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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Treasury Gardens, Melbourne: 25 October 2013: Abbott Government walking away from DisabilityCare and selling off Medibank Private; infrastructure; NSW bushfires; Don Randall MP



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THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

THE HON JENNY MACKLIN MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISABILITY REFORM FEDERAL MEMBER FOR JAGAJAGA

TRANSCRIPT JOINT DOORSTOP TREASURY GARDENS, MELBOURNE FRIDAY, 25 OCTOBER 2013

Subjects: Abbott Government Walking Away from DisabilityCare and selling off Medibank Private, Infrastructure, NSW Bushfires, Don Randall MP.

Bill Shorten: It's great to be here in Melbourne with Labor's Shadow Disability Spokesperson, Jenny Macklin.

Today, Labor is gravely concerned at reports in the media that the Coalition Government is considering scaling back the National Disability Insurance Scheme - DisabilityCare - or indeed abolishing it and moving it to Medibank Private.

Yesterday we had reports that the Coalition Government was going to consider engaging in a fire sale to sell Medibank Private and then today we've got reports from Dr Steve Hambleton, the President of the AMA, expressing his concern that if Medibank Private is privatised, then what will happen is there will be upward pressure on health premiums.

But even more disturbingly, we find that whilst the Government is looking at privatising important health insurance assets which will put upward pressure on families' cost of living, that now the Government's looking at putting at risk the National Disability Insurance Scheme - DisabilityCare.

Labor is justifiably proud of the work we've done to bring in people with disability and their carers from the cold, from their second-class life in Australia, through the provision of DisabilityCare.

It is not right and Labor will fight tooth and nail to make sure that the Coalition keeps its hands off DisabilityCare, the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

We will fight this with every inch of our efforts because we believe that the hundreds of thousands of people with severe or profound disabilities, and millions of carers and their family members, deserve a better deal in Australia and we're not going to allow the Coalition to say one thing before the election where they pretended to be in support of everything we're doing, where they vote for the legislation in the parliament, and as soon as the election's had, as soon as they're in power, all of a sudden they start junking their pre-election comments.

Jenny Macklin: I would like to say very plainly to Mr Hockey, keep your hands off the National Disability Insurance Scheme. People with disability, carers in Australia, have campaigned for years to establish the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The legislation went through the parliament earlier this year. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is now real for thousands of people with disability and their carers and now we see in the newspaper this morning that Joe Hockey, the new Treasurer of Australia, is looking to have the National Disability Insurance Scheme run by a privatised Medibank Private.

It's not good enough. Mr Hockey, keep your hands off the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Shorten: Happy to take questions.

Journalist: The government stressed that this is just an idea? Are you making too much of this too soon?

Shorten: People with disabilities don't deserve to have their lives disrupted by ill-thought out Coalition thought bubbles. The Government needs to realise they're in Government now, when they have a thought bubble, this affects the security and wellbeing of thousands of Australians.

This Government loved three word slogans in Opposition. Here’s a three word slogan back - hands off DisabilityCare.

Shorten: Another other questions?

Journalist: (Inaudible)

Shorten: First of all, there's been no proper business case done of the east-west tunnel link. Everyone supports jobs. The issue, though, is that we've got an issue of public transport. The best way to clear up congestion in Melbourne, before you get to the roads, is to make sure the people have the option of catching the train.

We know that the central underground loop is at breaking point now, that it's practically impossible to get more train carriages on the underground loop at peak period times, so in order to deal with road congestion, which is a real issue, it becomes hard to deal with that effectively until you have a properly funded public transport system and tracks in inner city Melbourne so that would be the first priority.

The second thing is we need to ensure there is a proper business case attached to this plan so there's a fair way to go before I believe we should be signing off on the State Government's latest thought bubble. What we believe in Labor is evidence trumps rhetoric. We want to see the evidence in the business and a proper long-term plan for Melbourne's transport not just a thought bubble.

Journalist: (Inaudible)

Shorten: I'm not the State Opposition but what I do know is that to make Melbourne function well, for all of us who love Melbourne and love the great lifestyle, we need to do something about easing not just road congestion but having a better public transport system so people have an option other than driving their cars everywhere and that involves better inner city metro rail.

Journalist: What do you say the discrepancy is between Don Randall and Tony Abbott on what they've said about Don Randall expenses and do you think Don Randall should be disciplined?

Shorten: The issue of the Don Randall travel entitlements matter is one for the Prime Minister Tony Abbott. The current Prime Minister made a hero of himself chasing people on entitlements when he was in Opposition. We think that Prime Minister Abbott has to get to the bottom of this. He's offered one explanation for Mr Randall's trip. Mr Randall's offered another explanation for Mr Randall's trip. I think Australians legitimately want to ensure that high standards are being maintained. It's up to Mr Abbott to account for the actions of the members of his Government.

Journalist: The 'Sydney Morning Herald' today in its editorial calling for leadership from you and Mr Abbott today have called for you to show leadership on expenses. What leadership are you going to show?

Shorten: Mr Randall is not in my party, Mr Randall is a Liberal. Mr Randall is a Liberal MP. The Prime Minister of Australia gave an explanation for what Mr Randall was doing. Mr Randall's given a different explanation for what Mr Randall was doing. The buck stops with the Government and the buck stops with the Prime Minister when it comes to the conduct of members of his own party.

In terms of the entitlements issue more generally, we are prepared to engage in constructive bipartisan discussions to improve public confidence in the system.

Journalist: What sort of reforms do you thing are needed (inaudible)?

Shorten: First of all Mr Abbott needs to explain what Mr Randall is doing. You can't have two people in the same Government offering different explanations on different days. I think that would go a long way to restoring public confidence - if Mr Abbott and Mr Randall can give the same explanations of Mr Randall's activities.

More generally, we again reiterate the offer that we're willing to engage in constructive to ensure the public can have confidence in the system of entitlements in Australia. We won't shirk what we have to do. We will work with the Government to ensure the public have the best possible confidence in our entitlement system.

Journalist: On the Barrie Cassidy story, was it the wrong thing for him to be appointed (inaudible)?

Shorten: In terms of appointments process, no, we think that processes which have gone through should be respected. We don't believe in political witch hunts so, no, we probably have a different view to some of the commentary in the media.

Journalist: (inaudible)

Shorten: When it comes to bushfires in NSW, Labor's thoughts go out to the family of the pilot who was killed yesterday. Our thoughts are with the thousands of volunteers doing a marvellous job protecting life and property in the Blue Mountains and other parts of NSW. I had the opportunity to visit with Senator Doug Cameron, our Spokesperson on Human Services, to see how the recovery and the efforts are going first-hand on Tuesday this week.

It is like a war zone, some of the houses which have been destroyed in the Blue Mountains. I think in Australia, we can take for granted our security and safety but when you see the damage and the loss of property that some that some people have suffered, that's the most important issue this week.

The recovery efforts are quite remarkable. Sadly, we've learned a lot in the last few years about how to help people in these disasters but of course all the insurance in the world and all the cups of tea and all the efforts, the fine efforts that are happening, don't help families be able to get the school reports of their kids which have been burnt or the family photos or family heirlooms.

This week is not a week for politics. This is a week for recognising and supporting people who've been through a terrible time and the amazing efforts of thousands of people.

In future weeks no doubt there will be a debate about the causes and the nature of these bushfires but I think out of respect for the people who are going through a tough time this is not the week to have that discussion.

Journalist: Jenny Macklin can I ask you a quick question? When did you first express concern about the Indigenous Land Council's purchase of Uluru and the Uluru resort and do you think that was a bad investment?

Macklin: These matters go back some time before the Indigenous Land Council made the decision to purchase Yulara and both the Finance Minister at the time, Senator Wong, and I, both asked many questions about the issue but in the end

it was a matter for the board. The board had to make that decision and the board has the responsibility for the decision that was made.

Journalist: Are you willing in hindsight to express an opinion on that?

Macklin: It's a matter for the board.

Shorten: Thank you.

ENDS

Leader’s Office Media Unit: 02 6277 4053