THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
THE HON CATHERINE KING MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE
MEMBER FOR BALLARAT
TUESDAY, 20 FEBRUARY 2018
SUBJECTS: Tasmanian Election; Labor’s plan for a Hobart reproductive health hub.
TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well it's fantastic to be here with Rebecca White the Leader of the Tasmanian Labor Party and my colleague Catherine King and number of other State colleagues and State candidates. We are here today to make a very important announcement, Federal Labor and State Labor together are committed to offering women in Tasmania the ability to have a surgical termination in Tasmania, should they need it. Will Hodgman and his government have been spectacularly ineffective in ensuring that this vital service is available for Tasmanian women. Just as you wouldn't expect a Tasmanian to get on a plane and fly to Melbourne for hip surgery or knee surgery, Tasmanian women shouldn't be expected to go interstate to get a termination, particularly when abortion is legal in Tasmania. This is just an absolute refusal from the Conservative Government to meet the needs of Tasmanian women. So today Federal Labor and State Labor are announcing that Federal Labor would contribute one million dollars to the building of a reproductive health hub, right here in Tasmania. And from then the cost of running this service would be shared in the usual way between the Tasmanian government and the Federal Government. It is just not right that Tasmanian women are denied a vital, legal service because of the inaction of the Hodgman Government. And when Malcolm Turnbull says its fine, nothing see here, Will Hodgman has got it all under control, he is letting down Tasmanian women too. We are going to hear a few details from this commitment from Catherine King, then Bec will speak in a few minutes.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks Tanya and I do want to acknowledge the terrific advocacy of Bec White and Michelle O'Byrne on this issue. I think many of us were quite shocked to hear when the private provider of surgical terminations was no longer to operate here in Tasmania, that the only options being offered by Will Hodgman and his Government were for women to fly to Melbourne or other areas to have surgical terminations. So we are very pleased to announce that we will support the development of a reproductive health hub in Tasmania so that women can actually access surgical terminations through the public health system here in Tasmania. To have a Conservative Government basically say that surgical terminations won't be provided via the public system is frankly just an anathema, we know that abortion is legal in Tasmania, the fact that women are having to travel interstate at a very vulnerable time is simply not good enough. That is why our commitment is to build a reproductive health hub that will ensure that women can actually receive surgical terminations, within the public hospital system, funded through the usual activity-based funding between the Commonwealth and the State that occurs in public hospitals. It also will hopefully provide the opportunity for a Centre for Excellence for women's reproductive health, something that I know Bec White and Michelle and her colleagues feel very strongly about, ensuring we have the best possible women's health services. Tt is unacceptable that in Tasmania, women are having to travel for surgical terminations or in fact that they are having to pay, in some instances, $2,500 to access any private surgical terminations. Labor wants to resolve this issue here in Tasmania in the interests of women’s health across this State. I’ll hand over to Bec.
REBECCA WHITE, TASMANINAN LABOR LEADER: Thank you both to Tanya and Catherine for joining us here today to make this important announcement. It is critical that we provide access in the public health system for women who need access to a termination. It is a legal health procedure and when Will Hodgman ruled out any women accessing this procedure in the public health system in Tasmania he made a fundamental error of judgement. He failed to recognise that women right across Tasmania expect to access this service in Tasmania and not be flown to Melbourne. That is why we will remedy this wrong. Labor has always been very strong in support of women's rights. That is why we decriminalised terminations of pregnancy in Tasmania when we were in government previously. Providing access to this service in the public health system is a human right. It is a legal health procedure like any other health procedure and it should be funded in the public health system. I am so proud that we will fix this problem if we are fortunate enough to be elected to government with the building of a Reproductive Health Hub, funding activity combined with both the state and federal governments to ensure women in Tasmania can access a service that should be provided in Tasmania that shouldn't require them to fly to Melbourne for. So I am happy to take any questions on this issue or any other issues. But obviously, we have Tanya and Catherine here as well, who I sure would be willing to answer any questions.
JOURNALIST: Do you want to start with Tanya?
PLIBERSEK: You want to start with the announcement before you go onto other things?
JOURNALIST: So, I guess, is a health hub the most effective way to spend one million dollars for women who need terminations?
PLIBERSEK: Well absolutely. We have made other announcements in the health area as you know, Bec White and Catherine King and Bill Shorten announced a $30 million boost to elective surgery funding for Tasmanians effectively halving the elective surgery waiting list here in Tasmania. We know that Tasmania has some of the longest waiting lists anywhere in Australia and that's just not fair. This money is another health announcement and a very important one. We want Australian women to have a maximum amount of choice at an incredibly difficult time. No woman makes a decision to have an abortion lightly. It is difficult, a difficult decision for most women. But the idea that, at this most difficult time, women would be faced with getting on a plane and flying to Melbourne - it is just unacceptable. Of course some women can opt to have medical terminations in Tasmania, that's not suitable for all women. RU 486 is only effective in the first nine weeks of pregnancy and of course there are other reasons that a surgical termination might be medically advised. The fact that women here have had that option taken off the table unless they've got $2,500 to spend, shows you how incredibly out of touch the Hodgman Government is. Most families, most women don't have a spare $2,500 lying around at a time when they're already under enormous stress. I always think it would be so sad to think that the only reason a woman proceeded with a pregnancy was because she couldn't afford a termination. It's not a great start to life for anyone.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, with the abortions then here in Tasmania in this hub be publicly funded?
PLIBERSEK: Yes they would.
JOURNALIST: OK and is this something that you could see rolling out right across the country then?
PLIBERSEK: Of course laws vary from State to State and we always have to be aware of State laws, but we need to take a better view of reproductive health that includes better access to contraception, includes good frank sex education for young people so they're empowered to say no if they're not comfortable. We need to also make sure that people who have trouble becoming pregnant have access to affordable reproductive healthcare. This is an issue that spans a woman's life span, but has to be provided in an affordable way through our Medicare system.
JOURNALIST: Lack of public access is also an issue in other jurisdictions as you mentioned for legal reasons. That's even in States with a Labor Premier. With that in mind are you politicising this issue?
PLIBERSEK: Not at all. I've had the same view on access to abortion services all of my adult life and that is that it's a difficult, sometimes traumatic experience for a woman, but she should have the maximum choice available to her at that time and I've urged my Labor colleagues in every state and territory to support a woman's right to choose. Here we have a state where abortion is actually legal but the State government is denying women the ability to access affordable abortion in the public system for God knows what reasons of their own. They have made a decision that a legal health service should not be available to Tasmanian women. That women should instead be expected to get on a plane and fly somewhere else on their own, in a system - they might get a little bit of help with their travel costs - but that doesn't even cover their travel costs. It is unfair and unreasonable. You would not expect someone getting a hip replacement to get on a plane to Melbourne to get a hip replacement. You wouldn't expect someone getting cataract surgery to get on a plane to Melbourne to get cataract surgery. You wouldn't expect someone who needed a knee replacement to get on a plane to Melbourne to get a knee replacement. Why is it uniquely women's reproductive health that the Hodgman Government says 'Oh sorry, too hard'.
JOURNALIST: So is it happening in the public health system as in in the public hospital or at this hub?
PLIBERSEK: Both. Women should have the ability to access terminations in both public hospitals and in a separate health hub, and the reason that we're providing support for this separate health hub is because attending a large public hospital might be a difficult thing to do for some women.
JOURNALIST: Will this offer be on the table if the Liberals are re-elected?
PLIBERSEK: Well of course the offer will be on the table. But you've seen from Will Hodgman his complete lack of interest in making sure that Tasmanian women have the maximum range of choices available to them. He's actually making it more difficult for them, not less difficult.
JOURNALIST: Just to confirm this is a Federal election commitment, it's not something that would happen if Rebecca was elected?
PLIBERSEK: Absolutely it would. We would find the money when we are in Government, we don't control the Federal budget at the moment, when we are in Government we would provide the million dollars to the Tasmanian Government.
JOURNALIST: So it could be years or...?
PLIBERSEK: Well the way Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce are going we're not sure that it will be years away-
JOURNALIST: But is a million dollars -?
PLIBERSEK: - but as we say Malcolm Turnbull should do this. We would be delighted if Malcolm Turnbull did this tomorrow. It would be the first time he actually took a stand and took an interest in the reproductive health of Tasmanian women. He could do it tomorrow. He should match our funding commitment. Let's see if he'll match it today. If he can match it by the end of the day I'll be the first to applaud.
JOURNALIST: And is it million dollars annually?
PLIBERSEK: It's a million dollars for construction and then the ongoing costs will be shared between the Tasmanian and the Federal Governments in the same way that hospital costs and health costs are generally shared.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it's appropriate for conservative member of Tasmania's party Madeline Ogilvie to have her campaign posters on the floor above the old abortion clinic here?
PLIBERSEK: Oh look I'm not going to comment on that. It's an issue for her and it's an issue for Tasmanians.
JOURNALIST: Is it appropriate though?
PLIBERSEK: That's not my business, not my problem. I'll let her answer for that.
JOURNALIST: Would the one million cover the entire cost of construction or would the State have to chip in?
PLIBERSEK: I would expect so, yes. Any other questions? Thank you.
JOURNALIST: So we've heard that this announcement will of course hinge on a Federal Labor Government, Federal Labor winning the next poll. If that doesn't happen what will State Labor’s contribution be to this project and will it even go ahead?
WHITE: We've made it really clear that we would provide for public access to terminations of pregnancy in the public hospital system. It's been estimated that this will cost about $180,000 a year to provide surgical terminations of pregnancy in the public hospital system, and we've accounted for this in our $560 million health announcement that we made a couple of weeks ago. We won't deny women access to termination of pregnancy in the public hospital system, unlike Will Hodgman who has ruled it out and he should be ashamed of the fact that he's not providing access for all women to a public service that's a completely legal service and instead he's forcing them to catch a plane to Melbourne at a time when they are most vulnerable.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the argument that theirs two private clinics at the moment? Are you politicising the issue?
WHITE: What we want to provide for is access to a service that should be afforded to any woman irrespective of their postcode or their capacity to pay. If there's a woman who right now is concerned about what's happening with her reproductive health, unless she has $2,500 she actually can't access a termination of pregnancy in Tasmania. The Liberal Government is saying they will help her fly to Melbourne to access a termination of pregnancy there. What they're not saying is that they will enable her to access this service in the public health system which is where it should be provided for. It shouldn't be contingent on your capacity to pay to access a completely legal reproductive health service in the Tasmanian public health system. And that's why Labor will make sure that this service is provided in the hospital system and that's why we will help contribute to the health hub, a reproductive health hub, to make sure there's a stand-along service that can provide a range of different supports to women who are dealing with their reproductive health issues.
JOURNALIST: On March 4 if Labor does win Government what would be the option for a female.
WHITE: We would immediately provide for access in the public health system and this would be a cost of $180,000 a year for people to access this in the hospital system. Here in Tasmania there is no legal reason why we can't be offering that service today. There's no reason why Will Hodgman ruled out providing this service in the public hospital system today or yesterday or the week before that. It should be provided for and it is unconscionable that Will Hodgman has ruled out provision of a perfectly legal health service in the public hospital system for women in Tasmania.
JOURNALIST: You've previously said that providing access through the hospital system was your preferred option over the stand-alone clinic. What's changed?
WHITE: It remains my preferred option and we will provide for that and as I've said it's a $180,000 service that we would provide for in the public hospital system. The stand-alone clinic provides a range of other services for women who are facing reproductive health challenges. It's not just about termination of pregnancy. They provide a range of support services to women who are seeking to fall pregnant. It's about providing a comprehensive reproductive health hub where women can access, without fear or stigma, information that helps them get the health care need that they need at public hospital system.
JOURNALIST: So to be clear, state Labor won't be fronting up the one million dollars if Federal Labor don't win at the next Federal poll to build the clinic, is that right?
WHITE: The capital?
WHITE: Well the Federal Labor Party has committed one million dollars of capital to build a reproductive health hub which we of course welcome. And we would fund activity in that as would be consistent for any hospital activity in Tasmania. But what we will also do immediately is move to provide termination of pregnancy services in the public hospital system.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it's appropriate for Madeline Ogilvie to have her posters in the floor above the State’s former abortion clinic?
WHITE: I've got no problem with that. It's a building. We've got posters in buildings all over the state. She had permission to display her material there and I don't see what the problem is.
JOURNALIST: But it's a recognisable building though. Tasmanians know that building as a former abortion clinic. Is that a bit of a slap in the face for women?
WHITE: It's a building and I just don't understand what the issue is here. We've got election material hanging off a number of buildings, both Liberal, Labor, Greens and every other type of candidate. These are physical structures that you hang your posters up on. It's not an implication of particular, you know, a position on a particular issue. It's just a building where materials are being displayed for the election.
JOURNALIST: Do you think she's trying to make a statement?
[remainder of doorstop on Tasmanian State issues]