TUESDAY, 9 APRIL 2019
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s public hospital cancer waiting list blitz; Adani; just transition authority; CFMMEU; Peter Dutton.
ZAC BEERS, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FLYNN: My name is Zac Beers and I am the Labor Candidate for Flynn. It's great to be here in Gladstone today. I'm joined by Bill Shorten, Labor's Opposition Leader and Catherine King, Labor's Shadow Minister for Health. Today we're making another important announcement for healthcare here in Central Queensland and it's quite clear that only Labor is committed to delivering better health outcomes for the people of Central Queensland. Today, Bill Shorten will be talking about our announcement to deliver a radiation treatment centre here in Gladstone to make sure that people can get treatment closer to home. This is in addition to our announcement to purchase the Mater Hospital to expand the Gladstone Hospital here and our commitment to deliver a publicly funded MRI licence for the people of Gladstone. Labor's commitment is clear when it comes to healthcare for people in regional Queensland and that commitment is quite simple: it shouldn't be your postcode that determines the quality of healthcare that you receive. On the other side of politics we've seen nothing but cuts. $6.1 million cut from the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service by the LNP Government on Ken O'Dowd's watch. Nearly a million dollars cut from the Gladstone Hospital. If we want to get better health outcomes it's clear that only Labor will deliver the solutions for people from Regional Queensland. I'll let Bill talk a little bit more about our announcement today.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Zac. It's great to be here with Catherine King, our Shadow Health Spokesperson and Zac Beers our Candidate in Flynn. It's great to be back in Queensland frankly. I spent more than 100 days here since the last election in 2016. I've had the opportunity to spend 50 days in regional Queensland. In fact, since I became Leader, this is now my 10th visit to Gladstone. So, I've had the opportunity to talk to people in Gladstone, to listen to the staff who work here and patients who work at this fantastic hospital and I've got the message loud and clear from Gladstone. Take away all the other nonsense of politics, a number one issue for people in Gladstone is access to quality healthcare. At the end of the day, the most important things in your life are your family and your health. If you've got those, then everything else is you know, an added bonus. But if you don't have them then everything else is very bleak indeed.
So, what Labor's said last week is that we've said that we want to improve our Medicare system. It's a great system, when you get off a plane from overseas, one of the things you love about this country is our Medicare system. But it can do better. What we want to do is we want to make sure that when people are in the fight of their lives, when they get a diagnosis of cancer, that's when you need Government standing alongside you. Australians don't have their hand out for a lot of things but they do pay their taxes to Canberra, they pay their Medicare levy and when you have a loved one who's sick, that's when it all really counts. One in every two Australians will get a diagnosis of cancer across their lifetime. It means that right now there's 750,000 of our fellow Australians living with cancer. Now a lot of people thing that when you get the diagnosis of cancer, that everything is paid for, but that isn't the case. We've got a great public system and Labor has helped built it. But we think it's now time to put more resources to help people deal with two big problems with cancer. Cancer makes you sick but it shouldn't make you poor.
So, we want to put much more resources and the Budget can afford it because we've made the economic reform decisions to make multinationals pay their fair share. We want to help people with their out of pocket costs. The other thing which we want to do- and this is particularly today's announcement which will affect the nation but we make it here first in Gladstone because we think that regional Queensland is as important as any other part of Australia so we will make a national announcement here today- is that we want to allocate $500 million to help reduce waiting lists for people waiting to get treatment for cancer in the public system.
It's a little known thing but we have some very long waiting times for very lifesaving surgery. Did you know in Australia at the moment that you have to wait for, one in ten people have to wait on average 47 days between the diagnosis and actually having the lump removed from your breast- forty seven days. Did you know that 83 per cent of people who have a positive test from the government colon testing scheme have to wait, have to wait beyond the accepted time- the recommended time to get the treatment. So what happens is, you go through the government screening test. It comes up positive and 83 per cent of our fellow Australians who get a positive test are waiting beyond the recommended time to treat the cancer. This is unacceptable. Did you know that one in 10 Australian men have to wait on average 159 days before they can have their prostate removed. I think these waiting times will stun and surprise people. This is happening to our fellow Australians now. One in ten women waiting 47 days to have vital lifesaving breast surgery. Then we've got one in ten Australian men waiting an average of 159 days to have their prostate removed. When 83 per cent of men or 83 per cent of people, men test for the government bowel screen and they test positive, they've got to wait beyond the recommended time to have the surgical procedures. This is too long.
See I've got two get to basic views about cancer: cancer makes you sick but it shouldn't make you poor. But I've got another view, you can't out-wait cancer. If you've got the diagnosis, that's a shock. You've got a lot to think about, you've got a lot to talk about. It's a real challenge to your resilience. It's a challenge and anxiety on your family. How was it in Australia that we've seen under the current Government waiting lists blow out. Now, the current Prime Minister has been critical of our cancer initiatives putting $2.3 billion extra, he says it's all free, it's all being dealt with in the public system. Well it's not. Quite often in the public system to get the treatment you require, you either have to wait a very long time which forces you into the private system which is expensive and there are a lot of hidden costs and charges.
Labor today is saying because of the reformed decisions we've made we can prioritise reducing waiting lists in our hospital system, reducing waiting lists for life saving surgery. We've got the best staff in the world, we've got the best nurses, we've got the best doctors, they're doing a fantastic job but what they deserve and what patients deserve is a government who is alongside them. When you're in the fight for cancer, you never give up. You never give up. I've seen it in my own family, I've seen it in friends but when the government doesn't properly fund cancer treatment they are giving up. What right does the government have to give up when the patients don't. What right does the government have to give up when the doctors and the nurses don't, when the families don't - for me, they're a very fundamental issue of political priority. I say to the current Prime Minister, if you think the current system is fine, if you think that there aren't any out of pockets, if you think that there aren't waiting lists, come with me. That's all I ask.
Now Catherine is about to talk about this but also an exciting announcement to make sure that there is a radiation centre here, treatment centre right here in Gladstone. What that will mean is that 3,000, more than 3,000 people in Gladstone won't have to travel anywhere else to get radiation treatment. That's really going to help people living in Gladstone, it's real, it's no nonsense, it's going to make a difference in people’s lives and treatment.
But let's hand over to Catherine to talk more about this exciting announcement.
KING: Thanks Bill and it's terrific to be here again, at Gladstone Hospital with both Bill and Zac announcing our $500 million commitment to public hospitals across the country to drive down outpatient waiting lists, to drive down surgery waiting lists as well. We know for many people when they have a diagnosis or a referral for even exploration of whether they have a diagnosis for cancer they can wait many months to get to see an outpatient appointment. This policy will really make a substantial difference particularly to people who are waiting for things like colonoscopies, for breast reconstruction surgery. In Australia people are waiting, often over a year to have a breast reconstruction after they've had breast cancer surgery. This $500 million will make a huge difference to patients across the country. It will mean 19,000 more breast reconstructions or a possible 250,000 more colonoscopies can be done in our public hospital system because of this investment today and we'll work with the states and territories about how we can make sure that we drive down those outpatient waiting lists.
We're also here as part of our fair go action plan for Gladstone investing in a radiation therapy centre here in this community. We know that there are over 3,000 radiation services that are performed here from people in Gladstone in Rockhampton. When you're sick having to travel to actually get that treatment, trying to balance that juggle between your kids and your family and how you manage all of that. When you're really unwell a radiation centre here in Gladstone will make an enormous difference to those people.
Bill mentioned again, the costs of cancer, what we're seeing across a community wherever we go whether it's the day oncology patients that we've just talked to today, whether it's people in the private system, public system, the costs of cancer are an enormous burden on our community and I don't understand how Scott Morrison just does not get it. Frankly, I think he's lying when he says that he thinks all cancer services are free for people. He should come with Bill and I to the public hospitals to see cancer patients and actually talk to them about their lived experience of cancer. This is something that's gone on too long and we're very proud to be part of a Labor commitment to improve cancer here in that community.
SHORTEN: Thanks Catherine, well said. Are there any questions for myself?
JOURNALIST: Bill are you confident in the Environment Minister's approval of Adani?
SHORTEN: Just before we get on to the other issues, are there any questions on our commitment on $500 million to reduce waiting times for cancer treatments or indeed our announcement on a new radiation treatment centre in Gladstone? If there aren't that's okay but I'd just like to deal with that first.
JOURNALIST: On the radiation facility, would that be a public or private facility?
KING: It will be a public facility but we will need to put that out to tender as to who is going to be the operator of it and I would certainly hope that Gladstone Hospital puts in for that tender, that'll be up to the health and hospital service to do so but it will be a public facility for public patients.
JOURNALIST: In the past we've struggled to attract specialists to the Gladstone region, are you confident you can get specialists into those facilities?
KING: Look I am, I've seen in other communities when you build first class cancer treatment services it really increases the amount and access of specialists that you have in a community but of course what also really matters is the dollars. If you've cut $6.1 million out of central Queensland’s public hospitals- you know that makes a massive difference to being able to employ specialists in health services across this community including here in Gladstone. And that's what the Morrison Government consistently has done, slashed $160 million out of Queensland public hospitals, it's no wonder that our public hospitals are saying they're struggling to keep up with demand.
JOURNALIST: And what are some of the measures as part of the $500 million commitment that will actually reduce waiting times?
KING: Yeah, so what that will do, there will be a national partnership agreement with every state and territory on cancer care and that will go towards more outpatient appointments, more breast reduction surgery, more colonoscopies. It will drive all of those things to drive down those waiting lists - both to get on. You know, there's a waiting list to get on to the outpatients waiting list in the first place. Then once you finally got your outpatient appointment, you then have to wait often months and months if you do need surgery - and often also, time to wait for new scans in public hospitals as well. This is extra money on top of Labor's already announced $2.8 billion better hospital fund, so more money will go to every single hospital across the country because of that and now $500 billion specifically for cancer outpatients and cancer surgery.
SHORTEN: Thanks, everybody. Sorry, did you ask your question about -
JOURNALIST: So the Environment Minister has given the green light to Adani. Are you confident of her approval and do you think it stacks up environmentally and financially?
SHORTEN: Well Adani has become a political football and it has become a political football within the Government. I don't think that's an exaggeration. I don't know what some of the LNP Senators like McGrath and the others were thinking, writing a letter which gets leaked to put more pressure on the Minister - where the Minister's got to make a decision on approvals, then all of a sudden a couple of the LNP heavies say 'unless you make the decision one way rather than the other way, we will publicly humiliate you and try and get you out of your job'. How can someone make a decision free of pressure when they're being bullied? I mean another explanation could be that she's satisfied by the science but the LNP heavy handedness, you know, Bjelke-Petersen-style thuggishness trying to pressure people now creates a cloud over a process which didn't need to be there but for the Government's division in their own ranks.
There could be another explanation of course. There is explosive, and frankly very surprising, revelations on Four Corners last night about the conduct of the Minister in charge - one of the ministers in charge of our national security, where it's cash for access and meeting people connected to the Chinese Government. This is, this is very unhealthy and maybe the Government's decided to rush the decision out on Adani so they don't have to talk about a bigger problem that they've created on their own.
For us it's always been the same, it doesn't matter where we've been in Australia and it doesn't matter what month or what year it is. It's got to stack up. I do say, and I make it very clear - and I think people agree with this - that taxpayer money shouldn't be used to fund this project. Now, the Queensland Government has got to go through its processes.
JOURNALIST: Will you be seeking to review this decision if you win government?
SHORTEN: First of all, we've got to see what the Queensland Government does. And secondly, we will just adhere to the law. We're not interested in sovereign risk. Plenty of people have got plenty of opinions on the project. We'll just be guided by the law and by the science.
Sorry, I'll go you and then you.
JOURNALIST: Michelle Landry this morning said that Labor's Just Transition program shows that the party is trying to destroy the mining community in Central Queensland. What's your response to that?
SHORTEN: Michelle Landry, goodness me. We all know she's feeling a bit of the pressure but I want to commentate on her, I want to go to the heart of the matter. Labor's proposing setting up an authority which will actually plan for the workforce of the future in the mining industry.
Unlike a lot of LNP people, I've spent most of my adult life representing workers, including miners. I am sick and tired of big companies closing power stations or closing mines and just throwing the workers on the scrapheap. Merely because we want to plan what happens to people doesn't mean we presume that they will lose their jobs, which is what they're saying. They almost say that if you plan for the future of workers, that somehow that's wrong. I have to take a different view. I've met the workers at QNI, you know, Queensland Nickel in Townsville. This government didn't give a tinker's toss about what happened to them. I've been down to the La Trobe Valley where power stations closed - and this government didn't do a thing to help them.
Just because we want to help workers dislocated by change, doesn't mean we want them to be dislocated by change, it's just I've been around. I saw the whole car industry in Australia destroyed on the watch of the Liberal National Government. 40,000 people lost their jobs. This government had no plan for these workers. Our just transition authority is a recommendation from the mining lodges of the coal miners, from the control rooms of energy plants. They're saying 'Bill, we know that change is part of life. Wouldn't it be good if for once that if the Government got ahead of the change rather than woke up like stunned mullets in the morning and go 'oh gee what just happened then'. So, this is an industrial relations proposition which says that I don't want to see blue collar workers thrown on the scrapheap.
One example of what I mean is if one power station was to close down because a company makes a decision, and another one still functioning, I don't think he should have forced redundancies of everyone from the power station that's closing when there might be volunteers who in the stage of their life, they wouldn't mind a redundancy package at the power station that's still open.
I just think it's common sense - and it's way I've always done my business - that if you have some workers, maybe they're younger, they've got the mortgages, the families, they're in their 30s and 40s and 50s, they want to keep working. Isn't it smart to have a Just Transition Authority, a scheme whereby we pool the redundancies? There might be some people who are a bit older, you know, at the skinny end of their working life and what they want to do is take a package from the power station still open. So all we're doing is saying let's have some common sense about the workforce of the future. Let's have some re-training rather than waking up one morning, finding out a multinational has made a decision based on a boardroom in New York or Beijing, and they're going to shut this operation - and the Government flapping around uselessly as this government has done for the last six years.
So sorry, I'm not going to take industrial relations advice from Michelle Landry. I've been there when the gates have closed - not because I wanted the gates to close but what I do know is that people need a plan and need some hope. That's what Labor will give working people. We're born of working people, our party. That's why we're giving people hope in the fight of their lives on cancer. And if change happens, I'm not going to leave workers behind. It's all right for these Liberals, they go off and get their consultancies and their embassy postings. It's alright for the senior executives of these big power companies. They get golden parachutes. Problem is too many workers get pushed off the plane and no parachute.
JOURNALIST: Mark Butler is quoted in today's Daily Telegraph as saying that the Just Transition Authority is strongly supported by coal miners. How did you find that out?
SHORTEN: We spoke to CFMEU Mining and Energy Division. This is not secret. It's not a secret strategy. Go and talk to workers. I’ve been talking to workers my whole life. I've been there when they've lost their jobs. This argument that the government says we should never plan for workers to lose their jobs and some have to plan for workers to lose their jobs you want them to lose their jobs, nothing could be further from the truth.
I was there when Ansett collapsed. That wasn't the fault of the workforce. 16,000 people, 16,000 people. I've seen the toll it takes when workplaces unexpectedly close. We are going to make it a requirement that if a big mining company or a power company wants to close they've got to give years of notice, not a notice to the stock market after 10 o'clock and then the gates close at 4 o'clock. I'm about treating workers with respect. The LNP don't have a wages policy. They don't have a policy to look after workers dislocated by change. The big problem in Central Queensland just like it was in Australia, everything is going up except people's wages. This government they wouldn't understand it.
JOURNALIST: It's funny you mentioned the CFMEU. Stephen Smyth has asked if he'd like to know what the members that he represents in places like Moranbah or Middlemount will 'just transition' into. Are there any viable alternatives for coal miners in those communities?
SHORTEN: Well let's face it. What we need to do is have an alternative plan, as well as those existing jobs. But in the Latrobe Valley I understand no one wanted to see those power stations closed, but I've been there. Sometimes companies close businesses. It can happen in a regional media office, can't it, a TV room, it can happen in privatisation by the LNP, and it can happen with mining companies.
What we want to do is make sure they've got training, go to TAFE. We've also got a whole raft of projects for infrastructure in central and north Queensland. Just here in Gladstone alone, a vote for Zac beers will see the Gladstone port access road built. One hundred million dollars, 200 jobs. We want to make Gladstone the hydrogen capital of Australia and indeed the world. Hydrogen is an exciting new source of fuel. Did you know that it's estimated that by 2050 there'll be 2 billion electric vehicles, and of that half of them will be powered by hydrogen? Australia is at a crossroads. We either decide that we 're afraid of the future, that we should never plan for the future we should never see what's happening elsewhere and see how we can make that benefit for Australia. Good leaders think about the future. They just don't tell people what they want to hear.
JOURNALIST: The vehicle emissions standard. When would that apply? Do you think voters should be told when they'd be put in place before the election?
SHORTEN: Listen I see where the government's going on this, they want to scare you about new vehicle emission standards. Did you know that just about the rest of the world the OECD nations already has vehicle emission standards? We would be looking at something comparable to US standards which is below Europe. We don't make cars here in Australia more so the cars that we import will all be built in many cases so these new standards. But we will work with the industry, we'll work with the manufacturers on how we introduce that standard.
This sort of reminds me of the argument and some of you might be too young to know it. In fact, I'm just guessing, did you know that 25 years ago we had a big debate in Australia about moving from leaded fuel to unleaded fuel? If you read back, and I'm a student history, and read back 25 years ago people said going to unleaded fuel was the end of the car industry, no one could afford their cars. Well it didn't happen. One thing I do know is that when you drive to Sydney, the skies and clearer now than when we had leaded fuel.
So, change is part of life. And I just say to families and people listening to this, no one's going to make you give up your ute, no one's going to confiscate it. But the idea that we shouldn't be looking for more fuel-efficient vehicles is silly. The Government themselves have said that electric vehicles for example will lead to a reduction in the costs of running a motor car, and the same will be the case with fuel standards and fuel emission standards, so we'll get it right. I'm a pragmatic person, I work with industry. That's my whole track record through life, we will work with industry. But what I won't do is tell the patient just what they want to hear. I mean no doctor - if you've got someone who's you know you've got a very unhealthy lifestyle says you're fine, don't change because I don't want to upset you. What I will do is make sure that people don't get forgotten. That earlier question about how we help workers for a change, either we can say you're on your own or we say we're alongside you it's a bit like the same way we're taking the battle against cancer. Either we can say system's fine it's not my problem I just want to be the Government and not worry about you or we can make improvements, and the same goes on climate change. Do we really want to be a country of hands on a worse deal to younger people, we'll do it in a sensible way.
JOURNALIST: Did you plan on putting that standard in place?
SHORTEN: We'll consult with industry about that.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton said Sam Dastyari has some questions to answer over the revelations on 4 corners last night. Do you think he holds responsibility as well? And do you think the federal integrity commission?
SHORTEN: Well I don't know if the gentleman you spoke about said that before or after former Prime Minister Turnbull has intervened in this matter. And I think Malcolm Turnbull has said it best here. I just want to quote I agree with his following comments he's just made in the last hour: Scott Morrison is the prime minister and you can't wave this off and say it's part of the gossip or the Canberra bubble. This is the national security of Australia. So, I think the revelations last night go to two issues, one I do agree with Mr Turnbull. This is a national security issue and Mr Morrison has to take responsibility for these revelations. Two, it just goes to show the ongoing division in the Liberal Party. The former guy criticising the current guy, the challenger, Mr Dutton, you know, he's in the target sights of Mr Turnbull. This is a Government who needs a rest on the Opposition benches to get their act together because they are so chaotic.
In terms of the National Integrity Commission, I've led the debate on that. I called for that at the beginning of last year, not this year. The Government has come up with so many different excuses as to why they can't do it. Yet again, this is a Government - bluntly - where the wheels are falling off. They’re appointing cronies to these positions, they've got this Paladin Defense contract which is got many questions about it. They have got this problem where national security is now a question mark. This is a Government that is so consumed with hating each other, they're no longer focusing on the people and worryingly now, national security there are question marks over the handling of this matter.
JOURNALIST: Bill, I'll just take you back to the Transition Authority. Matt Canavan spoke in Mackay this morning and he just wants a full explanation of what it really is.
SHORTEN: Maybe Matt Canavan should have worried about what happened to car industry workers – he didn't cry any tears over those 40,000 jobs. I don’t know what he's done about making sure that QNI workers find jobs, I don’t know what he's done about the LaTrobe Valley workers who lost their jobs. What a Just Transition Authority is, it's an idea that's come from unions and some progressive companies who said, ‘Why don't we, if we know change is coming, put in place an authority to help plan the future workforce?’
To answer that question that Stephen Smyth raised, who is one of the leaders of coal miners and some of the Queensland mining lodges, what we need to do is not tell workers when a company makes an announcement that they are going to lose their job ‘Sorry, here's your package. Spend it, and then you can get Centrelink’. Maybe we actually need to give a stuff about what happens to workers. You know, this Government is crying crocodile tears over us planning for the future of Australian workers. I have never been caught in a traffic jam of Liberal limousines when workers have lost their jobs. I have never been caught in a courtroom or an insolvency administration hearing where a LNP politician said ‘what about the workers and their entitlements?’. They're so busy, you know, this Government, they cry crocodile tears for workers. They haven't got a wages policy, have they? They cut the penalty rates, they have accepted the cuts to penalty rates of 700,000 people. This is a planning authority who can start putting in place schemes to make sure that we can help train up workers, so they can find other jobs if they lose their existing jobs. So if this bloke is going to say to every worker in Queensland ‘we don't want a plan to help retrain you’, then he has got a guarantee that no one will ever lose their jobs, ever, and that's clearly absurd, as we both appreciate it.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it is fair that Fraser Anning has avoided criminal charges over the ‘Egg Boy’ incident?
SHORTEN: Listen, I find the less time I talk about that fellow, the better for all concerned. I'm not going to give him any more oxygen. I just want to make one more point if there are no more questions. Mr Morrison should call the election. Just call it. This sort of politically tricky game, where somehow he thinks he is clever by not calling the election. I don't know, that is just an excuse to spend between $600,000 and $1 million a day on taxpayer's money - your money - on advertising to pump up their tyres. Just call the election. I also wish to inform you that I have written to Mr Morrison this morning. Whenever he calls the election in the next four days - if it’s Thursday of Wednesday or Sunday - the election period will fall across some fundamentally very important days. Anzac Day is a sacred day in Australia, Good Friday is a very important day of religion observation of people of many Christian faiths, so I am proposing that on the Good Friday and Anzac Day we have a truce - we don’t subject the people of Australia to our political ads, and overt campaigning. Of course MPs will want to attend events, sporting and symbolic events and Anzac and the Dawn service, of course people will want to observe religious matters and other matters on Good Friday. But why don’t we at least agree, I am going to say this to Scott Morrison via yourselves, as I have said to him in writing, why don’t we at least agree not to have paid campaigning, the big political machinery on Good Friday and Anzac Day. Why don’t we give people two days off from the election, I think that will do the nation the world of good.
JOURNALIST: The man that Dutton is alleged to have met with, Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo, have you ever had any dealings or met with him previously?
SHORTEN: Yeah, I think a lot of people have. But I don’t think anyone has ever had to pay $20,000 to have a meeting. And let’s go further I notice that LNP Senator McDonald, he's I think in a very racist undertone asked Senator Wong, Penny Wong - is she related to him? This fellow comes from mainland China. Penny’s family even though she has been here 43 years comes from Malaysia. I am sick and tired of right wing conservatives assuming that everyone who is Asian is related. Penny Wong shouldn’t have to fight this fight on her own. Can we just ask LNP and anyone else who wants to say something stupid about people from Asia; grow up, get over it, don’t share your silly thoughts of it and ideally don’t even think it to begin with. Shame on you.
JOURNALIST: So you didn’t take any money for your meeting with him?
SHORTEN: Mate all of our disclosures are put out there and let’s be also very clear. When Senator Dastyari made a mistake of judgement, I met with him and he resigned. Let’s see how we go with the Government living up to that standard.