Bill's Transcripts

Press Conference: Toongabbie





SUBJECT/S: GP Tax; Cuts to Health; Tony Abbott’s Tax Increase; Fuel Excise; Cost of Living; Cuts to Pensions; Tony Abbott’s Budget of Broken Promises and Twisted Priorities; WestConnex; Immigration; Infrastructure.

Good morning. I’m very pleased to welcome the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten to Toongabbie here in the electorate of Greenway and thank you very much to Bridgeview Medical Practice for hosting us. Bridgeview has been awarded GP practice of the year and amongst other things they also received a significant primary care infrastructure grant in the last government which has enabled them to provide so many extra services, direct frontline services to our community and they are very highly valued and we thank you for your hospitality today. Here in Greenway where the bulkbilling rate is around 97 per cent, one of the highest in Australia, it’s no wonder that constituents of mine are very concerned about the prospect of a GP tax being brought in, in next Tuesday’s budget and here to discuss that and other matters, thank you very much Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much Michelle, hardworking Member of Parliament for this area. It’s good to be in Toongabbie, it’s good to see the remarkable work being done by our frontline clinicians and doctors, allied health professionals and pharmacists and support staff. This very successful medical practice has been recognised by the Royal College of General Practice Doctors as being the best medical practice in Australia. Every day 200 people are seen. Every year 10,000 clients and 10,000 people who need the help of their local doctors are receiving timely assistance to ensure that the problems they have and challenges they have can be treated at the earliest possible stage. That’s why it is so important that Tony Abbott keeps his hands off Medicare.


The message for me, very clearly walking around this very hard working hub of medical care for the vulnerable in our community is that Tony Abbott; you should keep your hands off Medicare. Don't break a system that’s working well. It doesn't need your help because what will happen is under Tony Abbott's Commission of Audit, under Tony Abbott's Budget, we will see a GP tax, making it harder for people to come to the doctor when they need to, deferring the problems down the road.

We will see a GP tax, we will see more expensive medicines, we will see a hospital tax for people going to emergency departments. Tony Abbott, don't wreck one of the best things in Australia which is universal and accessible and affordable Medicare. What we also see with this Budget of broken promises and twisted priorities, is we see a Government who’s determined to take the axe to our health care system, to turn it into a mini me version of the American health system, which everyone knows is more expensive and denies health care to people if they don't have enough money. So this Budget will be the end of universal health care if Tony Abbott gets his way.


Furthermore, I would like to make a couple of brief comments about Tony Abbott's Budget and this discussion of Tony Abbott's new tax on people who go to work. If it sounds like a tax, if it looks like a tax, it is a tax increase. Tony Abbott, there are not enough lame excuses in all the world, there are not enough weasel words in all the dictionaries in all the world for you to be able to tell people that you are not breaking your promises.

Before last election, Tony Abbott made it very clear, any number of times that a vote for Tony Abbott was a vote for no more tax increases. Now we see in this Budget of broken promises, we see the discussion about a new tax on people who go to work. A new GP tax, a new hospital tax, more expensive medicines. Tony Abbott, there is nowhere where you can hide from this one fact - a broken promise is a broken promise.


Labor will hold you to account on behalf of all Australians, from the pensioners, to the sick, to the people who go to work every day, a broken promise is a broken promise and you will be marked down by the Australian people for your deficit in truth and character on broken promises.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST:  [Inaudible]


SHORTEN: Labor has long campaigned for WestConnex to join up the road to the city. That’s what’s important in this proposition. The WestConnex actually is a road which goes all the way to the city. But we would also say the cost of living pressure is a real living pressure for families who are stretching from one pay packet to the next pay packet to make ends meet.


So therefore, Labor doesn't support new tolls on existing roads. Cost of living is a real issue. Whether or not it is taking your kids to the doctor because they’ve got asthma, whether or not it is taking your mum or your dad in their older years, trying to treat diabetes, or whether or not it’s trying to get to work from the west of Sydney into the city, we don't need a new toll on existing roads. That goes to families cost of living. We’ve got to make sure that the Abbott Budget doesn't put more pressure on family budgets. We have to make sure that Abbott cuts don't already put extra pressure on the cuts which families are making themselves to make ends meet from fortnight to fortnight.


REPORTER: The Government's tipped to unveil a $10 billion infrastructure package in the Budget. Would Labor support that?


SHORTEN: This is a Budget which we were told would be -  and a Government of - no surprises and no excuses. Let's wait and see the detail of what is promised. Some of the tests which we will apply to this Budget is: is it fair? Does it encourage growth in our community? Does it help families make ends meet? Are they keeping their election promises? These will be the tests that we apply. Infrastructure is obviously important and Labor always has a good record of supporting nation building infrastructure in the national interest. Let's wait and see what the Government actually does. So far, they have been long on rhetoric, short on detail with the only consistent feature of the last seven months of the Abbott Government trying to convince people that a broken promise is not a broken promise.


REPORTER: Would an increase in fuel excise be a way to fund transport projects?


SHORTEN: This is the Abbott Government yet again sending up rumours, sending up kites and sending up smoke signals. Labor is not going to jump at every rumour and every bit of speculation about a new tax or an increased tax on excise. We will wait to see the detail. Labor is very mindful that there are hundreds of thousands, millions of families across Australia who, when they are paid fortnightly, those last couple of days, they are really watching how they can get through to the end of that pay period.


There are many families in Australia, too many families in Australia, too many pensioners in Australia who are now looking at the bills they get and if the bills have a lot of red writing on it, they probably have got to pay that straight away, but any other bill they are trying to kick down the road until they have more little bit money to make ends meet. What is important in the Abbott Government's Budget is are they helping families, or are they hindering families? Are they getting you to pay more tax or do they recognise that the job of a Government is to help Australians get ahead?


REPORTER:  The poorest in the community, the ones who generally rely on bulk billing. If it is a choice between spending cash up-front, and for people who don't have it, will children suffer?


SHORTEN: I met with health professionals yesterday and we were talking to the hard working leaders of this medical practice today. It is clear to me that a GP tax is bad for the health of Australians. It is bad for the health of vulnerable Australians. People who need primary care, people who might have asthma, osteoporosis, diabetes, they may well make decisions because that extra $7 or $15 to come to the doctor is the decision between whether or not they can buy some further food, or do they elect to deal with this important medical condition? The problem is in Australia under the Abbott Government's new GP tax, the Abbott Government doesn't get that if you have to go to the doctor six or 10 times a year and you have to pay a new tax of $7 or $15, whatever it turns out to be initially, that makes a difference in the cost of your ability to make ends meet.


This Abbott Government is true to Liberal form. They don't like universal medical care. In Australia, the Australian way is that your health care should be determined by your Medicare card, not by your credit card. The Abbott Government has declared war on Medicare and putting a new GP tax will mean that sick people go sick for longer before they deal with the system because they don't have the money to deal with it initially. It will lead to greater pressure on our emergency departments and it won't save any money in the long run because what will happen is these same sick people will eventually be forced because of their illness to go and see the doctor anyway except by the time they do it, they will be even sicker and it will be more costly to treat their conditions.


REPORTER: Do you think it shows this Government is well out of touch with people who aren’t as well off [inaudible]?


SHORTEN: There is no doubt in my mind the Abbott Government's Budget preparations show how out of touch they are with pensioners, with the vulnerable, with the ill. We see them talking about making it harder for kids from the west of Sydney to go to university, making it more expensive to go to university. They want to make it more expensive for families to take their children or parents to the doctor. They are scaring the pensioners with all this talk about asset tests including the home, which people have worked for years and decades to amass that one nest egg for retirement.


This Government is way out of touch and they are really out of touch when it comes to thinking that they can say increasing taxes is not a broken promise. A new tax is a new tax is a new tax. It is a broken promise and definitely it is a breach of faith by Mr Abbott with the Australian people.


REPORTER: The Government is shutting down six onshore detention centres. Do you think it shows their people smuggling policies are working?


SHORTEN: Labor's policy of regional resettlement is that the cornerstone of the successful campaign to defeat people smugglers. We're pleased if regional resettlement is providing an incentive for people not to use the people smugglers.


Thanks everyone, have a nice day everyone.