time talking to voters here today at Carindale Shopping Centre and I want to say my thanks to Bill, thanks so much for coming along, it’s great to have such a wonderful Labor leader here to campaign alongside. Thanks very much.
SHORTEN: Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Kevin Rudd has been doing a bit of campaigning with Terri so far, would you personally like to see more of Mr Rudd in the electorate campaign with her?
SHORTEN: I had the opportunity to speak and catch up with Kevin yesterday; I know that he’s been campaigning for Terri last weekend and he will try to do so again. He’s also got significant commitments as he maps his career and path in life after politics, we welcome and are pleased with his strong and active support for Terri. But this is also an election also about the future. I think what’s more remarkable is Prime Minister Abbott hasn’t been to Griffith yet, what I think is remarkable is that we’ve got a Commission of Audit whose said yesterday - because Treasurer Joe Hockey, whose paid to be the Treasurer, has rolled out his advisors to face the music in the senate -they said that everything’s on the table. Everything’s on the table - this contradicts Tony Abbott’s promises at the last election. Tony Abbott said at the last election, before the election when he was chasing people’s votes, he said he wouldn’t touch defence, wouldn’t touch health, wouldn’t touch education. Then he gets his people in and they say everything’s on the table, defence, education and health. So it think the issues in this electorate go towards: will this electorate be best served by someone who will be a rubber stamp for Tony Abbott and Campbell Newman’s cuts to healthcare. Labor says it won’t be well served unless people pick Terri Butler.
JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten I went to the doctor yesterday and my daughter went to the doctor yesterday, I separately went and got some stiches out, how much would have that cost under Tony Abbott’s proposal?
SHORTEN: First of all are you okay?
JOURNALIST: Yes, marvellous.
SHORTEN: Well what they’re proposing is an extra six dollars every time you go. Well some people will say ‘what does that matter?’ you know, ‘it’s just change’. But the reality is as you’ve just demonstrated with your questions, that if you’ve got kids who are sick if you’ve got an ageing parent who has to go to the doctor on a regular basis on a fixed pension, all of a sudden what the Abbott Government just sort of dismisses and the candidate, the LNP candidate dismisses as nothing at all, it mounts up. In the real world, it’s real money when you go to the doctor. When your kids are sick, you do not want people, especially people on fixed incomes, or people who have had to go to the doctor a lot to look after their kids or aging parents, you don’t want Australians weighing up like they do in America, should I stay sick because I cannot afford to go to the doctor.
And we’ve also seen Campbell Newman in Queensland cut healthcare. You’ve got on the southside in this electorate; you’ve got three of the most remarkable hospitals in Australia. They’re world famous hospitals, but our health workforce, due to Campbell Newman, is having to do more with less. We’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of jobs cut of the system and we’ve seen thousands across Queensland cut out of the system. One of the things which makes Australia one of the best countries in the world is we’ve got one of the best health systems in the world. We cannot let Newman, Abbott or their proxies cop into that system any further than already happened in Queensland.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten what do you think of the Government denying reports the Navy fired shots at an asylum seeker boat at Indonesia?
SHORTEN: This is very disturbing what we’re seeing in terms of the secrecy. Australian Government policy shouldn’t be a game of hide and seek where Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison break their promises before the election and now the Australian people have to try and find out the truth. One thing I do want to make very clear here though, I and the entire Labor Party respect the work of our defence forces. Just because there’s this culture of secrecy I don’t want to see Australian service men and service women caught up as the meat in an Abbott, Morrison secrecy sandwich on our boats. The best thing [Tony Abbott] can do is just tell us what’s going on and that way everyone can get the same facts and all the rumours and speculation, you know, and are not left in the dark. So I think the lesson for the Abbott Government is before the election they said - in fact they said on August the 9th in this electorate - Scott Morrison, Tony Abbott and Bill Glasson said that every week, if it’s a good week, a bad week or an in-between week on boats, we’ll tell you what’s going on. Now they’ve just pulled down the curtains, they’ve said we’re not telling people what’s going and on and we’ve got all this confusion and our defence forces are caught up in the middle of it. We should take the politics out of the defence, the way our service people are being treated, and we should just have the Government shed their addiction to secrecy.
SHORTEN: I believe Australia naval personnel are amongst the most professional in the world but what I don’t want is the Australian military being caught up in a political sandwich created, a political mess, created by the Abbott Government because the Abbott Government can’t even keep their word. The way you fix all these questions, were there shots fired, weren’t there shots fired, were there kids in the water, weren’t there kids in the water, is just on a transparent and regular basis just tell the truth about what’s happening with the boats. Australian people don’t expect miracles, Australian people don’t expect politicians and their government to be all things, and you know, be able to do everything and produce miracles, but what they do expect the Australian Government to do is tell them what’s happening, tell them the truth and make sure their defence forces who are the best in the world are not caught up in a political mess of their own making.
JOURNALIST: Would that be acceptable to have shots fired at an asylum seeker boat?
SHORTEN: I’m not going to start second-guessing what’s happening out on the water, but isn’t the fact that there are these questions show that the Australian Government should not leave our military forces stranded because they’ve got a political strategy of secrecy. The Abbott Opposition said before the election no surprises, no excuses. Now we’ve got surprises about boats and we’ve got excuses about the matters happening on water so we can’t talk about it. Australians know that boats sail on water so this argument of the Abbott Government that because it’s happening on the water we can’t tell you, it just won’t wash. They should keep their word and not break their promises.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Campbell Newman has said essentially that he’s not quite ready to support the Medicare co-payments unless he gets more information is that and encouraging sign and what’s your message to the Premier?
SHORTEN: My goodness me, when Tony Abbott is getting lukewarm support on health taxes from Campbell Newman, you know his policy’s a stinker. But I do get worried when Campbell Newman comes near a hospital. What’s happened to Queensland healthcare under Campbell Newman is intolerable, the job losses. The cuts in services, the diminution in what has been a great health system, you know this by-election in Griffith is about what sort of health care do we want in this country. Do we want more cuts, more struggling services, more people losing their jobs, more taxes on going to the doctors? The people of Griffith have got a chance to say on behalf of themselves, their kids, their ageing parents: one of things that makes us the best country in the world is we have a world class heath system and we don’t want the LNP - either Tony Abbott or Campbell Newman - wrecking the health system. Hands of the health system.
JOURNALIST: There was a suggestion at a Senate inquiry yesterday that the NDIS could be run privately, rather than a Government agency. What are your thoughts on that and what do you think the impact could be on taxpayers?
SHORTEN: I strongly caution the Federal Government about politicising the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Before the election Tony Abbott said - it was a Labor idea so maybe that’s why Tony Abbott doesn’t like it - but it’s a good idea which is more important than who had it. The idea that people with disabilities and their carers should get an equal go in our country is a great idea. We’ve set up launch sites around Australia to make sure it can work. I think that the Abbott Government should take the politics out of disability care, stick with what they said before the election. This idea that you would start selling off to the highest bidder a scheme which is still being developed and implemented is crazy and it betrays hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities and their carers. This Abbott Government is a bit like Campbell Newman, they’ve never seen a good idea they didn’t want to sell to the private sector, they’ve never seen a public sector job they didn’t want to cut and they’ve never seen a low income person they weren’t interested in increasing their cost of living to.
JOURNALIST: Just on reports that student debt has topped $30 billion, should the government have been providing more help to students to stop them racking up these big loans?
SHORTEN: Well the issue of how we fund our higher education again is squarely a question of the commission of cuts. There are a whole lot of education institutions, health institutions, people who are out there helping the rest of the community get a good education, look after our old, look after the disabled. This Commission of Audit, which the Government pretends they don’t know what they’re saying and they’re going to wait until May, is putting everything on hold.
The real problem with this Commission of Audit is that Joe Hockey said yesterday that he’s going to adopt the vast majority of the recommendations. Well hello Mr Hockey, how can it be that you say you don’t know what’s happening and you can’t tell everyone else until May, including students, yet, you’ve already decided to accept the recommendations sight unseen. Something smells here and it’s very clear the Abbott Government has got a clear agenda to cut services, be it in education, health, you name it they’ve got their eyes on it. They were elected promising one thing and now they keep breaking their promises.
JOURNALIST: Just another question from Canberra about the heatwave, about a report that heatwaves are going to be longer and more frequent, what do you think about that?
SHORTEN: Well first of all parts of Australia including my home state of Victoria are experiencing very long heat, that is very challenging for the health of vulnerable people so that’s the first thing to say about extreme weather if affects people, if affects their health. Beyond that there is a debate about climate change which the Government still has to have. We know, and I think most Australians know, that climate change is real. What we also know is that this is a Government who doesn’t want to do anything on climate change. So the heatwave is under way, some people are in distress so I’m not going to make political points on a scorching hot day in parts of Australia, but what I do know is that the Abbott Government is full of climate change sceptics, they don’t want to do anything about climate change, and whilst they’re in Government we’re not going to see any improvements in policies on climate change.
JOURNALIST: Christopher Pyne said last night he wasn’t going to appoint a committee to review the curriculum but today has confirmed to two men conducting it will appoint other to help them. Has he done a backflip?
SHORTEN: Christopher Pyne is the new sort of political expression for backflip. You know before the election they weren’t going to touch education funding then after the election they’ve decided not to keep their promises. Now we’ve got this sort of waiting period to see if they’re fair dinkum on education. Now they want to politicise every school book in Australia by appointing Liberal Party fan club members to review the curriculum of Australian education. Christopher Pyne should stop worrying about the politics of education and just get on with being a Minister. They say that is it walks and quacks like a duck it probably is. If Christopher Pyne’s now starting to do a backflip, he probably is.
JOURNALIST: Can Terri win the election, this by-election?
SHORTEN: Terri can win this by-election. It’s too important for the people of Griffith for not to have Terri Butler. As I said when we started and I might ask Terri to say a few words, Terri Butler is a person of the community, she’s an accomplished professional lawyer who has stood up for people, that’s a good CV for helping out people as a Member of Parliament. She’s a working mum - every parent whose working and everyone who has ever raised children whilst working, knows that, raising the kids, making all the ends meet, getting all the costs to sort out, making sure your kids get to become adults in a resilient and well educated fashion and hold down a job is a big task. Terri Butler is up to being a great Member for Griffith and I might ask Terri -
JOURNALIST: Will you win?
BUTLER: I will work very hard, I can win. People are telling me that this is there first opportunity to send a message to Mr Abbott. This is not the Government they expected when they voted in September. People are unhappy with the backflips, they’re unhappy with the Christopher Pyne backflips and their really unhappy with the idea of this new GP tax. So people are telling me that and I think they all want to send a strong message to Canberra on those issues and others.
JOURNALIST: What other sort of… Mr Shorten has been walking through the shopping centre with you, what other sort of high level support I guess are you planning or can you anticipate?
BUTLER: Well I’ve been getting great support from our national organisation. It’s so fantastic to have Bill Shorten here, as I said before a fantastic leader of the Labor Party and someone that we can be really proud of whose got a long history of standing up for working families and it’s something I’d love to emulate. But we’re getting lots of different support from lots of different Shadow Ministers. I had Catherine King here yesterday as you probably know Andrew and she was a fantastic campaigner on this GP tax issue because she is well aware of the effects of this GP tax would have on working families. She is also well aware that when you talk about fees this history of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme shows that you get high increases in these co-payments. Why wouldn’t that happen with this GP tax? So I’ve been really thankful for the support that I’ve been getting.
JOURNALIST: You’ve got three weeks, correct me if I’m wrong, from this Saturday, how many Shadow Ministers have you got coming through? One or two a week?
SHORTEN: You’ll see the Labor Party is very supportive of Terri Butler’s campaign. This is the first chance since the election for any Australians anywhere to be able to say to Tony Abbott ‘stop breaking your promises, stop the secrecy, stop breaking your promises in education, don’t mess with our health system’. So the issues in this by-election, whilst they affect every street and suburb, also go to what affects Australia and all Australians. Healthcare, education, the fact is that they’re not going to roll out the National Broadband Network to the part of an electorate which was previously promised and of course we’ve got to make sure you have advocate as a Member of Parliament who won’t be a rubber stamp for Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott.
JOURNALIST: There have been photos emerging from Twitter of Bill Glasson’s team parking in a disabled parking spot or blocking them with their corflutes. What are your thoughts on that?
SHORTEN: Look, with my leadership we’re not going to get into the negative campaigning. No one should ever park in someone with a disability’s car park. I haven’t seen the photos. I know periodically that not just the Glasson campaign, but many Australians might have felt the temptation to park in a disabled car park. Just park your car a little further away. The person with a disability won’t have options you have in terms of mobility, let’s leave disabled car parks for people with disabilities, but I wouldn’t particularly single out the Glasson campaign, I think occasionally it can be a problem elsewhere as well. Thank you.
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