SUBJECTS: Government health cuts; National Disability Insurance Scheme; Government’s backflip on Medicare Levy; Budget.

STEFANIE PERRI, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CHISHOLM: Hello everybody my name is Stefanie Perri, I'm the Labor candidate for Chisholm and I'm absolutely thrilled to be joined here today in Box Hill by Tanya Plibersek the Acting Federal Leader of the Labor Party and Shadow Ministers, Jenny Macklin and Catherine King. We've had a great afternoon discussing federal cuts that our federal public hospital sector has been facing. $715 million of cuts which represents, in Eastern Health $14 million worth of cuts, the equivalent of 34,000 outpatient visits a year. So we've heard first hand from doctors and nurses and staff here at Box Hill hospital about the impact of those cuts on their day to day lives as they are doing a great job looking after members of our community here at Box Hill. I'll now hand over to Jenny. 

JENNY MACKLIN MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES AND SOCIAL SERVICES: Thanks very much Stef and we're very, very pleased to be here with Stefanie Perri Labor's candidate for Chisholm in the upcoming federal election. She was a fantastic candidate at the last election and we are very, very pleased that she is going to represent us whenever the election is called.

Thank you to everyone from Box Hill Hospital for having us here today. You do an outstanding job for our local community, we appreciate it very, very much. 

I just want to speak on the issue of the day and I first of all want to speak directly to people with disability and their families. I just want to say with people with disability and their families, the funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is absolutely secure under Labor. Labor created the National Disability Insurance Scheme, we fully funded the scheme when it was first created and if we are successful at the next election we will make sure that this major social reform is fully funded well into the future. Labor is committed to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and we will never play politics with the National Disability Insurance Scheme in the way that Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison have done. Not just in the last year but in fact over the last three years. Most recently Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull have used people with disability and their families as political footballs, they have tried to make out that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is not funded. It is fully funded the funding is in the Budget, Labor made sure of that. And what this Government has done over and over again is use people with disabilities as a political football to try and make other cuts. To either cut funding to people on the Disability Support Pension, to cut paid parental leave, to cut the Age Pension, to cut those on Newstart. All of these attempts by this Government have been to use people with disability as a human shield to justify cuts in social security. It is shameful, it should not have happened. Labor has opposed those cuts to protect social security recipients and in the case of the most recent effort by Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull, Labor opposed the increase in tax on working class and middle class Australians because it was unfair. So we welcome the dropping of this tax rise but we say to the Government, stop playing politics with disability, fully fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme and give people with disability and their carers the certainty they deserve. 

TANYA PLIBERSEK MP, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thanks very much, it's such a pleasure to be here at Box Hill Hospital. We've seen the fantastic work that the staff here at the hospital do. In fact, I was greeted by a patient who was leaving the hospital just as I arrived who was telling me how proud he was to be Australian because of the care that he got at this hospital. 

Now it's wonderful to be here with Stefanie Perri, who's Labor's candidate for Chisholm. She's been working very hard to raise local issues, to make sure that this electorate gets the attention it deserves; A strong hospital system, health care more generally, schools, infrastructure. It's terrific to be here with her today. And of course to be with our Shadow Health Minister, Catherine King. Catherine's doing a fine job of holding the Government to account, for cuts to Medicare, including the $700 million cut from hospitals over the next few years - meaning a $14 million cut to local hospitals in this community alone. Thousands of patients will wait longer for the care that they so urgently need. 

It's all so wonderful to be here with Jenny Macklin, who is of course the architect of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. As Jenny has said so clearly, Labor always will stand up for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We will always properly fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We found the money when we were in government to fully fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It was always a lie from the Government to say that this tax increase was needed to properly fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme - and Scott Morrison's backflip overnight is the proof that this tax increase was never needed to properly fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme.  If Labor is elected at the next election, of course, we will probably fund the scheme that we imagined, we developed, we created in partnership with Australians with a disability and their carers, to make sure that every cent is properly funded. 

Now of course, this tax backflip is a win for low and middle-income Australians, who won't be paying the extra tax that Scott Morrison was trying levy on them. But make no mistake: this back down on tax increases for low and middle income is not a change of heart from the Government, it is merely a change of political strategy. And we won't give Malcolm Turnbull a pat on the back for dumping an unnecessary tax that he couldn't get through the Senate anyway.  We know that this tax was unnecessary because the National Disability Insurance Scheme was fully funded under Labor.

We also know that Malcolm Turnbull will always put the needs of multinational companies and millionaires ahead of ordinary people on low and middle incomes. While Malcolm Turnbull was trying to inflict this tax on low and middle income earners, he was giving a tax cut to millionaires - and that is still there. If you are earning a million bucks a year, Malcolm Turnbull will be giving you a $16,400 a year tax cut. And if you're a multinational company, then you're still going to get a tax cut from this Government as well. Malcolm Turnbull can manage to find $65 billion worth of big business tax cuts, he can find $13 billion worth of tax cuts for the big banks but he can't manage to find $14 million to properly fund hospitals, like the hospitals in this area. His priorities are all wrong.

In a couple of weeks’ time, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison will be delivering their make or break Budget. Labor set five tests for them in this make or break Budget: we said they should drop their tax hike on low and middle income earners, they've done that. But there are four more tests that they must pass if this Budget is to be fair. They have to drop the health care cuts, our hospitals deserve proper funding. They have to drop the education cuts, including the $17 billion being cut from our schools. They have to get rid of the zombie cuts in the Budget, the attack on pensions, the attack on family payments. And they have to give up on $65 billion worth of big business tax cuts, the bulk of which will flow to overseas shareholders. If Malcolm Turnbull wants to prove that he's got the right priorities for Australia, he should make sure that he prioritises services like health and education for ordinary working people, protects their wages and incomes, and gives up on all the benefits for the big end of town.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Will Labor keep the Medicare levy increase for people earning more than $87,000 a year?

PLIBERSEK: No we won't. We always said that the Medicare levy increase, this tax hike, on ordinary working people, was completely unnecessary. We were willing to compromise with the Government when it came to people in the top two tax brackets, but as the Government has dumped their tax hike, of course we won't be keeping part of their unnecessary tax hike.

JOURNALIST: Would the best way to get certainly for the people on the NDIS be to pledge for it to get (inaudible) federal funds?

PLIBERSEK. No, we found the funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme when we were in Government. In fact, I was Health Minister that means tested the Private Health Insurance Rebate. At the time I means tested the Private Health Insurance Rebate the Liberals screamed blue murder. They knew that part of that saving was going to funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme, nevertheless they opposed that saving, they said they would reverse it immediately. Well, they've been in Government for five years, they haven't reversed that saving, it's still funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and this Government knows that the NDIS is fully funded. Their decision overnight to dump their tax hike is an admission that the National Disability Insurance Scheme, has always been fully funded, and it's always been just an excuse to hike up taxes on low and middle income earners.

JOURNALIST: How can Labor guarantee funding for the NDIS?

PLIBERSEK: For a start, we don't have a $65 billion unfunded tax cut for big business. I haven't heard many journalists asking the Government how they can afford a $65 billion big business tax cut. Are they going to further cut health and education funding? Are they going to put up other taxes? Or are they going to push our budget further into debt and deficit? Don't forget that the deficit this year is eight times larger than the Government itself predicted it would be this year.  We've made a number of difficult decisions around negative gearing, capital gains tax, we've more recently made difficult decisions on dividend imputation. We've done that, so that we have the funds to properly fund health and education, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, job creating infrastructure, without having to tax low and middle income earners.

JOURNALIST: Does Labor believe the NDIS should be funded through general Government revenue? And doesn't that come with significant uncertainty?

PLIBERSEK: Well, you can see how we funded the National Disability Insurance Scheme because it’s in our budget papers. Some of it comes from the previous increase in the Medicare levy. Some of it comes from measures like the means testing of the Private Health Insurance Rebate and from further targeting of family benefits. We've laid out in the budget papers our ten year forward projections for funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme. There's no mystery to how we think it should be funded, we funded it, and it's in the Budget papers.

Thanks very much.