JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
MARK BUTLER MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING
MEMBER FOR HINDMARSH
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LONGMAN
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR PETRIE
TUESDAY, 5 OCTOBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Hospital funding; Scott Morrison distracting from his failures on vaccines and quarantine; Scott Morrison has a new Premier to blame for his own failures; JobKeeper a good idea badly mangled by Josh Frydenberg; National Anti-Corruption Commission.
REBECCA FANNING, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR LONGMAN: Hi, thanks for joining us here in Burpengary. I'm Rebecca Fanning, Labor's candidate for Longman. We've just come from visiting a great local business in Burpengary East called Mobile Conveying Services. Shadow Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, and Mick Denton, Labor's candidate for Petrie, got to see this great local success story. What started out as just one man with a big truck now employs 70 people and builds equipment that goes to businesses all over Australia and the world moving billions of transport products.
I want to talk about local healthcare services today. Later this afternoon, I'll be going to Bribie Island with Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler for a GP crisis forum. We have a critical shortage of GPs in this region. That means that people either have to wait a long time to get in to see a GP, or they have to travel long distances to get care, or they have to simply go without. And this situation is also putting huge pressure on Caboolture Hospital emergency department, with people going to the ED when they can't get in to see a GP, or they're going without treatment and then their condition's getting worse and then they're ending up in hospital. This situation is now just being made worse because as of Friday, the Morayfield Health Hub had to close its urgent care centre due to inadequate Medicare funding from the federal government. This means that now those patients who otherwise could go to a local health facility which was getting proper Medicare funding will now instead have to go to the Caboolture Hospital emergency department and the Redcliffe Hospital emergency department. Our region deserves better. Our region needs a federal government that will provide proper Medicare funding for primary health care services. And we need a federal government that will partner with the Queensland Government to provide proper funding for our public hospitals in the face of the COVID pandemic. I'll now pass to Mark Butler.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW HEALTH MINISTER: Thanks Rebecca and Mick for joining Jim and me to talk about healthcare policy here in Brisbane this morning. Can I say at the outset, this has been another very tough day in Australia's fight against COVID-19. We've seen 2,400 new cases again reported in the past 24 hours. It will be a particularly difficult day in Victoria, which is still languishing in lockdown - these chronic, debilitating lockdowns we've seen in Victoria, New South Wales, and more recently in the ACT. Victoria has reported the highest case numbers ever seen for this pandemic by a single state, with 1,763 new cases over the past 24 hours. And over the past 24 hours we've tragically heard that 11 people in New South Wales and Victoria have lost their lives to COVID-19, and our condolences are extended to their family, their friends, and their loved ones more broadly.
People across Australia are wondering what our hospital system is going to look like as we start to see the lockdowns lifted down south and borders start to be opened in what are currently COVID-free jurisdictions, like here in Queensland, my state of South Australia, and a number of others. Four or five weeks ago now the Australian Medical Association, federal Labor, and a number of others, called upon the federal government to undertake detailed modelling about what our hospital system will have to bear as those lockdowns are lifted, as borders are opened, and to release that modelling to the Australian community and to put in place a clear, costed plan to keep our hospitals safe and reliable. And we've seen nothing yet from Scott Morrison. We understand that modelling was presented by the Commonwealth government last week, but Scott Morrison continues to keep that modelling secret from the Australian people, and most importantly the frontline healthcare workers are keeping our community safe every single day. The community deserves to know what is going to happen to our hospital system as those lockdowns are lifted and eventually borders are open by the COVID-free jurisdictions.
Last week, Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Queensland Premier, asked that very question - what is our hospital system going to have to deal with? And what is Scott Morrison's plan to keep our hospitals strong and safe? Annastacia Palaszczuk was talking about what every person in Australia was thinking. She was saying what everyone in Australia was thinking, particularly frontline health care workers. And instead of a constructive, unifying response from Scott Morrison, what we got again was more division. Right through this pandemic Scott Morrison has never had the back of the State Premiers as they've had to make the tough decisions to keep their communities safe. We've seen political attack, after political attack, against the Queensland Government. We saw Scott Morrison support Clive Palmer in his High Court jurisdiction case against the Western Australian border. And have no doubt, if that case had succeeded, if Scott Morrison and Clive Palmer had got their way, there'd be no border restrictions, not just in WA but in Queensland, in Tasmania, in South Australia, and in the Northern Territory currently. And on Friday, just last Friday, Peter Dutton, again, said that he would support the legal action being foreshadowed by the Flight Centre boss against the border restrictions of all of those jurisdictions. At a time when Australia needs a Prime Minister to unify the country, yet again we have one who is focused on division, focused on political attacks, focused on trying to pretend that all of this is someone else's responsibility and has nothing to do with him. The Australian people deserve better than that.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Thanks very much Mark, Rebecca and Mick, for the opportunity to be here in Burpengary today. As Rebecca said, we've been spending time amongst the manufacturing and maintenance services, and a really important local company which builds and maintains conveyors for the mining industry and also for ports and for other key parts of the Australian economy. That's something that Mick is very familiar with as well with his background in heavy industry. We want a future made in Australia. We want the Australian economy to recover strongly. That means that we need businesses in places like here in Longman and next door in Petrie to succeed so they can continue to employ people as well.
Rebecca Fanning is our candidate for Longman and she's been working in the health area for some time. She knows, and Mark knows, and we know in federal Labor, that the health system is under extraordinary pressure right now because of COVID, but not just because of COVID. But here comes Scott Morrison once again, trying to pick a fight with Queensland and Queenslanders, now over health funding. We wouldn't be in this position around Australia with this pressure on hospitals, if Scott Morrison hadn't stuffed up vaccines and quarantine, which has put more pressure on the hospital system and has meant that the national economy is bleeding billions of dollars a week.
Us Queenslanders have had enough of Scott Morrison picking fights with Queenslanders unnecessarily to distract from his own failures. And that's what he's doing once again right now. He's only got one play, that is to pick fights with Premiers in the hope that Australians won't understand that the economy's in this mess because of his failures on vaccines and quarantine. We wouldn't be bleeding billions of dollars a week out of the national economy, the hospitals wouldn't be under pressure right around Australia, if it weren't for his failures in those two key areas.
Today we've got another Premier in New South Wales. It's an exciting day for Scott Morrison, he's got another new Premier now to blame for his own failures and no doubt we'll be seeing more of that. This is a New South Wales Liberal Party focused on their own jobs and not focused on getting New South Wales through COVID and making sure that small businesses can open safely, and responsibly, and competently, when the time is right. This is a new New South Wales Premier who has been in favour of just letting the virus rip, and we know the consequences for local economies and for families right around Australia and in New South Wales in this case in particular.
The one thing that Dom Perrottet and Scott Morrison have been at odds over is JobKeeper payments. And we have said for some time, that the economic support should match what's actually going on in the economy. Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg are in a rush to pull the rug out from under too many small businesses and workers right around Australia who are still doing it tough.
And we read again today, yet again, another failure from Josh Frydenberg when it comes to taking a good idea in JobKeeper and mangling it with his typically incompetent implementation. What we've learned today is that the Treasurer was warned that big multinational corporations were behaving in suspicious ways when it comes to JobKeeper. Josh Frydenberg was too busy making podcasts about himself, and posing for pictures, and doing press conferences, to actually implement a good idea in JobKeeper in a way that didn't spray around billions of dollars in wasted taxpayer money. And we've heard about that once again today. JobKeeper is a good idea badly mangled by the Treasurer's incompetence and that's what we've seen again today.
This is a government which lets big multinationals off scot-free when it comes to JobKeeper but goes after people in the childcare system and in the social security system, ordinary working people, who might need a little bit of help. If you're on a social security payment in this country, this LNP Government will pursue you to the grave if they think that you've been paid too much, while multinationals get off scot-free.
We've seen some revelations about tax havens in the last couple of days, particularly about this outrageous practice of the world's most powerful, and influential, and wealthy people, using what are otherwise legal structures to get away with a whole bunch of dodgy behaviour. Every time the wealthy, the powerful, and the influential dodge their obligations - their tax or legal obligations - ordinary working people cop it in the neck. Ordinary working families in Australia have to pay more tax, when the wealthiest and most powerful pay less tax. That's why we need to stamp out, to the extent that we can, this dodgy practice. We need to do what we can. Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg are happy enough to let multinationals get away with all kinds of tax evasion, spraying around billions of dollars in JobKeeper money that many of them didn't need, at the same time as these practices are going on and ordinary working families are getting it in the neck.
We'll have more to say about tax havens and about multinational tax evasion in due course between now and the next election, but the difference that people need to understand is that Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg will always go soft on big multinationals getting away with this kind of behaviour at the same time as they pursue ordinary working people and people on social security who deserve better from their federal government. I'm happy to take any easy questions and these guys are ready for any curly ones, over to you.
JOURNALIST: Just on the pandora papers, would Labor support a register of beneficial ownership being established to help identify the source of funds that are flowing into the Australian property market?
CHALMERS: We are looking at steps like that one, we do need more transparency here when it comes to the use of tax havens to dodge legal and tax obligations. We are very concerned about these revelations. These revelations have come about because of a quite dramatic bit of transparency, we need to look at what other steps can be taken to make sure that we can shine a light on these dodgy practices. Every time a wealthy, powerful, influential person gets away with these kinds of practices ordinary working people have to pay more. That's why we need to do what we can to try and stamp it out, that begins with transparency.
JOURNALIST: Would Labor commit to one of those beneficial things?
CHALMERS: We'll have more to say between now and the next election, whether it's about tax havens or multinational tax evasion. When it comes to tax havens, we do want to see more transparency. We've had policies in this area in the past. We are working on updating our policies. The Australian people can know this: Labor will always put more effort into cracking down on dodgy tax evasion and people dodging their legal obligations in tax havens than the Liberals will. The Liberals will always go soft on the wealthy and the powerful trying to dodge their obligations. We will always do the right thing, that's because we understand that every dollar of tax avoided by the wealthy, and powerful, and influential via tax havens has to be made up by ordinary working folks who deserve better.
JOURNALIST: Shadow Treasurer, what do you make of the protests we're currently seeing out the front of the Australian Consulate in New York, these freedom protests that we're seeing at the moment?
CHALMERS: I haven't seen that particular news, I'm not sure if Mark has. Our point about protests is that they need to be safe, and they need to be consistent with the local health rules, and they need to recognise that what we need to do for each other here is to do the right thing. I haven't seen the detail of that, but what we've said about protests that have happened here - or indeed Australians protesting anywhere - is we need to make sure that people are safe, that they respect the local authorities, and they're following the health advice.
JOURNALIST: So do you feel I suppose as other countries open up, especially we're talking about allied countries - the UK opening up, US opening up, and we're kind of lagging behind - do you think our reputation's kind of taken a hit over the past few months?
CHALMERS: Nobody wants Australia to be locked-down even one day longer than is necessary, but what we need to see a re-opening which is safe and responsible so that when we come out of it, we've followed the health advice. We also need to make sure that when Australia opens up again, ideally as soon as that is safe and responsible and we can confidently do so, we need to make sure that the hospitals can cope, we need to make sure there's tracking and tracing, a plan for the kids, we need to make sure we can manufacture our own vaccines, all of these things are crucially important. These are all sorts of things that Mark has spoken about at some length before, I'll see if he wants to add to that?
JOURNALIST: I suppose Australia's been a bit of a punching bag for the freedom brigade over the last couple of months, what would you say to those people who point to Australia as an example of people having their freedoms taken away at the moment?
CHALMERS: I'm not as worried about that as you might suggest. I think Australians want us to open up when it's safe and responsible to do that. We don't want Australia locked-down forever. We don't want Australia locked-down for one day longer than is necessary. We know the damage that it does to local economies and local communities, but in order to open up safely, and confidently, and responsibly, we need to make sure that the federal government is doing its job - whether it's with health funding, whether it's with tracking and tracing, building purpose-built quarantine - which has obviously been a big failure from Scott Morrison and his government - a plan for young people, making sure people aren't left behind in vaccinations, making sure we can manufacture mRNA vaccines, all of these things are crucial. Where we are falling short, is because our federal government hasn't taken responsibility.
JOURNALIST: You've got a spider on your collar, FYI. Just on your chest. Big bang. Right. There. There we are.
CHALMERS: I thought you were giving me some kind of signal.
JOURNALIST: I wasn't saying wrap it up, I didn't know what kind of spider it was. Alright, I'm going to claim I saved your life. I'll give you a quick note - spark notes recap - basically, protests at the moment, a lot of quite loud, rambunctious Americans, out the front of our Consulate in New York. I suppose, is it apples and oranges trying to even compare what the two countries have been through?
CHALMERS: We've got to do the right thing for Australia when it comes to our opening up. We have said we support, broadly, the plan to open up when it's safe, and responsible, and appropriate that we do that. We've said the sorts of things that the federal government needs to have sorted by then. Our fear is that Scott Morrison doesn't take responsibility. Our fear is that Scott Morrison is too busy picking fights with Premiers, too busy picking fights with Queenslanders, to actually do his job. All we ask is that he do his job and that he takes responsibility for those things which he controls, which are crucial to whether or not we can open up safely and responsibly when the time comes.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison saying that the State Government is trying to extort the Commonwealth by saying that they're not gonna open up before hospital funding is boosted. Why should Queensland get more funding when we only have like a couple of cases and there's been 18 months to prepare for this moment?
BUTLER: Well, the first thing I'd say is the business as usual in hospital funding is not going to cut it in a once-in-a-Century global pandemic. You just have to look at New South Wales and Victoria to see the degree to which hospitals get to breaking point with the sorts of case numbers we're seeing down there. All of us want to see lockdowns lifted in a safe manner as soon as we possibly can, and border openings when they can be safely opened as well, but we do know that there will be a surge in COVID cases throughout Australia as those restrictions are eventually lifted. The AMA and many other groups are saying we need to see detailed modelling about what that is going to mean for our hospital system, and we need to see a detailed plan from Scott Morrison about what he's going to do to keep our hospital system safe and strong. And that's an issue for every single jurisdiction. Whatever Annastacia Palaszczuk has said over the last few days is what everyone is thinking - what do our hospitals need to ensure they stay strong and safe, delivering the quality healthcare that Australians justifiably expect of our system.
CHALMERS: I've just got one request in from Channel Ten, which is about a National Anti-Corruption Commission. News that the federal Liberals are chasing Gladys Berejiklian to run for a federal seat makes a mockery of Scott Morrison's claims that he believes in a National Anti-Corruption Commission. We need a National Anti-Corruption Commission to look into the sorts of things which have occurred over the last eight years of this Liberal Government. We need a National Anti-Corruption Commission to look into the dodgy land deals, and the secret donations, and all of the other episodes which have characterised the eight years of the Morrison, Turnbull and Abbott Liberal Governments. We know why Scott Morrison doesn't want a National Anti-Corruption Commission and that's because large swathes of his cabinet would be before it. What we need to see is Scott Morrison taking the kinds of steps that Labor has proposed when it comes to a National Anti-Corruption Commission. We now know why Scott Morrison doesn't want a National Anti-Corruption Commission and that's because he knows that his cabinet ministers would be in strife and he knows that we'd be getting the sorts of outcomes that we've seen in New South Wales the last few weeks. Thanks very much.