SUBJECTS: Labor’s investment in a standard of informed consent for cancer patients; Labor’s cancer care package; Election date announced; Time to change the Government; Government wasting taxpayers’ money on advertising; United and disciplined Labor team.

JENNIFER YANG, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR CHISHOLM: Good morning, everyone. I'm Jennifer Yang, Labor's candidate for Chisholm. This morning, I welcome the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek and our Shadow Minister for Health, Catherine King here in Box Hill. We have a very important announcement regarding health. So now I would like to welcome Catherine King to say a few words.

CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Thanks very much Jennifer. It's terrific to be here in the seat of Chisholm at Box Hill Hospital. I thank the staff for hosting us here today, and also Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek. This is a really important part of our cancer package that we're announcing today. We're joined today by the Cancer Council, Danielle Spence is here with us, Kirsten from Breast Cancer Network of Australia, Jan from the Consumers Health Forum, and Glenn from the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. As part of our $2.3 billion package to improve cancer care across this country and drive down the costs for cancer patients, we're announcing that we want to support, with $10 million, the work that the Cancer Foundation has led alongside these fantastic organisations, around a standard for informed consent. We know that many patients when they head to private consultations for cancer surgeries, are hit with bill shock. They are busy grappling with the news about their cancer. They're busy trying to work out what that means for their life ongoing and then they're hit with very substantial bills and often ones that they don't know about until after the surgery. So the Cancer Council alongside these organisations has been leading a really important process to make sure that we do have a standard of informed consent. That all forms part of Labor's $2.3 billion plan to deal with the out-of-pocket costs for cancer care.


We've already announced money to drive down the cost of diagnostic imaging, those important scans, money to drive down the costs of consultations with specialists, money - $500 million for public hospitals like Box Hill here - to really ensure that we've got the best possible services we can, and we drive down the waiting list we'll see for the colonoscopies, for breast reconstruction.


We're also today announcing a full MRI license here for Box Hill Hospital. This is an incredibly busy hospital and we know that many public patients who need to access MRI scans for diagnosis, for treatment, ongoing treatment, can't afford the out-of-pocket costs here. So thanks to Jennifer's great advocacy, we're here to announce that full MRI license here for Box Hill. 


I'm now going to hand over to Danielle Spence from the Cancer Council of Victoria to talk a little bit about informed financial consent and why that's so important to cancer patients across the country.

DANIELLE SPENCE, CANCER COUNCIL AUSTRALIA: Thank you Catherine. And it's really a fantastic that the cost of cancer care as an issue is really a focus of the discussions here today and Cancer Council Australia and our allies, the other cancer organisations here, have been long aware of how much the cost of cancer can impact on people when they're at their very most vulnerable. An investment of $10 million into the financial standard and helping to drive that into standard care, so that patients feel comfortable to have conversations around the out-of-pocket costs they can expect to receive is what we're all aiming for. We want patients to feel that the side effects that they are having discussions with, with their doctors and their treating teams also include how much it's going to cost and what that's going to mean to them. This is at a time where patients are not able to work and the bills keep coming. And so all that we can do in cancer charities is bring this on to the community radar and we're really delighted to see this announcement today.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: We might just see if there's any questions about this element and then I'll make some more general comments. So there any questions about this announcement? Excellent.

Thanks very much then for coming out this morning and thank you to the staff of the hospital and the patients that we've been speaking to today, who've been telling us about their cancer journey. I'm very proud of the announcement that Bill Shorten made last Thursday in his Budget Reply speech, about helping people when they're at their most vulnerable; making sure that even if cancer makes you sick, it doesn't also make you poor. Catherine King has done extraordinary work on this package and it's wonderful to have Jennifer here today as well, who's been a fierce advocate for better services at this wonderful hospital. 

I want to say that we saw Scott Morrison last night warning people that if you change the government you change the country and actually, I agree with Scott Morrison. When Tony Abbott first came to government all those years ago, he said there'd be no cuts to health, no cuts to education and no cuts to the ABC or SBS, no cuts to pensions and no new taxes, and he broke every single one of those promises. I've got here the graphs from the 2014 Budget that remind us again that the Government's own figures show the difference between projected spending under Labor for schools, projected funding for our hospitals under Labor and what the Government actually did in the 2014 Budget. That is a cut in anybody's language and the impact of that has been longer waiting times in emergency, longer waiting times for surgery, cuts to schools have meant fewer resources, less one-on-one attention for kids, less help with the basics, less extension for kids who are gifted and talented. So I agree with Scott Morrison when he says if you change the government you change the country, and I agree with him too when he says Australia has an enormous choice before it, in coming weeks. This is a choice between a Labor Party who's got a plan for a fair go for all Australians and more years of cuts and chaos and divisions from the Liberals and the Nationals. This is a choice between better hospitals and schools, or bigger tax loopholes for the top-end of town. This is a choice between a team under Bill Shortens’ leadership that has been united and disciplined, an experienced team that's focused on making life better for working Australians or, under Scott Morrison's leadership, a team that is riven by chaos, confusion, dysfunction and division with three Prime Ministers in six years. A bunch of people who are fighting each other. The only time they agree on anything it's to give a job to a mate on a government board. That is the choice before Australians and that's a fight we're all very happy to have. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Tanya Plibersek, the graphs that you just showed, shows spending increasing every year. How is that a cut?

PLIBERSEK: These graphs show the difference between what States and Territories were promised, what they would get under Labor, what they actually got under the Coalition. Of course day to day, with wages going up, electricity costs going up, inflation you'll see minor increases.  What we promised was extra funding that would improve services in our schools and in our hospitals. Instead of that, we've seen the capacity of Commonwealth funding to schools and to hospitals diminish and because of that in hospitals, we've seen longer waiting times for elective surgery. We've seen longer waiting times in emergency departments. We've seen a diminished capacity for the wonderful staff in hospitals like this to give the level of care that they want to every patient. In schools we saw what states were promised. We're in Victoria today. Victoria would be $800 million better off under Labor's funding proposals compared with the Government. So I'm not going to cop inflation or increased numbers of students as an explanation for why funding's going up. We need to increase the capacity of our health and education systems. We know what it costs to do that. In education, we had the funding review, the Gonski report, that told us how much it costs to properly educate a child in a primary school or a high school. Under this Government's plan, Catholic and Independent schools will get to the fair funding level. Public schools, that teach two-thirds of Australian children, will never reach their fair funding level under the funding proposed by this Coalition Government.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it gets confusing between state and federal when we talk about health? We've just had a Victoria state election where your counterparts here at Victoria, the Labor government, promised billions of dollars for new hospitals etc. Everything you just said about waiting times, the Premier said the opposite during the election campaign. How do you tell people that things are worse when the state Labor Premiers and Opposition's are telling people that things are much better under Labor?

PLIBERSEK: It's not confusing at all. The difference you see is between Labor, State and Federal, committed to extra funding for health and education and the Liberals and Nationals, State and Federal, that have a history of cuts and chaos.

JOURNALIST: But why are you talking cuts again, if it's an increase? You can make an argument, of course, that Labor would propose greater spending over time. It's a completely reasonable argument. Why describe it as a cut if spending has gone up?

PLIBERSEK: If your employer promised you that you would be paid $100 a week and you got $90 a week, well that's more than you're earning if you don't work at all. Is that a cut though? You were promised $100 to do the work that you need to do. Is it a cut? To only receive $90? Yes it is. Of course it is. And we see the impact in the health and education system of the withdrawal of investment of Commonwealth funding. In health, under Labor, the Federal Government was responsible for half of the cost of the efficient growth in hospital services. The Liberals cut that. They cut that promise. They went back on their word. They tore up contracts signed with state governments on education. And I'll tell you how I know it's a cut. Because this graph shows it's a cut, in education. When Malcolm Turnbull went out to solve the education wars, he himself released a media briefing that said compared with Labor's arrangements, this is a $22 billion saving. You cannot have, if you've got a $22 billion saving - that's a cut. If you're saving money in the budget - $ 80 billion - they trumpeted their $18 - sorry $80 billion dollar saving in health and education. You can't have an $80 billion saving in health and education unless it's a cut. Saving. Cut. Same thing.

JOURNALIST: We're obviously here in the seat of Chisholm, one of the many crucial seats of this federal election. The November state election-

PLIBERSEK: Aren't we lucky we've got such a fantastic candidate!

KING: Absolutely.

JOURNALIST: The November state election saw a pretty huge (inaudible) for Labor who saw it as a  return to the jewel in the crown for Labor. Do you think that will be the case for Victoria at this election?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I know that with candidates like Jennifer and the fantastic candidates we've got standing across Victoria, with Bill Shorten’s leadership, a stable and united team and with our plan for a fair go for all Australians, I think we're very competitive. But you know, politics is a risky business. There's no guarantees and we'll be working very hard every single day, both to tell Australians about our positive plan for the future and also to debunk some of the mad scare campaigns we've heard already from the Coalition. You know, it's going to start raining toads if Labor's elected.

JOURNALIST: Tanya Plibersek, you talk, the Prime Minister this morning has said that the election is fundamentally going to be about trust. You talk about stability, but people's most recent memory of Labor in government federally is also a memory of chaos as much as we've seen. So why should voters trust Labor in government?

PLIBERSEK: Well, two things. Labor achieved an enormous amount in government and I'm proud of our record and the legislation that we passed, the reforms that we introduced, the improvements we made in health and education in particular. I'm proud of that record. I'll never take a step away from that record. But yes, we changed leaders in a way that was destructive to the trust people placed in us. That's why we changed our rules. That can't happen in Labor again. Under Bill Shortens’ leadership, we've had almost six years of stability and unity, of discipline - we've got a very experienced team on our front bench, people who have been around the Cabinet table before - and what you've seen from us is six years of work on a positive policy agenda. We've got the most comprehensive plan of any Opposition in living memory, a plan for government, and you've seen a team that is only focused on making sure that that plan improves the lives of low and middle income earners, Australian families. In contrast, what have we seen from the Liberals? You've seen three Prime Ministers in six years. You've seen three Treasurers in six years. You've seen Liberals fighting Nationals. You've seen Liberals fighting Liberals. You've seen Nationals fighting Nationals. You've seen  ongoing leadership speculation in the National Party until just a couple of weeks ago. You see Malcolm Turnbull, former Liberal Prime Minister, out bucketing Peter Dutton, Liberal Party Prime Ministerial aspirant. You see Scott Morrison bucketing Malcolm Turnbull for bucketing Peter Dutton. The only thing these people have agreed on any time recently is we should take no action on climate change or power prices, that we should continue with the cuts to hospitals and schools and the services people rely on, and we should give a few jobs to our mates while ever we have the chance to do that. 

JOURNALIST: What do you say to the voters out there-

PLIBERSEK: Oh hang on, there's one more thing they agree on. They agree that it's a really good use of taxpayers' money to spend a million dollars a day trying to keep their jobs, and they think it's a really good use of taxpayers money to spend $180 million on a press conference on Christmas Island.

JOURNALIST: Tanya Plibersek, just briefly on another subject. The Government today has called an investigation essentially into the Work for the Dole scheme. Does Labor have any concerns about the way that CDP has been rolled out and how will you improve occupational health and safety on these sites if you win government?

PLIBERSEK: Look I've only seen very brief reports of the issue that you've raised, and of course it is vital that these allegations are properly investigated and that the report is made public by the Government. This is something that can be done quickly and the report should be made public. Of course, we support programs that help people get a job, but we do have concerns about programs that replace proper jobs with real wages and decent conditions with programs that are leading to exploitation, particularly of young people trying to get their first job, or in circumstances like this, apparently very poor safety conditions. 

JOURNALIST: There was a poll last year that revealed that Bill Shorten was the least popular Opposition Leader of all time. Is he a weight around the neck of the Labor Party heading into this election campaign?

PLIBERSEK: Well, it's due to Bill Shorten that we have the fantastic unity and discipline that Labor has exhibited. And it's due to Bill Shorten that we have the Fair Go Plan that will transform the lives of Australians rather than the continuation of the cuts and chaos from the Liberals. I think Bill's done a marvellous job in leading a team that came into Opposition bruised by our time in government the way that it ended. He's built up a collegiate atmosphere and he's focused on what matters in people's lives - a good job with decent pay and conditions, a living wage, a great education system from preschool through school, TAFE and university, a hospital system and a health system that is there when you need it, where your Medicare card matters more than your credit card, real action on climate change that will reduce power prices as well as reducing pollution, an independent, proud voice for Australia in foreign affairs. These are the things that matter to people. These are the things that will be top of mind when they head to the voting booths in a few weeks, a very few short weeks’ time and I'm proud of what we've achieved together.

JOURNALIST: Tanya Plibersek, eleven years have shown, essentially, voters are cynical about that. You're making a pledge here essentially today that Labor, if it was successful, would end that. That Bill Shorten will be Prime Minister at the end of this term, if you're successful. 

PLIBERSEK: We saw how much it cost us when we focused on ourselves during our last time in government. We were a good government. Our legislation, we were great at governing the country. We were not good at governing ourselves. Our division and disunity cost us government sooner than it should have and that meant that Tony Abbott became Prime Minister. That meant cuts to hospitals, cuts to school and cuts to TAFE, cuts to the ABC and SBS, cuts to pensions, losses of apprentices (inaudible). Seeing that Liberal and National government I think is a warning.

 [Break in recording]

Every child gets a wonderful education no matter where they grow up - city, country, small town, big city, rich family, poor family. That's what matters to us. That's our focus. This sort of speculation stuff. We're just not going to buy into it.

JOURNALIST: Can I just quickly ask Catherine King perhaps a question on cancer?

KING: Of course.

JOURNALIST: The broader package of course, some health (inaudible) have been broadly welcomed by many health economists. Some have warned though that under the package that some people might get unnecessary tests, and they have warned that there need to be measures put in place to ensure that doesn't happen and put a burden on the system. What's safeguards would Labor put in place to ensure that?

KING: The first thing is that any of the extra funding that goes for diagnostic imaging or goes for specialists only goes if it is actually bulk billed. So we make sure we continue to drive costs down and that we continue to have good oversight of what's actually happening. We'll  also work with the diagnostic imaging sector and with oncologists and others in the field to design those Medicare items. There of course is always a very strong program of work across Medicare to ensure there isn't fraud in the system and that there is compliance with best clinical practice. 

PLIBERSEK: Thanks everyone.