THE HON BILL SHORTEN
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
MONDAY, 19 JANUARY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s 500 days of lies; GST on fresh food; Business confidence at 23 year low; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; Tony Abbott’s GP Tax; Death Penalty; Manus Island; Great Barrier Reef.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be in Yeerongpilly, supporting our Labor candidate Mark Bailey for the upcoming state election. It’s also great to be here in my first event for the year, with Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek, and also Graham Perrett, our hard working Federal Member for Morton. Today is 500 days since the Abbott Government was elected. 500 days of broken promises, of lies, and increased pressure on families cost of living. Families are now $6,000 a year worse off because of the Abbott Government. Pensioners are seeing the real value of their pension effectively cut in the future because of the Abbott Government. Students, worse off because they are going to have to pay two and three times what they once paid to go to university with the prospect of $100,000 degrees. Sick people worse off with the ongoing confusion and debate about the GP Tax and charging sick people more to go to the doctor. Our Defence Force is worse off, because they’ve had a real pay cut since the Abbott Government got elected.
Tony Abbott won't come to Queensland, he won't come on his 500-day anniversary. Queenslanders have got legitimate questions to ask about education, health and jobs. The economy is simply worse off than it was when Tony Abbott got elected. We see business confidence in the High Street down, and we see the ranks of the jobless increasing. Tony Abbott should come to Queensland before the end of the Queensland election, and he should explain to Queenslanders why he wants to put a GST on fresh food, why he wants sick people to pay more to go to the doctor, why he wants to take $10 billion from the Queensland hospital system, why he wants to cut and slash the funding to Queensland schools.
We know that Tony Abbott doesn't want to come to Queensland, yet I remember that in 2012, when Tony Abbott was introducing Campbell Newman when Campbell Newman was heading up the LNP team in Queensland, Tony Abbott was all over Campbell Newman then. But Tony Abbott famously said words to the effect that the people of Queensland have got the opportunity when they vote, to send a message they don't want bad Governments anywhere in Australia. Well, to quote Tony Abbott again, Queenslanders at this up coming State election have got the opportunity to send a message that they don't want bad Governments in Queensland or in Canberra.
Happy to just ask Tanya to say a few words about what she’s seen on the campaign trail and then we'll take questions.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks. That’s good, you've got a fan club Bill, that's terrific. It's terrific to be here with our leader, Bill Shorten, who has been received terrifically well here in Queensland. We have also got Mark Bailey, terrific local candidate. I have been this morning with a couple of other local candidates, with Joe Kelly and Di Farmer. And as I have gone around to the shops as Bill's been on this trip as well, we have got a very strong message from shopkeepers, from locals who are shopping, that they don't want a GST on food. As a former Health Minister I know one of the most important things you can do to keep our population healthy, is to keep the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and so on, affordable for families. So on top of the $6,000 dollars that the ordinary families lost after Tony Abbott's cuts, they simply can't afford to be paying more for doctor’s visits, paying more for medicine, paying more for education, and now on top of it, Tony Abbott's proposing an extra cost for fresh fruit and vegetables, and fresh food generally. A very strong message that Queenslanders don't want that.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Tanya. Are there any questions for us?
JOURNALIST: Mr. Shorten what do you make of Mr. Hockey’s comment that children are going to live to 150?
SHORTEN: Yes Joe Hockey has been kept in the basement over summer and now he's burst out of the basement. Now I genuinely think that he's had a brain snap here. He's almost had what I'd call his Sarah Palin moment, ‘I can see Russia from my house’. This proposition to justify his 2014 Budget, based on a not yet born baby's 150th birthday in a century and a half’s time, just shows that I suspect our Treasurer's simply lost the plot.
If you want to have serious policies about growing old in Australia, you don't freeze superannuation at 9 and a half per cent. You certainly don't make less well-off Australians pay more tax in their superannuation. You don't cut pensions. But in the meantime, we have got a Treasurer who has been engaged behind the scenes and finger pointing against the Prime Minister, a Prime Minister against the Treasurer over the GP Tax debacle. And in the meantime the healthcare of Australians being jeopardised by this absolutely over the top behaviour of the Government.
JOURNALIST: The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has a survey out today that said that business confidence was at a 23 year low and a lot of that is due to the uncertainty in Canberra. Isn't Labor contributing to that a bit?
SHORTEN: 500 days of the Abbott Government. It's their 500 day birthday and things are getting worse in Australia. And it's not good enough for the Abbott Government to simply blame everyone else. Families are worse off up to the tune of $6,000. Pensioners are facing cuts in their pensions. Our Defence Force has had a real pay cut. Sick people have had to worry about can they afford to go to see a doctor, the confidence is down as you observed in the business world and we’ve got more people in the jobless queues. Every day gets worse under the Abbott Government and every day means that this is a Government who are gradually more and more just losing the plot in terms of what they are going to do for Australians.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) making more of a contribution to see a doctor?
SHORTEN: I think we have got a very good system, the Medicare system. The Australian health system - let's get some facts on the table before we see the Government just attack GPs as they have been doing shamelessly in the last few weeks. Our health system, we spend about 9 per cent of our GDP on healthcare in Australia compared to about 17 per cent in the United States. If you look at what our GPs do, they are less than 30 per cent of the Medicare costs in the system, yet they look after 80 per cent of the patients and medical work. We need to see a government who stops fighting with the doctors, stops fighting with nurses, stops fighting with the patients, and starts working with people.
We pay our Medicare taxes to help pay for our healthcare system. This is a Government who is going to attack and keep attacking, bulk billing, and the only thing they did last week was due to the Queensland election where they backed off their crazy $20 fine to go and see a doctor. But the truth of the matter is the Government may have changed its tactics, but they haven't changed their mind on what they want to do with Medicare. We have got an invisible Prime Minister, but unfortunately his policies are very visible and he should come to Queensland and account for his policies and positions.
JOURNALIST: But should a person earning $100,000 be able to walk into a GP and get bulk-billed the same was as an electrician can?
SHORTEN: This argument that Australians don't pay for their Medicare does Australians a great disservice. Australians already pay a Medicare levy, so they are already paying for it. Many Australians have private health insurance so they are already paying for it. This is a Government who wants people to triple dip. This is a government who thinks the only way you cure the sick is by discouraging them from going to the doctor. We know and you know and reasonable people around Australia understand that all this Government wants to do is play our budget and political games. No-one thinks their latest backflips and contortions on Medicare is based about treatment of the sick, it's all about an untidy race to charge more people and raise more taxes by going to the doctor.
JOURNALIST: What should the Government do if the two Australians in Bali are executed – should they withdraw Ambassadors?
SHORTEN: This is a very difficult set of circumstances, and one which appropriately is above the political debate. Let me state very clearly, Labor believes that the death penalty is abhorrent whenever and wherever it occurs. It demeans all of us as human beings. We haven't given up and I'm sure the Government hasn't given up the prospect of achieving clemency for these two Australians. I understand that these Australians have broken the laws and they have broken the laws in Indonesia. We understand that they have to pay a penalty. But the death penalty simply won't discourage the crimes. It doesn't work, and Labor is at one with the Government to try to save the lives of these Australians.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government is doing enough?
SHORTEN: Well, again, I'm not about to make this a political issue. There is one task at hand today, ladies and gentlemen. It is to do whatever we can to achieve clemency for these two Australians. So the lawyers of the families, the families, the Government, ourselves, are of one mind, we oppose the death penalty.
JOURNALIST: What should the Government be doing with regards to the situation on Manus Island?
SHORTEN: Well first of all the Government - the reports there are very troubling now. Whatever one's perspective about these matters, I think that all Australians are unhappy that there's a culture of secrecy. These people are directly or indirectly in the care of Australia, and the Government just needs to come clean with what is happening. Australians are a fair minded people. We believe in making sure the right thing is done by people within our care both directly and indirectly. The first step to doing that is to make sure we actually know what's going on and I don't think anyone outside of a few people in the Government actually know what is really happening.
JOURNALIST: What can we expect from the Queensland election campaign launch tomorrow from Labor?
SHORTEN: Well you'll have to wait and to the launch tomorrow. But I think it's fair to say that Annastacia Palaszczuk and her state team ably represented the flag being carried in Yeerongpilly by Mark Bailey, have had a massive mountain to climb from three and a half years ago. Three and a half years ago, the electorate returned only 7 Labor MPs out of 89. There have been two by-elections since then, with Anthony Lynham and Yvette D’Ath joining the ranks, but that’s still only 9 out of 89. It's been a mammoth task for Annastacia Palaszczuk to get Labor back to competitive and I think they are competitive. I think it's not so much what we expect from the launch tomorrow, but it’s about the issues, isn't it. This is a Labor team in Queensland determined to see that the assets of Queensland are put to best use for Queenslanders. This is a Labor team talking about health and education and jobs. These are coincidentally issues which transcend state and federal boundaries, that is why Tanya, Graham, myself and all our team are so keen to be here because the health and education of every Queenslander, the employment prospects of every young Queenslander are a matter of great importance to all levels of politics.
JOURNALIST: It sounds like you are lowering expectations. Can Annastacia Palaszczuk pull off a victory?
SHORTEN: The arithmetic is very difficult. I'm not an election commentator, I’ll leave that to the ladies and gentlemen of the press, but what I do know is it's a steep climb and Labor, I think, has exceeded expectations so far, it is a very difficult climb. But what matters is the future of Queensland. What matters is jobs. What matters is making sure your kids can get a good education, what matters is making sure that your parents when they need to see a doctor can see a doctor. These are the matters which unite Labor and unite Labor with Queensland and that's what we stand for. One more question.
JOURNALIST: The Great Barrier Reef is under massive attack at the moment from the Abbott Government, are we going to see a lot of developments on that from incoming Labor governments, both federally and at a state level? [inaudible]
SHORTEN: Well, I think what's been very clear in this election is there's only one mainstream political party with any policies for the Great Barrier Reef, and State Labor's made it very clear they will move heaven and earth to protect the pristine nature of the Barrier Reef. In Canberra, we see a Federal Government currently in power who deny the impact of climate change, you can see them being dragged with their fingernail marks across the concrete to have any debate about climate change. And even we saw the dramatic report released this weekend which shows we have just gone through the hottest year. And yet you still have the Abbott Government stuck in the past. So if people care about the Great Barrier Reef, we don't just have to rely on President Obama to tell us about its capacities and its importance, we should do that at the ballot box. Thanks, everyone, lovely to see you.