E&OE - PROOF ONLY
STEVE GEORGANAS, MEMBER FOR HINDMARSH: Thanks for coming out. Can I just welcome Catherine King, our shadow spokesperson for health who has come to the electorate of Hindmarsh today to visit this wonderful clinic, the Marleston Dental Clinic, which looks after some very important things in our electorate, for example, children’s dental care, pensioners’ dental care, low income earners’ dental care.
It’s such an important service, a service that affects people’s health. We know that if you don’t get good dental care it affects other areas of health, so I’m really pleased that Catherine’s here today, to see this wonderful facility, wonderful work they do in our community, and to ensure that we continue this wonderful work that’s done here. Over to Catherine.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE: Thanks Steve. It’s terrific to be here at the Marleston public dental clinic with my colleague Steve Georganas, the member for Hindmarsh, and Senator Penny Wong our spokesperson on Foreign Affairs but also a Senator well known to you all here in South Australia.
Well as you know, the Turnbull Government has cut $300 million out of public dental, that is equivalent to 300,000 patients not being able to access public dental care in this country. Here in South Australia, we already know there are 39,000 people on the public dental waiting list, and they are waiting up to -on average- 15 months to receive the care that they need. These clinics provide vital services to children across our communities. Children’s teeth, particularly making sure that we are focusing on prevention in oral health. They also provide really important emergency services for people who because of their dental health, are becoming sicker and sicker. These cuts to public dental will have a significant impact here on South Australia. We know that the South Australian Health Minister, as have a range of other Labor Ministers across the country, have all written to Greg Hunt to say that this cut is unacceptable and that we will see a significant rise in waiting lists across public dental. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: What are you looking for, a specific amount of funding?
KING: What we want the Federal Government to do is to restore public dental to where it would have been, had Labor been in office. We want them to restore the $300 million they’ve cut out of public dental. Public dental services are vital in communities like this one here in Hindmarsh and across the community, we’re calling on the Government to restore their substantial cuts to the public dental scheme.
JOURNALIST: Do you think there’s any chance of that happening?
KING: I think there’s a lot of pressure on the Federal Government to actually stop its cuts to health care overall. We’ve campaigned long and hard on their cuts to hospitals, long and hard on their cuts to GPs, long and hard on their cuts to public dental, and we’re going to continue to do that right up until the next election because we want to see this funding restored.
JOURNALIST: The money has to come from somewhere though, where would it come from?
KING: Well the Government, as you know, has decided that it’s going to put its priorities into providing substantial tax cuts to wealthy people, substantial tax cuts to corporations, we think that public dental is more important.
JOURNALIST: Do you think there would be the case for opening a diplomatic mission to North Korea if it does settle things down a bit?
SENATOR PENNY WONG, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE: I saw those reports today and obviously the Government has made an assessment about that request and we’d take advice from those in Government about that.
But more broadly on North Korea, I would say this; obviously North Korea is a threat to security in our region and across the world. And what we need to ensure is that there is a unified diplomatic effort across all nations – the US, China, Russia, all nations – working together to exert pressure on this rogue regime through sanctions and through diplomatic means. It’s in every nation’s interest for North Korea to cease this provocative action, it’s in every nation’s interest to ensure stability in the region and globally.
JOURNALIST: Could you envisage that then? Could we have a diplomatic mission?
WONG: As I said, that is a matter for the Government. Obviously were we in Government we’d take advice on those issues. The more pressing issue is the immediate issue which is provocative action from North Korea which is destabilising the region.
JOURNALIST: Is it something though that the Gillard Government ever seriously considered?
WONG: I wasn’t in this portfolio then as you might recall, but as I said we would take advice in Government on that issue.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree with Nikki Haley from the United States who says that the UN has just exhausted everything that it can do with North Korea?
WONG: I think there’s a few points that ought be made. First in respect of North Korea it is a time for sober heads. It is a time to work for de-escalation. We know, and this has been repeated by Secretary Mattis, it’s been repeated by our own military personnel, that the military options are very difficult. There is no good outcome when it comes to North Korea, other than North Korea being pressured into de-escalating and being pressured into ceasing this illegal activity.
JOURNALIST: So you think there is more? That they haven’t just exhausted all options?
WONG: We need to keep working. The international community needs to keep working to exercise this pressure. It has been good to see co-operation between the major powers and Australia should continue to add its voice to seek that cooperation, that unified pressure.
JOURNALIST: Just finally, there were reports this morning about mental health services receiving an increased amount of services from the LGBTIQ community.
WONG: This is a very difficult debate for our community. It’s a debate where many on the No side want to argue about anything but the issue. They want to argue about our children. They want to argue about religious issues. They want to argue about what is happening in schools. None of those are the issue that people are being asked to vote on. People are being asked to vote on whether or not we should have equal treatment before the law.
I am disappointed by some of the debate that we have seen. I am certainly disappointed by some of the hateful things which are being distributed and said and what I would say to the LGBTIQ community, and to our friends and allies, is we have to stand strong. We have to stand strong against some of the hate speech and we have to make clear to people there is nothing to fear here. The only thing you are being asked to vote on is whether or not there should be equal treatment before the law.