WEDNESDAY, 8 MAY 2019
Subjects: Labor's $250 million investment in healthcare; Commonwealth-State hospital funding agreement; Daily Telegraph; early educators' wages; childcare costs; Liberal divisions in Gilmore; drilling in the Bight; hospital waiting lists; funding for hospitals in Gilmore.
FIONA PHILLIPS, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR GILMORE: Well welcome everyone to the Gilmore electorate. We're here at Nowra at Grand Pacific Health. I'm Fiona Phillips and I'm proudly Labor's candidate for Gilmore. I'd like to welcome Bill Shorten to our electorate today, Catherine King, Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird, who are all regular visitors to our electorate. Look one of the biggest things that people tell me is they are concerned about their health. They are concerned that they cannot get elective surgery. We have wonderful staff that work in our hospital but it's a growing issue in our community. I spend a lot of time out knocking on doors and talking with people and I've lost count of the amount of people that I've met that have been waiting sometimes for a couple of years for elective surgery. It doesn't matter if it's a young person or a more elderly person in our community, health is such an important issue. So that's why I'm really pleased to welcome everyone today for a great health announcement. So I'll hand it hand over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Fiona and good morning everybody. Great to be back in Nowra. It's my sixth or seventh or eighth visit here with Fiona Phillips. We've got our team from the Illawarra and the Shoalhaven here and of course Catherine King. Today Labor is pleased to announce yet another fantastic health initiative. What we're going to do as part of our $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund is we're going to use a quarter of a billion dollars of that fund which we've already announced to invest in better care in our hospitals. Our hospital systems are at breaking point. And we see that and what we need to do is provide more support to build more quality systems in our hospitals. But also utilise clever places like this super clinic. We need to give patients options to be treated closer to home in these super clinics rather than all just being admitted into hospital. So this is an issue which will see patients seen more quickly. And when you add this initiative on top of our quarter of a billion dollar blitz on elective waiting surgery, which will help a person like the lovely lady Colleen I met who had to wait a year for knee surgery and she talked to me quietly about the pain, about some of the mental challenges of having to wait for a year, the extra prescriptions that you've got to pay for in pain killers. So this is going to better care on top of a blitz on waiting lists and of course we've also announced on Sunday, just to remind people, our efforts in emergency departments. We're going to help reduce waiting times in emergency departments, half a billion dollars to do that which is going to help literally tens of thousands of people and staff. And of course we want to tackle the waiting lists for cancer treatment. Because the summary of it is that illness doesn't get cured by waiting. It gets cured by treatment and Labor's going to make health care a key choice in this election. And again you show the importance of the choice of health care in this election when you see this new report today which showed that there are dozens of Aussie millionaires who've managed to pay no tax. They've opted out of the taxation system, they pay no tax at all. So why is it that Colleen waits a year to have her knee operated on, in pain. Costly. Yet you've got dozens of millionaires running around happy as Larry and they don't pay any tax at all? It's all about choices. We are going to have better hospitals and shorter waiting lists rather than richer millionaires using tax loopholes. I would now like to invite Catherine who's been doing a really stand up job in the health policy during this election to just talk about some of the features of what we're announcing today.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Thanks Bill. And it's so lovely to be back here in Nowra with Fiona Phillips and of course the Illawarra, Shoalhaven team of Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones my great friends and colleagues. This $250 million we're announcing today from the $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund is really the piece about making sure we get better partnerships between places like this, a GP super clinic that Labor funded when we were last in office, to get that integration between hospitals, GPs and other care that's trying to keep people out of hospital but also providing hospitals with the opportunity to do care better, to make sure that we don't have people falling in hospitals, that we're getting better medication compliance in hospitals and that the sort of innovations we can get to make sure people stay safe in hospitals are important. This is all part of Labor's reform agenda for public hospitals. We want our public hospitals to be able to meet the demands of our growing populations, to help ensure that people stay safe within hospitals and that that care is provided well. This $250 million of course comes on top of the announcements we've made about improving emergency departments. $500 million to improve our emergency department care across the country and also to improve elective surgery waiting times. But also to fund activity, increasing activity in every hospital across the country. Only Labor's got a plan for our public hospitals and only Scott Morrison has got a plan for further cuts to our public hospitals.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten on hospital funding you said the other day that you're working with states to deliver this funding. How, if you win on May 18, how soon after that would you call COAG and when will the hospitals actually see the money?
SHORTEN: Well we want to start working with the states straight away. So probably within our first 100 days we would want to sit down with the states to start working out how we can rescue our hospital system, how we can bring the necessary reinforcements so we can reduce the waiting lists, help people in the fight of their lives. But maybe I'll get Catherine to talk a bit more because she is a complete expert.
KING: So it's a first order of business for any incoming Health Minister is to negotiate the next hospital funding agreement. It's absolutely a priority and that's the work I hope to be able to undertake in government. What we know now is because of the persistent cuts under this government our hospitals are hurting now and they can't wait for this funding. So those agreements will be negotiated very quickly. It's a first order of business. But we also want to make sure that for the money that the Commonwealth puts in that we actually get reform. That's what Labor did when we were last in office. Better data for the My Hospitals website, improving, using data to improve the quality of care. They're the sorts of things that have been abandoned unfortunately by the Liberals with their complete cuts to public hospitals and their failure to actually embed reform into anything that they do when it comes to health.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten you and Mr Bowen have claimed you have a mandate for your tax increases should you win the election and expect the Senate to recognise that. Should Labor lose the election would Labor then recognise Mr Morrison's mandate for his income tax cuts?
SHORTEN: We've said that for the first round of tax cuts we agree. In fact one of the many reasons I hope we win is we're offering better tax cuts to 3.6 million Australians under $40,000. That first round though we've said we'd agree on. But if you're asking me will I agree to a tax cut which the government plans to implement after another election after this one where they haven't explained where they're going to get the money - I mean I can't speak about the rest of you but the nation's over playing a game of hide and seek with Mr Morrison where he hides that $77 billion number for the top tier of tax earners and we've all got to seek it. So the initial tax cuts, tick. But in terms of their unfunded tax cuts which can only be afforded after you vote twice for Liberals and they have to specify the cuts that they're going to make to pay for it.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten there was a story in the newspapers this morning about your mother. Is this campaign dirtier than the last one you fought?
SHORTEN: Well, I’m going to take a little bit of time on this answer and I thank you for asking it. My mum suffered a catastrophic heart attack in her sleep on the night, sometime on the night of Saturday the 5th of April, the 6th of April 2014. So she never woke up. So, it's been about five years to last month when she passed away. I miss her every day. I sometimes, you know I get a sense of how she would react to things because she was such a strong and clever woman. But, I'm glad she wasn't here today to read that rubbish. Just rubbish. Let's go through why this is an issue. On Monday night in Q&A I was again asked about my leadership style and what drives you. I think that's a very fair question. But as part of my answer I spoke about my mother. Now I've actually spoken about my mum before. Many of you might have been here when I spoke about her on April the 26th this year at the women's policy launch. But one thing I did say about my mum and I started to explain her story. She was born in Victoria, grew up in North Melbourne, 1935, peak of the Depression. Her mum was a bookbinder. Her dad was a printer. They've even got ancestors in their family tree who were convicts. Now, I'm waiting for that to come out in the Telegraph. She came from very modest circumstances. She topped her school. She went to a Catholic convent school, the family were Irish Catholic. She got the best marks. But no one in my family had ever gone to university. She was very keen to do law. She had a great brain. But family of four, she was the oldest. They didn't have the money to pay for her tuition to go to university, so she had to take a teacher's scholarship. Not unknown. But my mum is the bravest person I've known and she would tell us the story. She'd get on the tram and go into town, go all the way to Melbourne University. What a world it must have been. Not a lot of women went to university then. Now she made every post a winner. Her two younger sisters both became nuns. They both subsequently left Holy Orders. The youngest brother, my uncle is still alive. He eventually went on to do law. I come from a great family. Mum, you know she was very brave. When she got her teacher's scholarship, I remember her youngest brother, my surviving uncle George, telling me the story. They'd go down to Station Pier, because my mum wanted to see the world. So they'd have the streamers. You know when you see the pictures of the old shipping liners setting off in the 50s? The reason why they held the streamers is the people on the wharf would hold one end of the streamer and their family on the boat. And then eventually as the ship sailed it would break. And I remember my uncle telling me as I was preparing the eulogy for my mum five years ago that he thought that she was the bravest woman he'd ever met. So she taught. She taught in government schools. She taught in London. She was exposed to the Jesuits in London. That's why she sent me to a Jesuit school. She then came back and met my dad who was a seafarer from England. And then what happened was she started teaching at university. Initially, she only had a casual contract because of course when you were a mother you didn't get the sort of maternity leave that Labor's fought for since then. Eventually, she moved from a casual contract to a fixed term, to a full contract. Do you know in the 1970s while she was raising us she did a Ph.D. full time? Sorry, she raised us, she worked full time and she did a Ph.D. Then in the 1980s when we're still at school mum enrolled in law school in her late 40s. She worked full time. She raised us. My dad was a good bloke, but let's not pretend - he worked on the waterfront, I'm not going to pretend that he would've passed the definition of modern families. You know he didn't. Nice man, but he wasn't raising us. And so in the first year that Robert and I, my twin brother, went to university, she was there. Now, I'm not saying I was breaking any records for academic achievement in my first year of university and the Telegraph doesn't have to research it, I put that out there. But mum topped the law school. She was from the education faculty, and whilst you would never want to say there's rivalry between university faculties, she was grey haired, she was 50, 51 and she topped the university at law. She got a Supreme Court prize which is the highest award you can get. And that wasn't meant to be the case, was it? You were meant to be the commercial students who had gone to the good schools. You know the young ones, the young guns. Then she eventually, she did her articles. She couldn't get articles at a law firm because you know what, as much as we love law firms, when you are an older woman in your 50s, you don't sort of look young and jazzy and you're doing your work. She had to do it at Leo Cussen Institute. Then she went to the bar. And I noticed the Telegraph said she was there for six years. I just wish some newspaper outlets would do some of their homework beyond that. She got about nine briefs in her time. It was actually a bit dispiriting. She'd wanted to do law when she was 17. She didn't get that chance. She raised kids. At 50 she backed herself. At 53 going to the bar, she got a barrister and she read from, that's the technical term, that was the apprenticeship. She did her best. She went down and did some magistrates court work. But, she discovered in her mid-50s that sometimes you're just too old. And you shouldn't be too old, but you discovered the discrimination against older women. And so she eventually, while she kept her name on the bar roll for a number of years, she came back and she did other things. Do you know that my mum wrote the book on education and law in Australia? Brilliant. She's brilliant. And that's what drives me. She went back to Monash and taught. You know, I saw a pretty bloody lazy editorial - I didn't read it all because there's only so much time in your day and you can't afford to waste it on the rubbish - said she achieved her dream. Who do some people in News Corp or some, and it's not all the journalists, I make that very clear, who do some of these lazy people think they are that because they think that I explained myself at Q&A on a Monday night that they play gotcha shit about your life story? More importantly my mum's. I've spoken about my mum at lengths. I choose to give you that last bit of the battle of her time at the bar because my mum would want me to say to older women in Australia that just because you've got grey hair, just because you didn't go to a special private school, just because you don't go to the right clubs, just because you're not part of some backslapping boy's club, doesn't mean you should give up. What I said at Q&A is what drives me. People say, Bill you know you're popular, this or that, the polls, who are you? What I did on Monday night is I explained who I am. I explained what drives me. My mum is the smartest woman I've ever known. It has never occurred to me that women are not the equal of men. It's never occurred to me that women shouldn't be able to do everything. That is why I work with strong women. That is why I believe in the equal treatment of women. But it's more than that. My parents sent me to a rich school, but we were not rich. We were not poor. We were not rich. We were like hundreds of thousands of other families. My family spent all their spare cash on educating Robert and I. We had three holidays when we were kids. Who cares? I got a quality education. But the point about it is, my mum has taught me that what matters in life isn't how rich you are or how poor you are. It's not what religion you worship. Doesn't matter who you know, what church you go to, what priest you listen to. Mum taught me it doesn't matter about your gender. It matters how hard you work. But if everyone got the same chance. Everyone deserves the same chance. I'm going to finish up Mark. My mum gave me another bit of advice. It's advice I follow. I'd go to her because she's so smart. When you've got your own Encyclopedia you'd be sometimes, long before the Internet, just go to mum. And she would never give me the free ride. She'd say, look it up. Look it up. So I'd say to whoever thought they organised a political hit on me in the election to cast some doubt - I can hear my mum now saying don't worry about that rubbish. But you might tell whoever's pulling down a six figure sum at the Daily Telegraph - look it up. Look it up. All of what I've said, is all of what has been said before. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten have you thought about any unintended tax consequences for childcare operators under your policy to increase their workers' wages?
SHORTEN: I think that what we want to do is lift people's wages. I'll tell you the consequences of lifting the wages of early childhood educators. They're going to get paid $11,000 more over the next eight years. $11,000 more. That will mean that smart young women, and indeed men, won't have to stop being childhood educators. Another consequence, that the families, who, the mums where they go to work and their income is eaten up to pay childcare, so they can go to work, so they can pay the childcare, maybe will get out of that vicious cycle too. You know the government always says, well we can't afford to look after the wages of childcare educators. They say we can't afford to give $2,000 subsidy, per parent, per child, we can't afford to give $1,500 subsidy for the three year olds to go to kindergarten. This is a government that always says that when it comes to you that we can't afford it. But when it comes to a tax deduction for the top end, we have always got the money for that haven't we?
JOURNALIST: Mr. Shorten, does that include superannuation, that taxpayer funded increase for childcare workers, or will that matter be footed by employers themselves?
SHORTEN: Well, the detail of how we work out the implementation will be done with employers, with consumer groups. But what we are doing is making room in the budget to make sure that we can improve the wages of early childhood educators. But in terms of the implementation, I remember it was a question I got asked on the day we announced it. It won't go to union members and not to non-union members. It will go to people who work in the industry. But we'll sit down with the childcare operations, the for-profits, the not-for-profits and we'll work it through. But what's really good about Labor is if you vote for Labor on May the 18th, you're going to see a significantly greater amount of support for household cost of living and the early childhood educators will have a pathway towards a better deal.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, isn't the problem with the childcare policy, obviously everyone wants to see low paid workers paid more, but the government is now subsidising -
SHORTEN: Not quite everyone, sorry.
JOURNALIST: What happens to things like aged care workers. These are very expensive areas for the government to be getting into by subsidising certain industries?
SHORTEN: Let's talk about subsidising industries.
JOURNALIST: Well specifically for wages.
SHORTEN: No, no, I thought your first question was on the money. Did you know that we subsidise the property industry with negative gearing subsidies? You know, that's billions of dollars. Did you know that with the diesel fuel rebate we subsidise the mining industry - and we're keeping that, before anyone says anything - but it is a subsidy. Did you know that we subsidise private health insurance in Australia north of $6 billion a year? You know, if you look around Australia, a lot of industries get subsidies. What we've chosen to do, is subsidise the workforce. As opposed to the top end. That's what it's about. Did you know we subsidise the accounting industry in Australia, when they provide professional services, doing your tax, you get a deduction on that. That is a subsidy to that industry. We don't provide other professional services that. So in terms of aged care, you're quite right. The pay is too low there. We are not proposing to use this particular mechanism in aged care. There is going to be a royal commission, let's see what can be done. We have already outlined other measures in aged care. But when it comes to wages more generally in this country, we are going to reverse the cuts to penalty rates, we are going to shut down sham contracting, we are going to reform the dodgy use of 457 visas, we are going to make sure that labour hire workers get a better deal in this country.
JOURNALIST: Last time you were here, I think it was four days before the 2016 election, and you said that Fiona was an outstanding candidate, and that you'd - that a Labor government would deliver better Medicare, better schools, and better funding for the Gilmore electorate.
SHORTEN: Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Clearly the polls said then that locals didn't buy it, why should they this time?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, I've got to know Fiona better. Secondly, the sitting Liberal member is gone, and haven't the Liberal Party been divided down here in Gilmore? They brought a ring-in from - is it Roseville? From Roseville. They split three different ways. You've got poor old Grant Schultz who was the man, now no longer the man. You've got the Nats sticking their bib in to see if they could shark a vote or two. So one big difference is the division on their side. And I don't think that's - that's just a matter of record - everyone in Australia knows where Gilmore is now, it just seems to have a dysfunctional Liberal-National family here. The second thing is, of course, we've even honed our policy offerings more since then. You know, one of the big ones is the Pac Highway of course, but another one is $35 million for inpatient treatment at the local hospital. Our policies have got better, Fiona Phillips is even better. And we're much more united. I mean the other thing I'll say in 2016, is then you voted for Malcolm Turnbull and got Scott Morrison. If you vote for Scott Morrison this time do you get Pauline Hanson, Clive Palmer? It's a real sort of surprise lucky dip isn't it?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there are a number of protests taking place, led by surfers here in Gilmore, who oppose drilling in the Bight, what's Labor's stance on the matter?
SHORTEN: It's a good question. There is a company who is doing some test drilling in the Bight. If I form a government one of my first decisions will be to get an oil spill study. I want to understand the consequences of an oil spill in the Bight. This is a new development. No one has said that, but that's what we're going to do if we form a government. We want to understand, what are the consequences, and I think that's what's concerning a lot of surfers and people who care about our coastline.
JOURNALIST: Just in relation to waiting lists, I mean everyone likes the idea of reducing waiting lists, but $250 million is not a big amount of money in the scheme of things, for the health budget. So how much would $250 million reduce waiting lists by?
SHORTEN: Well, I'll get Catherine to supplement the answer, but I just want to add a couple of numbers onto your $250 million to re-assure you. First of all, our $500 million investment into emergency departments will reduce waiting lists there. Our $500 million in cancer treatment to reduce waiting lists there, so in fact it's well north of a billion dollars, but why don't I let Catherine.
KING: Again, what we did when we were last in government, and this is the thing that you know, the Liberals do every time, is they cut. There was a national partnership agreement on hospital improvement and it had the NEAT and NEST targets in it. Now they're a bit technical, but basically they were targets to get waiting lists down. Now we've deliberately spent money on capital which is helping patients get out of hospital, so we've announced money for palliative care, for sub-acute facilities, to get people out of the acute hospital area, and to improve patient flow. And what we've done with the NEAT and NEST targets when we were last in government was they drove a downward trend in waiting times and in the waiting times for elective surgery. We've got some work to do with the states and territories and with the hospital sector about how we actually get that, but it's that sort of work that will drive those waiting lists down.
SHORTEN: I just want to just finish up and say thank you for being patient with the answer about my mum. As you can see, I love her dearly and it was actually very nice of you to give me the chance to talk about her again. And for that, I appreciate you very much today. I won't always say that.
JOURNALIST: Yeah, sorry Mr. Shorten, just another health question, we’ve obviously seen announcements here in the Shoalhaven for hospital funding, what about smaller hospitals like Milton and Moruya, are they on Labor's radar as well, and will they benefit from some of this funding?
KING: We've obviously made a number of announcements, obviously the one here at Shoalhaven. We've made an announcement about, recently in Stephen's electorate as well, and in Eurobodalla as well. But under Labor's $2.8 billion hospital plan every single hospital in the country will receive additional funds for the activity they undertake in their hospitals.