TRANSCRIPTS: Doorstop, Sydney, Wednesday 22 June




SUBJECTS: Liberals' plans for privatising Medicare; Liberals' plan for a wasteful and divisive plebiscite on marriage equality.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thanks very much for coming out today. I just want to take the opportunity to say a few things about Medicare. Of course, Labor is the party of Medicare. We established Medicare more than 40 years ago. We've protected it, we've grown it. And today there is a fundamental difference between the parties on the future of Medicare. Before the last election Tony Abbott, knowing how much Australians love Medicare, said ‘no cuts to health’ and what we saw straight after the election were $57 billion of cuts to hospitals, hundreds of millions of dollars cut from preventive health and primary health programs. We saw the Government try and introduce a $7 GP co-payment and a $5 increase in the cost of medicines. And now we see the Government wanting to increase the price of diagnostic imaging and blood tests by getting rid of the bulk billing incentives. At every stage this government have tried to make our health system more user-pays. And it's ironic, really, because President Obama has spent most of the last term of his presidency fighting to make the American health system a little bit more like the Australian health system, and yet we're headed in the opposite direction towards an Americanised, user-pays, health system. Malcolm Turnbull may have denied the plans to privatise the records-keeping functions of Medicare, but he won't deny that he wants a user-pays system for Medicare that will make it more expensive to see the GP, more expensive to get a blood test, more expensive to get an x-ray or some other type of diagnostic image, more expensive to buy medicines and at every stage we're seeing a more user-pays style system. The real problem with this is that people who can afford great healthcare will be okay. But many Australians will miss out entirely. During this campaign I've spoken to people across Australia who are already struggling to pay their health bills. If they have to pay more to see the GP, or more for their tests or medicines, many people just won't get the healthcare they need. The other way that we think the Government is headed in the wrong direction is by cutting support for primary healthcare and preventive healthcare. The best way to keep health costs low is to keep Australians healthy and out of hospital and when you cut hundreds of millions of dollars from preventive health and from primary healthcare what ends up happening is more people show up in hospital and they show up when they're sicker. It's harder for the patient obviously, but it's also more expensive for our health system to treat those people. With our Australian healthcare system, we actually get some of the best healthcare in the world. We get a better quality health system in Australia for less spending than the United States. The United States actually spends mo re of its national wealth on health but they get worse results. So, in Australia we get better quality of care, we get more affordable care, with Medicare.

I also wanted to say a few words about the spat between Senator Cory Bernardi and the Prime Minister over issues arising from the Prime Minister's proposal to hold a plebiscite on marriage equality. Labor believes very firmly that the $160 million that will be spent on this plebiscite is wasteful and that it will be divisive in our community. And we already see the Prime Minster and Senator Bernardi fighting over the issue of homophobia. Senator Bernardi is offended that the Prime Minister is prepared to accept the characterisation of elements of the Liberal Party as homophobic. The Prime Minister has said that he's spoken to Senator Bernardi and others to tell them not to be divisive or homophobic in this debate. Senator Bernardi denies that the Prime Minister's ever had such a conversation with him. I think what we see here, is the sort of division and lack of clarity that we would expect to see more generally through this plebiscite process. I think it is very clear that the Prime Minister is not able to control elements of his own party and that we can expect elements of the Liberal Party to be extreme in their language and extreme in their campaigning against marriage equality if this plebiscite should go ahead. There is no need for Australia to go through this wasteful and divisive process. We know that the Parliament of Australia has the power to legislate for this and Bill Shorten, if elected, would legislate for marriage equality within the first 100 days of a Shorten Government.

I also think it's very interesting that Minister Morrison, Scott Morrison, is saying that he is the victim in all of this public discussion. That he's been attacked. Well, no Australian should ever be verbally attacked for the beliefs they hold. Yes, every debate should be held in a way that is respectful, and particularly respectful of different views. But I'll say this to Mr Morrison - it is pretty different being a Cabinet Minister in a Federal Government, the power you have in a role like that, from being a young teenager somewhere, worried about coming out, worried that your family or your community won't be comfortable with your sexual orientation. People don't choose their sexuality. They don't choose to be born gay. And those teenagers growing up hearing a message - not that their views are wrong, not that what they are saying is wrong - but that they themselves in their very makeup, there is som ething wrong with them, I think that that is profoundly damaging. And we know that 2 out of 5 teenagers who identify as gay or lesbian are already having thoughts about suicide or having great difficulty with their mental health because of the complexity of coming out in an environment that is not supportive of your sexuality. Having a national plebiscite where some people are given a license to say that there is something wrong with being gay or lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, it is my real concern that people growing up, just coming to terms with their sexuality, will be damaged by this type of debate. I'm also really worried about kids who are growing up in families with two mums or two dads and I don't want those kids to hear a message that there is something wrong with their family. All families are different in Australia, and no family is perfect. And the idea that we would have a national debate about some families and what's wrong with thos e families because of the sexuality of the parents - I think is really, really unfair to Australian children who are growing up in families with two mums or two dads. I know plenty of families that have got same-sex parents and I see a lot of love and a lot of support and that's really what matters in families. Having a plebiscite where there is licence to say that there is something wrong with some of our Australian families, again, is something that I think is potentially profoundly damaging. Thanks.