BILL SHORTEN MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS
& ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG
TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
CATHERINE KING MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE
MEMBER FOR BALLARAT
JUSTINE KEAY MP
MEMBER FOR BRADDON
TUESDAY, 14 MAY 2019
Subjects: Investing in health care for Tasmanians; Adani; wages; franking credits; Julia Banks; first home buyers; Liberal lies campaign; Peter Dutton; Steve Irons; elective surgery waiting lists; agriculture industry visas; Labor’s Fair Go Plan for Tasmania.
JUSTINE KEAY, MEMBER FOR BRADDON: Well welcome everyone to Burnie and to the Rural Clinical School here at the University of Tasmania which is positioned just between the North West Regional Hospital and the North West Private Hospital. I would like to thank Lizzi Shires the director of the clinical school for having us today. Great privilege to meet Jill and Neville, Flo, Giovanna and Anne this morning, cancer patients and cancer survivors here from the north west of Tasmania to listen to their stories. We hear these stories all the time and you've seen in the video before people paying far too much for their care. And Labor has a wonderful plan to help those people. But here in Tasmania we have a health crisis, now before the 2016 election - you probably heard me talking about it then - the by-election last year you heard me talking about it again – you’ve not heard the Government talk about health in Tasmania being in crisis at all. And I challenge my Liberal candidate for another debate. I've done six candidate debates in the last two weeks and I'll challenge him again to talk about health because it is a priority here in Tasmania. Too many Tasmanians are waiting far too long for their elective surgeries. I spoke to a gentleman and this makes me quite emotional because these are the real stories of people in Tasmania waiting for care. This man, his name is Tom, three breaks in his hips, waiting for surgery. Tom has spoken about ending his life. He is in tears all the time. His wife is in despair all the time. He feels that there is no hope. We have to do better in Tasmania for people waiting for surgery, getting their cancer treatment. And the only way we can do that is to vote out this government on Saturday. We need change. We need to do better. And I am very proud to be part of the Labor team under Bill Shorten, he's here with me today, Tanya Plibersek and Catherine King to actually make that change a reality should people vote for me on Saturday and a vote for Labor. The people of Tasmania deserve better. And I'd like to welcome Bill here to Burnie.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Justine and good morning everybody. First of all I just want to thank Jill and Nev Barnard who I was speaking to upstairs. Jill and Anne and Giovanna who shared their stories. Cancer makes you sick but it shouldn't make you poor. We heard from Ron in that video information session then that when you're in the fight of your life it's not free. And cancer won't wait until you can get all the free stuff. You need help now. And that to me really sums up one of the big issues in this election. It is important that voters use this election to send a message to Mr Morrison that cuts to hospitals and health care hurt. And Tasmania, the effects are catastrophic. Right around Australia but particularly in Tasmania. The waiting lists - when they increase people get sicker. People indeed drop out of trying to get on the waiting lists and in some cases people even die. Tasmania, the effect of the medical crisis is catastrophic. The longest waiting times for elective surgery, for emergency treatment. We've seen the number of people on the lists waiting to get to the head of the queue. We see them dropping out and even worse. This election is about proper funding of health care. It's about a priority. A nation makes a decision in an election. We choose to better fund our health care system in Tasmania and everywhere, not provide tax loopholes for the already very well-off. I'd like to invite Catherine King to talk further about our measures in health care.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Thanks Bill and it's terrific to be here again with Justine Keay and my colleague Tanya Plibersek here in Tasmania, where we know health is the number one issue. The Australian Medical Association says that elective surgery waiting times are the worst in 20 years and they are right. Here in Tasmania 9,000 people are waiting for elective surgery. One in three Tasmanians don't get elective surgery in time. And we know the real life consequences for that because the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics show that the number of people who are dying or who are on contactable elective surgery waiting lists has been increasing, more than 8,000 across the country. Now that is a damning indictment on the six years of the Liberal Government, the Morrison Government and what they have done to Australia's healthcare system. It is a damning indictment that people are waiting too long for elective surgery and that in some cases people are indeed dying. One in 10 people in Tasmania wait for over a year for common procedures like cataract surgery. And in the case that Justine has just talked about, the hip surgery, or for knee replacement. And people aren't just waiting quietly at home. They are in desperate pain. It's why frankly the consequences of the Liberal Government's over $700 million cuts to public hospital, $2.8 billion if they're elected again at this election in a few days’ time. There is really only one choice when it comes to fixing the crisis that's in our public hospitals. Only one choice to invest in health and that is to vote Labor on May 18.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten on Adani you have said that Labor won't review or revoke approvals. The ABC is reporting this morning that based on freedom of information request it's got advice from the CSIRO advising the government that it couldn't give a categoric assurance required with the ground water and also too the decision was made in great haste. Does this give you grounds perhaps to review Adani if you get in office?
SHORTEN: To be clear I've said that Labor has no plans to review the decisions. But I do think we need to find this Environment Minister. I don't think she has given one national press conference. Something on Instagram is not actually answering questions is it? I do think that the Minister for Environment who the current Prime Minister has said he will make the Minister for Environment again if he wins the election, I do think she needs to come forward to deal with these matters and to explain and account for herself.
JOURNALIST: This wages proposal is designed to pressure the Fair Work Commission to increase wages by July. You're also intervening on penalty rates. Are you compromising the independence of the commission? And what's the point of having an independent body if the government is going to override its decisions every five minutes.
SHORTEN: Well let's not confuse a government advocating and making a submission to increase wages with determining the outcome. Previously, historically governments have put in submissions. But let's be clear I have said today, Brendan O'Connor my Shadow Minister and I have written to the Fair Work Commission and we have said that in the event we are elected next Saturday one of our first acts will be to withdraw from the old government's meaningless, insipid, useless submission. Now I accept that and I acknowledge it is a forward leaning decision. An unprecedented decision for us to boldly put the case to the Commission that we should have modest but meaningful rises, fairer wage outcomes for millions of Australians. But it is unprecedented to live in a time where we have chronic wages stagnation which is effectively eating into the household incomes of millions of Australian workers. Now what we will do is we will put a submission. We will prepare an argument. We will present evidence. But we will do so through the agency of the Fair Work Commission. We would do so and we would expect the Fair Work Commission to consult with business and industry, as we would. What we want to do is just get wages moving again. But we will take on board in our submission even before Fair Work makes a decision the arguments about business and industry's capacity to pay, staged implementation. See what I'll be as Prime Minister is not a person who turns my back on millions of wage earners. But I'll do what I've always done. Be part of the solution, part of the negotiation through the agency of the Fair Work Commission. But one thing is for sure. We're not going to give up on trying to move wages because it has been stagnant in Australia and correspondingly we see zero per cent inflation, we see a loss of confidence, we see a million Australians working two jobs just to make ends meet. Another million Australians requiring more work and seeking more work. And we've got four million Australians, nearly three and a half million, who are in insecure or part-time work. There is a problem in this country and Labor won't turn its back. But we'll do so in partnership, in consultation with industry and business through the agency the Fair Work Commission.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you mentioned a lot of numbers. One number you haven't mentioned though is what you would like the wage to increase by. Sally McManus has said $50 a week. Do you support that view and given the need to put a cost to the economy, what number, how much do you want wages to rise by?
SHORTEN: Well I've answered this question many times. That'll be up to the Fair Work Commission to determine. That will be up to the Fair Work Commission to determine. I’ve got a slightly longer answer than that, but one number I can tell you I don't think is right is I don't think that an adult trying to make ends meet in a full time job should be working for an hourly wage which doesn't take them out of poverty.
JOURNALIST: You must have a view on what number you want?
SHORTEN: Mate I've studied wages movements over 40, 50 years. I'll give you a couple of numbers. Lowest wages growth under the Liberals. And never forget Senator Matthias Cormann said that the low wages outcome was a design feature of their economy. Now what the ultimate number is will be decided by the independent commission. It'll be done through partnership, negotiation, consultation with industry, the community sector, with workers' representatives. We'll get it right. But what I do know is that under this government they spend all their time trying to give away billions and billions of dollars to the top end of town. $80 billion in corporate tax cuts. $77 billion to the top tier of income earners. They have nothing to say about wages in this country Jono and if they did they would have in the last six years.
JOURNALIST: There has been a survey about the impact of franking credit changes on Braddon in particular. Are you concerned that that could be enough to lose the seat here and I'd also like to see what Ms Keay thinks about what impact Labor's franking credit policy will have in Braddon as well?
SHORTEN: Well first of all it's a reform which not everyone likes. But what good is a government in this country if it's not willing to make the big decisions. And I just want to remind you of that amazing couple we just met. Jill and Nev Barnard. When you are at stage four of liver cancer, your franking credits not of much use to you is it? What you actually need is a well-funded medical system. If you need to have a hip replacement or an arthroscopy or your cataracts removed. That is actually when the rubber hits the road for a nation. So these reforms don't - not everyone likes them, but we need to find the resources to make sure we've got the world's best health care system. I can't speak for all of you. But I can speak for myself and my colleagues. If I think that I can close the out-of-pockets gap for one of your family when they've got cancer, for one of your family when they've been waiting for a year in Tasmania for medical treatment, I will take that priority. I choose the health of Tasmanians over an unsustainable, unaffordable subsidy to give an income tax refund to someone who hasn't paid income tax. But it's not just that. We're cracking down on the multinationals. We want to make sure that multinationals don't treat Australia's tax system as a doormat which they wipe their profit boots on as they walk in and out all over the world. I want us to be a nation who has the best healthcare system. Only Labor's offering to do that. Every pensioner in Australia, and trust me there's more pensioners in Braddon than there are people getting these income tax refunds. I’ll come to in a second Annalise, hold your horses. Now when it comes to pensioners, because no one, you know, I won't even try and quiz you if you know how many pensioners there are in Braddon. There's a lot. And you know a lot of them battle with having our poor teeth and poor teeth hygiene. Why does this government not want to provide a single dollar for any pensioner in Australia to help with their dental hygiene? Justine.
KEAY: Thanks Bill. Tom that I spoke about earlier, he's not receiving franking credits, he's on a pension and there are many people in Braddon on pensions waiting far too long for their health. I don't want to hear any more stories like Tom's. I want people to be able to get the health care they need when they need it. And the only people talking about franking credits in Braddon are those that will that will lose that payment. But I want to make sure that Tom and many other people like my Mum who's on a pension can get the health care they need when they need it.
JOURNALIST: I was just going to ask Justine if she raised concerns with her Labor colleagues about the franking credit policies as has been reported today and whether you are worried that that will affect your vote here, given that there are older people in your electorate.
KEAY: That's why we have the pensioner guarantee. That's when we, you know when the policy was first, announced pensioners would come to me with their concerns about that policy and we had the pensioner guarantee. And that's what I took to my colleagues at that time.
SHORTEN: Let's just clear this up. I know this is a hard reform. But I'll tell you what, doesn't it move your hearts when you hear that pensioners in Australia can't afford to go to the dentist? Are you worried about someone who's got their sixth investment property or complains about franking credits sitting on the back deck of their yacht? Or what about the voiceless pensioners of this country? Do you know that there is 2.6 million pensioners who get no help through Medicare for their teeth? Do you know that there's 400,000 people on the Commonwealth Health Seniors Card? Some of these people will be your families, your neighbours. Did you know that when it comes to a whole range of our issues in Medicare or what is the argument at the end of the day and I put to the Australian people - Jill and Neville Barnard, she got a diagnosis of cancer. She thought he had it beat. On December 22 last year her oncologist in tears says it's back and it's back in your liver. They've got out-of-pocket expenses dealing with that. Are we really a nation who thinks that finding the out-of-pocket expenses for that should take second place to this lazy government's threadbare policy agenda where they want to shovel as much money as they can to big corporates, making Clive Palmer happy? Game on. This is a choice in this election. I want to lead a country where pensioners get a fair go. I want to lead a country where we actually stand up for the out-of-pocket costs of hundreds of thousands of our fellow Australians diagnosed with cancer and their families.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten can you confirm what discussions you or your office have had with Julia Banks about running for Flinders instead of Chisholm before she decided to go with Flinders.
SHORTEN: My goodness me the Liberal Party must be scared of Julia Banks aren't they? Rosie you asked, I'll answer. Thank you for opening the door. Julia Banks, she backed in Malcolm Turnbull. Julia Banks is the only Liberal politician who won a seat off Labor at the last election. Then they dumped Malcolm Turnbull because he wanted to do something on climate change. Then Julia Banks went to the current Prime Minister and said - this is all public record, it's been reported in at least some newspapers - where she said listen, there's a bullying climate here. She got no action. She's strong enough to run against a person who she thinks isn't as good a candidate for Flinders as she is. We speak to independents, but Julia Banks makes her own decisions. Please don't make the same mistake the Liberal Party men make that somehow women in politics are just being operated on and doing the bidding of other men. Julia Banks is a strong independent. I'd like you to vote for our candidate in Flinders. But I can understand that with the division and chaos in the Liberal Party, no wonder so many strong women are running as independents. Never forget, Cathy McGowan used to work for a Liberal pollie but she ran as independent. Rebekha Sharkie used to work for a Liberal polly but she's had to run as an independent. Zali Steggall has never voted Labor, according to her, in her life. She would be someone who traditionally might be more attracted to the Liberal point of view. She's had to run against Tony Abbott. And Julia Banks. We heard from Julie Bishop today. Gee whiz, doesn't it remind us that Scott Morrison should spend more time listening to Julie Bishop. But she could only get 11 votes in this Liberal Party. Kelly O'Dwyer, no friend of Labor, reportedly said that this party, the Liberal Party had an anti-women attitude. And here they go again, the smear squad, the hit squad of the Liberal Party, rather than deal with Julia Banks' policies are trying to undermine her. So you know, obviously, Julia Banks has touched a chord and she represents a strand of Liberals who this extreme right wing Liberal Party no longer represent
JOURNALIST: It appears Scott Morrison did not take through his cabinet his plan to lower deposits for first home buyers, nor model them so we understand the pricing effects on the housing market. Bad enough, the government might do that with a half billion dollar plan, but what's it say of Labor's planning that it can adopt such a quickly, rapidly, thought out response in two hours.
SHORTEN: Well fair's fair Tim. We've been talking about prioritising first home owners for six years. We announced our reforms, our fair reforms to negative gearing, more than three years ago. Now we were going to create a National Housing Supply Council so they can do the research that Mr Morrison's new body is going to do, because we've already thought about the importance of the research. In terms of the deposit scheme, it is a modest proposal. It is a restricted proposal. Hundreds of thousands of houses change hand every year. This would provide at the upper limit 10,000. So one of the reasons that we're willing to look at this proposition is because we looked at Keystart in Western Australia, which for your information is a government funded guarantee scheme and I've met with the Keystart leadership several times. So Mr Morrison's idea is a belated recognition that he has a problem with first home buyers because he's backing the property investors. He has a problem with young people because he's got no policies for anyone under the age of 40. And he has a problem that he has no policies at all. Us, because we are a well-oiled machine who has been thinking about policy for six years we can adopt an idea they have, which clearly they've thought of at the last minute. It fits within our general parameters because you know, the Labor Party's been working on ideas for three years. We're not insulting the intelligence of Australians by running pointless lie campaigns and fear campaigns. Let's be clear, this Government, the Liberals, have been lying throughout this campaign. But this week all they've got left is lies. Now, Tanya has been travelling around Australia and I'd like to get her perspective on the Liberal lies and fears campaign.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thanks very much Bill and what I would say is Bill's just described some of our housing policies. He's talked about the housing supply council, the 250,000 new rental affordability homes that we would build, our homelessness policies. Catherine and Bill have been talking about our cancer package. Bill has been talking about our dental package. Right across Australia, Labor has been campaigning on our positive policies, bold, positive policies that will change this nation. We can afford to invest in health and education. We can afford the same or bigger tax cuts for 10 million working Australians. We will bring the budget back to a bigger surplus sooner because we are closing tax loopholes at the top end of town. In contrast, what have the Liberals got? I said some time ago that this is actually one of the dirtiest, probably the dirtiest campaign I've seen in my 20 years in parliament. And I would say without doubt as I travel around the country it is obvious that the Liberals have got nothing so they have gone negative. In this campaign in recent days we have seen racist material distributed. We've seen what looks like an arson attempt on a candidate's car. And we have seen lie after lie after lie. We've seen lies about death taxes. We have seen lies about retiree taxes. We have seen lies saying that Labor wants to take your ute, your weekend and your Tim Tams. And just, you know in the last sort of 24 hours we see another lie being distributed by Peter Dutton to households in Dickson saying that Labor policies will push up rent. It is unfair to frighten people in the way that Peter Dutton is trying to do. It is a lie to say that our policies will push up rents and it is wrong of Peter Dutton to frighten people in this way. And Scott Morrison should tell him he's wrong to do it. What I would say is that in this final week let's have a debate about the ideas. Let's debate Labor's health policy versus the Coalition's health policy. Let's debate our education policies, our plans to bring down pollution and power prices. Let's debate our vision for this nation instead of just going as low as possible as the Coalition have done.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Peter Dutton has been described as very mean, one of the meanest politicians that Paul Keating has ever seen and the nation has a chance to drive a stake through his political heart this weekend. Given your respect for Mr Keating, do you agree with his views?
SHORTEN: Well I actually think the meanest commentary I've seen in the election is actually the propositions that are being advanced that gay people are going to go to hell. You want to talk about mean. Like the personalities - yeah, yeah, Dutton's Dutton and I think everyone knows that. But you know I cannot believe in this election that there is a discussion even under way that gay people will go to hell. I cannot believe that the Prime Minister has not immediately said that gay people will not go to hell. This country needs to really lift itself and the political debate and coverage needs to lift itself in the next four days.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that gay people will go to hell?
SHORTEN: No I don't believe gay people, because they're gay, will go to hell. I don't need a law to tell me that. I don't believe it. And I think if you want to be Prime Minister of Australia, you have got to be Prime Minister for all people. And I just don't believe it. And I just - the nation's got to stop eating itself in this sort of madness of division and toxicity.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten there's footage of Liberal MP Steve Irons lashing out at volunteers saying that Labor voted are paedophiles and those sort of things because of the Medivac Bill. But on the other hand he says Labor and union volunteers abused his wife. It's on both sides this nastiness?
SHORTEN: Well I don't know what happened to his wife. No one should be abusing anyone. In terms of the policy issues, Mr Irons did vote against restoring penalty rate cuts. He did vote against that. If he finds that uncomfortable I can't help that. He had a chance not to vote to keep the penalty rate cuts in place. No one's got the right to vilify anyone's family and you know I know that.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, you've said overnight or Labor has said that people are dying on the elective surgery waiting lists but can you outline how many people are actually dying? And of course if it got to that stage wouldn't it then turn to an emergency surgery for these people?
SHORTEN: I'm going to get Catherine to supplement it but in Tasmania the way, in fact the waiting lists have gone up and the number of people who are either not contactable or passing away has increased but I will let Catherine deal with that.
KING: So if you look at the statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare then they have been increasing every single year under the Liberals and at the current rate of 2017-2018 there are 8,000 people, over 8,000 people in fact who either die or are uncontactable on elective surgery waiting lists. And that's what we're seeing across the country is that those elective surgery waiting times are blowing out. As I said the AMA has said they're the worst in 20 years and that's because we've had cuts to public hospitals. When Tanya was the Health Minister we invested in reform in our public hospitals. Having targets for elective surgery, improvement in hospitals, having targets for emergency department waiting times. You can't just sit back, cut millions of dollars out of our public hospitals and somehow think that everything's just going to be okay. It's not okay and that's what's been happening. This increase in the number of people who are dying or uncontactable, who are waiting on elective surgery waiting lists and that's the AIHW's data
JOURNALIST: Angus Taylor says that your climate policy will negatively affect major employers on the coast. What do you say to that?
SHORTEN: I think Angus Taylor as is usual is talking through his hat. North Western Tasmania is one of the windiest locations in the world. We should be doing wind power. There are renewable jobs to be created here. How did we get to a situation that two decades into the 21st century we've got a government stuck in the middle half of the last century? What is it these people have against climate change? Why is it these people can find every excuse not to do something? Thirteen energy policies. Power prices have been going up. Labor says that climate change is real. Labor says we will act on climate change. I mean I notice that there's been 10 or a dozen protesters on a bridge in Sydney. The Harbour Bridge of course. I don't approve of that. I understand people protesting but I don't want other people - if it's illegal don't approve of that. I don't want other people thinking they can imitate that behaviour because it's unsafe and I feel for the rescue officials, the emergency officials who've got to put themselves on the line to get these people down. But what I say to millions of Australians who are not contemplating scaling the Harbour Bridge but are concerned about climate change - you can make a really effective protest on Saturday. You can vote Labor for real action on climate change.
JOURNALIST: The Ag sector is calling out for a dedicated agricultural visa, will the Labor Party support a dedicated agricultural visa?
SHORTEN: We're open to making sure that our skills visa mix includes meeting legitimate labour shortages. I accept that in parts of agriculture there are legitimate labour shortages. So that should be give encouragement to the Ag sector. But let's talk about the Ag sector more generally. We have a shortage in workforce there. So what we need to do is we need our TAFE sector to be training more people so we're reaching, bridging some of that gaps. In addition the dairy industry which is so very important in Australia, only Labor is saying that we need to work towards a minimum price at the farm gate. In Tasmania we've led the debate about irrigation services just as we are in central Queensland we're developing Rookwood Weir. So Labor's very pro developing our agricultural sector. We see it as being a very strong export industry. We're certainly open to that.
JOURNALIST: Obviously we've seen that the recent polling shows the race is as tight as ever, especially in Bass, how confident are you that you can retain, at least retain the seats you have got here in Tasmania?
SHORTEN: Well that's a good note to end it on and thank you very much. Labor's got the best candidates. So that's a tick. Labor's got a set of policies for Tasmania. This is something you aren't going to see from the Liberals. It's a Fair Go Plan for Tasmania. And it lists all of the things we're going to do. Not the least of which is in health care you know from the hospital, Launceston General, right through to TAZREACH, right through to making sure that we get access to proper services, right through a special allocated fund for a blitz on waiting lists in Tasmania. When you look at that, add onto that our infrastructure proposals, our tourism proposals, our agricultural proposals, our job proposals in the maritime precinct. And of course us wanting to see Tasmania be the battery of the nation and make sure that we get proper investment in Tasmania. Making sure that when we build this infrastructure that we give priority to Tasmanians for the jobs. We want to get the wages moving for Tasmanians. We want to make sure that those great people that all of us were privileged to see upstairs get help with their out-of-pocket costs. And of course we want to make sure that future generations of Tasmanians get to enjoy the same environment we do by stopping the chaos in Canberra, voting for real change, voting for real action on climate change. Thank you very much.