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Transcript of doorstop: Parliament House, Canberra: Tuesday 11 May 2004: Aged Care budget; HREOC report on children in detention; Liberal leadership.

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Stephen Smith MP Shadow Minister for Immigration Acting Shadow Minister for Ageing & Seniors





SMITH: Two things this morning. Firstly, Aged Care. The only reason the Government will include measures to address aged care in the Budget is because it’s a John Howard political fix.

Consumers and the industry have been saying for years there are serious problems with aged care, and for years the Government has been ignoring it. The only reason we will see measures in the Budget tonight are to address a short term political fix.

The other worry I have in aged care is the changes the Government proposes may well shift the burden on families to put them under even more financial pressure as they endeavour to look after their elderly parents.

The second issue today. Don’t be surprised to see Attorney General Ruddock table the HREOC Report into Children in Detention. This will be an indictment of the Government. It’s clear from leaks of the draft Report last week this was a very bad period, very bad policy, very badly administered. So don’t be surprised to see the Attorney General table the document today to avoid scrutiny and to avoid publicity and to do that under the cover of the Budget.

JOURNALIST: $2 billion is what the prediction is for Aged Care. Sounds like a fair whack?

SMITH: As I’ve indicated previously, in principle I support more funds to address the industry’s recurrent problems and more funds to address the industry’s capital problems.

But don’t be under any illusions. For years the Government has been ignoring pleas from the industry that the industry is under pressure, which has been causing viability problems so far as the industry has been concerned.

As far as the consumer is concerned, access problems and quality of service problems. The only reason they’re acting now will be a short term political fix to get over the election. They have been ignoring the pleas of consumers about shortage of places, lack of quality care, and industry concerns about viability for a number of years. As late as the last week of the Parliament last session, Aged Care Minister Bishop was standing up pretending that the last 5 or 6 years hadn’t existed.

JOURNALIST: Is it important for the Prime Minister to tell Australians that he will serve a full term if re-elected?

SMITH: I note more of Peter Costello’s supporters are out there, Trish Worth out there today essentially saying that this will be Prime Minister Peter Costello delivering his last Budget.

Yesterday we saw the Treasurer saying he was getting all these tricky questions from you. The only trickiness that is occurring is the Prime Minister and the Treasurer not being straight forward, open and honest with the Australian public. The Prime Minister won’t say openly and honestly that he’s not proposing to serve a full term if he’s re-elected and the Treasurer won’t tell us openly and honestly whether if the Prime Minister doesn’t move on in the Treasurer’s timetable that he will stay on as Treasurer. It is clearly the case when we see the comments from Costello supporters that their view is that this is Prime Minister Peter Costello delivering his last Budget as Treasurer.

JOURNALIST: Will Simon Crean definitely be Labor Treasurer if Labor wins?

SMITH: Mark has made that clear.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it is an important issue for the voter pubic?

SMITH: Absolutely. This goes right to the heart of honesty with the Australian public and integrity. We see across the board the Government not being open and honest with the public on a range of policy issues. This goes right to the heart of its relationship with the Australian community. The Prime Minister not being honest enough and open enough to tell the Australian public that he’s not proposing to serve a full term if he’s re-elected. And the Treasurer just parading himself as Prime Minister Costello, making it clear so far as he’s concerned, whatever the timing desires of the Prime Minister, that this will be his last Budget.


Contact: Courtney Hoogen on (02) 6277 4108 or 0414 364 651