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Meet The Press -

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April 24th 2005


MEET THE PRESS PRESENTER, PAUL BONGIORNO: Hello, and welcome to Meet the Press. The election is
over, and Medicare funding is suddenly looking sick. Today, Shadow Health Minister Julia Gillard
cries foul. And the PM toasts free trade negotiations in Beijing, but our manufacturing union isn't
cheering. And first, what the nation's press is reporting this Sunday, April 24. The Brisbane
'Sunday Mail' leads with, "We've lost a true champion." One of the most tumultuous chapters in
Queensland's history closed last night with the death of former long-serving premier, Sir Joh
Bjelke-Petersen. The Sydney 'Sunday Telegraph' also reports on the death of former Whitlam
Government immigration minister Al Grassby. The paper says he was one of the most recognisable
figures of the past 40 years. The Sunday 'Age' in Melbourne leads with, "We didn't want road works
- Howard." The PM has released a Government letter to Turkey in a belated attempt to diffuse
intense criticism of new road works at Anzac Cove. And the 'Sunday Times' in Perth reports "Diggers
not welcome." As 450 Aussie soldiers begin entering southern Iraq, a militant Islamic group has
warned foreign troops have outstayed their welcome. In the run-up to last year's election the
bidding war over health was intense. Health Minister Tony Abbott was the first casualty of the
"whatever it takes" strategy. And today's guest Labor's Julia Gillard believes the prognosis is for
more setbacks. Well, welcome back Ms Gillard.


PAUL BONGIORNO: All the noises are the Government may be looking for further savings in health.
What have you heard on the grapevine?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, we've had people approach us who are deeply worried about possible Government
cutbacks in the IVF program. At the moment there is Medicare support for IVF. It doesn't meet the
full cost. People are still substantially out of pocket, but the rumour is very much doing the
rounds that they will cut back the number of cycles of IVF that a woman can have and claim Medicare
rebates. I've been contacted by women around the country, many of whom have gone through many
cycles of IVF, many miscarriages, stories of great tragedy. And they are desperately concerned that
this cutback will be the difference between them being able to continue in the program or give up
their dream of having a baby.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, after you made some of these points during the week, the Government came back
and said that 90% of women only need three cycles a year and they'll still be getting the safety

JULIA GILLARD: Look, I've been contacted by IVF specialists, doctors who work on IVF procedures who
say those statistics from the Health Department aren't right and that many women take more than
three cycles to conceive and they are very concerned about the impact of this potential cutback on
their patients. And I do note Minister Abbott didn't tell us anything about this before the last

PAUL BONGIORNO: After his bruising, Tony Abbott had a burst of frankness.

HEALTH MINISTER, TONY ABBOTT (April 15): So, look, I can't say absolutely that there will be no
further change to any of the Government's policies on Medicare. What I can say is that this
Government can be trusted to be economically responsible, and within the constraints of economic
responsibility, we will make our Medicare system as good and as sound and as secure as is possible.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, Ms Gillard, you can hardly argue with that from this point of view, that
Labor, after all, junked the second half of its LAW-law tax cuts for the same economic reasons?

JULIA GILLARD: Look, the problem for Tony Abbott here is the economic reasons were known before the
election when he was giving his cast-iron, rock-solid, iron-clad guarantee - then we knew that the
safety net had blown out from more than three times from $440 million to $1.3 billion and he didn't
say when he gave that guarantee, "the guarantee is only good as long as the safety net doesn't blow
out to X." He just gave an unqualified guarantee - that was the promise he gave the Australian
people and he smashed that promise in the last few weeks.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, aren't you nit-picking? After all, the papers before the election show that
the Government had committed something like $11 billion extra to health?

JULIA GILLARD: There might have been extra commitments in health, many of them in areas we don't
think will show great dividends, but the issue here isn't the Government's health policy, it's its
capacity to keep its word. I mean, Minister Abbott was out in the public domain before the last
election saying, "cast-iron, rock-solid, guarantee there will be no changes," and of course we know
that word has been smashed now, that promise, and nothing he says will ever be believed again. All
we're asking is a very simple standard for the Howard Government - keep your word.

PAUL BONGIORNO: I suppose we could come back to why do you make these points, after all, Labor was
promising to junk the safety net?

JULIA GILLARD: Minister Abbott has been around saying that, to try and excuse what's happened in
the last few weeks with them not telling the truth. That's right, Labor was going to abolish the
safety net and use the savings to fund a better way of providing access to specialist services. We
were going to put $1 billion into public hospitals, including into specialist outpatient clinics.
And the grand irony of what Minister Abbott says about Labor's position is "too right Minister
Abbott, if I'd become health minister I would have kept my word" I would have implemented every
election commitment to the letter. I'm judging him by that standard and he's failed it and failed
it clearly.

PAUL BONGIORNO: With that safety net, according to Government figures again the 1.9 million people
before the change had benefited. Now after the change, 1.5 million. So there's a lot of people
benefiting from the safety net still.

JULIA GILLARD: There are people benefiting from the safety net. Of course, the safety net has fed
into a round of health inflation, so to some extent the creation of the safety net has caused
people to face additional out of pocket costs. There is a problem with access to specialist
services and gaps. There are more way of addressing that than the safety net and Labor proposed one
at the last election, but what you don't do, is you don't put in place a policy when you've been
warned that it's going to blow out, that it could be inflationary. You don't put in place a policy
and then absolutely guarantee you're going to keep it, pre-election, only to junk your word after
the election.

PAUL BONGIORNO: We'll come back to health, but given what happened at the beginning of this year
with the Labor leadership, Kim Beazley's now been leader three months. I'm just wondering, seeing
that you were considering running against him, what sort of job you think he's doing?

JULIA GILLARD: Oh, look, I think Kim's doing a tremendous job in difficult circumstances.
Opposition isn't the easiest thing in the world. We're under-resourced compared with the
Government. It's a job that takes its toll. Kim has hit the ground and hit the ground running. He's
got around Australia. He's been talking to party members, to business leaders, to trade union
leaders, consulting on the future direction for Labor, and certainly I think our parliamentary tack
has been a sharp one and I would expect more of that in the Budget session with Kim right at the

PAUL BONGIORNO: By the sounds of it he's safe up to and including the next election?

JULIA GILLARD: I'm certainly someone, Paul, who believes in supporting the leader. I believe my
track record in public life has shown the one thing that's an absolute constant with me is I give
100% loyalty to the leader and Kim Beazley has got that loyalty from me and our task is to make him
PM after the next election.

PAUL BONGIORNO: On health, we have an interesting bit of information, really, in the latest
exclusive nationwide Ipsos Mackay poll for Meet the Press. It shows voters are far from convinced
or impressed with the Government's broken safety net promise. 77% say it's not acceptable. 18% find
it acceptable, while 4% don't know. And coming up - has Kim Beazley sidelined Julia Gillard? And
later, claims a million Australian manufacturing jobs are being sold off in free trade

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're on Meet the Press with Labor's Julia Gillard and welcome to the panel Julia
Colagiuri Radio 2GB, and Matthew Franklin, the 'Courier-Mail'. At the last election, Labor unveiled
Medicare Gold as its show stopper. In essence, free hospital care for Australians over 75. The
private hospitals loved it, the voters ignored it and Treasurer Costello is using it as a stick to
belt the Opposition with.

TREASURER PETER COSTELLO (April 12): Let me remind you of this, with the population ageing, with
the draw-down on services four times higher for over-65s, the policy that was put forward at the
last election, the so-called Medicare Gold policy - free health care - must have been the most
irresponsible policy ever announced in Australian history. Fortunately, nobody ever had to hang
around to see its implementation.

JULIA COLAGIURI, RADIO 2GB: Julia Gillard, if we hang around, will we see Labor actively selling
this policy again?

JULIA GILLARD: You'll see Labor selling the principles behind Medicare Gold, but you may well see
Andrew Podger, who's been appointed by the PM to review health, coming out with something that's
very Medicare Gold-like. There have been some leaks from the Podger Review and obviously he's
trying to address the fact that on any given day, up to 10% of hospital beds are filled with frail
aged people who could and should be somewhere else. That was the problem Medicare Gold was going to
fix. It costs us all about $500 billion a year and it needs to be fixed, so let's see whether or
not Treasury Costello is selling Medicare Gold in 12 months time.

JULIA COLAGIURI: But within the ALP there have been problems regarding the policy as well. Do you
feel it has the backing of everyone in the party and of the leader?

JULIA GILLARD: What we've said we're not able to make financial commitments at this stage of the
electoral cycle, three years out, but everyone in Labor believes the principles in Medicare Gold -
having one level of Government take the aged and the hospital costs for older Australians into what
it does, so that you can streamline. Getting rid of the $500 million worth of waste every year in
hospitals because of frail, aged people being in hospital beds and driving down the price of
private health insurance - that all of those things remain good public policy.

MATTHEW FRANKLIN, THE COURIER MAIL: Ms Gillard, the Brisbane 'Sunday Mail' reports of another case
in which a foreign overseas-trained doctor has botched surgery with lethal consequences. That
follows the Dr Death case in Bundaberg that's been emerging in the last little while. Isn't it time
the Commonwealth Government took a greater role in accrediting foreign doctors?

JULIA GILLARD: Yes, it is. It's absolutely time. I think we've got to look at what happened in the
past that led us to this situation. We are short of doctors, desperately short of doctors. Short of
nurses and other health professionals, too. How did we end up in that situation? Well, largely
we've ended up here because of Howard Government cutbacks to training programs. We don't train
enough Australian doctors. At the last election, Labor promised 1,000 new training places each year
for doctors, taking the total up to 2,700. Now, Minister Abbott, PM Howard should say number one
our long-term goal is national self-sufficiency in the medical workforce. We don't want to be out
around the planet desperately trying to import doctors and our short-term goal is to make sure
standards are uniform and that are high quality throughout Australia. That requires national

MATTHEW FRANKLIN: Well, this extends also to specialists, doesn't it? There's a shortage of them
around the country. The ACCC has been examining this issue of cartels - they're accused of limiting
their own numbers. What would Labor in government do about that?

JULIA GILLARD: Well, Labor has certainly been supportive of the ACCC process. We need objective,
transparent processes that deal with credentials for doctors. You don't on the one hand want people
to fall below the standard. Obviously that's happened in Queensland with tragic consequences. On
the other hand, you don't want specialist colleges artificially restricting supply and keeping good
doctors out of Australia because they fear it's got an income consequence for them.

MATTHEW FRANKLIN: So they can't be trusted?

JULIA GILLARD: I think the ACCC has said that there's some evidence that the number of doctors
being trained and the way in which overseas credentials are examined isn't as transparent and clear
as it should be. Australians who go to the doctor have got a right to know that the person treating
them has got the right kind of credentials. That does require national leadership and Minister
Abbott shouldn't be wandering around the country trying justifying his Medicare safety net lie, he
should be getting on with the job of doing that for Australian patients.

JULIA COLAGIURI: There've been reports over the past couple of days that there could be a reshuffle
on the Labor frontbench. With health starting to take a back seat to economic issues, would you
like a different portfolio?

JULIA GILLARD: No, I'm more than happy in the health portfolio and the health portfolio is an
economic portfolio. You don't have one of the portfolios that spends Government money at the rate
that health does and one of the biggest cost pressures as we look over the Budget for the next 10,
20, 30 years, you don't have that portfolio without considering every day the economic issues and
impacts of what that expenditure means. So I'm more than happy in health. Obviously these are
things for Kim Beazley to decide. He's the one who has the obligation to get the team in the best
possible shape. I haven't heard him talk of reshuffles, but if there is one then presumably Kim
will be making decisions to get the team in the best possible shape. I think the shadow ministry is
doing a good job now, but if there are some things Kim wants to change then that's a matter for

MATTHEW FRANKLIN: Well, from your perspective, it was reported recently that Rehame, the media
monitoring organisation, had found out that you dropped off the bottom of their list of frequent
mentions in the media. So, what's happening? Have you been sidelined or has Labor, has health gone
off the radar for the Labor Party in favour of the economy?

JULIA GILLARD: Look, health is never off the radar of Labor. It's the single biggest reason that
people vote Labor. We know that from the last election. People trust us with health. It's the
single biggest issue people name when they're asked what's on their mind. Health always comes top
of the list. So, we'll never be dropping off the health agenda. I think the Rehame reports and some
of the "where's Julia Gillard been" stuff - I have been away for three weeks. I apologise for that,
but three weeks out of three years, I don't think is too bad. Secondly, of course, health issues
haven't been to the fore until the Medicare safety net issue exploded onto the screen. We will be
pursuing that in Parliament and you'll be hearing a lot more from me on health and particularly on
the safety net broken promise.

JULIA COLAGIURI: With - it wasn't so long ago that you were hoping to be Shadow Treasurer - the job
that Wayne Swan now holds with the Budget coming up - how do you feel he's been performing in that

JULIA GILLARD: Shadow Treasurer is a tough job. Wayne Swan I think is doing a very good job for
Labor. He has got the big task now of getting us ready for the Budget. I'm sure he will do that
task and do it extraordinarily well.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Ms Gillard, some of your colleagues have already received their letter from Doug
Cameron, our next guest from the Manufacturing Workers Union, pointing out that Labor policy should
really prevent the Opposition backing a free trade deal with China because of China's human rights
record and because of the miserable way in which China mistreats its workers, certainly in terms of
remuneration. Do you have sympathy for those views?

JULIA GILLARD: Look, I have sympathy for Doug's perspective in this sense. I think Doug is a strong
advocate of what his members believe. If you're an Australian worker who is in a tough situation
you couldn't have a better person looking after your interests than Doug Cameron, and I think given
he represents the manufacturing sector, he's got a right to put a view and put it strongly. Labor
obviously believes that the free trade agreement with China should be explored, explored for the
opportunities that it could bring. But we should not tick off a free trade agreement that in any
way carves our industry sectors, particularly agriculture or that jeopardises our ability to
participate in the Doha multilateral round.

PAUL BONGIORNO: So, business first?

JULIA GILLARD: It's not a question of business first, it's a question of Australia's national
interest first and you've got to make that judgment call on balance after you've seen what's on
offer and what can be negotiated through the free trade agreement process. But certainly not an
agreement with carve-outs like the US free trade agreement was.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for joining us today, Julia Gillard. And shortly, manufacturing
union leader Doug Cameron warns against more free trade deals. And this scene earlier last week in
Beijing with the PM and Chinese leader Wu Bangguo inspired Mark Knight in the 'Herald-Sun' for the
cartoon of the week. Wen says, "You were saying it should not be difficult to find way around
Chinese barriers to free trade." The PM replies, "Can we sit somewhere else?" And the mascot chimes
in, "That's what I call a trade barrier."

PAUL BONGIORNO: You're with Meet the Press. The PM was gripped by free trade fever last week,
getting a warm reception in Beijing and a lukewarm one in Tokyo. He was certainly getting a frosty
reception from our next guest, National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union,
Doug Cameron. Welcome back, Mr Cameron.


PAUL BONGIORNO: In a nutshell what are your concerns?

DOUG CAMERON: My concerns are for the future of 1 million manufacturing jobs. My concerns are about
the de-industrialisation that John Howard is presiding over in this country and my concerns are
that we will lose our economic independence if we don't have a manufacturing sector.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, on Tuesday the PM gave this assurance.

PRIME MINISTER, JOHN HOWARD (April 19): At the end of the day, we're not going to agree to
something which on balance disadvantages Australia, but I am simply not going to start addressing
individual sectors, and negotiations will take quite a while.

MATTHEW FRANKLIN: Well, Doug Cameron, aren't you just trying to hold back the tide here? China is
the emerging economic force of the world, predicted to be the big power of this century. Isn't this
agreement in Australia's interests for workers and economic prosperity?

DOUG CAMERON: Well, certainly not. The arguments that have been put forward are all on the basis of
agriculture and minerals. It takes 150 tonnes of iron ore to buy one plasma TV. We need to have an
industry here that can actually produce goods. We need an industry that is about knowledge. That's
the manufacturing industry. We are, like many other countries, saying that we have to have a
manufacturing base. We desperately need jobs for workers in this country and the proposals for the
China free trade agreement are based on a lie - a lie that there is a market economy in China and
that we can trade fairly with them.

JULIA COLAGIURI: Mr Cameron, you were equally as vocal about your concerns with the US in the
lead-up to the US free trade agreement, that's now been in place for four months, nothing
particularly adverse seems to have happened so far. Do you feel that it is going well, or do you
feel that some of your fears have come true?

DOUG CAMERON: No, I don't. I think there is a federal government presiding over the
de-industrialisation of this country. The Americans have got the technology and economies of scale
against our manufacturing industry. The Chinese have obviously got economies of scale, but they've
also got a system that rips ordinary workers off. Workers are thrown in jail for actually
complaining against the conditions in China. 60 cents to 80 cents an hour in China. China's
currency is undervalued 40%. Health and safety, 15,000 workers killed every year. I mean, how can
we compete with that country without a vision and a plan for manufacturing industry? And John
Howard has failed.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Well, Mr Cameron, you've written to federal Labor MPs, but there are plenty of
federal Liberal and Government MPs in the manufacturing States - Victoria and South Australia - why
haven't you written to them?

DOUG CAMERON: Well, I have written to them. But I expect more from Labor. I must say I was
underwhelmed by Julia's response. I mean, Julia failed to answer the question. If you've got a
policy, if you've got values, if you've got principles, why don't Labor stand up for them? And this
is the problem of Labor over the last 12 years. They don't simply have any values and principles
that manufacturing workers can see.

MATTHEW FRANKLIN: Do you see the same problem with relation to Labor's position on the coming new
wave of industrial relations reforms? We're hearing lots from Kevin Andrews. We know the union
movement opposes the changes. Labor won't be able to stop them, but are they talking enough about
them for your liking?

DOUG CAMERON: No, they're certainly not. I expect more from Stephen Smith on that issue and the
Labor Party. Look, this is not an issue of the Labor Party, this is an issue of John Howard and
Peter Costello presiding over the de-industrialisation of this country. They are going to use
industrial relations to take the rights of workers away so that they can effectively respond to
this. This is a real issue for this country. We are seeing a new culture being promoted across the
manufacturing industry and industrial relations in general.

JULIA COLAGIURI: With this talk of a Labor reshuffle, would you prefer to see someone else in that

DOUG CAMERON: Well, that's a matter for Kim Beazley and the caucus. What I would prefer to see is a
change of government. I would prefer to see Labor standing up and have the branding amongst
ordinary working families in this country to say that they will stand up for us, because the Howard
Government is certainly not standing up for them. How can you trust John Howard? He failed
miserably in the US free trade agreement. He will fail miserably in the China free trade agreement.
Jobs will come under pressure, and working conditions will come under even bigger pressure.

PAUL BONGIORNO: The facts don't quite support that, do they? I mean, we have more people in work
than ever before and wages have actually risen under this government.

DOUG CAMERON: Look, that's the myth that's been put forward. What we have a problem with is
full-time jobs. We see casualisation, contracting out, we see workers struggling to keep their
heads above water. These are the issues for ordinary Australians, massive household debt. This is
not an economy that is delivering the goods for ordinary working families.

MATTHEW FRANKLIN: Well, given your criticism of Stephen Smith and the Labor Party's performance, do
you see, as someone, I guess, who mixes with the common working man, do you see Labor having any
chance of reconnecting with its lost supporters that went over to Howard in '96?

DOUG CAMERON: Well I do. Because I don't think John Howard and Peter Costello can continue to lie
and deceive the Australian public any longer. I think people are starting to see that this
Government is on the rocks. Our view is that the industrial legislation and free trade agreement
will mean ordinary working families will turn against this government. We believe that very
strongly. And if Labor grabs its values and its principles and brands itself as standing up for
ordinary families, Labor can win the next election.

MATTHEW FRANKLIN: So, it's there for the taking because Howard's on the nose?

DOUG CAMERON: Absolutely there for the taking. Howard is more and more seen as someone who cannot
be trusted.

PAUL BONGIORNO: So, do you believe that Beazley just has to keep a low target strategy if things
are going so badly?

DOUG CAMERON: I hope not. We've been there done that and it failed miserably. Labor should stand up
clearly for its policy position. I want to talk to Julia after the program and tell her how to
articulate some of those policy positions that the Labor Party has adopted. It's absolutely
essential that they brand themselves as a party that stands up for working families in this
country. No-one else is other than the trade union movement.

PAUL BONGIORNO: Thank you very much for joining us today, Doug Cameron. Thanks to the panel, Julia
Colagiuri and Matthew Franklin. Until next week, it's goodbye from Meet the Press.