Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Melbourne: 17 December 2015: Malcolm Turnbull's attack on Medicare; national security; HSU; Wills preselection; paid parental leave; Syrian refugees; Star Wars

Download PDFDownload PDF




SUBJECT/S: Malcolm Turnbull’s attack on Medicare; National security; HSU; Wills preselection; Paid parental leave; Syrian refugees; Star Wars

CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: It's good to be here today with Bill in the Future Medical Imaging Practice with Anthony. He has been showing us around this morning and talking to us about the impact that the Government's current attack on the health budget will have on the patients that he sees here through this practice. Of course the Government in the Mid-Year Economic Financial statement has continued its attacks from 2014, 2015 Budgets on our health. What they have done with this measure in particular will adversely affect patients. We had finally, the Health Minister come out and admit that this measure in the Mid-Year Economic Financial statement will adversely affect many patients. And we are talking about patients who are seeking to get a diagnosis for cancer, for other serious chronic conditions or who are trying to monitor their chronic condition via pathology testing. We know what this Government will do, we will see pathology practices and diagnostic imagining practices across the country be placed in a position of either not being able to continue to bulk-bill many of their patients. Of course, if patients are not bulk-billed, it means they immediately have to pay the upfront cost. In some cases, that can be hundreds of dollars that patients have to find several times a year just to get the diagnosis they need. The Minister has come clean and said this will hurt patients after two days of

having the Treasurer and the Finance Minister trying to pretend that there is nothing to see here. It's time the Government actually stopped using the health budget for cuts and actually started getting on with the job of providing a decent health system for all Australians. Thanks.

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Catherine and Catherine has taken people through in detail what the Government proposed two days ago. Today, we are here visiting a small business. A medical practice which literally intervenes and improves the health of thousands of lives in the Melbourne community. The people who run this practice have spent years training as medical doctors and radiographers, and now they have invested their own money to provide a better standard of health care for Australians. So you can imagine the shock and upset in the community when two days ago Australians discover that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are changing the rules when it comes to Medicare in this country. All Australians should be able to access medical care, wherever, whenever they need it, based upon their Medicare card, not their credit card. Labor firmly defends the Medicare system against the latest attacks of Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberal Government. There is a challenge in our Budget but it's not going to be solved by slugging the sick and the poor and the vulnerable. This practice here provides medical imaging, uses cutting edge technology to help diagnose and treat life-changing diseases such as cancer. The patients here, the wage earners here, reasonably want to be able to bulk-bill. When you have got a course of treatment in cancer, it can take up to five years to see if the cancer has gone away. It may mean that you need to come for better or for worse to one of these practices every six weeks or three months for up to five years. It's really important that we keep bulk-billing alive for wage earners in this country. Because you can imagine that if you have to find $200 to $500 every time you visit an imaging centre, be it six weeks at a time or three months, as you are battling with something as life alter and catastrophic as cancer, and all of a sudden you have to find the money rather than be able to bulk-bill. This is a disaster upon an already challenging time in your lives. So Labor will make very clear to the Government that we are up for sensible changes but not up for changes to Medicare where it becomes your credit card not your Medicare card which determines your level of health care in this country.

Happy to take any questions people have.

JOURNALIST: Bill - has the head of ASIO, Duncan Lewis contacted you to talk about the current security environment?

SHORTEN: I speak regularly with our national security agencies, they're doing a great job. I have seen some reports, though, that Duncan Lewis has had to be contacting Liberal MPs to ask them to not make inflammatory comments which undermine the approach which we are taking on national security in this country. It shouldn't be up to our national security adviser to do the job of Malcolm Turnbull. Malcolm Turnbull needs

to rein into line the far right wing of his political party and not leave it to our security agencies. Our security agencies time is better spent catching terrorists and preventing crime than having to ring up a recalcitrant Liberal backbenchers to explain to them the basics.

JOURNALIST: Just back to that question, have you or any of your Labor MPs been contacted by Duncan Lewis contacted you in regards to -

SHORTEN: I did answer that question. I do speak regularly to our national security agencies -

JOURNALIST: So you’ve been contact regarding comments?

SHORTEN: This is national security so I will take longer than five seconds to answer the question. Duncan Lewis and other national security agencies regularly brief the Opposition. But in regard to this latest round of media reporting saying that Duncan Lewis is on the phone to individual Liberal MPs, I am not aware of him contacting individual Labor MPs. I don't think we're the problem here.

JOURNALIST: Has he specifically talked to you about the moderation of language over inflammatory language, like the way that Malcolm Turnbull suggested?

SHORTEN: As much as I hate to suggest that history didn't start when Malcolm Turnbull became leader, I have been advocating moderate language ever since I became Opposition Leader. The Labor Party here has always understood one, the need to work with the Liberal Party to defeat risks to our national security and two, the best way to defeat threats to the Australian way of life is to include people and not to use inflammatory language. I would politely suggest that the Labor Party is not the problem here.

JOURNALIST: Do Australian companies who have got their tax affairs being made public today, do they have anything to fear?

SHORTEN: I think it's remarkable, reports that one in four of our largest corporations pay no tax at all. Here we are, Catherine King and I, defending the right of cancer patients to be able to access bulk-billed diagnostic imaging to help with the treatment of their life challenging cancer. The Government can't find enough money to be able to support bulk-billing. But on the other hand we have Australian companies paying no tax at all. Why is the Turnbull Government hard on patients and soft on large companies?

JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about Kathy Jackson here. The Federal Court has rejected her appeal against the $1.4 million fine. Can I ask you to respond to that?

SHORTEN: Well that is a matter for courts. Labor has zero tolerance for wrong doing and corruption by union officials just as we do by employer representatives. We’ve got no time for the sort of conduct we have seen in parts of the Health Services Union. It's why when I was Minister I put administrators in to stop and put a clamp on the sort of shocking behaviour we have seen reported since.

JOURNALIST: So it’s a just finding?

SHORTEN: I am not going to comment about individual legal matters, but I think Labor's response to the Health Services Union and helping the good people in that union clean up their union speak volumes.

JOURNALIST: Regarding the Wills preselection if you don’t mind, would you like to see a woman preselected in that seat?

SHORTEN: Well under my leadership the Labor Party is now pushing for 50 per cent female MPs by 2025. There's a range of very good candidates, I am sure the locals will pick a very good candidate.

JOURNALIST: The Government is going to be dumping some of the unpopular measures in the paid parental leave, you’d be claiming a win on this?

SHORTEN: I just think the Government should take their hands off the paid parental leave scheme full stop. I think what they are proposing is more con than compromise. I think that as soon as I hear the Liberals talking about interfering with paid parental leave, I start to get very nervous for expectant mums who are trying to ensure they get a bit of support at the most marvellous time of their life. My message to the Government: just take your hands off the paid parental leave scheme. It was working perfectly well before you got into Government and I would now suggest that you should stop attacking mums who have got industrial conditions which means that they can get paid by their employer and get a safety net. I just ask the Government hands off the paid parental leave scheme.

JOURNALIST: Some of the first refugees coming over from Syria are having a bit of a day out here in Melbourne - it’s their first sort of experience to the city. What sort of message would you have to them, welcoming them to your home town?

SHORTEN: Well Australia's a multicultural country. We are made up of people from all faiths and all walks of life. I welcome them to this country, I hope their experience living here is a very positive experience. I would also say if they're taking the kids out, get a hat and put some sunscreen on, it's very hot today in Melbourne.

JOURNALIST: Just regarding ASIO, I just wanted some more clarity on that - how healthy is the state of bipartisanship on national security measures?

SHORTEN: As I say, Labor is not the problem when it comes to bipartisanship at the moment on national security. The problem is there's two views in the Liberal Party. You’ve got Malcolm Turnbull desperately trying to keep a lid on his extreme right wing - and I think that is the challenge. I just say to Australians, the Labor Party and the Liberal Party are committed to the national security of all Australians. I fundamentally believe the best way we secure and anchor the national security of all Australians is by including all Australians, not by demonising religious minorities.

JOURNALIST: Well you said that the national security chiefs had better things to do than to be calling Liberal MP s - is it inappropriate for them to call Liberal MPs?

SHORTEN: I am not going to start second guessing. If the national security agencies feel that the most important thing that they have to do is to talk to Liberal MPs and ask them to tone down the language, that tells me how important they think the problem is of extreme language coming from some of our politicians.

JOURNALIST: Slightly different direction - the world has gone 'Star Wars' crazy this week. Will you be going to see the new one? Do you have any fond memories of the old ones? And do you think there are any characters in the old series that represent political figures that we have around at the moment?

SHORTEN: I've booked my tickets for the 9:30 session on Saturday. So I'm really looking forward to it. I went to my first Star Wars film with my dad when I was 10 - when I was 10 in 1977. Star Wars blew my mind then. I think I am really looking forward to seeing the latest film. I will be interested to see if it’s - if films keep pace with your childhood memories. As for characters, I do think when I look at the Coalition frontbench I think of the bar scene out of Star Wars.

JOURNALIST: Away from Star Wars - I’m sorry to have to do it - but will Labor be voting against these measures - the changes to bulk billing incentives?

SHORTEN: Well let’s be really straight here - several days before Christmas, the Liberals have launched a new surprise attack on the Medicare system. What is the case that’s been made out to justify changing bulk billing practices and make it harder for cancer patients and other patients seeking vital treatment not to be able to access bulk billing? Labor is very clear on what we think. We know that Australians should be able to access quality health care wherever they are in Australia, and that access to quality health care in this country should be determined by your Medicare card, not your credit card. We are very unconvinced that this attack on Medicare is anything more than a desperate government who has no idea how to get the Budget back into the black, who has presided over a doubling of the deficit, who’s got debt running away. The only idea they have to solve the problem is to increase the price of going to the doctor, is to increase the GST to 15 per cent, and all of this on the day when the Australian Tax Office is revealing the tax affairs of the 1500 Australian companies, and we see that one in four companies - at least large companies - is paying no tax in Australia. How is it that Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull think it’s fair to get cancer patients to pay

more to go to see the doctor, and yet do nothing about Australian companies who pay no tax on literally hundreds of millions of dollars. It speaks volumes for the priorities of the Turnbull Liberal Government.

JOURNALIST: So Labor hasn’t decided which way it will vote on it?

SHORTEN: It would be a miracle greater than Lazarus rising to see us vote for an attack on Medicare. Labor will never attack Medicare, we are on the side of people - wage earners who pay their taxes, they pay their taxes on the assumption that one day when they’re sick they don’t have to pay a lot more money to go and see the doctor. That’s the deal in Australia. We have universal health care. Labor is on the side of the taxpayers who are just fed up with attacks on Medicare. They pay their taxes and then they see corporate Australia, the big end of town, pay little tax at all in many cases, and they say what is going on here? We have to pay more to see the doctor, and yet corporate Australia is paying less than ever in taxes in Australia. It’s not fair, and Labor will change this. Thanks everyone.