THURSDAY 22 APRIL 2021
SUBJECTS: Tasmanian Labor’s plan for Tasmanians with a disability; Tasmanian election; Morrison Government’s failure on vaccines; NDIS fraud.
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: [Inaudible] issues very important to all Tasmanians, their health and disability services, and also special shout out to Labor's new candidate Dean Winter, running in the seat. The announcement by Bec White's team, the Labor team, that it will put 60 allied health professionals into community centres around Tasmania, is desperately overdue for Tasmanians. The National Disability Insurance Scheme has 10,000 Tasmanian participants. These are people of profound and severe disabilities who require help. But it is a shocking statistic, and one which I'm sure the state Liberal Government and indeed the Morrison Government nationally don't want to tell Tasmanians, is that on one hand they give the NDIS packages, but on the other hand, people are not able to spend their packages. The average amount of a package of support might be 50,000 dollars, say. A person who's profoundly or severely disabled can only spend on average 70 per cent of their package because of the appalling shortage of allied health professionals in Tasmania. So what is happening right now is that Tasmanians and disabled Tasmanians, the most vulnerable amongst the community here, are being treated as second class to mainlanders because the Morrison Government and the Tasmanian Liberal Government are not adequately provisioning for allied health professionals. It's all very well and good if you're profoundly disabled, if you're trapped in your wheelchair, if you've got a condition which requires an allied health professional. But if you can't actually access the service, then the money you've been allocated is meaningless, and Canberra just swallows up that budget and says thank you very much. So Bec White is proposing something which will actually have a material impact on ten thousand Tasmanian participants in the NDIS, not to mention all the other Tasmanians who need allied health professional services. This election is about what sort of health system do Tasmanians want? Do they want a second rate Peter Gutwein health system, where don't have enough allied health professionals, or do you have a proper, proper system to help the most vulnerable in our community? The announcement also of a taxi scheme is very important. For people who've got a car and can move around easily, perhaps they don't necessarily think about the problems those who are immobilised have getting around, But what on earth were the local Liberals thinking when they cut the taxi scheme down to three hundred and fifty dollars? Anyone who's ever caught a taxi knows that that three hundred and fifty dollars gets eaten up very quickly. So in Tasmania, it's not even that you can't get to the allied health professionals because there‘s not enough for them. You can't even leave your own home because the taxi service has been cut. Every Tasmanian matters. It shouldn't be their circumstances that stop them from having access to the ordinary things which people take for granted. And allied health professionals or transport - people should not be trapped in their own homes. So I really commend what Tasmanian Labor is saying today, transport and also an allied health professional to see them when they can afford the trip to go into the community health centre. Health is a foremost issue in people's minds in Tasmania. And if we want to make sure the National Disability Insurance Scheme is actually not just a set of words, not just a promise, but something that's delivered then I'd certainly be voting for Dean. I'd be voting for Bec White and Tasmanian Labor at the upcoming election. So all people with a disability get a fair go. Now, it's my pleasure to hand over to Dean to hear his exciting views about how this area can do better under Labor.
DEAN WINTER, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FLINDERS: Thanks Bill. The reason I asked Bill Shorten to come here today is because people are absolutely desperate for health care. When I'm doorknocking this area, they are absolutely and deeply concerned about the access not only for themselves to health care, but for their family, their friends, people they know in their neighbourhood. Health is on the tip of everyone's tongue because the health system has been set up to fail. They’ve cut 1.6 billion dollars from the health budget and places like this in Clarence do not have access to health services they need. I’ve met people doorknocking who have been and are still on a waiting list just to see a specialist. A gentleman told me that he got tested to see whether he had bowel cancer in November, and he's still waiting today to see specialists to find out whether he actually has cancer or not. This morning, someone told me that he's been waiting to see a urologist for over a year. He still hasn't got an appointment and has no clear line of sight as to when he will see someone. This is the big issue for this election and all political parties, especially the Liberals, need to actually have a look at trying to resolve this. Labor's got a plan. Dr Bastian Seidel has been doing an amazing job and people actually believe he can fix it because he is a doctor and he is doing has put together a plan that I think will actually work. After seven years of a health system that doesn't work, it's about time that Tasmanians had access to a health system that will actually make them better and it will actually be available when they need it. So that's why it was really important for me to have Bill here today, and also to have Jo Seijka to announce not just our health policy, but also policies that are particularly focussed on those people in our community who have disabilities. So I'm really passionate about this.
JOURNALIST: So what is the total cost of your disability policy?
JO SIEJKA, MEMBER FOR PEMBROKE: It's about five million dollars, 5.2 million dollars, and what we propose is a range of measures. Some of it is restoring cuts that the Liberals have made to community organisations, and some of it is initiatives like the community taxi scheme and other things. So, some of these initiatives obviously crossing into health and cross into education and other areas as well, and that's one of the things I think that's really strong about Labor, is we do do these holistic policies where we consider the whole spectrum when it comes to disability.
JOURNALIST: So how many workers was it you announced a moment ago, fourty?
JOURNALIST: Sixty. So what's the specific price tag for those sixty workers?
SIEJKA: I'm not entirely sure, that's part of the health policy, I'm sorry. But I can certainly find that out and get back to you.
JOURNALIST: and what sort of work are we talking about?
SIEJKA: So, we’re talking about occupational health, physiotherapists, dietitians, all of those allied health people that support. At the moment, we've got a real gap when it comes to trying to access allied health. I've had people that have got small children that have tried to access allied health and they have had to wait years. So we're talking about people with really young, very high needs, aren‘t yet eligible for the NDIS because they have to go through a process to be assessed and have been referred to allied health and allied health is not there. So you've got really small children where early intervention would make a massive difference to their lives. And yet they‘re having to wait years and just not getting ahead. It's really it's one of the things that that comes into my office that is most upsetting because we're all told early intervention and prevention are so important and people want to do that for the children. They want to help their children, but they can't. They either have to reach into their own pocket or they have to go without. And sometimes these pockets are not very deep, often there‘smany people in a community that just cannot afford the cost of going to see allied health professionals. And we just do not have them.
JOURNALIST: Just on to another issue of the day, just Labor believe the salmon industry should be expanding in the North West coast and Port Arthur?
SIEJKA: In terms of the salmon industry, I would say that we support the salmon industry. It's very important to our state and the workers and the organisations and businesses that run the salmon industry. But in terms of - obviously, Richard Flanagan is someone who's also really respected as well. And the one thing I would say is that greater transparency around salmon farming is vital,and that's something that Labor would want to work on.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Government needs to release their plans for expansion before the election?.
SIEJKA: Absolutely. I think that if Peter Gutwein is talking about things like transparency and being open and putting things out on the table so that people can make their decision about who's going to govern the state, then of course, they should be releasing these reports.
JOURNALIST: And will Labor be putting out an expansion policy then?
SIEJKA: Not that I'm aware of, I believe that there is a salmon policy that Shane Broad is releasing, but as to when that is, I am unsure.
JOURNALIST: Given the issues with salmon farming in the past few years, do you think we should even be talking about expansion without addressing those issues first?
SIEJKA: I think it‘s very important to commit to addressing the issues that have come up around salmon farming, some people in the community are concerned, but at the same time, salmon is a really important and really valued industry in the state. So certainly, any expansion needs to be done in a way that's ethical and is taking into account concerns. But we certainly do need to recognise how great the salmon industry is as well.
JOURNALIST: wouldn't mind actually throwing a few salmon questions to Dean if that’s okay. Dean, people in your area say that salmon farming is destroying the environment and people from your neck of the woods, in your community say it's detrimental to the area. What's your view on industrial sabotage? Should they be taken further out to sea? Should they be on land? What’s your view?
WINTER: Well, Labor supports the aquaculture industry 100 per cent. And we support the aquaculture industry because he employs thousands of Tasmanians. In Franklin alone, Tassell employs eight hundred people. So people in my municipality where I'm Mayor at Kingborough are absolutely supportive of the industry. It's been supporting not only workers now, but for decades. The salmon industry is critical, and I think it's important to note that a lot of the people that are raising concerns do not live on Bruny Island or in Kingborough, they live elsewhere. And I think it's more important that we support the workers and the jobs than people that might like to stay on Bruny Island occasionally.
JOURNALIST: What about the environmental impact? You know, Richard Flanagan had to leave Bruny Island because of the noise of the salmon farms. Now he's one person, but he’s said he’s not alone.
WINTER: Well, the salmon industry has been around in the channel for decades and it's been employing people for decades. It is well regulated. Of course, Labor will release a policy during the course of this campaign, which I've been talking to Shane Broad the Shadow Minister about. And I think it's really important that we ensure that the salmon industry workers know that we are right behind them and also give them the confidence that we are continuing to maintain environmental controls. It's only been in the last few years that we've seen environmental controls in place and they have protected local marine environments. And they've worked quite well and they worked well under the Labor government, under a future Labor Government I'm sure they'll continue to do that.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that salmon farms are causing environmental damage?
WINTER: No, I think well regulated salmon industry is a huge plus for the Tasmanian people. And they've been employing people for decades, thousands of Tasmanian workers. It's a two billion dollar industry in Tasmania. Two of our only ASX listed companies in Tasmania are Huon Aquaculture and Tassell. [kid walks past in front of cameras] And look, there you've seen one that might be a future Tassell or Aquaculture worker. I can’t remember where I was there – how’d I go?
JOURNALIST: Have many people raised this issue with you?
WINTER: The workers have raised the issue with me. Tassell and Huon Aquaculture workers are a really big part of the employment of not only my municipality of Kingborough but also in the Huon Valley. The Huon Valley would not survive without the industry. People in rural parts of Tasmania, particularly the Huon Valley and in the channel region rely on this industry. It’s not just those that work directly at the businesses, but it's the transport operators, people working in the factories, it goes right down the chain. So the industry's absolutely critical for the future of Tasmania and for the area that I represent.
JOURNALIST: Has Labor is, if any, money from any of the three salmon producers here in this state election campaign?
WINTER: All I can say is that I haven't and and I don't know about the broader party though.
JOURNALIST: You managed to find your way here today, Tanya Plibersek, was here yesterday, why do you think the Prime Minister hasn’t shown his face in Tasmania during this election campaign?
SHORTEN: Oh, I think the local Liberals probably don't want Scott Morrison around to remind people that he's the Liberal leader nationally. The reality is that the vaccination program that Mr Morrison's in charge of, and he can't blame anyone else for that, well he actually blames everyone else, but he's actually responsible for vaccinations in Australia. It is a shemozzle. We found out in Senate committees two days ago, that only some 110 disability accommodation facilities, housing disabled people, 110 out of 6000 facilities, had received vaccination doses. We're finding out that barely 10 per cent of the 300,000 strong aged care workforce have received vaccinations. We want life to go back to normal. Today in Tasmania, we've got the first Air New Zealand plane landing. How is it that in America, President Biden has, since he got elected in January, to April vaccinated - there were eight per cent of Americans over 65 vaccinated three months ago. It's now 80 per cent. America's a lot bigger than Australia, but our guy? So no wonder he's not showing his face in Tasmania, because the reality is that he's got one job - to help get Australia back to normal and it's not happening.
JOURNALIST: What's your assessment of Tasmania's Premier?
SHORTEN: I'm not sure I could identify him in a line-up, but I'm not here just to talk about the personalities of the current incumbents. I’m here because I think because I think Bec White‘s got a vision for the health care of Tasmanians. I'm here because it frustrates me deeply as an Australian that people living in Tasmania are getting inferior support on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. How on earth in any world that we live in, is it fair that where a profoundly disabled Tasmanian gets a package, they can only spend 70 cents in every dollar because of the health care shortages in Tasmania? If you genuinely want to make sure that Tasmania doesn't get treated as a second line health outcome compared to the rest of Australia, you'd be voting for Bec White. Why on earth has this Liberal government in Tasmania found it so hard to secure 60 allied health professionals, physiotherapists, occupational therapists? These are the bread and butter requirements that people require to live ordinary, reasonable lives. That's why I'm here.
JOURNALIST: Should states and territories take control of aged care facilities [inaudible].
SHORTEN: Well, old ScoMo, you can almost hear the reverse beepers on the ScoMo dumptruck as he dumps vaccination policy back into the hands of the states. You can hear the beeping. The truth of the matter is that poor old states and territories, with over-extended public health systems are going to have to do the vaccinations. But why was it so hard for Mr Morrison to let all the GPs, you know, the front line businesses of our health care system, do the vaccinations? Why on earth was it so hard for Mr Morrison to open up the showgrounds and some big buildings and say to everyone, come down here, we'll pay the nurses and the health pathology laboratories. We're going to we're going to pay them overtime on the weekend. And you come down seven days a week and get the needle, get the jab. Why is this so hard? I mean, Morrison‘s got more conspiracy theories than a blogsite out of America. You know, it's all the international fault. It's all the state's fault. It's all the union's fault. It's all someone else's fault. The fact of the matter is that nearly a hundred other countries in the world managed to secure vaccine supplies, and are managing to roll out a vaccination timetable which sees more of the vulnerable, more of the frontline workers, getting protected than they are in Tasmania and the rest of Australia.
JOURNALIST: Labor go into this state election campaign as the underdog. Are you confident that they can win and that can win majority government?
SHORTEN: I've given up making predictions on elections, but in all seriousness, I think that Bec White and her team have done the work. They've got some new blood here and Dean‘ll do a very good job along with the rest of the team. And we've heard from our disability spokeswoman there about how she's going to look after people with disabilities and carers in Tasmania. It really comes down to what sort of state you want your kids to live in, what sort of state you want to grow old in. Health care is fundamental. If you don't have your health, then nothing else matters. Just think about the people right now who are unable to get the therapies they need and are they just relying on the prescription drugs. Think about the people who can't get to see a specialist or see someone who can help them relieve them of pain, merely because their taxi vouchers are being cut. I mean, it all comes down to, if you don't have your health, nothing else matters. And that is what Bec White and the Labor team stand for. They're going to make sure that at least you can get a proper level of health care. And I think that's a really worthwhile fight to have.
JOURNALIST: What’s your response to charges against six people who are alleged to have defrauded millions of dollars from the NDIS?
SHORTEN: Listen, anyone who rips off the disabled deserves a giant judicial kick in the backside. They need to be made to repay the money and they need to go to jail. What sort of terrible people make up false invoices and overcharge the most vulnerable? My concern is, though, that this has been going on for a long time. And my concern is the Morrison Government, rather than chase down the crooks and the scallywags because that's too hard, instead want to create a giant wall over which people who are profoundly disabled can't get over, in order to access the scheme. So, rather than look at where the money is being taken out the back door of the scheme by the crooks and the cheats, instead they just lock up the front door to stop any deserving people being able to access the scheme. Their priorities are all wrong because they lack empathy.
JOURNALIST: How concerned are you, I guess, more broadly by attempts of people to defraud the NDIS?
SHORTEN: I'm concerned by anyone trying to rip off anyone. I think that the Government - we called out the Government well over a year ago because we had a whistleblower, a former federal policeman, who said they weren't doing enough to properly fund the fraud investigations. This is a Government who‘s all PR stunt and no follow through. On vaccinations or NDIS fraud. We said over a year ago this was a big problem and that some criminal gangs were exploiting the vulnerable. This Government, you know, tried to shut us down and rubbish us. Now, all of a sudden, it turns out that what Labor was saying was correct and the Libs have been asleep at the wheel. All right, thanks very much everybody.
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