June 20, 2016

SUBJECTS: ALP Campaign Launch; Medicare; Medicare Privatisation; Jobs; Great Barrier Reef; CFA.

JON FAINE, HOST: Greg Hunt is the Minister for the Environment and the Member for Flinders in the Malcolm Turnbull Coalition Government, Jenny Macklin is the Shadow Minister for Families, Payments and Disability Reform and the Member for Jagajaga in Bill Shorten’s Federal Labor Opposition.

Jenny Macklin, welcome back. And the big launch yesterday, you actually got Paul Keating, and Bob Hawke to publicly acknowledge each other and Julia Gillard and Bill Shorten exchanged an embrace. How was that all organised?

JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES & PAYMENTS: I think it was a great event, and I have to say, campaign launches, I’m sure Greg would agree, they’re always exciting places to be. It was terrific to have the three previous Prime Ministers with us.

FAINE: But how contrived was it to get Gillard and Shorten to embrace, when they have plenty of reasons not to embrace, at least, well, you’d want to check what was in Bill’s hands before you let him put his arms around you, wouldn’t you?

MACKLIN: I think the great thing that’s happened over the last three years, is the way in which Bill Shorten has united our party, and that was demonstrated yesterday. I think what Bill showed was that we’ve done three years of hard policy work, he showed that he’s ready to govern, he’s ready to lead, and he really showed that there is a huge choice at this election. You can either vote Labor and protect Medicare, or you can vote Liberal and let give a $50 billion tax cut to the top end of town. That’s the choice at this election.

FAINE: Greg, what’s Malcolm Turnbull going to do about the Abbott factor when you launch your campaign next weekend?

GREG HUNT: They have a very strong working relationship.

FAINE: Oh, pull the other one.

HUNT: There is a very clear choice, as you say, at this election. On the one hand, the Labor Party, as we increasingly see, will blow the Budget, create an absolute assault on private enterprise. Mr Shorten said he wanted to run the country like a union. Well, which union? The CFMEU, Craig Thompson and the HSU? Is it going to be what is happening in Victoria with the UFU and the takeover of the CFA volunteers? It is as you say - it’s a very, very clear choice as Jenny says. One is stability, at a time when the world has a lot of instability in it, and control of the budget. The ability to create jobs, the ability to create opportunity or frankly, an assault on the budget and the loss of control and giving the country over to the unions?

FAINE: 1300 222 774, Jenny Macklin and Greg Hunt for the second last time until the election. Next Monday will be the final debate on a Monday morning before you go to the polls, 1300 222 774.

The Liberal Party have for years been preparing to sell and privatise the back office work of Medicare. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Then suddenly the Labor Party makes a big deal of it. It’s clearly polling well for them. Now the Liberal Party is saying ‘no no no, that will never happen’. Why should we believe you?

HUNT: This is one of the more desperate scare campaigns I have seen. Let me be absolutely clear. Medicare is not going to be privatised under the Coalition, that has been ruled out clearly and categorically.

FAINE: Suddenly and only just when it starts to hurt your prospects in this election.

HUNT: This claim of a privatisation isn’t just a scare campaign, it’s a sign of desperation. Their national budget approach has collapsed in the last couple of weeks. We know that they’re running a higher deficit.

FAINE: It was on the cards. It was something that your government was planning to do.

HUNT: That privatisation is a fiction. It’s a falsity. It’s something that’s untrue. It’s something that’s been wheeled out as something which is just clearly false, untrue, not going to happen and it’s a sign that they got in deep trouble on their budget. They know they’re in trouble on the CFA and union links, so it’s, ‘look over there, isn’t that a unicorn?’

MACKLIN: Let’s look at the facts. Malcolm Turnbull created a taskforce to look at the privatisation of the Medicare payments system. They’ve paid money to PricewaterhouseCoopers to look at the privatisation of the Medicare payments system. These are facts. We know that this government under Malcolm Turnbull has frozen the amounts that they pay back to doctors, so doctors have to charge patients more.

FAINE: That actually occurred under you.

MACKLIN: Let’s just look at the facts of what is in this year’s Budget. Let’s look at the fact that this government has cut the amount that they pay to pathology and radiology companies which will reduce bulk billing--

FAINE: Well that’s because it’s out of control, and the Minister, the Health Minister says it’s the only way you can reign in the excesses of the private pathologies.

MACKLIN: That’s the Liberal approach, to make people pay more for their blood tests. To make Australians, who have cancer, pay more for their MRIs, for their x-rays.

FAINE: No, it’s to stop them being unnecessarily prescribed.

MACKLIN: What Labor wants to do is make sure that people who are sick can get access to the doctor, can get access to MRIs and x-rays--

FAINE: But you’ve been in charge of massive government programs. You have to make sure that money is well spent.

MACKLIN: What you don’t do is privatise Medicare and do everything that will mean patients will pay more when they need urgent medical attention. That’s the Liberal way. That’s the Malcolm Turnbull attack on Medicare.

HUNT: Let me deal with this. Firstly, under us, the bulk billing rate has gone up from 79 – 85%. Secondly, the expenditure on Medicare has gone from a $17 billion average under the previous government to $23 billion a year under us, and it increases to $26 billion in 2020 under us.

FAINE: Well the economy is growing, that’s not surprising, and the health budget is, as part of it is growing. That doesn’t actually mean anything.

HUNT: Well, the action that they’ve got here, is about something which isn’t proposed. Now I can understand if you have fights about real issues in a campaign. But when your own budget has collapsed, when your own economic plan has collapsed, that’s when you create a fiction. The other thing here is that Labor has cut $5 million from pathology, and Catherine King has acknowledged it. Labor was the party that introduced the freeze, and I’ve got a quote here from Tanya Plibersek, when she was talking about how important it was to do that. That was Labor’s policy which we have continued. They started it, they said it was necessary. It was published in the Australian Doctor on the 23rd of May, 2013, ‘Doctors can afford rebate freeze says Plibersek’. So that’s what they did.

FAINE: Moving on to other things, job creation and the management of the economy is always one of the big things. It’s not just about how governments spend money, but also about how they create jobs in the community. Bill Shorten’s attempt at your launch yesterday, Jenny Macklin to claim job creation schemes, already in the commentary this morning being dismissed as been there, done that, that doesn’t work.

MACKLIN: Well in fact, this is a new approach that hasn’t been tried before.

FAINE: What’s new about this one?

MACKLIN: What we’re offering to small business is the opportunity to take an extra tax deduction to employ somebody who is unemployed. A young person, a mature age person, or a person who is returning after months off.

FAINE: It gives these people a job until they get the subsidy and then they’re gone.

MACKLIN: No, the important thing, as any young person will tell you who is trying to get into the job market, is to have some experience. This will give young people six months of experience. A real job in a real business, and we’ll make sure that small businesses have the financial help to put those young people on, to get the experience. This is a new approach that hasn’t been tried before and we want to make sure that those young people get the opportunities that they deserve.

FAINE: 16 minutes past nine, let’s get to callers and plenty of them. Your second last opportunity to ask questions about the policies of the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. Greg Hunt from the Liberal Party, Jenny Macklin from the Labor Party. Jim in the city, good morning to you Jim.

CALLER (JIM): Morning Jon.

FAINE: Now, on my screen it says that you were the person with the bottle of bleach at the public meeting last week. Is that right?

CALLER (JIM): Yeah, that’s right. I was that person and I just wanted to get on your program and take a chance to clear the air.

FAINE: Now my understanding, and you were there and I wasn’t, so you tell me. I’m told that you were escorted from the meeting by the Federal Police after approaching the stage with a bottle of bleach, in what was thought by the Federal Police to be an inappropriate, if not threatening, manner.

CALLER (JIM): It’s true that I did approach the stage with a bottle of bleach, that’s absolutely accurate. What was misreported by Andrew Bolt and a few other media people was that it was intended to be thrown at Josh Frydenberg, I was actually intending to get to the microphone to make an announcement with the bleach. I didn’t actually want to make any contact with Josh.

FAINE: How were the Federal Police supposed to know what your intention is?

CALLER (JIM): Look, they’re probably not, I can’t blame them for the way that they reacted. I actually think that the way that they reacted was fine. The way that they got me and pulled me off the stage was fine, I just felt that the representation in the media was not accurate, that that was the intent. So I wanted to get onto the program to clear that. My reason for getting on there was that I think the Liberal Party, their issues on climate change and the reef are not being looked at, the issue that most of it is bleaching and is not being looked at accurately by the Liberal Party and the bleach was a prop used to demonstrate their carelessness with the Great Barrier Reef.

FAINE: Well I have the Minister for the Environment in the studio Jim, as you are aware, so Greg Hunt. Response?

HUNT: Well the first thing at hand is this idea of approaching the stage in an aggressive manner, because I happened to meet with one of the Federal Police that was involved the following day, approaching the stage in an aggressive manner I think is an extraordinary thing, and Jim, now would be a chance for you to apologise to Josh Frydenberg and to the AFP, because they were called into an exercise that was utterly inappropriate for them to be called into that situation. Jim, here’s your chance to apologise.

CALLER (JIM): Yeah, well I would like to say that I didn’t want Josh to feel that way, and if he did, I want to put out there that that was not my intention, I didn’t want to make him feel that way.

FAINE: You’ve still not apologised, Jim.

CALLER (JIM): Yeah, so I am saying that if Josh felt threatened, I apologise for that, if I made him feel that way.

HUNT: So not if he felt that way, he did feel that way Jim. And the police felt that they had to act as well, and a lot of other people felt that it was an inappropriate action, but let’s move to your issue which is…

CALLER (JIM): So I would say it was possibly an inappropriate but I felt--

HUNT: So let’s deal with the substance--

FAINE: That was a half-baked apology, Jim.

HUNT: I’m not sure somebody who approached the stage should be given a platform--

FAINE: Jim’s concerned about the bleaching of the Reef, Minister?

HUNT: We were last week providing, and we have provided a $1 billion Reef Fund, on top of $460 million worth of grant funds. Under the Labor and Greens Alliance, the World Heritage Committee put the reef on the watch list, on the path to endanger. The global umpire did that. Under us, we ended 5 massive dredge disposal plans, we ended dredging in the marine park forever, we’ve put in place a billion-dollar fund and $460 million of grants and--

FAINE: And you’ve tried to censor an international report?

HUNT: Utterly false Jon. Completely reject it. What the World Heritage Committee did is they took Australia off the watch list, off the path to endanger, and declared Australia to be the global role model.

FAINE: Jenny Macklin?

MACKLIN: Well there’s no doubt we need urgent action to protect the reef, and that’s why Labor has also made significant announcements in this election campaign. But if I could just make a more general comment about how people protest in election campaigns or any other time. People of course have the right to protest, but it has to be done in a safe way, and a respectful way, and I think that’s incredibly important and something that we all feel very strongly about in Australia.

FAINE: Jim, you’ve got your chance to answer your question and I’m going to move on. There’s a full board and other people want the same opportunity that you’ve now had twice. Steven in Bacchus Marsh, good morning Steven.

CALLER (STEVEN): Good morning to the Ministers there, might I say this, with the way things are going today with the way things are being thrown around, I would like an apology from the unelected Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, who failed to turn up to the repatriation of Vietnam Veterans, but then decides it’s then okay to invite people who have not even been checked out by ASIO to come to a dinner, with an Islamic background that want to kill gays and stone women who have infidelities.

Now, I don’t really want a response from the Liberal Party there, or the Labor, because the Labor party are in the same boat. Just recently one of their candidates was found to have links to Hizb ut-Tahrir so we’re looking at the Greens which are left, that’s probably my last option of who I’ll vote for--

FAINE: You’ll have to get to the point Steven, we’re running out of time.

CALLER (STEVEN): My point is that I will not be voting Labor, Liberal or Greens – I’ll definitely be voting a minor party and quite possibly the Australian Liberty Alliance.

FAINE: Is there a question there somewhere for the panel or you just want to have a rant?

CALLER (STEVEN): My question is why are they not looking at the Islamisation of our country?

FAINE: Ok, Greg Hunt?

HUNT: Any comments that are attacking homosexuality or similar things are simply unacceptable and let me make that clear, simply unacceptable.

MACKLIN: What we’ve made clear on this program before is how much we support the multicultural nature of this country and especially our home town here in Melbourne. I think it’s a great strength and one I support.

FAINE: It will be interesting to see exactly how much support there will be at the election for those candidates appealing to voters the way Steven from Bacchus Marsh does. This will be the test. Good morning, Gary from Clifton Hill. 

CALLER (GARY): Good morning, gentleman and lady. Greg made the point before about Labor’s assault of on business and Morrison has used the words ‘Bill Shorten’s war on business’. Purely because they’re not willing to give a tax cut to business, does that there follow that because there’s no tax cut being offered to the 10 million plus individual income tax payers – we have an assault on income taxpayers?

HUNT: No, cost of living is an absolutely fundamental issue, we know that the entire Labor proposal is to drive up the cost of electricity, the cost of gas, the cost of refrigeration – these things flow through to people and their day to day ability to get on. Our whole approach is about reducing, or moving to a lower cost environment, and giving people jobs is absolutely fundamental to what we’re proposing and that affects people’s ability to take care of themselves and their families.

MACKLIN: I think you’re absolutely right, this Liberal Government wants to give a $50 billion tax cut that will benefit the top end of town - $7 billion of that tax cut will go to the biggest banks in Australia. Labor does not believe that that should be the priority in this election campaign. We think the priority is protecting Medicare – the Liberals want to give a huge tax cut to the big banks.

FAINE: Carl from Patterson Lakes – go ahead.

CALLER (CARL): Thanks very much for taking my call, I’m sitting here listening to Jenny Macklin and my blood is boiling once again. I’m a small business owner and I just want to ask her, who did you talk to that came up with this dribble that we need another program about training and donations for employment as opposed to reducing red tape and getting the government out of our face – that’s what I need?

MACKLIN: Well, I certainly agree that less red tape is a good idea and that’s why the way in which we’ve designed this tax deduction will make it possible for business to make a claim for increased deductions when you take on someone who is currently unemployed in the same way you make your other deductions. So we have been very careful in the design of this workplace scheme to make sure that we do it in a way that reduces red tape.

HUNT: It’s funny that you say that. I heard all of those same phrases about pink bats, green loans, cash for clunkers, about how carefully designed they were, and I watched as Labor plans fell apart and we had to pick up the pieces.

FAINE: I could say the same thing about your 457 visas, TAFE reforms, and the privatisation of the education system. Whoever’s in power, you’re going to constantly get wrong these sorts of grandiose schemes. Look at the IT programs at a State and Federal level. You’re not that flash at some of it, are you? Whoever’s in power?

HUNT: I’ve got to say, we took a very complex approach to the environment and managed to put in place agreements with state Labor governments in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT, all of which are working really well. This opposition, if they get to be a government, wants to rip them up and create a double handling, and bureaucratic approach.

MACKLIN: Whereas your biggest failure of the Liberal Government under Malcolm Turnbull has been doubling the cost of the NBN and halving the delivery. An extraordinary demonstration of his incompetence.

HUNT: In one month--

MACKLIN: An extraordinary demonstration of his incompetence.

HUNT: In one month we will connect as many homes to the system as Labor did in six years.

MACKLIN: Malcolm Turnbull said the whole country would be connected by the end of 2016, a complete and utter failure.

HUNT: We’ll bring it forward by many years compared to the ALP.

MACKLIN: A total failure.

FAINE: Leigh in Shoreham, you’re through to the panel of Jenny Macklin and Greg Hunt.

CALLER (LEIGH): Greg Hunt, you sent out flyers in your area around the Mornington Peninsula. You didn’t put Shoreham on it. How are you going to help the people in Shoreham if it’s not even on your map?

FAINE: What do the people down in Shoreham want?

CALLER (LEIGH): We don’t have gas. Greg’s promised gas to other areas on the Mornington Peninsula. Electricity bills are enormous, and that’s what we want for Shoreham. For Shoreham generally, some recognition would be nice.

But on the health system, Greg, the mammograms at the Freemasons Hospital for over 70s are no longer bulk billed, and I can’t get a job on the Mornington Peninsula! Few issues there Greg.

HUNT: So a few issues there. In terms of Shoreham, we just announced a new mobile black spot tower over the last week, the material on that is expressly coming out in your area. I think that’s likely to be out next week. We actually have an information card for that part of the Mornington Peninsula, so that includes more than 50 towns in my electorate, and so that’s a big deliverable just for Shoreham, in terms of jobs and employment, I’d be delighted if you would call my office today or tomorrow. We’d be very, very happy to work with you.

In our area I know we’ve just delivered a new Rosebud Supported Accommodation Centre, we’ve just delivered additional sporting facilities, so if you would like to call my office we would be delighted to work with you on your issues.

CALLER (LEIGH): I saw what you’re doing for other areas on the Peninsula, Shoreham wasn’t on your map.

FAINE: How many people live in Shoreham, Leigh?

CALLER (LEIGH): I’m not sure--

FAINE: Not many! Greg Hunt won’t thank me for this, but not every hamlet, in every electorate is going to get what everybody else has got.

HUNT: We did actually have a major announcement for Shoreham in the last week. Shoreham and Red Hill each getting a mobile black spot tower…no it’s a lovely town, I disagree with Jon on this, but that’s why we’re getting that particular outcome for Shoreham.

FAINE: Maybe I need to go down and have another look, it’s years since I’ve been down that way. Most people would love to have what people in Shoreham have Leigh, by way of lifestyle and amenity.

CALLER (LEIGH): Not if you saw the area. Greg, who do I speak to in your office?

FAINE: I’ll pass you back through to my producers and they will make sure you’re put in touch with Greg’s minders or Greg himself.

Jenny Macklin, to what extent is the CFA issue hurting Labor prospects? A federal election campaign and a state issue, in NSW it’s hurting the Liberal Party, the Council amalgamations coming up and damaging the Liberals, and the CFA issue is hurting prospects for Labor here in Victoria.

MACKLIN: Well, I really do think that voters understand the difference between State and Federal issue. I’m speaking to people in my electorate and they understand that we respect the CFA, that we understand how important the volunteers are. We also respect the career firefighters and their important job. This is a state matter. It should be resolved. People should sit down and find a peaceful resolution, but let’s remember this election is about the future of Medicare, that’s what people will be voting for. And it’s not a joke.

HUNT: No, it’s this scare campaign. CFA issue, a massive issue and we can deal with it at a federal level. We will legislate to protect the volunteers. Labor will not and it says everything you want to know about Bill Shorten running the country as a union because Victoria is now running as a wholly owned subsidiary of the unions.

FAINE: Greg Hunt, the Liberal Member for Flinders, Jenny Macklin, the Labor Member for Jagajaga, we’ve got one more next Monday, looking forward to it already.