FRIDAY, 18 JANUARY 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s investment in an MRI licence for Prince Charles Hospital; Queensland Jobs Not Cuts Bus Tour; Climate change; Aged Care Royal Commission; Negative gearing
ANIKA WELLS, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LILLEY: Welcome everybody it's great to see you all here in the electorate of Lilley. It is my honour to welcome the Bill Bus to the seat, for the Queensland Jobs Not Cuts Tour, today stopping at Prince Charles Hopsital. I have Ali France, our Labor Candidate for Dickson with me, obviously our Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, our Shadow Minister for Health, Catherine King and Wayne Swan, the current Member for Lilley. Today's announcement is a very welcome one for northside families. The Prince Charles perhaps is best known throughout the entire of the great southeast as the people who sell the strawberry sundaes at the Ekka each year and that money raises funds for much needed medical research which helps to try and tackle some of Australia's most debilitating chronic conditions. So, we locals love our hospital here and while we prefer to love it from afar, the truth is that we never know when our time will come to be driven up that hill and in the front doors. So my family knows that path well, I was hospitalised several times after the birth of my daughter. So for what it's worth, ward 2B has a very refreshing view over the pergola. But I was lucky, because I was able to be assessed very quickly and my out of pocket costs were the medicines I needed to take home with me. People who need an MRI scan often aren't that lucky, so today's announcement is a very welcome one because it will help reduce operating costs, offer more scans and reduce wait list times. So northside families are looking to their Government to try and make things a little bit easier, reducing the costs and wait on MRI scans help make something very important just a little bit easier so I'll hand over to our Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to tell you more.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Anika and good morning everybody. It's great to be at the Prince Charles Hospital on Brisbane's northside. It's day two of my Jobs Not Cuts Bus Tour of Queensland and we're here today talking about an issue which may not be the only issue for this election but for the Labor Party, there is no more important issue, health care for Australians, affordable healthcare for Australians, quality healthcare for Australians. And we over-complicate politics sometimes and there's no doubt in my mind as I enter my sixth January as Opposition Leader, that healthcare is a number one issue for Australians. And at this hospital, it's quite an amazing world-class facility. Wayne Swan, the outgoing Member for Lilley was explaining to me that this is an iconic hospital, it has a world-class heart facility. And it is a hospital which gives the community peace of mind, it's part of the massive growth of the northside of Brisbane, but it's a hospital which now needs new investment. New investment in providing access to the best technology and ensuring that healthcare is affordable.
Today I'm really pleased to announce that we will provide a fully rebateable Medicare licence for an MRI machine at this hospital. What that effectively means is that Australians and that people living on the northside who need MRI services, diagnostic services, are able to get the imaging here and not have the out of pocket costs they currently experience. Out of pocket costs could be $400 or $500 and in some cases up to $900. We don't want to go down the American path where how much money you have determines the quality of your healthcare. Instead Labor wants to make choices. We make a choice to properly fund our health system in Australia. We make a choice that in growing communities such as the very fast and large growing northside of Brisbane, they should have access to affordable medical technology. MRI technology is now a fundamental tool for so much of what doctors do when they treat Australians who are ill.
So this is a good announcement. We're able to afford to extend our Medicare rebateable licences to MRI machines all around Australia in areas of great need because we've made tough choices. For us, politics is about better hospitals not bigger profits for banks and that's what we're going to do today. I'd now like to invite Catherine King our Shadow Health Minister to talk further about why this is good news and important news for people who live in the northside of Brisbane.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks, Bill it's lovely to be here with Anika and with Ali, our fantastic candidates for the north here. This announcement today is an important one for Prince Charles Hospital. As Wayne Swan has explained to me, this hospital has really grown as the population and community has grown. It's known widely across Queensland for its great work with heart functions but of course now it is the general hospital for this area. And as that has occurred, the MRI licences here, the partial MRI licences that are here are no longer adequate to serve the population of this area. This announcement today means that for general patients and for outpatients in particular that it will make MRIs affordable for this community. MRIs are a very common diagnostic tool and under the Liberal Party, we have seen very little action when it comes to MRIs. When Labor was last in Government, we funded over 200 MRI licences during our term in Government. This Government has been very late to the party and I'm very proud that they have now followed our lead but unfortunately have not announced any MRIs for this hospital here so this announcement will make a substantial difference. Labor's investment in MRI of course also comes on the back of this Liberal Government's cuts to this hospital, over $7 million over the last three years alone, cuts to this hospital. And that has an impact. It has an impact on the hospital's capacity to see people in the emergency department to take outpatient visits. Labor wants to invest in our hospitals, we want to see MRIs, diagnostic imaging more affordable for people but we don't want to see anymore Liberal cuts.
SHORTEN: Thanks very much, Catherine. Are there any questions on this or any other matters?
JOURNALIST: Just in regards to the Aged Care Royal Commission, do you think that this Royal Commission is perhaps more worthy than other ones we've seen that may have been more politically driven?
SHORTEN: I think that in Australia, that people who require aged care support have not been getting a good deal for a number of years. So I'm a supporter of this Royal Commission, in fact, when I raised the possibility of having the Royal Commission and discussion on a political talkshow and talking in one of my town hall meetings, the current Government and the current minister rushed out and they said that because I was contemplating a Royal Commission into aged care, the current Government and current minister accused me of elder abuse. I in turn said they're covering up. So I think this Royal Commission is the right decision. But you don't need a Royal Commission to know that when you cut $1.2 billion out of aged care, you're going to create potential time bombs and disasters. You don't need a Royal Commission to know that under the last five years of Liberal administration in Australia, aged care has gone backwards. I might invite Catherine King to talk a bit further about aged care and also some of the issues why this current Government just really has dropped the ball on Australia's older people in the last five years.
KING: We certainly support the Royal Commission and obviously it has got its first day of hearings today and Julie Collins, the Shadow Minister for Aged Care I think will be doing a stand up and talking about some of the news that has hit the media today. But what we've seen over the last five years is $1.2 billion cut out of the aged care system and one of the most, I think dangerous and ridiculous decisions that the Government made, was to cut the dementia supplement. That dementia supplement went to directly to every single residential aged care to actually help them work with patients with dementia who do have more complex needs. The Government is announcing today that it's going to crack down on physical and chemical restraint, that's a good thing. But they have known for five years that this is a substantial issue in our aged care facilities. They have known that aged care facilities, managing dementia patients is increasingly challenging as we see more and more people being diagnosed with dementia. Frankly, what we are going to hear from this Royal Commission are going to be some very harrowing stories. But what we actually need is not cuts to services, we actually need to put resources into residential aged care so we're actually looking after the people who are most vulnerable in their later years.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Catherine.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Clive Palmer has promised to outspend Labor and the Liberals. How many seats do you think he can take?
SHORTEN: First of all I'd just ask Mr Palmer to pay the workers what he owes them and pay the taxpayers what he owes them. Once he's done that I am happy to take questions on Clive Palmer. In terms of the election, it's a tough election, Labor has only won from Opposition nationally three times since the second World War. But, I think we've got a couple of advantages, we are united, we have been doing the policy work and we know that the economy is not working in the interests of every day Australians so we've got a Fair Go Plan which I'll be talking to Queenslanders about. This summer wherever I travelled, people would say to meeverything is going up Bill, except our wages. So what we need is a Fair Go Plan which looks after working and middleclass Queenslanders and working and middleclass Australians. Only Labor has got tax refunds for working and middleclass people in the order of nearly $1,000 each person each year, for each person earning up to $90,000 a year. Only Labor has got a plan to help keep the cost of private health insurance down. Only Labor has got a plan for renewable energy which will lead to lower power bills for Australians. So it's going to be a tough election but we've got a united team, I've got a more talented team, look at my remarkable candidates on the northside for example, Anika and Ali, they're strong candidate. So we've got a good team, we're united, our policies I think are talking to what's really happening out there in the community. I really would prefer to be announcing MRI licences so that people can see their out of pocket costs reduced for basic healthcare in this country rather than defending giving tax concessions and tax loopholes to the top end of town.
JOURNALIST: Is the Fijian Prime Minister right to criticise Australia on climate policy?
SHORTEN: Yeah that was quite remarkable wasn't it. Listen, when Mr Morrison goes overseas he represents Australia so I want him to do well. But it's a bit embarrassing that he had to go to Fiji to be told that he's doing nothing on climate change, when in fact millions of Australians could have told him that in Australia. We have no climate change policy. I mean, the Fijians have got YouTube and the internet, and they've just looked up the pictures of Mr Morrison brandishing coal like some lucky charm in Parliament in Question Time, turning it into show-and-tell time for primary school students. Like, we've got a Prime Minister who thinks that a lump of coal is an energy plan. Coal is part of our energy mix going forward, of course it is. But the rest of the world, millions of Australians, I, Labor, know that the current Government are not interested in climate change. They can't even agree if it's caused by human activity or not. So, Mr Morrison didn't need to buy an airplane ticket to go to Fiji to be told, but the whole world and Australia knows that the Liberal Government have got no climate change policy.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you to clarify something we discussed yesterday. The sequencing on the measures, in your first term of government, would be referendum on constitutional recognition, then plebiscite on the Republic?
JOURNALIST: Derryn Hinch has used a social media platform to tweet out details of a case that the police wanted to keep quiet. Do you condemn that?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, I want to go to the tragedy and the crime which has happened, which has triggered the question you're asking. A young Israeli woman in Australia savagely and brutally murdered. I'm a parent. I've got teenage children who, you know, use the public transport in Melbourne. This is not the Australia or the Melbourne that I grew up in. It is shocking. I want to say to parents whose young people come to Australia, this is shocking but this is not Australia. So, my feelings for the grief of this family, are just very strong. I want to reassure them that our police are amongst the best in the world. They will successfully catch, and our legal system will punish the wrongdoer. That is what I also want to say to people coming to Australia, and I want to say to parents in Australia; I do think that people who are in positions of power and influence shouldn't put out information automatically when the police have got a different strategy to catch and convict the wrongdoers. I don't want to give what Senator Hinch has done any more oxygen than that. For me, this is about a shocking and senseless murder. For me, it's about the loss of a family. And the idea that your child could be lost on the other side of the world makes them particularly powerless. But I do want to assure people that our police are as good as anywhere in the world, and I, for one, am a politician who will let the police do their job and not get in the way.
JOURNALIST: How do you respond to the claim your speeches have been anti-business and class warfare?
SHORTEN: Who's claiming that? It's just rubbish. Oh, do you mean -
JOURNALIST: There is an article today suggesting that your speeches have been anti-business (inaudible) so what’s your response to that?
SHORTEN: There's a serious issue, but I do have a sense of humour too. Some days, when I watch some of the conservative business papers condemn me, the only thing different in the newspaper is the date at the top of the newspaper banner really. I don't take that too seriously. The real issue which we're talking about is that I am outraged that we're going to have no Australian ships left on the Australian coastline. You know, I do think that, as an island nation, Australian companies should be using their product on Australian shores when they ship it, in Australian ships, or at least crewed by Australian crews. Iron boats have been covering materials in the steel and iron industry, sending it around our coastline for a hundred years. I'm a student of history. This is a convenient fact which corporate Australia love to forget now, but nearly 270 ships were sunk off the Australian coastline in the Second World War. At the start of the Second World War, because we had privatised our shipping industries and sold it all off, we didn't have enough Australian ships to carry our troops to the Middle East, or to carry supplies to Australia. We didn't have enough seafarers, ships' engineers and the like. History always repeats. And what we have here is amnesia from corporate Australia, who thinks that the almighty dollar is the only thing that matters. Have a look at ecological disasters caused by ships of shame. That is ships registered in third world countries or in tax havens. Why does corporate Australia, the big end of town think that the next quarter's profits are more important than our environment, more important than Australian jobs, and more important than Australian national security? If we form a government, I make this pledge to Australia: we are determined to get more ships registered in Australia and more Australian seafarers working along the Australian coastline. For me, this is not a matter of class-war. It's a matter of being an independent nation, controlling our transport costs, making sure that we protect our environment, and making sure that as an island nation we have ships. You know, in the good times, maybe it doesn't matter to corporate Australia. But in the bad times, we'll wish we had more Aussie seafarers.
JOURNALIST: Has Labor come any closer to establishing the timing its negative gearing policy?
SHORTEN: We will do it after the election in consultation, the Shadow Treasurer will have more to say about it. One important point about the timing of our negative gearing policy is this - it's not retrospective. In other words, if you've invested under the current tax laws, the current tax laws will stay in place for your investment. I periodically see some of the hysterical commentary from the Government. You know, they're trying to blame us for poor housing prices now. They're the Government, we're not. Our policy is not in, their policies are in and housing prices have been crashing. But what we must make very clear is that, if you've invested under the current tax laws, they're the rules that will apply going forward. Our changes to negative gearing are prospective - the other point I want to make is not so much a timing point but it's just a matter of fact. To me, running a government in Australia is about choices. I would rather find the money to pay for healthcare in this country than to give a tax windfall to a property investor purchasing their seventh house. It's really a question of fairness. And of course the other point about fairness is do we want to be a nation who has the best tax loopholes in the world, or has the best hospitals in the world? Do we want to be a nation which allows a property investor to get a tax payment for their tenth investment property or make sure that a young person can get a job in Queensland. Do we want to be a nation who says to first home buyers, "we won't help you, but if you've got several million dollars and you want to buy your fifth house, we're your friends." Mr Morrison and his Government are the friends of the top end of town, the tax loopholes, the friends of the multinationals, they're the friends of the people who can opt out of the tax system. We just want to see everyone get a fair go.
JOURNALIST: Aren't you worried that given the soft housing market, the removal of this and not just the up-front effect but obviously the ongoing effects that it could reduce house prices and so on could have a very bad effect on the Australian housing market and economy?
SHORTEN: No, it won't. Let's be clear about that. Ours is a fairness measure. I haven't heard anyone explain to me how it is fair that a property investor can get their taxpayers to subsidise that person for their seventh house, but a first home buyer, well, they get no help at all. That's just not fair. But if you want to look at what's affecting house prices now, why can't the Government be honest with the Australian people? It's because the banks aren't lending as much money. The banks are not lending as much money - that's what's causing the issue. Now, the regulators have put in place policies which are discouraging the banks from lending money. Who do the regulators report to? They report to the current Government. The current Government is pulling a sort of pea and thimble trick, where they want you to look over here at Labor's future policies so as to take your attention from the fact that under the current Government this economy is not working properly. It's not just in housing; childcare costs have gone up 20 per cent under this Government. Speak to any parents who are out there buying the books and uniforms and equipment for their kids returning to school, the costs have gone up.
If you want to see how this economy is not working properly speak to 10 million Australians who have barely had a wage rise in the last couple of years. This economy is dangerously weighted or not appropriately weighted in the interests of everyday people. If you make several billion dollars in Australia, you don't pay as much tax, you can opt out of the system. If you're a multinational, you don't pay tax here. This economy is not working in the interests of everyday Australians. What we're doing is making serious economic reforms which will allow us to properly fund the best education system in the world, the best healthcare system in the world, and the best aged care system in the world, and will allow us to make sure that we get wages moving again in this country by, for example, restoring penalty rates, which have been arbitrarily cut.
JOURNALIST: Realistically, though, given the election timing if you did win, you wouldn't be looking to introduce that until 2021 then given your consultation period?
SHORTEN: I'll talk with our Shadow Treasurer and we'll have more to say about that. Whatever changes we introduce will be the result of consultation, and they will be prospective.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, sorry there was a story yesterday about Animals Australia offering a monetary rewards for footage of animal cruelty. What do you think about these methods of obtaining video footage?
SHORTEN: Well as I understand the media occasionally pay for stories, it’s not my role to always judge how information gets out there. For me what worries me is the images we see. Covering up cruelty to animals doesn’t make cruelty to animals less cruel.
JOURNALIST: (inaudible) on climate change what do we risk with our relationship in the Pacific?
SHORTEN: Well they are not going to take us seriously. I imagine the Pacific is very grateful for conservative politicians coming over and giving them lectures about doing nothing on climate change and then saying we want to be your friend. It’s pretty embarrassing really isn’t it? The Prime Minister of Australia who has sneered at climate change policies, whose government got rid of a Prime Minister who wanted to take baby steps on climate change , flies over Fiji and gets a lecture about not doing enough on climate change. It’s not just the rest of the world not taking us seriously on climate change, the Australian people are fed up. Do you know 2 million Australian households put solar on their roofs, yet they’ve got a government in Canberra that’s so far behind them, it means their energy prices keep going up because of the lack of policy certainty. Labor’s got a climate change and energy policy. We’re interested in reviving the Government’s national energy guarantee, we think that was the basic framework – we didn’t like everything about it but we were prepared to work with it because we need bipartisanship in energy policy. The current Treasurer was the architect of the national energy guarantee, and he’s given up on it. This Government can’t take action on climate change, because if they do the right-wing of their party will get rid of anyone who does. So if you want real action on climate change and lower power prices vote Labor at the next election.
JOURNALIST: Just on recognition, so we’re clear. Because there will be a first term plebiscite on the republic and the referendum on recognition would come before that, that’s a first term referendum on recognition?
SHORTEN: Yes. My answer hasn’t changed.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor consider funding the Independent Public Schools Program in Queensland after the Federal Government pulled funding in 2017?
SHORTEN: I’m not familiar with which particular program that is, if you’re referring to specific policy I’ll follow up. But our general approach to education is this, I want to give our kids the best education system in the world. We will fund schools according to need. The vast bulk of that means that government schools get funding, but we will also fund non-government schools according to need. What we won’t do is cut education funding like this current government. The other point I make about education which is good news for all Queenslanders, especially people looking at childcare this year and the costs of that – is that Labor is going to roll-out in our first term, universal preschool for 3 and 4 year-olds. If we give those kids those two years of structured learning, that just means that exponentially when they go primary school and secondary school, they’re going to do so much better. Labor is the party of education. Now if you excuse me I’ve got a bus to catch on my Jobs Not Cuts tour. Thank you very much.