FRIDAY, 2 MARCH 2018
SUBJECT/S: Tasmanian election; healthcare; Adani
REBECCA WHITE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR TASMANIA: It's having conversations with people just like Vicki that's convinced me that health is the number one issue for Tasmanians and has to be the number one issue for the next Government. It's why we've prioritised investment in health right across the State, not just in our hospitals but in our community sector as well. Because stories like Vicki's remind us every single day that right now the health system is failing Tasmanians. I just have to talk to the health professionals who work at the front line whether it be in our hospitals, our ambulance paramedics, in our community sector and they are telling me that this health system is failing because of the chronic underfunding of the Liberal Government. They cut $210 million out of health when they first came to power, that was backed in by a $1.1 billion cut from the Turnbull-Abbott Government.
That has led to unnecessary deaths in the health system in Tasmania. Unfortunately we are hearing more of those horrible stories again this week. We can no longer take this, we have to take a stand and that's why we need a change in Government tomorrow. Because I have made it my number one priority to fix the health system in Tasmania, because we deserve to have a quality health system that supports all Tasmanians to access the care they need when they need it. It's why we will invest in more appointments, more elective surgery, more mental health services and invest in preventative health so that people can actually stay well and live happy and productive lives and not rely on the hospital system because right now the hospital system is in crisis.
I'll ask Bill to say a few words.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's fantastic to be here with Bec White on the eve of the Tasmanian election. I think one thing is beyond doubt, that the more Tasmanians get to meet Bec White, the more they like Bec White. And today, when we hear her vision for making sure that health care for Tasmanians is the number one issue in the election, I think Tasmania has got a very exciting choice to make tomorrow. It was also a privilege to talk to Vicki, Vicki lives in Justine Keay's electorate of Braddon, and it was great to see Justine and Anne Urquhart here as well. But I was really pleased to talk to Vicki because after the low point of politics this week in Canberra, talking to Vicki reminds me of what really matters in this country. What really matters is that Vicki has the opportunity to get quality health care. She is brave - she'd probably be embarrassed by me even describing her as that but her and Phil, they've had a challenge. When you have cancer, it is a journey. She was absolutely glowing about the quality of the medical care which she has received, the commitment of our professionals.
But how on earth did it come to be in Tasmania, or indeed Australia that you have to either face life threatening waiting lists in the public system or exorbitant costs in the private health care system? That's not the Australian dream, that's not the deal which Australians were promised. The fact of the matter is, it is not fair that Vicki or indeed any other Australian has to choose between waiting lists in the public system or exorbitant healthcare costs with private health insurers.
The health system should be a system which looks after people, but should be, patients - Vicki should be treated as a patient, not as a hostage. Now that takes nothing away from the front line staff but I just want Malcolm Turnbull and Will Hodgman to step up. What they've got to recognise is their cuts at the state and national level literally jeopardising the health of Tasmanians and Australians. Surviving cancer is a massive, massive, massive fight. I've seen it in my own family. But patients and families should be allowed to concentrate on the battle and on the recovery and on the treatment, not worrying about the waiting time or worrying about the bills coming in.
So that is why I am determined to make sure that we end Malcolm Turnbull's freeze on Medicare rebates, that we end and stop the cuts to hospitals, that we tackle the waiting lists, and that of course, we take on the big private health insurers and cap their premium fee increases. Bec came to me with a great policy and I'm very pleased to say that if Bec is elected, and if I am then elected, we will provide $30 million to help reduce the waiting lists in Tasmania for elective surgery, which are amongst the worst in the country. Bec White offers more hope for Vicki and thousands of other Tasmanians, Labor offers more hope nationally because we think that there is no other more important issue in Australia than ones health and the health of one's family.
We are happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Both Labor and the Liberal parties have announced their gun reform policies what do you think of watering down of the gun laws in Tasmania for both -
WHITE: I'm happy to take any general Tasmanian questions if you like. The Liberal Party policy goes too far. They've proposed a number of changes that should be consulted with the Tasmanian community and not done on the eve of an election. It is completely unacceptable to the Labor Party and I would think to most Tasmanians, that the Liberal Party are now proposing to water down Tasmania's gun laws - that had tri-partisan support following the Port Arthur massacre, that led to the national agreements that exist right around the country, and that they are proposing to do these things on the eve of an election without consulting the Tasmanian community.
It's a hallmark of this Liberal Government that they are secretive, they are dishonest and deceptive, and it's no surprise to find out now, because it's been leaked to the media not because the Liberal Party have put this up on their website, that they are proposing to water down Tasmania's gun laws.
Remember this is the same party that's done some secret deal with the pro-pokies groups to gift a license worth $250 million. The same party that's proposed development on Cradle Mountain, has granted access for drilling the day before we went into caretaker and there was secrecy around that as well. We're not surprised to see this Government making secret deals because it's the hallmark of Will Hodgeman and his team.
JOURNALIST: The Liberal Party says your gun reform policy is very similar to theirs -
WHITE: It is not. I encourage you to read them and look at them side by side the Liberal party policy is three pages of proposed changes that they will enact if they are elected tomorrow. Including changing the classifications, including allowing greater access to particular categories of firearms, the Labor Party policy does none of those things. What we have proposed to do is work in consultation with the community if elected, particularly the firearm community in the farming community to understand how we can understand how we can ensure they can undertake crop protection activities.
It is vastly different, we have made no decisions of the nature that the Liberal Party have and we wouldn't do that on the eve of an election.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten did you argue internally for a tougher position on Adani than you currently hold right now?
SHORTEN: It's alright if I just answer. I think you asked me the question in regards to, and then I'll certainly come to you next.
I think Australians are actually pleased and proud of John Howard's gun laws after the Port Arthur Massacre and It might sound funny - a Labor leader acknowledging John Howard's work, but I do and of course he was supported by Kim Beazley at the time. But these gun laws are laws which I think Australians are proud of and when we see some of the scenes that we see overseas, some of the tragedies, I think that people think our gun laws are important protections. That takes nothing away from the right of farmers to protect crops, I understand that. But what is deeply disturbing is revelations of backroom deals and not transparent policies - you know, I just say to Will Hodgman: please, gun laws shouldn't be the subject of last minute bargaining to chase a few votes they're just too important to everyone.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, did you argue for a tougher position on Adani than the one that you've currently settled on?
SHORTEN: Oh listen let's talk about the Adani project. I make no secret that I don't like it very much but what I've also said and I've said it to the Australian Conservation Foundation and I've said it right through Queensland, is that I also respect the principle of Australian politics, that if one Government enters into contracts then a future Government can't simply rip them up.
So to do so would be a sovereign risk. So I don't think the project is going to materialise, the Adani mining company seem to have missed plenty of deadlines, it doesn't seem to stack up financially, commercially or indeed environmentally. I think the issue is that long before Labor faces an election Mr Turnbull needs to explain does he like the project or doesn't he like the project, he's been very silent on that. Mr Turnbull also needs to rule out once and for all using any taxpayer money on this project and also Mr Turnbull needs to confirm has he passed all the approvals that are required for this mine to go ahead?
It is a complex issue and the deeper issue which certainly my party cares about is - we are the party of the environment. I get to travel around Australia, I've been to Queensland, from the outback to the coast. It is a beautiful country and it is worth preserving. But I also travel to mining communities, coal communities. It is not an either/or. We are a resource nation, we are a mining nation - we are a nation that can get the balance right and preserve the environment for future generations.
Sorry, you were next.
JOURNALIST: At any point, did you tell your senior colleagues that you wanted to commit to ban the mine and you had to be talked out of it by them due to the sovereign risk issues - yes or no on that?
JOURNALIST: So your colleagues didn't convince you to –
SHORTEN: No, listen - again, let's be clear: you can't simply ban it and create sovereign risk –
JOURNALIST: You never told your colleagues that you wanted to commit to banning it - you wanted Labor to commit to banning it?
SHORTEN: No party, not even the Greens political party, can simply say they can simply ban something. You have to adhere to the law –
JOURNALIST: Did you ever tell your colleagues you wanted to ban it?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Peter Beattie this morning has described Labor's position on the Adani mine as a bloody mess. Do you think the party has tied itself in knots by trying to be all things to all people on this project?
SHORTEN: No, I think the Adani mine project hasn't materialised in the way its spruikers have been saying. It was first raised in 2011. It's not Labor who has caused them to miss seven deadlines. The banks of Australia, they won't invest in this project. The superannuation funds are not interested in investing in it. The problem here is too much has been promised and too little has been delivered. I think the problem here is that it has become, Adani has become a ground zero for a whole lot of other arguments.
For me, I just look at the merits of the project. As I said earlier, and I think it's important to respect the media and step out one's views instead of little one second grabs - the environment in Australia has to be protected for future generations. Climate change is real. But we are a resources nation. We also have mining and coal communities, and we will for the foreseeable future, and I support that too. The reality is though, if people want to dumb down the debate about climate change or indeed, the future of mining to one mine project then you have to look at the project itself. It doesn't stack up commercially or environmentally as well as I can see and a lot of the people; the banks, the financial sector, I think they share that same view. And I suspect, even though they won't come clean, there's a lot of Liberal MPs who privately think the mine will never go ahead.
JOURNALIST: Did you ever, at any stage, say you wanted to revoke the licence of the Adani mine if you were ever elected?
SHORTEN: No Prime Minister can simply ignore the law. And no Prime Minister worth their salt should simply engage in massive sovereign risk - that's why I enunciated the principle and it's Labor's view and that's the way a federal government would do. We are not going to make Australia a nation who has an international reputation for changing existing contracts. Having said that, I am not going to pretend - this project, it's been more talked about than delivered and I think the question really has to go back to Mr Turnbull: what do you think, Malcolm? Do you like it or do you not like it? Are you going to put taxpayer money in or not? Are you going to sign off all the approvals or not?
JOURNALIST: Well, can I ask you: are you for the mine or against it?
SHORTEN: Oh, I don't particularly like this mine project for everything I have seen. But what I am also not going to do is jeopardise Australia's sovereign risk investment identity which is very important.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, would a future Labor Government keep the Snowy Hydro in public hands?
SHORTEN: Yes, unequivocally.
JOURNALIST: Donald Trump has announced a new trade tariff, it's 10 per cent on aluminium and 25 on steel. What does that mean for Australian steel manufacturers and exporters?
SHORTEN: I think the real issue about Donald Trump's decision is that it potentially very dangerous for the Australian steel and aluminium industry. Now, I understand that Mr Turnbull and Mr Trump have a friendship and I certainly hope that Mr Turnbull is pressing the case for Australian steel and aluminium to be exempted, that goes into America. But the real issues isn't that exemption, although that is very important.
The issue is that the reason why Donald Trump has brought down these new prices, or these extra prices you charge on steel coming into the United States, is that initially it was coming from China to the US, and so they put tariffs to stop that. So what we see is a lot of steel coming from China to third-party nations, and then from those nations, into the United States. What happens is that Trump has said, alright, I want to stop it coming from Vietnam or other countries. The problem is that steel that is being produced in China, Vietnam or anywhere else, needs to find a home. And if it can't go to America, where will it go? My concern is this: what steps is Mr Turnbull taking to make sure that President Trump's potentially dangerous decision for the viability of steel in Australia - what steps is he doing to protect Australian jobs and Australian businesses? Because if that steel and that aluminium product can't go to America, we've got one of the most open markets in the world and I just want to make sure we look after the Australian jobs.
Sorry, you're next and then I'll come back to you, Jen.
JOURNALIST: Bec, back to you. How confident are you going into tomorrow's state election?
WHITE: I am very confident. The way the Labor Party wins is by talking to people. We saw in 2016, that no body predicted that we would win four out of those five seats but we did. We had people saying we couldn't win those upper-house seats and we have won three since 2014. We continue to build momentum and build the number of representatives in both parliaments and I am absolutely confident that tomorrow, we can win because we have got the best candidates. They've been working in their communities now for many months. We've had direct voter contact with nearly 200,000 Tasmanians. And that counts for so much more than glossy brochures. So I am absolutely confident we can win.
JOURNALIST: Ms White, is it acceptable that a mental health patient was able to suicide while admitted to the Royal Hobart Hospital?
WHITE: No, obviously that's unacceptable and it is incredibly distressing to hear that a patient has lost their life at a time when we have had the workforce calling out for more resources. Remember, the Liberal Party cut 10 mental health beds from the hospital. The hospital staff have been calling out for more services so they can support patients. We've had patients waiting four days in the emergency department who are mentally unwell and need to be provided with proper treatment.
The revelation that a person has died because they've been unable to get appropriate health care highlights the fact that this health system is in crisis and we do need to elect a Labor Government tomorrow because it is our number one priority to fix it.
JOURNALIST: What's your final pitch to voters or is that it?
WHITE: Well health is absolutely the number one issue for all Tasmanians. I've been working right across the State and dedicated the last four years of my life to learning about the health system as the Shadow Minister for Health.
I understand how we can fix this problem, working respectfully with our staff across the health system to ensure we provide solutions that are meaningful.
Employing more health professionals. But it also depends upon us having a good education system and that's why Labor will provide genuinely free public education for all children in Tasmania from Kindergarten to Year 12.
We will fix the health system, we will fix the TAFE system, we will fix the education system, provide meaningful pathways from training to employment for people.
They've been 1,900 apprenticeships lost in Tasmania in the last four years. They've been 2,100 people lose full time jobs in Tasmania since August last year.
This Liberal Government is not doing enough to provide opportunities for fulltime employment in Tasmania. They are not doing enough to provide for apprenticeships and traineeships.
We will work with industry to grow opportunities for employment for secure and meaningful work here. Growing renewable energy opportunities, investing in our Primary Industries sector. Growing our tourism opportunities. Investing in our people.
Fundamentally the Labor Party believes that if you invest in people so that they can live, happy and productive lives, then the economy does well. So our agenda is a fairness agenda because we fundamentally believe this is the best opportunity for Tasmania to become a good State and a better State than it is right now.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, did you ever suggest changing the EPCG Act?
JOURNALIST: Do you accept Senator Cash's explanation as to why she made those comments in estimates the other day? Do you accept her unequivocal withdrawal and do you believe that she should resign?
SHORTEN: I think I'm like most Australians today. I think we're over Canberra this week. I think we're over the conduct of people in Canberra this week. I'm not going to focus on the mud, I'm not going to focus on what the Liberals have been saying about people. I want to focus frankly Vicki's circumstances, I want to focus on the opportunity that Bec presents to make sure that Tasmanians get the same sort of health care which other mainlanders have come to expect.
So as for Senator Cash, I'm not going to focus anymore on her, I think what she said was wrong, but that's it and frankly Australians want us at the end of what I think is one of the grubbiest, poorest weeks in Parliament in recorded history, they just say "for God's sake, stop focusing on yourselves and focus on the people."
That's why, it mightn't help Vicki but for me to talk to her is very grounding, and to be alongside Bec who I think will be a standout Tasmanian Premier if the people of Tasmania give her that chance tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: What was your reaction to the Prime Minister when he said that Michaelia Cash was being bullied by Doug Cameron and that's why she made such comments?
SHORTEN: Listen, I've said we want to move on. Michaelia Cash has a pulpit, she can give pretty tough examinations, she can give questions too. For me, what concerns me is the people in Australia who don't have a voice. It's when Members of Parliament attack those who don't have a voice or a chance to speak back. I think that's unfair.
But again, people are so over politicians at the national level this week - I understand that, I respect it, I suspect most of the politicians as they left Canberra last night were happy to go.
What this nation needs is to get on with the issues that affect Australians. That's why, a Shorten Labor Government will unfreeze the rebates which go to patients for Medicare. We will cut the waiting lists in Tasmanian hospitals. We will make sure that hospitals are properly funded.
What matters to this country is the health if it's people and the health of their families. That's what motivates Bec and I, that's the business that we're in.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, on the Snowy Hydro scheme do you support a Federal Government buy out of the States?
SHORTEN: I'd like to see what the Government business case was for it. I know some people just like a yes or no answer, but $6 billion of federal taxpayer debt - that's bit debt - $6 billion of debt which the tax payer has to foot. Maybe it's the right thing to do, maybe it's not, I would like the Government to explain the reason why it has adopted this model, and I think the more transparency they treat it, and the more they talk to Australians about it then the merits of the decision will emerge if they exist.
JOURNALIST: Would there be merits of these schemes being wholly owned by the Federal Government?
SHORTEN: I don't know to be honest. I'm sure that Mr Turnbull has his reasons. I think like most Australians - you go, $6 billion of new debt. At the end of the day it's not Mr Turnbull's money, it's the taxpayer’s. So we just want to see the case.
The other thing though is, let's be very direct here, the Snowy Hydro is one piece of the puzzle, but it's not the entire jigsaw is it. Until we have proper clean energy, renewable energy policies, how on earth can people make the long term investments.
The number one problem driving electricity prices in Australia is a lack of national policy certainty. Snow Hydro is only one moving part. What I'm interested in, is how do we drive down the prices of electricity for families and for small businesses. And the way you do that is you encourage greater use of renewable energy in the system.
Mr Turnbull needs to make up his mind. Is he for the future and lower prices in renewable energy, or have we just got a few Washington Monument projects which he like to sort of fly around and get photographed visiting?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Justine Keay who is here, she has admitted that she did not receive her official renunciation documents at the time of the election, which means she was a dual citizen at the time of the election. The precedent you set for Barnaby Joyce and others was that "let the court decide", why is she still in the Parliament and why haven't you referred her and Susan Lamb to the High Court?
SHORTEN: Mr Joyce made no steps at all to renounce his citizenship. Based on the best possible advice that the Labor Party has had. Justine Keay did everything within her power to renounce citizenship.
There are many Australians who are dual citizens. There's many Australians who have parents born overseas or grandparents or who could have been born overseas.
The Constitution is very clear, that you can only be a citizen of one country or, you have to take all reasonable steps to renounce the citizenship or another country. I think Justine's doing a stand-up job for Northern Tasmania and she's got my confidence, and I think even fair minded critics would acknowledge on properly funding schools, hospitals, health care - she's got her finger on the pulse. She's doing a great job.
JOURNALIST: And Bec, one last one for you, why aren't your Braddon candidates here with you today when it's the last day?
WHITE: They're out doorknocking.
SHORTEN: They're knocking on doors.
WHITE: Exactly. Our candidates are out on the field talking to as many people as they possibly can before everyone goes to the polls tomorrow.
SHORTEN: Thanks everybody.