DEAKIN UNIVERSITY, WAURN PONDS
TUESDAY, 7 MAY 2019
Subjects: Labor’s healthcare investments for the Geelong and Surf Coast region; Duke and Duchess of Sussex; incident involving Prime Minister; RBA interest rate decision; Senate crossbench; climate change policies; WeChat; pre-polling; election costings.
LIBBY COKER, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CORANGAMITE: …here in Corangamite with Bill Shorten our leader and also with the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews. I would also like to acknowledge Richard Marles the local member for Corio and our great Labor team. We have some exceptionally exciting announcements for you today and I would now like to introduce Bill our leader to make that announcement for you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Libby. That was Libby Coker, Labor's candidate in Corangamite. Labor's really pleased, as part of our ongoing commitment to make healthcare and proper funding for hospitals one of the number one issues in this election. We are really pleased to announce that we will provide $40 million extra for Baxter House Hospital and working in partnership with Premier Dan Andrews, as only federal Labor will be able to do, $50 million to create the first Women's and Children's Hospital in Geelong. And in addition as part of our rolling out of our campaign to make sure that we assist Australians in the fight of their lives with cancer, we are going to provide an extra $15 million to Torquay Community Hospital. I congratulate Libby Coker on her advocacy for making sure that hospitals in Corangamite, and of course Richard Marles in Corio, hospitals in the Geelong region get proper funding. You can only offer to guarantee the best possible support for health and hospitals because Labor's not going to give $77 billion to the top tier of tax earners and we do not support a multi-billion dollar tax cut for big corporations including multinationals. As the election reaches its last 12 and 11 days it's very clear that there is a stark choice in this election. Better hospitals or bigger tax cuts for multinationals. I would now like to hand over to Premier Dan Andrews to talk further about the exciting partnership to give Victorians the best possible healthcare.
DANIEL ANDREWS, PREMIER OF VICTORIA: Thanks very much Bill and thanks very much to the team at Deakin for having us along today. This is a fantastic announcement. It is a real partnership to provide even better care to the growing number of patients who need that care close to home, close to family and friends. And at the lowest price, whether that be in terms of time away from family or indeed hip pocket costs. To think that under a Shorten Labor government we will have not only Geelong's first ever dedicated Women's and Children's Hospital but also a dedicated elective surgery centre. That is fantastic news. And I'll tell you, that certainly beats the six years of cutbacks that Victorian patients have had to endure under the current government. This is a great day for the people of Geelong, the Bellarine, the Surf Coast. It's a fantastic example of what can be achieved when you fund health properly. That's all about putting patients first. Conversely if you cut hospital funding you hurt patients. This is a fantastic announcement. I know that when you think about the growth we've seen down here in this local community we're going to go from about 2,500 babies born a year at Geelong Hospital to more than 4,000 because of the investments that Bill has just announced. And in terms of elective surgery, we know how frustrating it is for people to have to wait longer than they should for the care that they need. This $40 million investment, a dedicated, first time ever, dedicated elective surgery centre will mean that the number of people who can get day surgery in Geelong will go from 5,500 to 11,000. That sure beats cutting hospital funding. This is a real partnership to deliver real care. And I'm delighted, proud in fact to stand here with Bill Shorten who knows and understands that if you invest in health you can achieve great things. If you cut health funding though you hurt patients. Bill Shorten understands that. He's the only one that does.
SHORTEN: Talking about babies being born I would just, should record Chloe and my and my family's congratulations to the Sussexs on the arrival of a little baby boy and as I have wisely done, I have consulted with Chloe and we'll be sending a little present. Bronwyn Bancroft, who is a very famous Australian Indigenous artist, she writes great books for children so we're going to send little baby Sussex some great Australian children’s literature. Over to you.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten we have seen an incident today with the Prime Minister and an attempting egging. I would like to get your reaction to that and also have you had your personal security threatened during the campaign?
SHORTEN: Let me be very clear. This is appalling and disgraceful behaviour. In Australia we have violence-free elections. People are allowed to protest peacefully but anything approaching violence is completely unacceptable. If this protester thinks that she will get sympathy or support from me she couldn't be more wrong. In terms of people making threats and vile comments, it can happen from time to time. But this is completely unacceptable and the Prime Minister has my complete sympathy and, of course, the lady who got knocked down in the process.
JOURNALIST: Mr Morrison took to twitter immediately afterwards to link it to what he said are militant unions. Can I get your response to that message from the Prime Minister?
SHORTEN: I get that it was a very upsetting experience for him, I'm not going to judge. I think I do need to reiterate though, this is not what we do in Australia. We are not one of those countries. This is not what we do. It doesn't matter if you are the extreme left or the extreme right or indeed in between. This appalling and disgraceful behaviour. No sympathy or support. This is not what we do in Australia.
JOURNALIST: Do you support the Greens' call to have a codified racial vilification law to suppress the media and in particular to apply to media commentators?
SHORTEN: I haven't heard about that at all so I can't add any ...
JOURNALIST: Richard Di Natale spoke about it in a speech last year and it was again in the media this week with his comments.
SHORTEN: You follow Richard Di Natale more carefully than I do.
JOURNALIST: What will it mean today if interest rates are cut?
SHORTEN: Well, the Reserve Bank of Australia is independent and they need to make that decision free of any pressure from anyone in politics. I mean, it is a bit of a wicked situation for them, isn't it? On one hand, everyone knows the economy is wallowing in mediocrity but on the other hand it is 10 or 11 days before an election so anything they do will be viewed you know through that political pressure. I'm going to leave it to them. But one thing I do know, and I don't need the RBA to tell us this, is that everything has been going up except people's wages. We are at zero per cent inflation, a million Aussies are doing two jobs or more just to make ends meet. This economy is not firing on all cylinders. It is a problem for Australia.
JOURNALIST: How would you ram your tax reforms through the Senate when the prospective crossbench plans to torpedo them.
SHORTEN: Get as many people as possible to vote Labor at the election.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it is stupid to cost your climate policy, following your comments last night on Q&A? Surely the taxpayers want to know the cost of what your climate change policy is going to be.
SHORTEN: Yeah, I didn't mean any offence to anyone in this matter, but let's be blunt. The idea that you can have a debate about the cost of taking action on climate change without taking cost of the inaction on climate change is only looking at half the puzzle isn't it. It's like taking one piece of the jigsaw and pretending it's the whole puzzle.
JOURNALIST: How much would your 45 per cent emissions reduction target cost the Australian economy, if you could just answer the question?
SHORTEN: My view hasn't changed on that question from last night to today. You know, Australians are fed up with people getting the wrong end of the telescope and turning it into a microscope on the cost of taking action on climate change. Australians know, they know - sorry, can I have the chance to finish your question. Australians know that politics is broken in this country because we don't take action on climate change. Plenty of companies, large companies, you may have shares in them, I don't know, are already decarbonising. They are reducing their carbon pollution. I have seen with my own eyes the solar wind farms of big industrial operations without which if they hadn't made that investment, which you might call a cost but smart companies call an investment, we wouldn't see these factories and these plants still being opened.
JOURNALIST: Just to follow on that question though, you are saying there will be no costing number put on your climate change policies before the election?
SHORTEN: Richard, let's go through it. I understand the interest of The Australian in the question so let's be up front. Cost to taxpayer: much more expensive under the government. You would probably know that they are spending $3 billion-plus over the next 15 years just to pay big polluters not to pollute. That's much more than we are proposing. We're proposing to provide some money, $300 million, to help the energy intensive, trade exposed sector - aluminium, cement, steel - cope with change. But that is far less for the taxpayer than the current government. Then we look at the cost to the environment. There is no debate. I don't even think the most extreme right-wing climate deniers – well I guess they do, but most other people recognise there is a cost to environmental inaction. It is happening every day. In terms of businesses, smart businesses are already investing in change. This country, the politics is broken. We have got a government who is dragging its feet. If you really, really think there is a cost to taking action on climate change then why have two million Australian households already invested in solar? They understand, we understand, most thinking people understand action on climate is important.
JOURNALIST: I am from the Wall Street Journal, can I quickly ask two issues: Labor has apparently written to Tencent, the owner of WeChat, about messages circulating in Chisholm. I just wondered, what is your concern there? Are you worried it is really denting your chances in that seat amongst Chinese Australians? And secondly the US is preparing to unveil a new policy towards the Pacific with new bases to be built in Micronesia. You spoke last night about more nuance in foreign policy but I am just wondering how much sharper you think the choices are facing Australia.
SHORTEN: It is great to have the Wall Street Journal here and it is even greater to have my foreign affairs spokesperson here. So why don’t I give Penny a run on these issues.
WONG: Can I first respond on the WeChat issue. There are very serious and concerning reports, deeply concerning reports, about fake news, malicious content being circulated on the Chinese media platform WeChat. What is even more concerning is reports of those being linked to the Liberal Party. So our message to the Prime Minister is this: this is not what we do in Australia. We have robust political debates. We don't have major political parties engaging in fake news on this media platform or any other media platform. So it is incumbent upon Scott Morrison to rule out any Liberal Party involvement in the malicious false content that is circulating on WeChat. We had foreign interference laws which passed our parliament not that long ago. And we did that because we want to ensure there is no interference in Australia’s election, that our democracy remains sovereign. Well, the Prime Minister needs to make sure that his party does the right thing. In relation to the various discussions, both on trade policy but also on the Pacific, we have already announced, Bill announced at the Lowy Institute our support for and our intention to make the Pacific front and centre in Labor's foreign policy and certainly that is the way we will approach it. We will continue to work with the US on constructive engagement in the region.
JOURNALIST: One million people have voted in pre-polling and some within your party have expressed concern that perhaps the time pre-polling has been open is too long. Do you share those views and would you look at the issue after the election?
SHORTEN: Well I think a range of politicians across the spectrum, including Josh Frydenberg, Anthony, Kerryn Phelps have expressed some views about the intense pre-poll activity. We can review these things after an election but my focus is on the election, my focus is on explaining to people the value of voting for Labor. I personally think one of the themes which is leading to the early pre-poll activity is a mood for change. People have had a look at the fact that Scott Morrison voted ten times to introduce business tax cuts. He spoke on 205 times, I'm informed, on the benefit of business tax cuts. He has only not put in the business tax cuts for the top end of town, for the big businesses, because Labor and the crossbench blocked him. He's never once said it was a bad idea, he's never once declared it was the wrong thing to do, and with all of his deals with Clive Palmer I have no doubt that if Scott Morrison was to be reelected, this would be right up the top of the list for him to do. Quick as a flash, back in there, trying to argue the case for $80 billion worth of tax cuts for big business. And I have to say, when we are down in Geelong, and you can see the vision of thousands of extra patients being able to get medical care in their own community, a Women and Children's hospital working with the Victorian government, radiation treatment available on the surf coast. The choice is as clear as day and night. A vote for Labor is for better hospitals, a vote for the current mob is a vote for more tax cuts for multinationals.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, obviously the RBA will make its interest rate decision later today, you have said you are due to release your costings later on this week, will the RBA's rate decision, if its a cut, alter the timing, or the costings of your policies.
SHORTEN: Well first of all we will release our costings at the end of this week and so all will be revealed then. In terms of the RBA cut, I don't want to make this press conference so long that in fact they make the announcement whilst we are here. We will have to I think wait and see. It is a wicked problem for the RBA isn't it? We all know this economy is going backwards, we know there is a torpor, a malaise in the economy under the current bunch.
JOURNALIST: But will it affect your costings?
SHORTEN: Well we will find out on Friday, let's see what the Reserve Bank does. One thing I can say is that we are committed to funding healthcare in this country. We are committed to reversing the cuts to hospitals. We are committed to making sure that our Medicare system is not only safe from the government but is improved under a Labor administration. We can make these promises for better healthcare and better hospitals because we are not giving $77 billion away to the top end tax earners and we are never going to give $80 billion away to big business.
JOURNALIST: On Eliza's question, it's a real issue I know you say you want people to vote for Labor but nobody expects Labor to have an overwhelming majority in the Senate after this election, it's a half-senate election. I'm sorry if that's a shock for you, but the crossbench will still control the balance of power. Nobody respects mandates in the Australian parliament these days, least of all the Senate and you know that. So what is your message to these Senate crossbenchers who are saying on the record they will block the main parts of your program to fund all these promises you’re making? Or do you have a plan B?
SHORTEN: What I would say first of all to Australians is let's not have three more years of minority parties controlling the Senate. I'd say to Australians if you're sick of the last six years, three Liberal Prime Ministers, five defence ministers in six years, 13 energy policies, 23 reshuffles, if you're sick of the chaos, if you're not excited by the idea that you voted for Tony Abbott and got Malcolm Turnbull, you voted for Malcolm Turnbull and got Scott Morrison, and you vote for Scott Morrison and you get Clive Palmer and Pauline Hanson calling the shots, vote Labor at the next election. Beyond that, I'm not so quick as you Mark to dismiss the concept of mandate. I think even our harshest critics would say that we're putting our policies out there first. So I do believe we will have a mandate and I'm a very determined person. I don't think the Australian people want to see multinationals treating Australian tax laws as a doormat, wiping their feet as they head off to the Cayman Islands, especially with Australian health assets. I don't think the Australian people think that tax cuts for the top end are more important than getting vital health care in Australia. Thanks everybody.