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Transcript of doorstop: 10 June 2003: Medicare; leadership ballot & Labor policies.

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CREAN: Today I have been out talking to parents and carers in relation to Early Childhood Care; this is an essential part of any equation in terms of dealing with the needs of Australian families. It involves the activities of state government and there does need to be better cooperation between state and federal governments in the delivery of health services in this country. It is also clear that the more we invest cleverly at the earlier prevention stage the less you have to invest when the problem happens later in the development of a child.

And of course, it is essential that childcare needs are identified by these services, that parents can find a Doctor that bulk bills. Under this government this is not happening. I think it is very instructive to look at this graph, it shows what has happened to bulk billing in every one of the years that the Howard Government has been in office - they are the blue bars. Bulk billing has been declining in every one those years, and it will continue to go down because the package that they have put in place is not going to stop the decline in bulk billing, it will destroy Medicare because if bulk billing goes, Medicare is gone.

Contrasted however, with when Labor was in office and was committed to bulk billing and we saw in each of the years from the establishment onwards of Medicare, under the Hawke Government, that what we had was bulk billing increasing and getting up to over 80%. I am convinced that with the package I have put forward as a down payment, we can get back over 80%. I am committed to restoring bulk billing in this country and saving Medicare. People are entitled to affordable health care because they have paid for it, they have paid through their taxes, they have paid through their Medicare levy they should not have to pay a third time when they front up to a doctor. But that is what will happen under John Howard’s plan. I want the Medicare Card to stand for something, quality health care in this country with no additional charges. Under John Howard the Medicare Card will be torn up and only your


credit card is what the doctor will ask for. I do not want that system for this country and that is why three weeks ago I outlined a proposal that will restore bulk billing and save Medicare. I want this to be a focal point of the campaign leading up to the next election because it is a clear choice. The Labor Party under my leadership will save Medicare and if you re-elect John Howard, Medicare will be destroyed.

JOURNALIST: Would Kim Beazley have the same commitment as you do to resurrecting Medicare?

CREAN: He says he has the same commitment to it, but did not come up with this policy in the last seven years. I think that this is the first time we have had the clear point of differentiation out there. We have campaigned in the past on health and on education but we have not had the clear lines of difference up. For the first time Labor has had clear lines of difference up. I laid them down three weeks ago and every one of the polls that have been taken since show that we got bounce from it.

JOURNALIST: What do you think of Hawke stepping in and taking sides over the ALP leadership challenge?

CREAN: Well I knew his view, he expressed it to me on Friday and we had a talk about it. We are mates, we go back a long time. I am disappointed that he has gone public but he has, but it’s not going to influence the outcome on Monday. I am very confident about my support, but what I am not going to be detracted from is in the lead up to next Monday, getting on with the task of selling this message. We have a clear line of difference out there on Medicare, I am for saving Medicare and John Howard is for destroying it, and I am delighted that you have all turned up today to promote Labor’s package.

JOURNALIST: What did Mr Hawke tell you on Friday?

CREAN: It was a private conversation and I am not going to go into it, he is entitled to his views, can we move on.

JOURNALIST: Did he tell you he would be publicly endorsing Kim Beazley?

CREAN: The decision in terms of my leadership will be determined by the Caucus on Monday, I am confident of winning but I am going to ensure that I am not pre occupied this week with canvassing publicly for that support. I will do it as it should be done, privately with Caucus members, but what I will do publicly is get out and continue to hammer what Labor offers as an alternative. That is what the Australian people want to hear, they want us to resolve our differences internally, but they want to hear what we stand for, I am resolved that we will never again become a small target and they


will know clearly what Labor is offering as an alternative going in to this election.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible - traditional voters)

CREAN: Traditional voters in the Labor Party want their party to stand for Labor values, values that are: affordable health care, affordable education, saving the environment, decent living standards in work and in retirement. So I am confident that they are not just values for traditional supporters but they are also values that will reach out to a broader section of the Australian people. And that I am convinced about, because there are so many families out there who constantly ask me the question ‘why is it I can’t get a doctor who bulk bills?’. They should be able to get one because that was the contract with the Australian people, ‘we will charge a Medicare Levy and you will have access to a doctor who bulk bills’. It is not happening under John Howard, it will happen under my leadership and the return of a Labor Government.

JOURNALIST: How much influence does Bob Hawke have within Caucus?

CREAN: None at all, he doesn’t have a vote.

JOURNALIST: He seems to think that Beazley can win the next election.

CREAN: He can have his view, but I think he is wrong. Kim Beazley won’t be leading the Party in the next election, I will, because I am confident of my support and I am also confident that, with policies we can win over the Australian public and that is what the task has got to be about. What this exercise on Monday is about is not just reaffirming my leadership but is reaffirming the mandate for these policies. It is about the mandate to win the next election not just the leadership of the Labor Party.

JOURNALIST: …. canvassed privately. If your frontbenchers come out and support Kim Beazley will that surprise you?

CREAN: I don’t think any of us will be surprised at them coming out privately, so let them come out. All I say is they are entitled to their vote in a secret ballot next Monday, but what they also have to do after next Monday is accept the decision.

JOURNALIST: When are we going to see unilateral action from you if you do win the ballot?

CREAN: I think that what you are going to see is an endorsement next Monday, and then us getting on with the task in a united way of promoting these policies to the Australian public. Policies that restore bulk billing and save Medicare, policies that open up educational opportunity to all of those of ability not just an ability to pay. Policies that will save the Murray


River, end land clearing, ratify the Kyoto protocol. Policies that will improve people’s superannuation entitlements by capping the taxation on contributions. These are the things that matter to the Australian people, you might be preoccupied with the leadership of the Labor Party, what is preoccupying the Australian people is why they can’t get a doctor who bulk bills. Why can’t they get their kids into a university or TAFE place, why is it that the government is not doing anything to reduce greenhouse gases. Why isn’t the government prepared to cut superannuation contribution tax for the whole of the workforce not only just for the top 14 %. Why isn’t the government prepared to do something and crack down on excessive golden handshakes. That is money that could be put to much better use in the community, I have shown how it can be put to better use and I am sure that will be a message that resonates with the Australian public.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask your colleague, your assessment of Mr Hawke’s view that Mr Beazley can win?

ANNA BURKE: As I have said on the public record it is a private vote. It is for us to decide and I wish everybody else would weigh out of it and let us get on with giving our message out to the public about important matters like Medicare and education. We need those things, the public want to hear from us about that, your preoccupation with it is your preoccupation with it in the media. It is not about what the public want to hear from us about. I am not commenting on those things.

CREAN: Will you be supporting Mr Crean?

ANNA BURKE: I have said fairly publicly today in The Australian that I will be, so yes I will be supporting Mr Crean but as I have said also it is up to individuals to decide personally and I think that what everybody else thinks is irrelevant. You have to make the choice for yourself, we have got a secret ballot, we will have it on Monday.

JOURNALIST: Mr Crean is it OK for your front bench, apparently they are going to come out day after day and support Mr Beazley, is that OK given that the vote is on?

CREAN: Well, the vote is on and it will be determined on Monday, I don’ think them saying what they are saying will come as any surprise, but what they have to do in the end is to accept the result and we move on.

JOURNALIST: Will you expect them to resign?

CREAN: No, I expect them to accept the decision on Monday.

JOURNALIST: So they will be able to keep their jobs?


CREAN: I expect them to accept the decision on Monday and when they come out publicly you should be asking them that very question.

JOURNALIST: Have you got any third party endorsements planned?

CREAN: No, my endorsements are from the Caucus members and that is as it should be. The Caucus is elected to represent their constituents first of all and is expected to make mature judgements, having regard to the merits of the respective candidates when it comes to leadership. It is a secret ballot, it’s as it should be and this thing will be done internally and should be done internally.

JOURNALIST: What will you do if you lose?

CREAN: Is that a serious question? No, this is not hypothetical, I will win. The issue is then getting on with the task in a united way that is what the Caucus will demand, it is what I have called for and I am certain its where we will be heading after Monday.

JOURNALIST: Would you appreciate for Mr Keating to publicly come out to back you?

CREAN: This is a circumstance in which the Caucus makes its decision, it is always nice to be endorsed but in the end the people that make the judgement are the Caucus members. Endorsements will not switch one vote either way.

JOURNALIST: Do you speak with Paul Keating?

CREAN: I speak with on him on a regular basis, but no I haven’t spoken to him recently, why should I?. He does not have a vote, the 92 Caucus members do, and I am confident of their support. So just wait until then but I am going to Sydney tomorrow to talk again about Medicare but I am also going out to the University of Western Sydney which has had a rough deal from this Government. And if there are places not being made available there, how can kids from working class backgrounds go on and get an education at university if the government of the day is going to put up their HECS fees by up to 30% and charge them excessive interest bills on student loans.

How can young people afford to start a family and a home if they are going to be saddled by debt to get an education?. That is not a society I want to see and tomorrow whilst I will be reaffirming my opposition to what the government is proposing. I will be talking with the universities to come forward with a package by which we can make more places available. This is what the Australian people want to hear, saving Medicare, saving the Murray River, opening up university places, they expect us to resolve the leadership internally and we will, but they want us to get on with the task of the real


alternative and I am giving the Australian people a real alternative for the first time in a long time. If we get together and unite behind the alternative we will win and who will be the greatest beneficiaries of that? The Australian people. They will have a health system where they can afford to go and see a doctor when they get sick, they will have an education system that says if kids qualify for Year 12 they can actually get a place at a university, they will have a more sustained environmental circumstance in this nation and they will have a better superannuation deal. That is what Australians want and that is what I will deliver.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

CREAN: No, I think it is important to get it right. Last week I had two important meetings, one on higher education, the other on paid maternity leave. These are two issues I want brought forward and we are working on them, and I will release them at the appropriate time, but already Labor has got momentum from its announcement on Medicare, the Murray River and Riverbank. We will continue to announce policies in relation to education and these other things because once the leadership is out of the way I want to build on that momentum and take us to victory at the next election.

Thanks very much.