24 May 2016

TUESDAY, 24 MAY 2016

SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plans to protect Medicare; Labor’s plan for inclusive growth; A desperate Prime Minister; Senator Nova Peris; Asylum seekers; Mr Turnbull’s NBN mess; Religious exemption from anti-discrimination laws; Liberal lies about Labor’s policies

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I’m really pleased to be here in Gosnells today to announce that, if Labor is elected on July 2, we will legislate a Medicare guarantee to protect Medicare for future generations. Specifically, as part of our guarantee, one, we will abolish Malcolm Turnbull's GP tax by stealth. Two, we will scrap the price hikes to prescription medicine which will mean that for an average family with two healthy children they will save up to $400 a year. And, three, we will enact a special act of Parliament which will prohibit the privatisation of Medicare into the future. Anyone who travels overseas, any Australian who travels overseas, knows how good our national health care system is, our Medicare system. Yet Mr Turnbull constantly says that we can't afford to defend Medicare or invest in Medicare. But when parents have got sick children or there's an older relative who needs t o see the doctor, the last thing Aussies want to hear is Mr Turnbull saying that we cannot invest in Medicare. That is why, if Labor is elected on July 2, within 100 days we will pass a special act of Parliament to enshrine Medicare and protect it from privatisation. Our act will codify the importance of keeping Medicare in public hands. Now, this is the first time this has been proposed in 41 years. But never before have we seen such sustained attacks upon parts of the Medicare system. I will, if elected, immediately disband a $5 million taskforce in the Department of Health, whose sole purpose is to line up parts of Medicare to be sold off. Australians love their Medicare and we have made a clear choice in this election. We have chosen not to give $50 billion in corporate tax cuts. Instead we have chosen to protect and defend Medicare with $12 billion over 10 years to ensure GPs can keep providing bulk-billing and the quality care which we are so fortunate to receive. It&# 39;s why we have chosen not to give $50 billion in tax cuts and instead we have chosen to keep downward pressure on the price of pharmaceuticals. In this election, the Liberals are carrying out a great big fat lie. What they are saying is we cannot afford to invest in Medicare. The truth is that Mr Turnbull has chosen to spend $50 billion of taxpayer money giving corporate tax cuts. Labor chooses instead to give money to defend Medicare and bulk-billing and keep downward pressure on prescriptions. Mr Turnbull's spending people's money. He is just not spending it on Australians. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr Turnbull says you lack an economic plan for growth. What is your plan for growth and also he's labelled you Billion Dollar Bill, what would you call him?

SHORTEN: First of all, Labor's plan for economic growth is jobs, education, Medicare, renewable energy, fair taxation, access for first home buyers into the housing market. Our economic plan is all about fairness. We don't think that economic growth can be guaranteed or sustained by giving multi-millionaires tax cuts. I don't think the solution for Australia’s economic growth is giving large foreign multinationals and large banks business tax cuts that this nation can't afford. I think economic growth comes from fairness; treating women equally in the workplace, making sure we have affordable childcare, make sure our kids get the best education possible, make sure that adults who want to retrain after they have been displaced after losing one job can do so through strong properly funded public TAFE. An economic growth plan which puts people at the centre of our decisions and a viable Medicare system , a well-funded Medicare system is actually excellent for economic growth. Look at the comparative system in the United States. In America they spend 17 per cent of their GDP on a two-tier health system which is notorious for not delivering for people who don't have a lot of money. The truth of is matter is our Medicare system is very efficient. Having Medicare in public hands with one system of payments is actually not just good in term of fairness, but it's good in terms of economic efficiency. Imagine going down the American path where employers have to pay for the health insurance of their employees. No-one in Australia wants that. They would rather see an economically efficient and fair medical system. What Mr Turnbull doesn't get is there are two economic growth plans on trial at this election - Mr Turnbull's trickledown economics, where you look after the top one and  two per cent and hope everyone else gets something on the way through, or Labor& #39;s plan to look after working class and middle class families, good education, good health, good jobs, that is, I think, the most sustainable way to generate economic growth in the long-term.

JOURNALIST: He called you Billion Dollar Bill.


JOURNALIST: What would you call him?

SHORTEN: What Mr Turnbull calls me - sorry, you did ask that second part of the question. What Mr Turnbull calls me doesn't worry me in the slightest. What a desperate fellow this Mr Turnbull is becoming when he is resorting to the negative big lie of this election. Let's call Mr Turnbull's actions in the last few days for what they are. A great big fat lie. We know in this country that there are two clearly competing stories put before the Australian people on July 2. You can vote Liberal and mandate a $50 billion tax cut for large corporations. You can vote Labor and make sure that we have Medicare and well-funded schools for all Australians. Mr Turnbull loves to talk about spending but what he won't ever do is talk about their own plans they announced the week before the election. $50 billion in corporate tax cuts. $17 billion in cuts for high income earners to get back literally tens of thousands of d ollars. And then there's the $32 billion that Mr Turnbull wants to keep feeding the property spectators and parts of the real estate industry through his defense of negative gearing and capital gains tax deductions system. That’s $100 billion. But we know why Mr Turnbull never wants to talk about that economic plan because he knows that is not the economic plan which Australians want to hear. Mr Turnbull since he's become Prime Minister has shrunk into his job. He promised a new form of politics, remember, but in fact what he has done is just gone to the Tony Abbott play book of desperate smear and lie about Labor.

By contrast, we do have positive plans. I couldn't be prouder of the fact that Labor's fighting this election as a referendum on Medicare. What Labor will do is talk about the needs of everyday Australians. If mum can get in to see the doctor with her kids who are sick, that means she has to have less worry about her financial bills and everything else she has to do. If someone is a self-funded retiree who has measured their income right down to the margins they don't need the extra pressure of paying more for prescription medicine in Mr Turnbull's Australia. Defending Medicare, opposing the privatisation of Medicare, this is a strategy for economic growth in Australia and it’s a strategy for fairness and Mr Turnbull can call me all the names under the sun. I know that when I'm on the side of everyday people, working and middle class families, I think that is the right path for Australia's future.

JOURNALIST: You’ve just lost a Senator during an election campaign and you are someone who has advocated for Indigenous representation. Is this an indictment on your leadership and what did you say to try to convince her to stay?

SHORTEN: First of all, the news has just come out publicly. Senator Peris has just issued a statement that she will not be renominating for the Senate. Let me just here right now record my appreciation for her service to this country. She is a trailblazer. She is a trailblazer on the athletics track and she has been a trailblazer in the Senate. She's a distinguished Territorian, she is a distinguished Indigenous Australian. I am very grateful for the time that she has served the Labor Party and the people of the Northern Territory. She departs with my absolute best wishes. In terms of my championing having Indigenous candidates, there are now a record six Indigenous Australians running for the Labor Party and I think that is a long overdue development. But certainly we are very committed to improving the political voice of all Indigenous Australians.

JOURNALIST: Mr Scullion has this morning said she was a captain's pick by Julia Gillard and a captain's flick by you. Was Nova Peris sacked and who will replace her?

SHORTEN: That is just complete rubbish. Don't you love these Liberals, they even lie about the small things as well as the big things. That is complete rubbish and Senator Scullion should not be focusing on trying to say that Nova Peris has been anything other than made a choice which she sees as in her own interest and the best wishes of her family. I expect better from Senator Scullion. The second part of the question, I wasn't going to let Nigel Scullion get away with some silly cheap politics on an important day for Senator Peris. The Labor Party in the Territory will no doubt have a range of candidates and the party will go through its process in the coming days.

JOURNALIST: You were outraged this week when the AFP raided your offices in Melbourne. That was done under a 100-year-old law that doesn’t give any public interest defence to the leak of public information. If you are so angry about that, why not commit if you form government to reforming laws to allow some public interest defence in leaking information?

SHORTEN: We’ll make that commitment. I said at press conference last week when one of your colleague journalists asked me a general question about whistle-blower protection. I do think this is a matter which deserves attention. I am scandalised that the Government is going to such efforts to cover up their poor performance in the National Broadband Network and the fact that under Mr Turnbull internet speeds in Australia have dropped from 30th to 60th. The fact he promised before the last election it would cost $29 billion and now it's at $56 billion and climbing. This is the biggest Commonwealth infrastructure project we have ever done. It is the only real thing that Mr Turnbull has been in charge of in public life, other than being Prime Minister, and the extent the Government will go to suppress Mr Turnbull's embarrassment and exposure over his incompetence is staggering. So the point you say about whistl e-blower protection, Labor is absolutely in the market to start strengthening whistle-blower protection in this country full stop.

JOURNALIST: Canada has resettled 27,000 Syrian refugees since last November. Do you think that they have done enough heavy lifting in the humanitarian refugee crisis or do you agree with Anthony Albanese that Canada would be a good destination to send asylum seekers that Australia has locked up in offshore detention camps?

SHORTEN: In terms of evaluating Canada's handling of 27,000 Syrian refugees, it certainly does make our Government's efforts not look in any fashion heroic compared to that. I think the broader question though is about our policies in terms of people smugglers and refugees. Again, let me be 100 per cent crystal clear. Labor will not support seeing the people smugglers back in business. The criminal syndicates in South-East Asia, who sell expensive tickets to vulnerable people on unsafe vessels which see people drown at sea, is not a policy, is not a policy or an action which they will ever, ever, ever support. What we also have to recognise is that the indefinite detention or the semi-indefinite detention of people in Australia's care is unacceptable. Labor, if elected, and it's hard to negotiate, we obviously can't negotiate with other countries from Opposition, one of the first things l will do is p ut Richard Marles, the immigration spokesman, hopefully minister, on a plane to talk to the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees. It is disgraceful that we haven't had that sort of high level dialogue to have regional resettlement. In terms of Canada, it’s an excellent settlement country and we would certainly make it a priority through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and other nations in our region, the timely resettlement of people on Manus and Nauru. Two more questions, thanks.

JOURNALIST: If you become Prime Minister, will you keep the exemptions for religious institutions that currently exist in Australia's anti-discrimination framework? Can you give a commitment that those exemption will remain given the Greens are campaigning against them?

SHORTEN: At this point in time let me be really clear about that. We are not interested in telling religious organisations how to run their faith-based organisations. We haven't seen the case made to make change. But also let's be straight up here. It is a massive waste of money, $160 million being spent on a plebiscite on marriage equality. Why should some people's relationships have to undergo the gauntlet of public opinion and taxpayer funded hate campaigns? On this issue, Malcolm Turnbull should return to the old Malcolm Turnbull. He knows and you know he knows, we all know he knows, that his heart is not in this plebiscite, so why on earth is he subjecting Australia to a process and a $160 million of taxpayer expenditure when he knows that it isn't the right thing to do? It is long overdue for Malcolm Turnbull to start showing leadership. Last question. Excuse me, two questions. Jason?

JOURNALIST: You've spoken a lot about ensuring that people are able to get to their GPs in a timely fashion. We have had a number of media events that have displaced patients and again we spent an hour in a major medical centre, do you think it's appropriate to be displacing patients while arguing that we should be making it easier for people to access GPs?

SHORTEN: Of course not. That's why I'm going to answer that question as quickly as we did. Last question.

JOURNALIST: Do you accept that Labor has committed to $200 billion worth of spending over the next decade and if not, which of the Coalition figures do you specifically not agree with?

SHORTEN: It's a big lie by the Government. Let's be straight here. They're trying to pretend that any decision they made before the calling of the election isn't a spend. They're spending $50 billion on corporate tax cuts, $32 billion in maintaining taxpayer subsidies for negative gearing and capital gains tax deductions. They're spending $17 billion by handing back income tax cuts to people who don't really need the money at this point in time. No I don't accept the big lie of the Liberal Party. Let's be really clear - Mr Turnbull's choosing to invest $50 billion of Australian's money in corporate tax cuts, Labor chooses to invest $49 billion in funding schools and Medicare. Mr Turnbull is spending Australian's money, he's just not spending it on them. Thank you everybody, I did say last question.