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Transcript of press conference: Metro North Brisbane Medicare Local: 21 August 2013: Medicare Locals; Tony Abbott's cuts; Leaders' Debate; PNG resettlement arrangements; Opposition plans for Fair Work Australia; development of the North

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21 AUGUST 2013

E & O E - PROOF ONLY _____________________________________________________________

Subjects: Medicare Locals; Tony Abbott’s cuts; Leaders’ Debate; PNG resettlement arrangements; Opposition plans for Fair Work Australia; Development of the North _____________________________________________________________

PM: It’s good to see you this morning and it’s great to be here at this wonderful Medicare Local on Brisbane's Northside and also with the local member Yvette D'Ath and of course other folk from Medicare Local, including our Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek. The reason I am spending a fair bit of time with Tanya on the road these days is because we have a lot to a about health and hospitals and we're proud of it because that it is a core priority for all Australian families.

This morning we spent some time here with the good folk from Medicare Local and hearing about their great work.

We heard a direct story about how the outreach nurses here were able to help find a condition in a woman who was suffering from a lump in her left breast. Through the outreach work here, that was able to be detected earlier than I think would otherwise have been the case, or at least given a path to treatment and diagnosis earlier than would have been the case.

We also heard a moving story about a man suffering from incontinence, and how you deal with those practical and often very difficult and humiliating circumstances and how through practical outreach you can help someone like that and that is a good thing. Every person deserves their dignity.

We also heard about the excellent work being done by the cancer care nurses operating out of here, including palliative care, with cancer sufferers in this part of

the world. So, I am very, very proud of what all you good folk are doing here. It is part of the vision that we had when we set up Medicare Local, which now runs 61 such centres right across Australia and employs 3,000 frontline health care workers, doing valuable work for Australian families and Australian households across the country.

I am also proud today to confirm and to announce that we are investing a further $15 million to assist with cancer care coordinator nurses who will operate out of our regional cancer care centres across Australia.

Here in Bris, we have a good concentration of tertiary healthcare services operating out of our major hospitals, both northside and southside. Once you get beyond Bris in Queensland, then regional cancer care centres are crucial, as they are across the country.

Up on the Sunshine Coast, where I come from, we now have regional cancer care centre at Nambour. It is the first time we have had one of that order of magnitude. Out West of Brisbane, we now have one at Springfield. If you go up the coast in Queensland you have them at our major regional centres and so too right across Australia. Tanya recently opened one in, was it Bunbury?


PM: Bunbury in South-West of Western Australia and I think if you point to major regional centres across the country we have been doing this.

Why is that important? We believe that the concept of an Australian fair go is that it should not matter where you are. If you begin to suffer from cancer, you should be able to access a high degree of services in your wider community so you don't have to pack up, bring the family to your State capital in order to get the services that you need. I think it is a part and parcel of what it means to be Australian, actually. It doesn't matter if you're in a country town or a regional centre, you should be able to have access to high quality healthcare, including cancer care as well.

We are proud of this additional investment of some 34 new cancer care coordinators who will be spread out across the regional centres so they can do the sort of work that I have seen being done here by the cancer outreach coordinated by this Medicare Local here on Brisbane's northside.

Here in Brisbane, I would also emphasise the fact that the Health Minister has announced in recent days 50 new chemotherapy chairs across PA Hospital, the RBH, the Royal Brisbane, as well as Prince Charles and of course our continued support in cancer treatment by providing funding for 57 cancer care nurses under the McGrath Foundation, which is a wonderful initiative and also now 13 new prostate cancer care nurses through a separate program being funded by us through community organisations.

All these are part and parcel of our vision for Australia's future - and that is building the health system and the hospital systems that we want for the future - so that it doesn't matter where people live; it doesn’t matter what their background is, whether they are rich or poor; whether they are Indigenous Australians or non-Indigenous Australians, they have a fair go, and fair access to proper healthcare right across the country. That is what we're on about.

Building the best possible health and hospital care for the future.

Building the best school system for future.

Building the best broadband for the future, so that you have the same speed right across the country, whether you live in outer-metro areas like this or in downtown CBDs.

Also building a clean energy future.

The new industries of the future, so that we provide the new jobs of the future.

So, we are in the building business in this Government and we're proud of it.

And this is part of the house for the nation that we are building - our Medicare Locals.

Elections are about alternatives and they’re about priorities. Our opponents, led by Mr Abbott they’re into the cutting business. Cut, cut, cut again. It is cutting in terms of $70 billion worth of cuts to jobs, to health and hospitals, to education. Also, in terms of cuts to the family budget, think about this - if his plan to review the Goods and Services Tax produces a higher tax which then is extended to food - that affects all families.

Also, we see a bit of reporting today about what an incoming Abbott Government would do if they were elected to the future of the Fair Work Act. And the industrial relations spokesman for Mr Abbott's team refusing to rule out changes to penalty rates and overtime as a result of their changes to the Fair Work Act.

So when we talk about cuts, let me tell you, it affects and hurts families' lives.

If you're cutting $70 billion to jobs, health and education - that hurts families, hurts households. If you are considering increasing the Goods and Services Tax and applying it to food - that hurts households and families. If you are going to take away protections for penalty rates and overtime - that hurts the family budget. Let me tell you, if you threaten someone's job, that is the most fundamental threat of all because it takes away the household pay packet altogether.

So, all of this, I believe, comes together in the current great debate about the future of paid parental leave. All of these themes come together because it is

quite plain, as the debate has unfolded on Mr Abbott's new proposal, that his plan for paid parental leave is unaffordable, unfair and increasingly seen to be economically irresponsible. Let me just go into the implications of all this for all of the good folk of Australia. Let's, firstly, just go to the costings of this scheme.

Mr Hockey has confirmed it seems that this will be $5.5 billion a year. So, over four years, fully operational, we are looking at a massive, massive $22 billion plan. In order to provide something like up to 75,000 for a certain category of families, for six months when they have a child, so that’s going to cost everyone $22 billion over a full four-year period.

My second point is - how is this to be funded? Mr Abbott said on 18 August, when he launched this policy, that it will be fully funded by a 1.5per cent levy on Australia's top 3,000 businesses. That is what he said only few days ago, now we find out, in fact, that is completely untrue. When Mr Hockey, the Treasury spokesman, was asked the question how much will this levy on business cost and contribute to the overall cost of the paid parental leave scheme, he said well, it could be 50 per cent, could be 60 per cent or could be 70 per cent. Already we see a crab walk away from the levy fully funding this $22 billion unaffordable, unfair and economically irresponsible scheme. It is time to do a bit of maths on this and we see from reports today in the Australian Financial Review and the West Australian but also the Parliamentary Budget Office when it has been costing another scheme based on a 1.5 per cent levy on 3,000 businesses put forward by another political party. The Parliamentary Budget Office's conclusion is that 1.5 per cent levy would raise something in the order of $2.2 billion per year. Let's put all this together. Mr Hockey says it is going to cost $5.5 billion a year. That is therefore out for four years, that is a $22 billion program. Now we have the Parliamentary Budget Office and others in the press reporting that in fact the most this levy will raise is about $2.2 billion a year. This levy doesn't raise 70 per cent of the cost of the paid parental leave scheme. It doesn't raise 60 per cent. It doesn't raise 50 per cent. At best it raises 40 per cent. And the key question for all of us is where does the other 60 per cent get paid for? Who gets cut in order to meet that $13 billion gap? I think this is a pretty important question for Australians, because right now that detail has been hidden from them. This is a big question for all Australians and today we have legitimately to ask ourselves what jobs will be cut to make up that shortfall? What health services, like cuts to Medicare Local, will be delivered to meet that shortfall? What cuts to schools will be met to will be made to meet that shortfall? Of course that is just that amount compared with the $70 billion which they say they have to cut more broadly.

Now we come to what the Shadow assistant Treasurer, Mr Mathias Cormann has to say today. He has reported in The Guardian and let me read it to you this report from The Guardian which I think I had here a minute ago. He actually says that when it comes to the franking credits that apply to the proposal for the paid parental leave scheme - that when it comes to franking credits for superannuation earnings, they will not be exempt from this arrangement. I will

draw your attention to The Guardian’s article. They’ve spoken to the Opposition's Shadow assistant Treasurer. What does that mean? One of the cuts, based on that, is going to fall on self-funded retirees and fall on their superannuation earnings. In fact, Mr Abbott in one of his most recent communications said, there will be not a single change which would affect people negatively in their superannuation. Let's be blunt about it, if you're going to lodge and launch this sort of hit on peoples' superannuation earnings through a change to the franking arrangements for investment earnings, it is going to hit superannuation big time. We have seen some calculations now as to what that amount could be. There have been reports in the Financial Review today that that hit on self-funded retirees' superannuation could be up to $1.7 billion. I see also Malcolm Fraser tweeting out this morning ‘Investors take a $1.7 billion hit for parental leave, bad for retired people, especially inconceivably bad policy’.

This is where one example of where the rubber hits the road. I have talked more broadly about cuts to jobs, to health, to education. I have talked about what that could mean in the plans which Mr Abbott is keeping hidden from the Australian people. Now we find that one of the ways in which they have proposed to raise money for their funding gap is by also hitting the superannuation earnings of self-funded retirees. I don't believe that’s fair. I don't believe it is right. It is completely inconsistent with Mr Abbott's commitment to the Australian people.

Bringing these things together - paid parental leave- over a full four year period, $22 billion, is what it will cost, based on what Mr Hockey has said on the annual amount of $5.5 billion. A massive, massive commitment of money. On the way through, they are going to hit companies with a $9 billion levy and guess what? That is all going to be passed through to you at the checkout. Ever known a big company to take a tax hit and not pass it through to you at the checkout? I don't. So that’s the number one hit. The number two hit is what happens to the superannuation earnings of self-funded retirees up to a $1.7 billion hit on super. Number three, we then still have $13 billion from this paid parental leave scheme of his which could only be funded by, as yet, hidden cuts to jobs, health and education. By the way, if you think that is off in abstract-land, we see a report today that by withdrawing assistance to the car industry, 36,000 Australians would lose their jobs in Victoria alone and carve a $23 billion hole into the economy. On health and hospitals, we have the Shadow Health Minister today who has an electorate just up the road from here, saying he can't rule out cuts to health and hospitals. And on education, if you don't think the Liberal National Party are serious about cuts to education, talk to Campbell Newman about what he has done to the schools system here in Queensland. Talk to Jeff Kennett about what he did to the schools system in Victoria - 300 schools closed and 9,000 teachers sacked and if you think that is ancient history, go to yesterday's papers and find out that in West Australia, under Premier Colin Barnett, we have had 500 education workers sacked as well.

All these things come together around, frankly, a question of priorities and who gets hit, who gets hurt by what I believe to be an unfair, unaffordable and

economically irresponsible policy for all Australians. It says a lot about Mr Abbott's priorities that he now tries to hide his plans to cut cancer care nurses and then tax retirees' superannuation, all to pay for this unfair and unaffordable paid parental leave scheme of his.

Over to you folks.

JOURNALIST: You have the second leaders’ debate tonight. What are you doing to prepare and do you plan to bring some notes this time?

PM: I am here preparing by talking to real people. The people I have spoken to this morning, when I noticed a few of you outside, were talking to us about the good work they do here to help people suffering from all sorts of diseases in this local community.

My preparation, if you like, about a debate, is about real folks, real human beings, whose health and whose health care means a lot to me as their Prime Minister.

I had a lot to do with putting together the health and hospitals reform plan. I had a lot to do, several years ago, in putting together the plans for Medicare Local, and for me it is genuinely moving just as a human being to see those plans come to fruition and lives being changed, like the woman we heard about before, with the lump on her breast, like the bloke who has an incontinence problem and like the folk who depend on Anglicare here to roll out and give them proper palliative care in the community.

You want to know what my preparation is - it is talking to real people because I am passionate about standing up and fighting for those people and fighting for their proper health care.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister another asylum boat tragedy overnight and five lives lost. When will your policies start to work?

PM: I said on day one Mark this would take many months to begin to have an effect. What we also know from a number of reports from Manus Island itself is that many, many folks there are already beginning to talk to international organisations about returning to the countries from which they have come. We have many, many reports from our security agencies about a whole bunch of other folks not prepared at this stage to get onto boats because they believe that this policy represents a major, major impediment to what the people smugglers are saying to them.

Remember through our policies and our regional resettlement and cooperative arrangements, that as of the last day or so, the Indonesian Government has changed its policy to deny visa-free arrival arrangements for people coming from Iran. These are important steps forward but, as I said on day one, I was up-front about it, it’s going to take a while to work through. I challenge anybody to come

up with an alternative effective policy which doesn't say in simple and clear terms - that if you are a people smuggler and you are telling someone that if you get onto that boat to take them to Australia, you need to know that that person will not be allowed to settle in Australia. It is going to take time.

JOURNALIST: In relation to the PNG solution, you keep saying that those refugees will not be settled in Australia but it is not explicitly stated in the document, and PNG's Prime Minister has said it is possible. Why should people believe you?

PM: The Regional Resettlement Arrangement is very clear and I have drawn your attention to it in terms of where people will be resettled. The baseline for us is they will not be resettled into Australia and what it says is, that in the arrangement is that those folks will be resettled in PNG or other participating states in the Pacific. You will have noted subsequent to that I signed a Regional Resettlement Arrangement with the government of Nauru as well.

JOURNALIST: We are at the halfway point of the campaign. How do you feel your personal campaign is going? If you think it is going well, why do you spend the vast majority of the time at press conferences like this talking about the Opposition rather than-

PM: You know something, what election campaigns are about alternatives and I spent a good amount of time this morning telling you what is happening in this area as a result of our Medicare Locals and where that fits in to us building a health and hospital system for the future.

This isn’t a figment of someone's imagination, mate, this is real stuff - 3,000 people out there, front-line services by Medicare Locals, 61 services across the country, making sure we’ve got the best palliative care packages; the best aged care packages; the best support services with people in some of the more remote places of our community. Every one of those 3,000 front-line workers would be sacked if Mr Abbott becomes the Prime Minister of Australia.

When you say what is an election about? It is about saying what we are doing positively and what’s the contrast in terms of if the other bloke gets elected? I couldn't think of a more clear cut example.

Secondly, on the question of paid parental leave, if he wants to provide $75,000 to a woman on $150,000 a year and say that we will pay for that by cutting Medicare Locals and sacking 3,000 Medicare Local front-line health staff, I believe the Australian people have a right to know that.

JOURNALIST: Do you still stand by the tax cut that you were proposing as part of your north Australia plan for businesses in the north and was that plan dreamt up on a plane ride?

PM: I’ve been talking to colleagues about the development of northern Australia for a long, long, long time. Secondly, in terms of our work on the special economic zone for northern Australia, starting in the Northern Territory, ample and full discussions with a whole bunch of ministerial colleagues.

It is the right policy for the Territory for the future.

While I understand you will all dive down into the weeds on this, I know from the response from the NT Chamber of Commerce; I know from the response of business leaders in the Territory; I know from the response from would-be investors from around the world; they think this is a damn good policy to develop northern Australia. I’m about making things happen, not engaging in a rolling academic seminar about which dots were joined together when in a preparation process.

I am about building the country; building its economic future and putting a spotlight on the alternative.

JOURNALIST: Obviously a lot of self-funded retirees are feeling nervous today. Can you use that to land a knockout blow on Mr Abbott tonight?

PM: Mate, I am just into the compare and contrast business. He has put out this policy which is $5.5 billion a year. His first untruth has been to say it will be fully funded by a levy of 1.5 per cent on Australia's top 3,000 businesses. He said that on 18 August, wasn’t all that long ago. That is wrong. He also has said that superannuation wouldn't be affected by anything, well ask Mathias Cormann about that in his reported statements in The Guardian newspaper today. That is wrong too.

So therefore, all I am saying is people in Australia, when the spotlight is put on Mr Abbott's hidden plans for his $70 billion worth of cuts to jobs, health and education, as that spotlight goes on them, and things like superannuation, people are going to scratch their heads and say ‘Why is he not telling me the truth? Why is he not being up-front?’. As someone said before we are halfway through the election campaign as of today. So halfway through the election campaign, Mr Abbott, as the alternative Prime Minister, is going to keep secret his plan for $70 billion worth of cuts to jobs, health and education; keep secret his plan to whack the superannuation earnings of self-funded retirees; and keep secret his plan to jack up the GST or extend it to food, and keep secret his plan to change the Fair Work Act so that protections are removed for peoples' over time and penalty rates. I have a simple view. I’ve got a responsibility to put that before the Australian people. Because if people wake up a week, three weeks, three months after an election, and if they have elected Mr Abbott as the Prime Minister, my responsibility is not just to point out what I stand for and what my plans are and how they are costed, it is to place people with the clearest information possible as to why he is keeping these things hidden. He knows, and all of you know this - every one of you know this - every one of you knows this -

that by keeping it secret until the day before the election, Mr Abbott is frightened that if the details came out on where the cuts would fall; what health services will be slashed and what schools will be defunded; that people will be frightened to vote for him. That is the core of this.

JOURNALIST: Can I get your reaction to Colin Barnett's announcement he’s going to cut 500 jobs from the state education sector and on your north Australian tax policy - Gina Rinehart has said she is ecstatic with the plan, are you happy to be on the same page as Gina Rinehart?

PM: Mate I’ve never been one that’s engaged in class warfare and whether it is the ol’ Twiggster or whether it’s Gina, I don't care. I am about Australia. I’m about whoever wants to push the country forward and invest and be confident in the country's future, and get out there and grow the economy.

For northern Australia and for the Northern Territory in particular, does anyone in this room claim that the Territory is not somehow a little remote and a little isolated? It takes a while to get up there and let me tell you, it’s a small community at the very tip of a vast continent and we deserve to give them a helping hand for the future. First part of your question was?

JOURNALIST: On Collin Barnett’s cuts-

PM: People run around, including Mr Abbott's team, and say when we talk about cuts to jobs, health and education from the $70 billion which both Mr Hockey and Mr Robb have explicitly owned as the number that they have to cut- and bear in mind $70 billion equals the total Australian Government payments to the hospitals of Australia over four years - it is a massive amount of money. It is not just a little academic debate. It is a massive amount of money. So when they say this is just all a scare campaign or whatever, look at the case studies. Campbell Newman case study one ,here in Queensland, 4,000 plus health workers sacked. Case study two, Jeff Kennett - according to Mr Abbott the golden age in Victoria - 300 schools closed; 9,000 teachers sacked. Case study three - if that is too much of ancient history for you - Colin Barnett yesterday in WA, 500 education workers sacked. This is not an abstraction, it’s real. Get on the phone and talk to a few people in the West this morning and see how they feel about it. In my community in Brisbane, I’m sure in Yvette’s up here, we all know people who have been sacked by Campbell Newman, working as health workers; working as education workers.

Two more questions and then we better zip.

JOURNALIST: The head of Fletcher constructions, a big building company, on a conference call this morning said wage costs are out of control, that Australia reminds him of England of the 1970’s and we need a Thatcherite revolution. What is your response to that?

PM: The only thing I would say is Mr Abbott's hero is Margaret Thatcher and he said that explicitly. You know what I am passionate about? I’m passionate about an Australia whose economy is strong; whose economy is growing, including the economy in the Northern Territory through a special economic zone, and through building the new industries, all you folks have heard me talking about over the last couple of weeks, new industries in high-tech manufacturing; new industries in the health services sector like the wonderful folks we saw yesterday at the Translational Research Institute at PA Hospital; new industries in agribusiness; new industries in tourism in Far North Queensland. I am on about those things for the future.

I am also on about ensuring that we in Australia don't throw the fair go out the back door. And so I would draw your attention folks to what Mr Abetz has to say today about the question of does he guarantee that he will preserve existing protections for penalty rates and overtime and if you want a key thing which affects so many nurses - how many nurses depend on penalty rates and overtime? Are there folks here who get penalty rates and overtime who have been out there in the nurses - not you mate, you work for the ABC, I suppose - double -time and a half for you. I know because I am from a family of nurses and often the way in which nurses make the family budget work is through shift allowances and penalty rates and overtime. So I am not about to be Prime Minister of a country which chucks the fair go out the back door because a bunch of senior corporates who are kicking in millions of dollars into the Liberal Party advertising campaign say that the way for the future is jack up the GST, which every Australian family then has to pay, and at the same time cut away their basic protections for penalty rates and overtime and shift allowance. I don’t think that’s fair . I don’t think the Australia people think it’s fair.

JOURNALIST: On the northern Australia policy, does the 20 per cent tax figure stand, is it Government policy to proceed towards that tax cut and if it is not or if it is why has the finance figure declined to give that figure when asked about it?

PM: The bottom line is very simple. The statement that I made Darwin stands in absolute detail.

It calls for and says that we will have a lower corporate rate within the Northern Territory. It states my personal objective that we will start bringing in that lower corporate rate once we get beyond the current forward estimates period and then thirdly, I have stated it is my personal objective to bring it down to 20 per cent. So you ask about the implications for the charter of budget honesty - let me tell you the costing implications from that flow from beyond the forward estimates it’s as simple as that.

What I am saying is a very clear cut message to everyone in Australia and around the world. If this government is returned, get ready with your investment books for the Northern Territory because that’s where we are going. Go north young man, and young woman. We believe in investing up there to turbo charge

Australia's future, and you folks can disappear into the weeds as much as you like on this one, let me tell you, I am standing up for Darwin. I am standing up for the Northern Territory. I am standing up for northern Australia.

And when it comes to health and hospital services, I am standing up for every Australian.


Communications Unit: T 03 8625 5111

Authorised by G. Wright, Australian Labor Party, 5/9 Sydney Avenue, Barton, ACT, 2600