TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop, Sydney, Friday 20 May




SUBJECTS: Labor’s positive plans for Capricornia’s schools; Infrastructure investment; Rockhampton Airport; Liberals’ unfair Budget; Youth unemployment. 


TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION:  Well thanks very much for coming out this morning. I want to start with a few words about the tragic disappearance of the EgyptAir flight. We know, of course, that there is a great deal of concern for where this plane might be and all of the people on board. Obviously our thoughts are with the friends and family of those who are missing. We know that there is one Australian-British dual national on board but I don’t have any further information about that person. But our thoughts are with all of the people who are on board, the passengers and the crew who are missing in very grave circumstances.

I am delighted, however, to be able to make a good news announcement today. Labor, if re-elected, would protect the funding of this fantastic service. Haymarket that has been in operation for 40 years. This is a service that I have known very well for the last 20 years. As a resident of Woolloomooloo, a few years ago, I used to see the great work that Haymarket did for the population of the inner city who are homeless, who are drug and alcohol affected, many of whom have mental health problems. This clinic provides drug and alcohol services, but it also provides general health services to people who would otherwise end up in hospital emergency. This clinic is set to close its doors in July because of Malcolm Turnbull’s health cuts. This clinic will be funded for $1 million a year to keep providing its services to the community if Labor is elected on 2 July. It will be able to keep its doors open. We know that the people who turn up here day after day are some of the most vulnerable people who live in our community. They are people who suffer homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, mental health problems, but also exclusion, social isolation, loneliness. This place doesn’t just give them health services; it also gives them a place for a shower, a place to pick up their mail. And a place, of course, to come if they are ready to change their lives - if they are ready to give up drug and alcohol misuse and take the next step into changing their lives. To close the doors here would leave many hundreds of people every year much worse off. They would end up in hospital emergency in some cases. I don’t, frankly, know where they would go in other cases. They might end up, of course, in the corrective system, they might end up in mental health services or they might just get lost on the streets. They might actually lose their lives. This is a lifeline for so many people and the idea that a ser vice that has been going for 40 years might close its doors because of the Liberals' health cuts breaks my heart. I want to hand over in a moment to Kevin Rozzoli who is the Chair of the Board here. He can tell you a little about what this service does and why it is so very important to the people of the inner city. Thanks.

KEVIN ROZZOLI: Thank you Tanya, and I’d like to welcome you back to the Haymarket. You have been a great supporter for a long period of time. As Tanya said, this has been going for 40 years. And the reason it came into being 40 years ago, was that there was a gap through which, what was then known as the skid row alcoholic population of Sydney, received no proper treatment whatsoever. We picked them up and we looked after them for 40 years, we’ve extended their life, we've given them quality of life. And although we haven’t rescued them all from their own problems, we have eased their problems a lot and we’ve made a lot of happy people. The service that we give, in fact, is not given by anyone else. There are services that provide part of the treatment, but we are the only service that provides holistic treatment. We’re the only people that can keep the general health of this particular population as high as it is, give them some quality of life, take the burden off the health system in so many other ways. And for every $1 that the Government has spent over the years, we save the Government, a further, at least, $2. So, it’s really not a matter of sensible economics to close it, because it will cost governments more. It's certain the cost in human terms is going to be enormous. We’ve been able to build a dedicated staff who specialise in this sort of treatment. And in a world of specialisation, the interesting part of our specialisation is that it is a specialisation across a spectrum of treatments - it just doesn’t angle in on one particular thing. And it’s all very well to say that Accident and Emergency services will pick up the slack - they won’t, because our population are really not acceptable in the average A&E service. They’re a nuisance, they’re put down the bottom of the queue, in fact some of them they’re just told 'get out or we’ll call security' and if they don’t get out, that’s what they do - they’re thrown out. And that happens at all hospitals and they’ll tell you differently. The reality we get from our clients, is that is in fact what happens, and what has happened 40 years ago.

So we thank Tanya for her pledge from the Labor Party. I would have to say that, unfortunately, they’re not in government yet. Until they get into government we don’t get delivery of the cheque. So we have to proceed, really, on the basis that we will have to close. But we will give Tanya this undertaking: we will hang off until we know the result of the election. And also have to say that if the Liberal Party decides that they will come up and match it, or better it, or something like that, well our objective as an organisation is not a political one, it is to keep our doors open. It is to look after this very desperate section of Sydney’s community. It is a very real part of Sydney’s community - been part of Sydney's community for many, many years - and our objective is to keep serving that community as long as we can. Thank you.

PLIBERSEK: Kevin thanks so much for that explanation of your fantastic service. I have to emphasise again that Labor would be delighted if the Government matched this commitment. I’d be very happy if Malcolm Turnbull matched this commitment today. In fact, this service is in his electorate, it’s in his backyard, and if he were to match the commitment I’d be the first one cheering. It is shocking to think, though, that - able to give away $50 billion worth of tax cuts to big business; not able to fund a vital health service for the poorest and most dispossessed people in our Sydney community. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Mark Dreyfus says the AFP has been undermined by the raids overnight, do you agree?

PLIBERSEK: Well, obviously it’s not a matter about the AFP. What this is about is a Prime Minister who is absolutely desperate to cover up the fact that he has stuffed the NBN. Malcolm Turnbull likes to think he’s a genius with the IT but in fact the NBN under his stewardship has doubled the cost from $29 billion to $56 billion. The roll-out time has doubled - it was supposed to be all finished by the end of 2016. In fact, it won’t be finished until 2020, perhaps even later. And Australia has gone from having the 30th fastest internet speeds in the world to the 60th fastest internet speeds in the world, or perhaps I should say the 60th slowest internet speeds in the world. I mean, I live in Rosebery, in the middle of the biggest city in the country, and I can’t get a decent internet connection. Every place I have been in the last two weeks and over the course of the last year, right across re gional Australia, large regional towns, and even our suburbs and cities, people are crying out. They cannot understand why the guy who calls himself an internet genius actually has delivered slower, worse, internet connections. He has broken his promise about the roll-out times. Whole communities that were promised that they would have faster internet now have actually got slower internet, or no internet now. We’ve even heard stories about where work is being done, supposedly to upgrade connections, people have lost telephone connections altogether. This is a cover-up of Malcolm Turnbull’s complete incompetence when it comes to the NBN roll-out in Australia.

Look, we don’t know exactly which documents the AFP are looking for, but we do know that Senator Conroy has been involved in a Senate inquiry into the NBN where he has tried to make documents public, through the Senate itself, and he has been prevented by the Government from making those documents public because they prove that Malcolm Turnbull has stuffed the NBN. We also know that there are many documents that were previously regularly released by Labor in government that this government will not release, about the speed of the roll-out, the quality of the roll-out. The reason for all this secrecy is because Malcolm Turnbull is ashamed of his failure when it comes to rolling out a decent internet across Australia. He should be ashamed but he shouldn’t be covering up in this way. Now remember, Malcolm Turnbull’s the guy who made his name in the Spy Catcher trials - he was defending the right of the public to know secret government information. Well, where is he now? He’s the one leading the cover up. He’s the one trying to prevent his record being scrutinised. This is, of course, public money that should be publicly accounted for and yet we have Malcolm Turnbull going to any lengths to cover up the fact that he has stuffed the NBN. We know also, I just want to say this one other thing, we have asked 23 questions in Parliament about leaks during the period of this Government. Leaks from the National Security Committee of Cabinet, leaks from the Cabinet itself, Government staffers handing out documents with 'Cabinet in Confidence' printed at the top. I haven’t seen any AFP raids on the basis of the leaks that have come from the Government. I also notice that a lot of those leaks from Cabinet, and from the National Security of Cabinet, happened when Malcolm Turnbull was pursuing Tony Abbott for the leadership. And it seems that a number of those leaks have now stopped. I guess you’d have to ask yourself questions about the timing of those leaks and why they’ve now stopped. It is extraordinary that we have leaks from National Security Committee of Cabinet, leaks about proposed anti-terrorism legislation, leaks about submarines, national security. None of that results in an AFP raid, but documents that prove that Malcolm Turnbull has stuffed the NBN, well, they get raided by the AFP.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

PLIBERSEK: Well, you know what, we’ve seen whistle-blowers in the past, whistle-blowers motivated to protect public investment, to protect strong delivery of good public services. We know that the NBN is absolutely critical to Australia’s economic future. This is the most important, large piece of public infrastructure that will be built in this country in this decade, in the next decade. And it is extraordinary that information that used to be publicly available - when Malcolm Turnbull became the Minister - suddenly became secret, suddenly became 'Commercial in Confidence'. And now, look at the lengths that the Government is going to keep this information secret. Well, I’ll make you this prediction: I think that people will be looking very carefully at the contents of the documents that are now publicly available, to see what it is that Malcolm Turnbull is trying to hide. People in communi ties around Australia already know that they were promised better internet, higher speed connections to their homes. All of that, all of those promises have been broken by Malcolm Turnbull. And they’ll be asking not just why have the promises been broken up, but why the cover up.

JOURNALIST: Doctors say bulk billing everything is not the solution to our primary health funding problems. Does Labor think mass bulk billing is the goal? 

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think you would find that a lot of doctors are very supportive of bulk billing and, in fact, the AMA has been campaigning very strongly for the unfreezing of the Medicare Benefits Schedule because they know that the best health system is the one where your Medicare card matters more than your credit card. Getting bulk billing rates up is good for everyone: it’s good for patients, it’s good for doctors, and it’s also good for the cost of our health system overall because it is always cheaper to treat someone in the GP’s offices than have them avoid going to the doctor and end up in hospital emergency. You know, if you go to the GP, an average visit will cost the taxpayer less than $50. If you end up in hospital emergency the average visit will cost somewhere between $400-$600. It is, in fact, a saving to the health system to treat people at the most cost effective level of h ealthcare, which is primary healthcare, which is in GP surgeries. So I am very supportive of bulk billing. You’ll find everybody in the Labor Party is very supportive of bulk billing, and more to the point, we are supportive of Medicare. We introduced Medicare; we have fought for 40 years to protect it from the conservatives. We will keep fighting to protect Medicare and to protect bulk billing, because we put patients first.