By Tanya Plibersek

01 April 2022




SUBJECTS: Alan Tudge; Rural and regional health; Protecting Medicare; Labor’s plans for a better future.

Minister Alan Tudge has still been receiving all the benefits of being a minister. His ministerial office is still operating, and his department refuses to answer whether he is still being paid as a Cabinet minister, despite not working as a minister. It really is extraordinary that in Australia today, where people are struggling to make ends meet, where wages are going backwards, we've got a government that's giving its own ministers a free ride and a golden handshake.

JOURNALIST: How does that make you feel? 

PLIBERSEK: Well, it's just not fair. Everywhere I go ordinary people are telling me that they're struggling, that it's harder than ever to make ends meet, with wages going backwards, and the cost of living skyrocketing. We've got a government that has presided over the lowest wage growth that we've seen in decades. We've got a government that knows that real wages are going backwards and yet, when it comes to its own ministers, they're prepared to keep paying despite the fact the Minister's not doing the job that he's supposed to be doing.

JOURNALIST: And do you think that's fair on the taxpayer? 

PLIBERSEK: I think this is a complete rip off for Australian taxpayers. You've got ordinary people working hard, struggling to make ends meet and their taxes are paying for a minister who's not doing the job, but still being paid as a minister.

JOURNALIST: So there's a new facility planned out at the hospital in conjunction with the University of New South Wales Rural Medical School. What's your thoughts on that? 

PLIBERSEK: Any investment in rural health is absolutely welcome. But as Helen Haines said yesterday, 80 new places is not going to make up for the thousands of positions that are unfilled in rural and regional Australia. What we’ve seen from this government is constant cuts to health and constant cuts to university education. And when you combine those two things, you get the sort of skills shortages we've seen across rural and regional Australia. Of course, we need more health specialists right across the country. Any extra investment is welcome, but we need to do much better than the government's proposing to invest in our health system and invest in the education system that trains our health professionals. 

JOURNALIST: What are Labor's plans to boost medical services in rural communities?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we'll restore Medicare, we'll rebuild Medicare. After all the cuts and undermining we've seen from this government we need to rebuild Medicare. But we also need to invest in education. This is a government that has turned its back on Australian universities. Labor plans to see 20,000 additional students get a chance to go to university and 465,000 fee free TAFE places too. So we can get more health professionals, more community sector workers, more aged care, disability support workers, into TAFE and university to make sure that we meet the needs in caring professions.

JOUNRALIST: That covers my questions is there anything you want to add? 

PLIBERSEK: Everywhere I go in regional Australia people tell me that they're really struggling to make ends meet. Everything's going up except for people's wages. The cost of living is skyrocketing while wages go backwards. What we saw from the Government's Budget on Tuesday night are a few temporary giveaways that are designed to get this government beyond the next election. They're not designed to change Australia for the better, to make life easier permanently for Australians. In contrast, Labor has a plan. We want to make childcare cheaper. We want to make your power bills cheaper. We want to invest in aged care, in education - from early childhood through schools, TAFE and universities. We want to make jobs more permanent, more secure, and better paid. Instead of a few giveaways at five minutes to midnight before an election, we want to make life easier for ordinary Australians. What you get from Scott Morrison is always too little too late. What Australia needs is a Labor Government to make sure that people are paid decently and the services they rely on are there when they need them. Thanks.