Title Beaches and Coastal Policy, WA.\n
Database Press Releases
Date 17-09-2004
Source LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
Author BEAZLEY, Kim
LATHAM, Mark
Citation Id 2QUD6
Cover date Friday, 17 September 2004
Format Online Text
In Government no
Item Online Text: 1138963
Key item No
Major subject Election, Federal, 2004
ALP policy
Environmental management
Coasts
Beaches
Western Australia
Minor subject Federal state relations
Taxes
Schools funding
Prices and charges
Medicare
Pharmaceuticals
MP no
Pages 11p.
Party ALP
Speech No
System Id media/pressrel/2QUD6


Beaches and Coastal Policy, WA.\n

Media Statement

Mark Latham Kim Beazley MP

Leader of the Opposition Shadow Minister for Defence

Beaches And Coastal Policy, WA

Mark Latham

Kim Beazley

17th September 2004

LATHAM: It's great to be here today with Kim Beazley and Geoff Gallop and the other colleagues to

make a number of points. The first of those coming out of our visit to the pharmacy is that Labor stands

rock solid with its commitment to ensure we got the affordable medicines coming on to the Australian

market. The Free Trade process is not finished just yet and, if there were any objections on behalf of

the big drug companies, Labor would be standing behind its commitments to ensure that the generic

products come on the market, that we've got the flow of affordable medicines for the benefit of

consumers right around the country. So that's a very clear commitment to lift the financial pressure on

Australian families and ensure that those affordable medicines are always available right around the

country.

The second reason we're here today is to set out Labor's commitment to work with the Western

Australian Government on improving beaches and coastal policy. We've got a $31 million Beaches

and Coast policy fund around the nation and we're committing resources, in cooperation with the State

colleagues, to ensure that we've got cleaner beaches in Perth, Geraldton and Bunbury. We want to

ensure that, with these funds, Western Australia gets its fair share of resources in cooperative water

reform, Beaches and Coast Policy. The funds will pay for improved monitoring of discharges from

major stormwater drains into the ocean, publication of report cards on discharges from major

stormwater drains and grants to repair stormwater management plans to reduce pollution.

This is an important commitment: the coastline here is vast. We need to do as much as we can to keep

it clean for the public, for the benefit of the environment. And our other commitment is to protect the

Ningaloo Reef. This is a magnificent coral reef north of Perth along the north-west coast. It's one of the

great remaining healthy coral reefs in the world. It's some 280 kilometres long. The State Government

has been preparing World Heritage Listing. A Federal Labor Government will support that. We'll work

with the State to ensure that the World Heritage Listing comes about in our first term in government.

We need to protect the Ningaloo Reef. We need to give it the World Heritage protection that is

warranted. It's one of the wonders of our environment in this country and to give it that status and

protection is in fact long overdue.

They're two important commitments and it just shows that Federal Labor can work with the Gallop

Government in this State in a cooperative way, on these big issues of environmental concern, big

issues of water reform. This is where the Prime Minister has taken so many steps backwards this

week: by swindling the States in terms of the competition payments, by effectively ripping up

agreements that underpin water reform, he's set the process back 10 years or more. I want to work

with the States right around the country, here in Western Australia included, to ensure that we've got

cleaner beaches, we've got cleaner water, we've got environmental protection, we've got all our assets

protected for future generations. So cooperation is important and we can do it with sensible financial

arrangements, not ripping money out of the States after an agreement has been reached with COAG,

actually working with them and honouring agreements.

You can't trust this Prime Minister when it comes to water reform. You can't trust him, when it comes to

financial relations with the States. I hear today he's boasting about an increase in taxation revenues of

$3 billion. He's just confirmed his status as the highest taxing Prime Minister in Australia's history, and

it confirms the argument that the Australia's taxpayers are forking out an additional $3 billion. We've

got to take the financial pressure off Australian families. We've got to ease the squeeze on middle

Australia. We've got to provide tax relief under $52,000 a year. The Government, instead of boasting

about higher taxation collections, should be adopting Labor's plan to provide an additional $70 to $80 a

week to middle Australian families through tax and family reform. That's what they should be doing, as

well as recognising that they've put so many financial pressures on the States in the run-down of

services.

Look at the run-down in bulk billing, which puts pressure on the emergency departments in State

public hospitals. Look at the billion dollar public hospital funding cut out of Canberra. Look at the aged

care crisis, which is another pressure point on our public hospitals that the States are struggling to deal

with. Look at the run-down in TAFE funding. Look at the loss of fairness in the school funding systems

and also look at the fact that Mr Howard has shirked his national responsibility to provide dental care

for Australians and left it entirely to the States. So in so many areas the financial pressure has been

placed on the States and, most critically, with these record taxation collections, the financial pressure

is squarely on Australian families. We're going to do something to take that financial pressure off.

Labor is all about easing the squeeze on middle Australia — that's our commitment — as well as

working cooperatively with the States on water reform, on environmental improvements, on actually

solving the problems that the Australian people face today rather than tearing up agreements and

working against the States and bunging on a political fight. I'll just ask Geoff to say a few words.

GALLOP: Thanks very much. It's a bit rich of the Federal Treasurer today to be talking about GST

money to the States. The experience of the Howard Government is quite simple: whenever money is

given with the one hand, it's taken away with the other. The policies of the Federal Government, in

respect of health and education and, more recently, of course, in respect of water, is a clear

demonstration of that principle. The Howard Government has broken an agreement and, in the course

of breaking that agreement, denied Western Australia $74 million that would have come to us as a

result of reforms that we've passed through our Parliament in the competition area.

As Mark said, as a State Premier, I know only too well of the pressures that are occurring in our State

public hospitals, because of the declining bulk billing rates under the Howard Government, because of

the pressures that have been created by their failure to deal with aged care and, of course, the

pressures on our public schools through their unfair funding arrangements. So what we get from the

Commonwealth Government is trickery. Money might come in on one side but it's always taken out on

the other. This is the experience that we have as State governments in terms of our dealing with the

Commonwealth. That was clearly demonstrated this week when they stole money from the States to

fund their National Water Program. As far as we're concerned, we want a new cooperative approach

from the Federal Government and we're going to get it from the Latham Government. We've got a very

clear demonstration of that today, a small but important area. I mean, we've got a wonderful coastline

in Western Australia. It's clean and I think it's attractive. It's respected by our community and we want

to keep it that way. I think the fund that's been announced today and the commitment that's been

announced today to deal with the implications of our stormwater drains, to get plans in place to make

sure we keep our beaches clean, is certainly very welcome in the States. Thanks very much.

JOURNALIST: Mark, isn't a bit rich to be claiming that you're protecting Australians from higher

medicine prices, when Labor are responsible for a 30 per cent increase from January next year?

LATHAM: That's a Howard Government proposal. The most important thing we've done is ensure that

the Trade Agreement with the United States, the enabling legislation, has the protections in place so

that the affordable medicines, the generic products, come on to market in this country. There wouldn't

be any tomfoolery from the big companies to try and stop that from happening. That's the effective

protection we've put in place. In other areas, we've made budgetary decisions consistent with our

commitment to surpluses, maintaining our budget pledge, and that's always a big priority. On the

Trade Agreement, we're proud of our achievement for those affordable medicines to keep on coming

on the market for the benefit of Australian consumers.

JOURNALIST: How can you justify that, because it was a Howard Government policy but it was

Labor's vote in the Senate that put those medicine prices up from January 1?

LATHAM: You're right it was a Howard Government policy and proposal. They also had a Trade

Agreement that wasn't providing the protection for the affordable medicines coming on the market and

Labor stepped in to do the right thing.

JOURNALIST: So you make no apology for your involvement?

LATHAM: We've dealt with our financial decisions and we make no apology for wanting to keep the

budget in surplus and put downward pressure on interest rates. There is only one party in this

campaign that's actually funding its commitment and respecting the surplus and that's the Labor Party.

JOURNALIST: Why not put that money in the surplus to give some relief to pensioners and struggling

families, particularly families that don't qualify for that discount? Why not use some of that money now

it's available to reverse that decision?

LATHAM: We've put forward an $11 billion Tax and Family Plan, which is about easing the financial

pressure on Australian families. It's only Labor that is providing tax relief under $52,000 a year. It's only

Labor that's providing the worthwhile reform in family payments - $70 to $80 a week extra for middle

income families. It's only Labor that's resolving the family debt crisis. We now find out that 1.4 million

Australian families have had these debts. It's only Labor with the two tax-free thresholds for the single

income families. It's only Labor that's taking the financial pressure off families and easing the squeeze

on these household budgets. We're doing those things and, if you think that the surplus should be

used for financial relief, you will have to ask Mr Howard why no tax relief under $52,000 a year, why

1.4 million families have got the family debt crisis, why have we got falling bulk-billing rates and

increased out of pocket expenses in health, why has he underinvested in education and established a

user pays system? They're all the big questions and problems he's left for us to solve and our policies

are on the job providing the solutions.

JOURNALIST: If you win office, and you [inaudible] how much — is it going to be less than 30 per

cent? Are they going to go down to 25 per cent? Are they going to stay at 30 per cent? How much will

you be able to reduce that 30 per cent by or do you no longer have that pledge?

LATHAM: We've got our commitment to surplus budgeting and downward pressure on interest rates

and we've got our commitment, the most important thing that's happened in terms of affordable

medicines, to ensure they keep on coming by the market and are available for Australian consumers

as a result of the Trade Agreement with the United States.

JOURNALIST: Didn't you pledge that, if you won office, you would implement savings measures and it

might not go up by 30 per cent?

LATHAM: Obviously, we are in the business of making savings measures and providing as much relief

as we can, so those things are clear. We are not changing any of our commitments we've made in the

past.

JOURNALIST: On those savings measures, Woollies says it could cut the price of drugs to consumers

by 25 per cent, if it was allowed to sell them. Why shouldn't they be allowed to sell pharmaceuticals?

LATHAM: Well, they do. Woollies sell a range pharmaceutical products, but a number of States — and

I think you'll find both sides of politics have also had the commonsense proposition, when you're

talking about prescription drugs, you need qualified advice across the counter rather than off-the-shelf,

unmonitored consumption. I think you need to get it right. I mean, we're talking about medicine here

where it is based on good medical advice and the National Competition Policy has been implemented

that way. I think that's a sound decision but, unfortunately, Mr Howard has now ripped the money out

of the States from NCP. The Federal Government gets financial benefits of $4.6 billion out of National

Competition Policy and now he's not sharing any of that revenue with the States and, inevitably,

they've got to make a choice about cutting hospitals, cutting schools, cutting policing because of this

financial cutback and dishonouring of the agreement out of Canberra.

JOURNALIST: Are you convinced that pharmacists are giving that advice? Just this morning, we had

an instance where you were sold some drugs in a pharmacy but you weren't asked whether you were

taking other medications it might interact with. Are you concerned that not all pharmacists —

LATHAM: Is this a joke about a cold sore?

JOURNALIST: No. You get a billion dollars a year from the taxpayers to ask about those sorts of

questions.

LATHAM: Come on. There were also serious drugs on the table and I want serious qualified people

there on the other side of the counter giving that advice, and I don't think you're going to get that down

at Woollies.

JOURNALIST: More than a quarter of the Government's expenditure on the PBS doesn't actually go

towards medicines; it goes to middlemen as well as mark-ups to chemists. Will you pledge to reform

the community pharmacy agreement and save up to a billion dollars?

LATHAM: No, we're not changing the community pharmacy agreement. We're looking at other savings

that can be made and the most important saving is to ensure the generic products come to market.

That's the most important thing you can do: ensure the generic products come to market, good for the

public hospitals, good for the PBS, good for consumers, and that's why we fought like Kilkenny cats to

make sure that happened out of the Trade Agreement with the United States. We're going to stand by

that all the time.

JOURNALIST: Mr Latham, in terms of the Kodak job losses in Melbourne, what will a Federal Labor

Government do to assist the Bracks Government and those 650 workers?

LATHAM: Our industry spokesperson Kim Carr will be saying some things about that later in the day.

We've got a commitment to assist mature age workers who've lost their jobs, to ensure, if there is

major restructuring, they can bounce back into the work force as quickly as possible because, if they

stayed out for an extended period of time, it is so much harder to get a job. We've got a $200 million

plus commitment to helping with mature age workers, finding them alternative employment and new

skills to assist. We've got that general commitment but, as for the specifics of Kodak in Melbourne, Kim

Carr will be saying some things later in the day.

JOURNALIST: Now you are about half way through the campaign, how do you think the Labor

campaign is travelling and how do you rate your prospects?

LATHAM: As you know, Kim, I'm an advocate for policy not a commentator. I read some of that stuff

that gets around in the paper, day by day. It's always of interest, sometimes it cheers me up;

sometimes it's really hilarious. But I'm happy to leave all of that to the commentators because that's

what they get paid to do. I'm here on behalf of that Australian people advocating solutions —

environment, water reform, schools, hospitals, national security. That's what I do.

JOURNALIST: But how confident are you?

LATHAM: I'm confident in the good judgment of the Australian people and always happy to place

myself before them.

JOURNALIST: There is some suggestion the Labor could fall just fall short, if you look at some polling.

LATHAM: Oh, I saw that in a column by Dennis Shanahan who, I think in December last year,

predicted a Coalition victory, and he has spent a lot of time since trying to make that a self-fulfilling

prophecy. And that's how I look at his stuff, because his prediction and election commentary and result

I think was in the box — he put his form in the box in December last year, and it's been really

interesting to watch his commentary ever since.

JOURNALIST: On your coastal policy, how much of this is new? Haven't we seen this before?

LATHAM: Yes, this is our $31 million commitment to coastal and beach policy around the country. But

I'm here in Western Australia talking about the fair share of resources that will come through for this

State in the projects that I've mentioned.

JOURNALIST: How much of that $30 million will go to Western Australia?

LATHAM: We'll work through with the States on the costings of the storm water management plans

and the like but it will be a fair share for Western Australia, once we go through that detail. We're here

allocating money to projects. Our intention is clear and obviously, in Government, we'd sit down with

the State, get detailed costings on these projects, how much more is needed to assist Western

Australia and divvy up the money that way.

JOURNALIST: The State Education Minister, Alan Carpenter, said he was going to kick Western

Australian headmaster's arses because he did not think they were working hard enough. For someone

who has pledged to curb his language, meaning you, would he be advised to not speak that way,

given that he's Education Minister?

LATHAM: I only speak for myself, I said no more crudity, and I've kept that promise, as you well know.

As for teachers working harder, I've said that we want the best experts and teacher quality in our

schools to get the results. I want everyone in schools to work hard, the teachers, the students, the

school leaders, the community. I believe in hard work myself, hard study, and want to reward the

students who do well. But, as for other people using particular language — you know, leave me out of

that! I don't want to be making out that a poacher has turned into a gamekeeper here. I've got my own

standards and am happy to keep those, as I've committed to the Australian people.

JOURNALIST: Did you ever have a punt on Ease the Squeeze?

LATHAM: I had a few punts there in the 70s but, if you're asking for my betting sheet from 25 years

ago, I haven't got it on me. But I do remember him as a pretty good handicapper. I think he won a few

good races there. He was a pretty handy horse.

JOURNALIST: He was a sprinter, are you more a stayer?

LATHAM: As I remember Ease the Squeeze, in the last furlong, he always delivered, just as I'll deliver

on easing the squeeze on middle Australia and taking the financial pressure off families. He was

always a hard trier in the last furlong and that's where I categorise myself.

JOURNALIST: Mr Latham, this $31 million, is that to be shared between all States and Territories?

LATHAM: Yes, that's a nationwide commitment.

JOURNALIST: How much is going to New South Wales?

LATHAM: We've made commitments in the southern part of New South Wales about bidtu bush

eradication and coastal management plans but, as I say, in Government, we'll sit down and work out

the costings that the States have got in this area and provide the fair share for all the States that have

got the big coastal projects that are needed.

JOURNALIST: Now that the States are getting the extra $3 billion from the GST, will you guarantee

West Australians will get a tax cut?

GALLOP: I've made it clear that we consider each year on its merits. As you know, last year we had

capacity to deliver significant tax cuts in terms of first home buyers, stamp duty across the board,

some cuts in land tax. We look at each year on its merits. We are committed to responsible financial

management and, whenever there is room in our budget to deliver tax relief, we do it and that's what

we did this year.

JOURNALIST: That doesn't sound like a guarantee.

GALLOP: We consider these things on their merits. We've just announced what our surplus was for

last year. As you know, the mid-year review will be out in December this year. We'll then have a good

feel for how the economy is going and how the revenue is going for that future. When it's possible for

us to introduce tax cuts, we do it.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] that your Government yesterday, Tom Stephens, announced $666,000

worth of grants that are now going to places within his new seat of Kalgoorlie.

GALLOP: As I understand it, all the Minister was doing was clearing the decks. They were decisions

that had been made and he was simply announcing them.

JOURNALIST: Is it just a coincidence that they were all —

GALLOP: They were decisions that had been made in his term as a Minister and he cleared the decks

and made the announcements respectively.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

GALLOP: Because these decisions — the electorate of Kalgoorlie is virtually the whole of regional

Western Australia so, as the Minister for Regional Development, it doesn't surprise me that those

allocations related to that area.

JOURNALIST: So it was purely a coincidence?

GALLOP: Well, what I am saying is that he had made these decisions and he was simply clearing the

decks in terms of the announcement.

JOURNALIST: Mr Latham, John Anderson has today said that he is likely to put Pauline Hanson

second last on the Nationals preferences for Queensland and One Nation last. How do you answer

that?

LATHAM: I think it's important for the Prime Minister to state where he stands. He said yesterday it's

an organisational matter. When it comes to Pauline Hanson, it's a leadership matter and the Prime

Minister has got to show some leadership on this and match Labor's commitment to put Pauline

Hanson last. I mean, the Prime Minister has got a bad habit of playing footsie with Pauline Hanson.

We know the troubles that caused our nation five or six years ago. We don't want to see a repeat of

that. The Prime Minister lacks the leadership and determination to do the right thing. He shouldn't fob it

off to his organisation. He should show the leadership to deal with this issue properly and have the

strength to say that she goes last.

JOURNALIST: Are you suggesting with your comments on generic drugs that the US might not accept

the changes that Labor brought on over the FTA and that there will be a hurdle?

LATHAM: I'm saying it's not over yet. We are yet to hear the final word. I'm just giving you Labor's

assurance, as that final word comes through, where we stand and what we plan to say about it.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, have you yet been briefed by the Department of Defence?

BEAZLEY: No, I haven't been briefed by the Department of Defence. But there is an issue out on

Defence of concern today, and that was a statement by Alexander Downer in relation to his

characterisation of where we stand on defending Australia from terrorism in the neighbouring South-East Asian region. He had a thing or two to say about that. I say this: everything that we propose to do

in the South-East Asian region to deal with Jemaah Islamiah and associated Al Qaeda terrorist

movements is a thing that we would talk through, obviously, with the various South-East Asian

governments. The difference between us and the Liberal Party is that they have a reasonable degree

of trust of us based on our track record versus John Howard's track record. But we are absolutely

determined that we're going to make Australia impregnable and we're going to be engaged in the

region around us to ensure that that takes place.

It doesn't mean you act unilaterally; you don't. What it does mean is that you do the hard diplomatic

yakka of getting down to a discussion with them so that they are happy about including us in the

activities that they are undertaking, because Australia has the sorts of armed forces that are effective

in dealing with problems that emerge from piracy and piracy related terrorism in the South-East Asian

waterways. That's the serious business of defending this nation and John Howard and Alexander

Downer know that the way in which they have conducted their diplomacy in the South-East Asian

region over the last two years — no matter what bilateral agreements they might have in place — have

dealt Australia out of, dealt Australia effectively out of setting the overall strategic environment in which

we operate. Now, the Labor Party is the only Party going into this election campaign who can look you

credibly in the eye and say that we are the people who are actually capable of doing this and dealing

with the terrorist threat, where it is real for Australians.

JOURNALIST: Dr Gallop, under the Working Together for our Schools policy that you signed a

contract with Labor a few months ago, it said that the States would realign their funding under a needs

based framework. Does that mean that you will have to shake things up to either increase grants to

low-fee private schools or decrease grants to over-resourced private schools?

GALLOP: Since we've been in Government, we've been determining our policy on a needs basis, and

there is certainly no doubt about the fact that the imbalance that's emerged in Australia in recent years

should never have happened. It happened under the watch of the Howard Government and it

happened as a result of the policy of the Howard Government. The imbalance that emerged between

schools that have extensive resources and those that need resources to guarantee equal opportunity

is a national scandal. We are very pleased that Labor is going to help us in dealing with that issue. In

terms of Western Australia, we had a good relationship with the non-Government sector but, in our

time in Government, we've been able to make sure that where we have the resources they go to the

needy schools in our community. There have been some very slight readjustments to relativities to

make that happen.

JOURNALIST: What does the Working Together for our Schools contract lock you in to?

GALLOP: What it does is, it means that Western Australia will get assistance from the Commonwealth

Government in guaranteeing that every young person in Western Australia gets an equal chance in

life. That's what it will do and at the moment of course, with the Federal funding policy lacking focus in

terms of the needs principle, we can't say that that's an outcome that can guaranteed. We will work

with the Commonwealth to deliver that result.

LATHAM: Let's give others a go. We'll have two more questions, Mischa, Geoff and then we'll have the

champ from the mighty Herald Sun to finish this up with the trivia question of the day.

JOURNALIST: My question is to both Mark Latham and Mr Beazley. Mr Beazley said before that you

are absolutely determined to make Australia impregnable. Can any Government or alternative

Government give that guarantee?

LATHAM: I think the best guarantee you can give is that security in our part of the world maximises the

safety of the Australian people. Our permanent interests don't lie on the other side of the world. They

lie in our part of the world. Our determination is to target and destroy JI at source, and the best way we

can do that is working with our neighbours and friends in the region on a range of strategies — a range

of strategies we've been putting out in this campaign including that maritime strategy to stop their

movement in and out of the Philippines. Our goal is not to have a series of police investigations into

bombings and other tragedies. Our goal is to deal with these people at source and destroy them at

source. We're going to maximise that potential and that's safety for the Australian people by doing

things in our part of the world instead of the folly of thinking we've got permanent interests on the other

side of the globe.

JOURNALIST: Mr Beazley, is Defence refusing to brief you or have you not sought a brief?

BEAZLEY: I think it's the job of Defence to brief us. I don't go around begging and pleading for a

briefing. I take this view that, firstly, I hope this is a hoax and it seems to be beginning to emerge in

that sort of dimension but I don't know. It's the first thing I hope. The second thing I think is this: the job

in these circumstances — and it's not just in the caretaker period, it's in any period — if you are

contemplating deploying any section of your armed forces in a counter-terrorist mode, you talk to the

Opposition. If I were the Minister for Defence, the Leader of the Opposition would be my second

telephone call after the Prime Minister. That would be the first one. What you don't do is give it to the

media. What this Government has managed to do is to give it the other way around: they've given it to

media but not to the Opposition. The whole darn point is that you need actually to effectively move in a

clandestine fashion, when you're actually going out there to deal with terrorism but after nine years,

when it comes to handling these sorts of issues, this Government has still got its trainer wheels on. It's

time for it to go.

JOURNALIST: So who is culpable then in the failure to brief you — is it Cosgrove or Hill?

BEAZLEY: The culpability lies with the Government — always with the Government. I mean, the

Government is great at hiding behind the Defence Forces when anything goes wrong with it — like the

Duke of Plaza Toro, they lead their army from behind when a problem occurs. But when there is a

requirement to actually deal with a difficult political problem they always get it wrong. They should have

— I don't know whether or not elements have been deployed of the SAS or anyone else. If I did know,

I wouldn't tell you, because it is not appropriate for it to be out there. I cannot believe, if that has

occurred, that Downer and the Government made it available to the media. Not that I've got anything

against you at all, but once it's in your hands, it's then in the hands of people who may conceivably be

targets of their actions. That is why you simply do not talk about these things in a sensitive context like

the context that may exist in Iraq at the moment. But these guys simply do not know how to handle

national security issues. They've exploited them politically for nine years now - but, their utter

incompetence when it comes to handling it sensibly; its time for them to go.

LATHAM: Jason, and don't ask me who that Duke is!

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has guaranteed that the parameters of the Medicare safety net

won't change for at least the next three years. There are 700,000 people who are gaining benefits

under that, mainly from specialist fees. What's Labor going to offer in return?

LATHAM: The problem with the safety net is it's full of holes, full of rorts and full of cost blow outs. The

parameters are changing by the day. It's becoming more and more expensive and we're better off

putting that money into restoring bulk-billing rates to 80 per cent. That's the wise investment in a thing

called Medicare. That's Labor's priority. You only need the safety net if you turn Medicare into a high-wire act and people have fallen off. Mr Howard thinks he is catching them; well, he's not. The best

thing to do is to get the bulk-billing rate back up to 80 per cent and that, by far, is the best investment

you can make. You've got the peace of mind of finding a bulk-billing doctor for your children, for your

parents, and the safety net approach becomes redundant.

JOURNALIST: What about specialist fees?

LATHAM: We will have things to say about that in the campaign but bulk-billing doctors are your best

start to ensure that people can get through to referrals, pathology and the like and, in terms of reducing

fees in other areas, putting the MRIs in public hospitals is certainly going to lower the out of pocket

expenses for Australian families. With regard to those specialist issues, we'll have some other things to

say but we've made a very, very good start in all these health areas.

[Ends]