Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Melbourne - Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to Medicare and pathology services; Malcolm Turnbull’s 15 per cent GST on everything




SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to Medicare and pathology services; Malcolm Turnbull’s 15 per cent GST on everything; Clive Palmer’s nickel refinery going into administration; NSW ALP.

CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks everybody, it’s terrific to be here with David Pinkus and John Crothers from Melbourne Pathology Awareness Australia, and of course the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten. We’re here today talking to frontline staff in pathology about the Government’s appalling cuts snuck in over Christmas to the bulk billing incentive for pathology tests, and cuts to the bulk billing rates for diagnostic imaging. This is an absolutely appalling decision the Government has made. Pathology and diagnostic imaging isn’t voluntary – it’s for cancer diagnosis, for diagnosing diabetes, for managing chronic conditions, and any barrier that the Government puts in the way to people making sure that they get those tests for diagnosis early, that the prevent these diseases, is a barrier that will mean patients will pay and that patients will get sicker. Labor will stand against these cuts and I’m delighted to have Bill Shorten here this morning to talk further about Labor’s position.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Catherine and good morning everyone. I believe that the quality of healthcare you get in this country should be determined by your Medicare card, not your credit card. That is why the latest decision of the Turnbull Liberal Government to take away bulk billing incentive payments is complete medical madness. Pathology and the research done in these remarkable pathology laboratories is necessary for 70 per cent of the decisions that are made in medicine. 100 per cent of all cancer diagnoses require pathology testing. Everything from the treatment and the prevention of chronic diabetes, right through to cancer, right through to leukaemia require hard and skilled work done in these pathology laboratories. Everyone knows that if you cut the funding for bulk billing incentives, what will happen is that pathology laboratories will have to increase the cost and have to introduce a co-payment. Once patients, especially ones in early stages of diagnosis and looking at preventative treatment – everyone knows that it's hard making our cost of living requirements, making ends meet. If you are confronted with the choice of a preventative health test which is requiring greater and greater payments from your own pocket, some people – through no fault of their own, just due to their financial circumstances, will delay getting the necessary medical treatment and the tests they require. What this means is that if people delay getting the pathology tests they require through no fault of their own – through the undermining of Medicare and the expansion of co-payments – what it means is that people will get sicker, then they will take the necessary treatment that is required. Now what that actually constitutes, is it will be a greater burden on the taxpayer and the medical system. So the madness of what Mr Turnbull's Liberal Government are doing, is they are discouraging preventative health, they are putting upward pressure on the cost of living, they’re going to cost patients more for the really necessary tests - cancer, leukaemia, chronic illness such as diabetes. Now this is a Government who needs to drop their attacks on pathology, drop their attacks on the introduction of co-payments in terms of pathology testing, and they need to actually get on the side of the patient. We need to defend Medicare because it should be in Australia that the quality of your healthcare depends upon your Medicare card, not your credit card. Now I'm pleased to be joined by leading experts in terms of pathology and the successful treatment of patients, so I would like to ask David then John to talk further in detail about why the Turnbull Liberal Government's decisions to attack these measures is just madness.


DAVID PINKUS, CEO OF MELBOURNE PATHOLOGY: Thank you. Very proud to say a few words here. We are proud to be providing quality pathology services as we have for some 80 years. What's just as important is to ensure that those services are accessible and affordable to all Victorians. That's why we're absolutely shocked when we received the news that there would be a 4.5 per cent cut to our rebate, targeted specifically at the bulk billing incentive, the incentive that's given to us to bulk bill patients. Melbourne pathology do thousands of tests and many of those tests are done at a loss. Whether we're talking about pap smears, whether we're talking about home visits, where we visit the sick or infirmed who can't attend our collection centres or whether it's losses in relation to going out to regional or rural communities which just by geography cost a significant infrastructure to establish those services. Hence a cut of this magnitude puts a lot of pressure on us, on our ability and the capacity for us to continue to deliver these services without an out of pocket cost. We are delighted that the community has also taken an interest in this by a petition across the internet where there's something like 189,000 signatures, already urging the Government to reverse this decision. Pathology, as we have seen, and I've shown, is a vital healthcare service. We operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Pathology doesn't stop. And is absolutely critical that the industry remains robust so we can continue to deliver pathology services to Victorians. Thank you for coming and shedding light on this important issue and I will pass on to John who has a few extra words.
JOHN CROTHERS, CHAIR OF PATHOLOGY AWARENESS AUSTRALIA: Thank you, David. As Mr Shorten mentioned, 100 per cent of cancer diagnosis relies on pathology. Prevention, early diagnosis, relies on pathology. In fact 70 per cent of all clinical diagnosis made by your doctor relies on pathology. Last year one in every two Australians had a pathology test. That's over 12 million pathology tests performed in Australia last year. However, pathology is the least understood, least visible and therefore least valued component of medicine. And it's really important that we take this opportunity to consider how important pathology is because if something is not understood and not valued, then if there are obstacles put in the way, then there are concerns that people may not do or have their critical pathology tests at the right time. This will have implications on the patient outcome and will have implications on the healthcare system overall. Pathology awareness Australia represents all of pathology and it's there to help and highlight the importance of pathology in our healthcare. We have our website, that's That's there to help people better understand how important pathology is in health care. I appreciate Mr Shorten and Ms King coming today to have a look inside the engine room of healthcare. This is a very highly intense invested practise with scientist, pathologists, medical professionals who are there to support the health care system. Thank you and thank you for your time.

SHORTEN: Are there any questions on the pathology and cuts first and then I'll ask our other two associates to stand aside and happy to do questions on other matters after that?

Well, just to finish on the pathology, we thank Melbourne Pathology for hosting this visit. There are 1,500 people who work for Melbourne pathology but the work they do means that Australians enjoy longer life and better quality of life. Again today we call upon the Turnbull Liberal Government to drop these ill thought out cuts because they will harm the outcomes for patients, they will put upward pressure on the cost of going to see the doctor and they will achieve long term, it will actually increase the cost to the medical system. Any other questions on any other matters?

JOURNALIST: Just on the GST (inaudible) perhaps personal income tax, do you support that as a way of boosting the economy?

SHORTEN: Labor sees no case made out for increasing the GST to 15 per cent on everything. It is a lazy tax to ask every day Australians to pay more money for the goods that they need, for fresh food, for health care, for education services. There are better ideas out there which will help make sure this country runs efficiently and productively and grows for making middle and lower income people pay a lot more for everything is an idea which is counterproductive to building confidence. It will lead to pressure on jobs and for small business and also it will increase the cost of living for Australian families. It's a very poor idea and Labor's not having a bar of it.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

SHORTEN: Well, I live in the real world and I know that when I put to Australians that Malcolm Turnbull says you'll be compensated for paying more tax, what a lot of them say is why increase the tax, then compensate us? They just think that is a big money-go-round and Australians also remind me every day that John Howard said in 1998, 10 per cent GST, that's it, no more. And here they are again, there's the Liberals sneaking out under the side of the tent to put a new tax on everything. Now this Liberal Party, they say they're on the side of every day people yet they want to make everyone pay more. Go to any shopping checkout in Australia and you ask parents, you ask people trying to make ends meet, what do you think about paying 15 per cent on everything. People think it's a very bad idea and it doesn't help confidence. We've had a rocky start to the year in terms of the share market, the fundamentals of the Australian economy are strong, let me hasten to add, but what we don't need when the rest of the worlds got headwinds, is we don't need a lazy Government who doesn’t know how to run the economy just whacking a blanket 15 per cent tax on everything.

JOURNALIST: What questions do you think Clive Palmer has to answer (inaudible)?

SHORTEN: I am most concerned at reports that hundreds of workers and many small businesses who work with this refinery have now had their future cast into doubt. I'm pleased that now there's administrators in, there may be a chance for this business to get out of the insolvency it's in. So the first question is can this business keep trading, and I wish well the workers, the small business, the creditors and the administrators if they can sort of, resuscitate this business. In the meantime, it wouldn't matter if it was Clive Palmer's company, Malcolm Turnbull's company or anyone else's company; I want to be reassured that the entitlements are there for the workforce. Many people have got long periods of service, it's really important that the workers, men and women who've made profits for this company in the past are reassured that their entitlements are safe, and of course, I'm also very conscious that when you have an insolvency at the big end of town, and unfortunately it does happen from time to time, that there's a lot of small business and trade creditors who don't even have the same protection that workers have and I want to make sure that they're being thought of in this. These are the questions which I expect the administrators to be working on right now, and let me say again; doesn't fuss me if it's Clive Palmer's company, Malcolm Turnbull's company, anyone's company, I just want to make sure the worker entitlements are safe and that the small business creditors have some sunshine at the end of, you know, at the end of all of this.

JOURNALIST: Is there a role for state (inaudible)?

SHORTEN: Well I don't think it is the role automatically of government to sort of bail out unsuccessful businesses, but there is a role for government to make sure there are other construction projects and work coming along the line. Infrastructure investment in this country has stalled in the last 2 years, and you know, ever since we've been moving out of the mining boom and you've had other turbulence with international money markets and commodity prices, the Liberal Government has been asleep at the wheel and there's been an insufficient amount of alternative job creating, confidence building work. And by the way, when we talk about how there's a job for government; the job for government is to build confidence in the economic climate. That is why putting a 15 per cent GST on everything is just the exact opposite of what this country needs right now. We need people to feel that they can go out and spend, they can go out and invest, and all we've got Malcolm Turnbull talking about is putting a 15 per cent tax on everything.

JOURNALIST: Just on the redistribution in NSW (inaudible)?

SHORTEN: In terms of the redistribution, the final maps have come down, that's the allocation of all the, sort of borders, and where electorates are going to be in New South Wales. I'm more than confident that New South Wales Labor, especially as it's come out of its difficulties last week, we'll be able to deal with this and we will present the best possible range of candidates at the next election.

JOURNALIST: You said that Joel Fitzgibbon has an important role on the party (inaudible)?

SHORTEN: All my team have an important role to play and I've been very grateful for the work that they're all doing, and let’s be very clear, you know the Liberal Party keep talking about when they want to have an election; what I want to say to Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals is stop worrying about yourselves and when you want to have an election, start worrying about Australians. Stop talking about a 15 per cent GST, stop talking about attacking penalty rates and for goodness sake stop cutting the bulk billing incentive which will make it harder for patients to receive the necessary medical care that they require.

JOURNALIST: Are you disappointed in New South Wales, the Labor leader Luke Foley, he wasn't proactive in (inaudible)?

SHORTEN: No I'm very supportive of Luke Foley. The point is that New South Wales Labor has learnt a lot of lessons in recent times and over the longer period. I'm very confident that if she successful, Kaila Murnain the new, the Acting Secretary of New South Wales Labor, will be a new broom and she'll I believe deal with a lot of the challenges. And again, what Australians want is a you know, they don't want to see their own - the political parties having their infighting, what they want to see are political parties focused on them. That's why this year, I'm focused on stopping a 15 per cent GST, I'm focused on defending workers entitlements, it doesn't matter if it's at the Palmer Nickel Refinery or defending penalty rates, and I'm completely focused on stopping this mad idea of taking away bulk billing incentives which make it harder for people who may need treatment for cancer, leukaemia, diabetes, pap smears, from getting the medical care they need. Last question thank you.

JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten do you believe that Luke Foley and Jamie Clements were too close and that's why (inaudible)?

SHORTEN: I'd refer you to my last answer; again, I think Luke Foley is doing a very good job as New South Wales Opposition Leader. It's been a very difficult time, the Labor Party's had its arguments, but what I can promise Australians is that we are without a doubt the most united at the national level we've been in a long time, we're going to have a great new secretary of the New South Wales Labor Party emerge, and we are focused in 2016 on stopping a 15 per cent GST, on defending worker's entitlements wherever they are from the Nickel Refinery in Townsville right through to our penalty rates. And we will - Catherine King, myself and my whole Labor team stop this crazy idea of cutting bulk billing incentives which will see patients discouraged by the introduction of co-payments for going to get their pathology test. We're on the side of good patient outcomes and the long term sustainability of our medical system in this country. Thanks everyone, see you later.