27 June 2016




MARK WARD, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BOOTHBY: Welcome to the Flinders Medical Centre in Boothby. I would like to introduce Catherine King – welcome Catherine – and Nat Cook, and Penny Wong, Anne McEwen and Steve Georganas, and I would like to hand over to Catherine King.

CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Thanks very much for that Mark. It’s terrific to be here again. This is my third visit here to the Flinders Medical Centre, who do a fantastic job providing for the health care of this region.

Penny and our team have just been meeting with some of the nurses here and some of the staff from this centre here. They have been doing a great job making sure they are continuing to provide access to patients for good health care in this region, but what we do know is this election on the 2 July, it is a referendum on Medicare. The Abbott Turnbull Government have been a disaster when it comes to health. On coming to office, they cut billions of dollars out of our public hospital system, abandoned hard fought reforms that a Labor Government had put in place that has seen this facility here do much better with its elective surgery and its emergency department then it would have otherwise. What we also saw is the continuing freeze on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, which is a GP Tax by stealth, which means that patients who are trying to access a general practitioner will have to pay more under a Turnbull Government. The Turnbull Governme nt has wanted to pursue the privatisation of Medicare since day one. Shifting costs onto patients, continuing to provide pressure on to emergency departments here at Flinders Medical.

We’ve heard from the nursing staff, they are trying to as best they possibly can in this system, but what we know from the Turnbull Government’s billions of dollars of cuts to public hospitals, that they are not going to actually be able to keep up with the demand of this hospital. A Labor Government wants to fund our hospitals properly, we want to unfreeze the Medicare Benefits Schedule so general practices can continue to do the great work in primary care that they do. We also want to make sure that medicines remain affordable, and we continue to have affordable access to pathology and diagnostic imaging. A Turnbull Government is a threat to Medicare, a Turnbull Government will destroy Medicare. I might hand over to Penny, who would like to say a bit more on the issues raised by our terrific nursing staff here this morning.

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: Thanks very much. Well it is great to be here at the Flinders Medical Centre and I want to thank all of the nurses and other staff who were willing to sit down with us and share with us their views about the future of the health system. It is very clear that this election is a referendum on Medicare, and if people are concerned about the future of Medicare, vote Labor. Because Labor built Medicare, we defended Medicare through this term of Parliament from the attacks by the conservatives, and we will always defend Medicare into the future.

One of the issues also raised today of course was also penalty rates, because people are concerned by the many Liberal candidates across the country, including here in South Australia, who have made it clear that they want to cut penalty rates. And people are concerned by comments by members of Nick Xenophon’s team about cutting penalty rates.

I want to just make this point about Nick Xenophon’s team, Nick’s cut an ad, he has got an ad out where he wants to tell people, tell South Australians, you should trust me on penalty rates, you should trust me on penalty rates. Well, let’s remember the history. Nick introduced a bill to cut penalty rates, just last week his number two candidate, Stirling Griff, said that he would have to consider a bill put forward to cut penalty rates, he would have to consider it.

I want to make this very clear, if Nick Xenophon wants South Australians to trust him on penalty rates, he should disendorse Stirling Griff. If Nick Xenophon really wants to show South Australians he can really be trusted on penalty rates, he should disendorse his number two Senate candidate Stirling Griff. Because Stirling Griff is on the record as saying penalty rates are a noose around the necks of business, a noose around the necks of business. Stirling Griff just last week said he would have to consider a Liberal bill to cut people’s penalty rates. These are not the words of someone who can be trusted on penalty rates, Stirling Griff can’t be trusted on penalty rates, and the test for Nick Xenophon is this: If you want South Australians to trust you when it comes to their penalty rates, you should take Stirling Griff off of your ticket.

JOURNALIST: If Stirling Griff is so bad, why was Labor prepared to do a preference deal with Nick Xenophon?

WONG: Well we have been clear from day one that Stirling Griff on penalty rates has a record on which is as bad as the Liberal Party’s. But if you are asking me, are we trying to win government, so that we don’t have a Turnbull Government that has so many members out there, including South Australian candidates out there who are really clear they want to cut penalty rates, of course we are trying to win government.

JOURNALIST: And Nick Xenophon has repeatedly said that it is a decision up to the Fair Work Commission and he’ll stick by that.

WONG: So how does that accord with what his candidate said last week? So how does that accord with what his candidate on the ABC he said last week ‘we would have to consider a bill’. So if the Liberal party put a bill to cut penalty rates – this was put clearly to Stirling Griff – and what did he say? ‘We would have to consider it’. That is not a consistent position with what Nick has said.

JOURNALIST: So Labor won’t consider it, even it is recommended by the Fair Work Commission?

WONG: Well look, I would say to South Australians, look at Labor’s track record on penalty rates. We have always stood up for penalty rates, we have always protected penalty rates and in Government we amended the Fair Work Act to make sure that the Fair Work Commission takes account for penalty rates.

JOURNALIST: Has Labor harmed its election chances by acknowledging that a government led by Labor would have bigger deficits over the budget cycle?

WONG: Look, Chris Bowen and Tony Burke put out our costings yesterday and held a press conference today and I would refer you to their comments. But I would make a few points about this, Labor have put out our costings, independently costed, independently verified. They see us coming back into balance the same year as the Government. They also see over the medium term under a Labor Government, the budget will be in a better position. We are not prepared to hack into Medicare, and to hack into our schools, which is what the Liberal Party is choosing to do. So it is very clear, when it comes to the budget what we are saying, is Medicare, health education, that’s our priority. Do you know what Mr Turnbull is saying his priority is when it comes to the budget? A $50 billion tax cut to big business, which will continue to harm the budget in the decades to come.

JOURNALIST: So it’s better for Australia over the medium–long term, are you concerned about the short term with the Australian economy being vulnerable to international financial shocks? I mean we are heading into an uncertain future with Britain leaving the EU and all that. Are you concerned about that?

WONG: And now is not the time to be making life harder for families with tight budgets, which is precisely what Malcolm Turnbull is proposing to do.

JOURNALIST: With Britain leaving the EU again, there are opportunities for Australia here. Would a Labor Government fast track any trade deals with the UK?

WONG: Look, I think the lesson out of the Brexit is that you can’t have an economy where inequality widens, where you make life harder for low income and middle income people, and that is precisely what Mr Turnbull’s policies propose. We say we save Medicare, we will fund Medicare properly, we will fund our hospitals, we will fund our schools. Mr Turnbull is saying he would like to fund a company tax cut. Well, I think Australians have the opportunity on Saturday to make a choice about which of those plans they prefer.