Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Sydney - ony Abbott’s GP Tax; Tony Abbott’s broken promise;






SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s GP Tax; Tony Abbott’s broken promise; Tony Abbott’s backflip on the United Nations Green Climate Fund


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be at the Prince of Wales Hospital with the hard working Parliamentary Secretary Matt Thistlethwaite. The people working at this hospital do a great job. I’ve seen that first hand with family members who have come here. But what it highlights visiting today, is how important it is that we don’t wreck our great Australian medical system and Medicare. As we approach Christmas, Australians are sick and tired of Tony Abbott's attacks on Medicare. Australians are sick and tired of Tony Abbott increasing taxes on cost of living. Australians are sick and tired of Tony Abbott's broken promises. I think as we approach Christmas Australians are sick and tired of Tony Abbott's Government. We will oppose the GP tax no matter how many times the Government try and sneak it through.


I might also briefly just talk about the latest change of tactics by the Abbott Government, I’m referring to the Green Climate Fund. Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop for years have opposed funding the Green Climate Fund, putting any money into international action on climate change because they don't believe in the science of climate change. Now we find out that in Peru the Abbott Government’s been forced into a humiliating retreat where they're doing what they said they would never do, taking $200 million from foreign aid, putting it into climate change action globally because they've been shamed into it by the rest of the world.


The real point though is with Tony Abbott's change on the international fund and $200 million of taxpayer money is Tony Abbott’s simply changing his tactics because he's worried about keeping his job. He's not worried about protecting the environment against climate change, Tony Abbott’s worried about protecting his Government against political change. I'd like to just ask the local member here Matt Thistlethwaite to say a few words as well then we’ll be happy to take questions.


MATT THISTLETHWAITE, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE SHAODW FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: Thanks Bill. This is our community hospital. It's the most important health facility in our community and one of Australia's best. Every day here the doctors, nurses and hardworking staff perform miracles. But this hospital is under pressure. Over the last two years, the New South Wales Liberal Government have cut $30 million from the operating budget of this hospital. They’ve closed 30 beds and an entire ward. Nurses aren't being replaced when they leave. Two physio therapists were dismissed last year. I'm married to a nurse who works in the public health system in New South Wales so I live it every day; the pressure that our health professionals are under. The Abbott Government have cut billions from the health budget in the recent May Budget. That will trigger an additional round of service cuts at this important health facility. And now we learn again that they're not giving up on their GP tax, another layer of pressure on health professionals in our community health facility. By deterring people from visiting the doctor when they are sick, ultimately they get sicker and sicker until they have to go into acute care at this hospital. It's not fair on the health professionals in our community and I say to Tony Abbott - if you think you're going to get this reform through, well Labor will fight you. I will fight you here, on behalf of our community and on behalf of the health professionals that work at this wonderful hospital and Bill Shorten and all of our colleagues will fight you across Australia to drop this rotten GP tax.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten do you agree that this plan is fairer than what had been originally proposed?


SHORTEN: Tony Abbott still wants to have a GP tax. Tony Abbott’s still is breaking his promises. Tony Abbott still wants to increase the cost of living for ordinary Australians. Tony Abbott should just give up on the GP tax rather than just try and wreck Medicare. Labor's opposition to the GP tax wasn't based on whether it was $7 or $5. Labor fundamentally believes that the health of any one of us affects the health of us all and that the GP tax will discourage sick people from seeking help when they need it. Medicare is the new modern standard of what civilised society is in Australia and Tony Abbott's still determined to wreck it. So we will keep fighting on behalf of Medicare, on behalf of the sick people of our community and behalf of all Australians who don't want Tony Abbott to break a promise.


JOURNALIST: What's wrong with having a price signal on doctor visits?


SHORTEN: The experts have made it really clear that the problem is that if people have a price signal then what will happen is some people will defer primary care. If you are sick and defer getting the medical treatment when you need it, you're more likely to clog up the hospital emergency departments here and the hospital system. The truth of the matter is that this is bad public policy discouraging sick people from going to the doctor. It's also bad policy in that it increases the cost of living on families, it's also bad policy because what the Government is trying to do is sneak it in the back door by regulation because they can't convince the Parliament or the people of Australia to reward Tony Abbott's broken promises and lies.


JOURNALIST: Will you negotiate with them on this policy?


SHORTEN: We oppose a GP tax full stop. The medical experts say that a GP tax will discourage people from going to the doctor – that’s bad for people.  We also dispute the Government's allegation or furphy or lie that there's some big Medicare crisis in this country in term of funding. Australia spending 9 per cent of their GDP on health care, America spends 17 per cent. We don't have a medical health care crisis in this country and if this Government really did think that we have a Medicare health care crisis in this country, why are they putting all the money from the GP Tax into a future fund? If we want to invest in medical research and science we should do that from the taxes we all pay. Australians already pay for their Medicare system through the levy. This is the Government trying to smash bulk-billing, trying to smash Medicare and also they're breaking promises and Labor won't get them get away with this.


JOURNALIST: But couldn’t bulk-billing survive - Couldn't some GPs who currently bulk-bill, don't charge continue to do that just by an absorbing $5 cost?


SHORTEN: There we go. The poor old GP – the GP doctor is the front-line of health care in this country. They provide the necessary support for Australians so that they don't need to come to hospitals if they can possibly avoid. The GP is already overworked in this country and now what they are doing is GPs are being turned into an honorary tax collector for Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott hasn't got the guts to make his original proposition work. Why  we have wasted seven months of the life of the nation that we'll never get back, I don't know.  But for GPs what the Government is doing is giving them no choice at all. On one hand they're saying to the GP, you don't have to collect the tax but of course you’re going to lose money. On the other hand they're saying it's up to the doctor to collect the tax so therefore they want the patient to resent the doctor not the Government. This is a cowardly Government who are seeking to wreck Medicare. This is a breach of an election promise, the Government said ‘no new taxes – no new taxes’. This is a new tax. No matter how Tony Abbott spins it before Christmas, his problem is that he's breaking a promise, he has a new tax which is bad for Medicare and bad for the health of Australians and Labor is firmly on the side of ordinary people battling the pay the bills.


JOURNALIST: On the Green Fund, is $200 million enough?


SHORTEN: This whole Green Fund debacle, the scoreboard really is on climate change: the world - two, Tony Abbott - nil. At the G20, Tony Abbott didn't want to talk about climate change, the rest of the world said stump up billions of dollars because they see it as a real problem. Tony Abbott and his ministers have been embarrassed in international forums in Peru so they've belatedly done something which they said they'd never do. Does anyone think that Tony Abbott is putting $200 million of our money into the environment or to protect his own job? Clearly there's disarray and chaos in the Government. Julie Bishop has famously said you should never use foreign aid to pay for climate change. Yet in Peru, she has decided we should and taxpayers are going to pay for it. This is a government who doesn't know what they think. The ideas they have are unfair. At Christmas time, they're talking about removing the barnacles; the problem with this Government is they're all barnacles and no ship.


JOURNALIST: What other barnacles should the Abbott Government should get rid of? Should one of them be a conscience vote on gay marriage?


SHORTEN: I do support having a conscience vote on marriage equality. But this is a Government who is stuck firmly in the past, they should do that as a matter of principle. But I think the real issue is here is that the Government has now taken up 15 months of the life of the nation and we are adrift. The G20 was an unmitigated failure for the Government, they are embarrassed. We see that their Budget has disappeared without trace, now we see them executing some very poorly executed retreats on policy. But the real truth of the matter is that Tony Abbott hasn't changed his mind on climate change, Tony Abbott hasn't changed his mind on an unfair GP Tax, all he's doing is changing tactics. We all know that whether or not that's a $5 GP tax or another number, Australians know that once this tax comes in, taxes will go up. This is a real hit on cost of living. The problem with the Abbott Government and the Prime Minister is that they haven't changed their mind, just their tactics. If you want to change the mind of the Government you need to change the government.


JOURNALIST: If not from foreign aid, where should that $200 million be coming from?


SHORTEN: The Government should dump their Direct Action plans which is a billion dollar boondoggle which will reward big polluters to keep polluting. They should just go to a marketed based system. The Abbott Government doesn't believe in climate change, they’ve just got a policy to please sceptics. But clearly the Abbott Government was saying that they would never put into this Green Climate Fund. I think Prime Minister Abbott famously called it ‘socialism masquerading as environmentalism’. Now he's proposing to give $200 million of taxpayer money. Does anyone think that the Prime Minister's half retreats and new tactics are anything other than him desperately clinging to power? This is a chaotic Government, at war with itself, and they are certainly not interested in climate change or tackling cost of living with their new taxes.


JOURNALIST: Can you name another policy the Government should retreat on?


SHORTEN: I think the Government should drop their petrol tax, they should drop their $100,000 degrees. I think they should stop increasing taxes on ordinary Australians. I also think they should not cut funding to schools and hospitals. I think this Government, if they really believe in what they say they've believed in, for the last 7 months, they should bring down their mini-Budget next week, they should explain for how they’re going to pay for what they are doing and also what retreats they are making. This nation cannot afford to enter 2015 with a collapse of confidence that today's Westpac survey shows is occurring. We see unemployment rising. This is a Government who is out of control, the economy is adrift, they are changing half-heartedly some of their tactics. This is a Government which is all politics and no policy and when it comes to the GP Tax. Australian citizens deserve better than a broken promise with a new tax which  is not going to help the sick and they should reconsider the whole GP Tax approach of the Government. Last question.


JOURNALIST: The new GP co-payment policy, is that a barnacle successfully removed or partially removed or what have they done?


SHORTEN: The GP tax is a bad idea for Australia. The only way that they can demonstrate they’re bona fide is to just drop it. Tony Abbott and his team didn't tell people at the last election they would increase taxes, they didn't tell people at the last election they would put taxes on going to see the doctor, they didn't tell at the last election that they would turn every GP into a tax collector for Australia, they didn't tell people at the last election they were going to break their promises. We're heading towards Christmas. Australians are sick and tired of this Government's broken promises. No amount of painting over the barnacles or the holes in this Government changes bad policy. They should just give Australians a Christmas present - drop the GP tax, stop wasting the time of the nation, stop wasting the resources of the health sector to collect your taxes, Tony Abbott. Thanks, everyone. See you soon.