MORNINGS WITH LEON COMPTON, 936 ABC HOBART
FRIDAY, 17 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: Jo Cox’s death; Labor backs second Bass Strait Interconnector; Labor’s positive plans for Tasmania; Housing affordability; Labor’s positive plans for infrastructure, Medicare, education, NBN and renewable energy
LEON COMPTON: The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten is back in Tasmania and is in the studio to take your calls. Bill Shorten, good morning to you.
BILL SHORTEN: Good morning, Leon.
COMPTON: And thank you for coming in this morning. Look can we start on a sombre note before we get in to the calls? You'll have woken up, as we've done, to news this morning that Labour MP Jo Cox in the UK has been killed overnight walking home from a public event. Are you concerned about the increasing risk of being a participant in public life?
SHORTEN: It's a shocking hate crime. And I feel for her family, her kids. Her husband's put out a statement or something on social media, where he said that two important things are that he and her were united by the love for their kids, and that she would never want people to give in to the politics of hate and fear. I can't imagine going through what that family is going through, but that's an amazing comment. And I suspect she was an amazing person. In terms of ourselves and politicking in Australia, nothing should deter politicians from going out and talking to people. Nothing should ever stop us from being available. I could not imagine a set of circumstances where I wouldn't feel that I shouldn't walk down a street or go into a shopping centre or attend a public meeting. You do get the odd proportion of idiot who you know wants to have an argument, but that's within the realms of po lite discourse. You just put up with that.
COMPTON: Do you sometimes feel scared when you're in a public space?
SHORTEN: No, I don't. Perhaps I have an over confidence. Perhaps I don't always see things, but no, I don't. I started most of my adult working life as a union rep. And you know, I've learnt how to talk with people in workplaces all over Australia. So no, I don't feel scared in public spaces at all, no. I like people and I would not let the tiny proportion of idiot discourage us from doing our job.
COMPTON: On mornings around Tasmania, Bill Shorten is in the studio and taking your calls this morning. You're in town announcing a business case, that you'll fund a business case for a second Bass Link if elected. The Prime Minister already announced a feasibility study for a second Bass Link back in April. It's happening, isn't it?
SHORTEN: Well if anyone thinks that there's a continuous reliable supply of power between the mainland and Tassie, I don't think that is happening. And I think it is important, I haven't tracked what Mr Turnbull's said, but I think it is important that both sides of politics are fronting up to help Tasmania enjoy reliable energy supply.
COMPTON: Is there any difference between the business case that you're announcing and the feasibility study that is already underway for a second Bass link?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, it means that after July 2nd, whoever you vote for is committed to this project and investigating the feasibility of it. But what we're also saying is that we've proposed a $10 billion concrete bank, it's a loan facility, which the Commonwealth underwrites, to infrastructure projects which stack up. We've said that we would seek to put $500 million to be available from this concrete bank in financing to drive renewable energy investment boom and in particular, securing Tasmania's energy security through a second interconnector. So we've not only got the plan for the feasibility but the pathway to help finance it if it stacks up.
COMPTON: We already have the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Isn't that the appropriate place to seek finance for if we're talking about doing something that promotes clean energy?
SHORTEN: Well that's part of it. But I think also what we need in this country is a finance facility which helps drive a pipeline of infrastructure and investment, as opposed to just clean energy. There is enough money in this country to build infrastructure from our superannuation funds but what we need to do is take the politics out of a lot of these propositions, make sure they stack up and also use the balance sheet of the Commonwealth of Australia to help provide financing for building jobs and nation-building infrastructure.
COMPTON: A debate was held last night, hosted by the Examiner newspaper. At it, Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic said Labor billboards and pamphlets in Bass are misrepresenting the Coalition's policies on Medicare and education funding. Are Labor playing dirty in Bass on those issues?
SHORTEN: No, I think the Turnbull Government's playing dirty on the future of Medicare and schools. I'm more than happy to outline in a minute what we would do with schools and with Medicare and the difference between the Liberals. Specifically, we are offering a ten year path to properly resource all of our schools. The research is showing what the resource levels required to ensure the best educational outcomes for kids, and we would commit to allocate resources so that every child in every school gets every opportunity. By contrast, the Liberals have said no, they're not going to properly resource all of our schools. They run that old, conservative line that it all costs too much and that more money doesn't help change things. Well, tell that to a kid from a poor or working class background. In terms of Medicare, the Government has frozen the rebates for GPs for six years. The rebate is what, when a GP sees a patient, what the government pays them for seeing the patient. The Liberals have decided to freeze the rebate from the government to the GPs for six years. That will invariably mean that the GP will have to put up an upfront fee, get rid of bulk-billing, which means that if you're sick, under the Liberals it will cost more to go see the doctor.
COMPTON: This is a freeze that your party initiated when in government. It's a continuation effectively of a Labor policy. You thought it was a good idea initially.
SHORTEN: No Leon, that's wrong. Let's be straight here. We made a budget measure for eight months, and then we said you've got to go back to increasing it. They've now taken it to six years. If what we did was a freeze, what they're doing is an ice age. The fact of the matter is the Royal College of Australian GPs, not a party political organisation, has said that if the Liberals get back in, 14.5 million patients are going to pay more to see the doctor. Now I think that is a big difference. So when we say the Liberals are cutting Medicare, when we say they are cutting education, they are simply not doing the things which are required to sustain good educational outcomes for Tasmanian kids or ensure that Tasmanians when they need to see a doctor aren't confronted with the death of bulk billing.
COMPTON: They're trying to control a health budget that is out of control effectively. It threatens to swallow the entire state budget in only a couple of decades if we don't do something about it.
SHORTEN: Leon, we've got to guard against those simple clichés, mate.
COMPTON:That is a reality. The scale of health inflation. We can see it in our private health insurance and the cost of the Tasmanian budget every year. Where was the promise of a single-funder model that Kevin Rudd held out a number of years ago and that many think would still be the best pathway to solving a lot of these issues in health.
SHORTEN: Leon, you've made four statements in a row and I'm going to dissect the first one because upon that lies the big lie of the Liberal Party campaign. When they say that the health budgets are out of control, the truth of the matter is in Australia we spend barely 10 per cent of our economic output on health. In the United States they spend 17 per cent. That doesn't mean that everything the private health insurance companies do is right. You know, I agree with what you're saying there. But what it does mean is that our Medicare system which provides universal care, which by the way Australians already pay for with their Medicare levy, is a far better proposition than the privatised models that we see in the United States. I mean this morning we see in newspapers across Australia the revelations that the privatisation of Medibank has seen a reduction in the benefits being offered to the people who have policies with them. I wil l fight against the privatisation of parts of our Medicare system. And the Liberal Party know, that the consequence of their priorities and their choices means it's going to be a lot more expensive for sick people to see a doctor in this country. By contrast, what they want to do is cut funding to Medicare, cut funding to education, but they want to give $50 billion away to the largest companies in Australia, much of which the profits will be remitted overseas. A Liberal economic plan, and they never talk about this - the Member for Bass and the rest of them, their plan which they voted for in the Budget is to give $7.5 billion in the next 10 years to the four big banks. There is a radically different choice between us and the Liberals. We stand for prioritising Aussie jobs, Medicare and education. They stand for tax cuts for the very well off and the big end of town. It's a big difference.
COMPTON: We'll come back to health in just a moment. First up, Anna in Bellerive. Good morning Anna.
CALLER: Good morning Leon, how are you.
COMPTON: Your question for Bill Shorten, Anna?
CALLER: I was just wondering about negative gearing. My husband and I both work quite hard and we save enough money, but our own home seems quite a while away and I was just wondering what Mr Shorten and the Labor Party have in the works for people like us in their twenties and thirties to get their own homes sooner?
SHORTEN: Great, Anna. It's one of the hot issues of this election, home affordability. What we are proposing is to say that in the future that 1 July 2017 that you wouldn't be able to negatively gear for an existing house. See what we think is that first home owners are competing on unlevel playing field with people who are buying their tenth investment property. If you buy your investment property you can claim the losses on that against other forms of income and get a tax subsidy. See we don't do anything for first home buyers, but we reward people who buy their tenth house. But what I also have to say to anyone who is listening who currently negatively gears, is that we are not changing the rules retrospectively. In other words, if you've invested in a property up until 1 July 2017, that property will not be affected by the changes. So we're making budget repair, we're reducing the expenditure of the Budget to providing taxpay er subsidies for negative gearing in the future, but we're not touching anyone who currently does it. The beauty for a first home buyer is that means you're not competing with someone to buy that first home, you're not competing with someone who is being subsidised by you the taxpayer to be able to compete against you the prospective home-buyer.
COMPTON: Dr Graham Alexander is a local GP, who we talk to from time to time from his general practice on issues of health in Tasmania. Dr Alexander, good morning to you. You've got a question for the Leader of the ALP?
CALLER: Look recent polling, Mr Shorten, in this state clearly shows the number one issue isn't jobs and growth, you'll be pleased to know, and it's not health and education, it's health. Now, Leon has already asked some of the questions I would like to ask. We are weeks out from the election, apart from motherhood statements about what Labor is going to do about Medicare, we're talking about health care. We need some details. What does unfreezing the rebate mean? What amounts are we talking about? What is Labor actually doing to save healthcare?
SHORTEN: Okay, I'll give you three quick answers to that, Graham. And I can direct you to our website which contains all of our healthcare policies. One, the Government is proposing to increase the price of prescription medicine for general patients by $5 and for concession holders by 80 cents. We are scrapping that price hike. Two, we want to unfreeze the rebate which means that your rebate will increase regularly each year. Three, what we're proposing to do is not go ahead with the privatisation taskforce which exists in Medicare, the Department of Health to look at privatising the payment system. And four, we'll be having more to say very soon about supporting keeping the bulk billing incentives for diagnostic imaging and pathology laboratories. All of these are material differences to the cost of the healthcare system for patients coming into it. Beyond that we've also released our hospitals policy. We are proposing to provide s tates with 50 per cent of the efficient funding model which is more than Mr Turnbull's 45 per cent. Specifically, that means for Royal Hobart Hospital, and for Mersey, they can expect to receive about $40 million more than they would have otherwise done. We're also providing resources to help reduce elective surgery waiting lists.
COMPTON: Graham Alexander, a quick response?
CALLER: Mr Shorten, you've just done it again. I asked specifically what is Labor going to do about unfreezing this rebate. The last estimate was it's going to be about 40 cents. The measures you're talking about are the costly end of healthcare. And like Leon was saying, these are the ones that are chewing up the taxpayer dollars. We are the only group in the health profession to rein this in. We can't do it with 40 cents. And as Leon says, this comes down to trust. As Leon says, it was Labor who introduced this freeze. It was actually your current deputy, Tanya Plibersek who helped introduce this before the last election. We need to know facts, we need to know numbers in order to keep our doors open so that patients can access basic primary healthcare.
SHORTEN: Well Graham. I also answered that question but I'm happy to repeat it.
COMPTON: Briefly, please.
SHORTEN: These are important issues Leon. Labor had a freeze for eight months and then they actually allocated in the budget the cost of increasing again the rebate. The Liberal Party, and there is a clear choice, is freezing it for six years. And I do think that when we look at the specifics, our unfreezing of the Medicare rebate has an impact on the budget of something like $12 billion. As soon as I say that you say that's not enough or not specific enough. But the Liberal attack dogs say we shouldn't be spending that sort of money. What I'm prepared to do, is to not provide a tax cut to corporate Australia of $50 billion. What I'm prepared to do is make multinationals pay their fair share, what I'm prepared to do to help pay for the healthcare system, is make other hard choices. I've got no doubt that the healthcare system requires more moving levers and parts than some of what we've covere d this morning. But if you think that $12 billion is enough, it's a choice. Mr Turnbull is not in a traffic jam behind me at this radio interview offering to do what we are prepared to do, instead he's got other priorities which include cuts to the services you provide which involve cuts to pathology and diagnostic imaging, which involve price hikes for the cost of medicine and not funding hospitals as well.
COMPTON: I've got two more questions because I understand you have to leave. Burnie and Devonport, on the subject of the National Broadband Network. The contracts there have already been let. They're getting copper to the business and copper to the home and that is disappointing for many of them. Do you acknowledge that they will now get a second grade service under your policy as well as under that of the Liberals.
SHORTEN: National Broadband Network has been conclusively stuffed up by the current Government. Let's call it as it is.
COMPTON: Can we just acknowledge that Devonport and Burnie are going to end up getting copper whoever wins at this election.
SHORTEN: Well Leon, let's actually not do just 15 seconds but 60 seconds and cover off on the issues with some degree of respect. The current Government has proposed fibre to the node, copper technology. They've doubled the cost, the roll out has been slow and Australia's internet speeds have fallen from 30th to 60th. We cannot simply promise that we will rip up all of the existing roll-out that has occurred which includes the person you're talking about. What we'll do is for the areas that haven't got the contracts, haven't had the NBN rolled out we will go fibre to the premises. We are asking Infrastructure Australia, an independent body, to look at how we can then improve the fibre to the node, the copper second-rate system that you're talking about. But what we will do in the first instance, is we will make sure the new roll-outs have the better technology and that will deliver more cu stomers to NBN, a better return and lower maintenance costs. I can't promise people, and I suppose this is the specific question that you're asking, I’m not going to say that we will get on a bulldozer and rip out all the copper that's been laid. But for goodness sakes, if people want to have bigger NBN don't let Malcolm Turnbull have another three years of second-rate NBN.
COMPTON: Just finally, let's take a question from Derrick in Claremont. Derek good morning to you.
CALLER: Good morning.
COMPTON: Your question?
CALLER: I'd like to ask, what is happening about global warming regarding motor cars? The elephant in the room is that electric cars are not being used and they're not replacing the fossil fuelled cars that were manufactured here.
COMPTON: And is my understanding that you want to ask why can't Australia in fact get involved with making electric cars?
CALLER: Exactly. They're shutting down motor building companies here, but why aren't they opening electric car manufacturing companies?
COMPTON: It's a manufacturing question, we'll make it the last one to Bill Shorten this morning.
SHORTEN: Derrick, we are proposing as part of our tackling of global warming to have higher emissions standards for vehicles. So that'll create a degree of policy certainty so that cars meet higher emission standards and will potentially mean that people will be encouraged to look at the electric cars. In terms of our automotive manufacturing sector, we have proposed measures, modest measures which will help companies transition out of the existing auto contracts they've got and still be in manufacturing. We've also proposed to create 10,000 apprentice pre-training places because we think that to have a manufacturing sector we need to have more apprentices. We've also outlined in terms of the manufacturing in the auto industry that we are up for talking to people who are interested to make investments in this country in auto, but we've got a fair way to go to rebuild confidence because this Government waved goodbye to our existing automotive manufacturing sector.
COMPTON: Bill Shorten we'll leave it there. Good to talk to you this morning.
SHORTEN: Lovely to talk to you and your listeners, thank you.