PANDANUS MEDICAL CENTRE, DARWIN
SATURDAY, 14 MAY 2022
LUKE GOSLING, MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: Welcome everyone. Welcome to Darwin. My name is Luke Gosling, I'm the Federal Member for Solomon. And it's my great pleasure to invite everyone to enjoy our wonderful Top End while you're here. Just want to acknowledge that we're on Larrakia country. And the Larrakia people have had a relationship with this land for millennia. And the Pandanus Clinic that we’re in. Pandanus has been used by Larrakia on this country for millennia. It's great to be here, and thanks for making us feel so welcome for these important announcements for the health of our nation. I'm joined by my Territory colleagues, former member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, an old boss of mine, and a Territory legend. Thanks for all your service, particularly to the bush and for better health outcomes for all Territorians. His successor, hopefully, Marion Scrymgour, with her own amazing proud record of standing up for Territorians. NT Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. We've got a great team here in the Territory, and we're ready to serve, hopefully in a future Labor government. Joining us today we've got all the big guns. We've got Jim Chalmers, our Treasury spokesman. Katy Gallagher, our Finance spokesperson. We've got Mark Butler, our Health spokesman, for these important announcements today. But most importantly, we've got Anthony Albanese, our Labor Leader. And Albo, thank you for your ongoing commitment to the Territory and to Territorians for the health of Territorians into the future. And you're always welcome here, mate. Thanks very much.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much. I'm told while we're speaking, we consulted with Emma, it's okay to take our masks off. Firstly, can I thank Emma for having us at this Medical Center. GPs make an enormous difference to people's lives and here, this GP centre not only serves the local community, it serves people coming in from remote communities. They of course have particular health challenges, so thank you to Emma and her team for what you do each and every day. Can I also say that it was great to catch up with the new NT Chief Minister, Natasha Fyles, this morning. I have known Natasha for a large period of time and she has been a significant figure in the Territory, as the Health Minister, and it was great to talk about the issues and I look forward to working with every Premier and every Chief Minister, regardless of where they come from politically if we are successful on the 21st of May. I want to bring the country together. I want to unite the country. This country has conflict fatigue. They are sick of a Prime Minister who always looks for conflict, always looks for division. What they want to do is work in our common interest, and I'm committed to doing that. I thank Natasha for the catch-up this morning and I pay tribute to former Chief Minister Gunner for the work that he has done in public office as Chief Minister, he will continue as a member of the NT Assembly, of course, but I respect the decision that he has made for personal issues and I hope he enjoys the fact that because he has stood down as Chief Minister, he will have more time with his two little ones over the coming years.
Look, today's announcement is a very significant one. I have said that Labor wants to strengthen Medicare. We understand that Medicare is at the heart of our health system. Universal healthcare is something that is a Labor creation, Labor will always defend it and Labor will always strengthen it. Today's announcements are aimed at just that. Our Strengthening Medicare Taskforce and Fund, $750 million - $250 million each year between, starting from next year, 2023 Financial Year - will make an enormous difference. It has been supported by the AMA and we have worked with the health sector to make sure that we do strengthen Medicare, which is why this funding will be available. A Taskforce will be established, chaired by the Health Minister, including the AMA and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and others, to work on where the priorities areas are to strengthen Medicare. But one of the things that we know is that GP practices are really struggling in many areas. Importantly, during the pandemic we relied upon our GPs to step up. They stepped up to get people vaccinated, they stepped up to get people tested, they put in place additional capital investment that they had to do to deal with the issues that we are still dealing with today, re making sure that people could enter general practices safely. We need to provide them with more support, which is why our $220 million fund of strengthening Medicare GP grants is an important contribution, with grants from $25,000 to $50,000, to make sure, to make sure that our GP practices can continue to thrive. We know that in too many areas, it is getting harder to see a doctor, not easier, and what we need to do is to make sure that people can get that care when they need it. It's one of the reasons why we announced our Urgent Care Clinics, to take pressure off emergency departments, to work with existing GP services and community health clinics. It's one of the reasons why we are announcing this funding today of almost $1 billion, to make a difference to the health sector. One of the things about primary healthcare is that, over a period of time, if you take a step back, it actually saves you money. If you get that care early, then people get better health outcomes but, importantly as well, it takes pressure off the acute system - the hospital system, and people having, needing much greater health interventions. That's why today's announcement is so important. It's important that we do it here in the Northern Territory. It adds to the specific announcements that we've had, $111 million First Nations Health package that Penny Wong gave on my behalf when I was out of action due to a health concern, she went to Alice Springs to make that announcement. 500 additional health workers in Aboriginal communities, making a difference to people's lives. Health is the issue that motivated me, due to my own family experience, to be engaged in politics. I know the difference that it can make. We need to make sure that we value our GP services, that we value our health sector. I pay tribute today to the champions of the pandemic - our health care workers, whether they be our doctors, our nurses, our people who are receptionists dealing with the challenges in health care centres as well. Our people in the aged care sector. They stepped up. They deserve more than our thanks. What they deserve of us to do is to have a step back, look at what are the weaknesses in the health system, where are the pressures on, how does government make a difference to alleviate those pressures so we get better health care outcomes in the future. I'm very proud of that announcement today and I would ask Mark Butler to add some comments.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH: Well, thank you, Anthony. People have been telling us right through this campaign that for them it has never been harder or more expensive to see a doctor, after almost 10 years of cuts and neglect to Medicare from this Government. Patients are crying out for better access to a doctor and beater treatment options, particularly for complex chronic disease. Over the last few years, doctors' groups, nurses, allied groups and importantly patient groups have worked hard to develop a plan to strengthen Medicare. To deal with many of the issues Emma was talking to us about, the need to strengthen that relationship between a GP and a multidisciplinary team on the one hand, and particularly patients with more complex chronic disease on the other. A 10-year plan for primary care, GP practices like this and others across the country. But Scott Morrison has left those groups high and dry. He committed $450 million to the implementation of that plan back in 2019 and then cut his own funding, because that's what they do to Medicare. They cut the funding. And in this year's budget, there was absolutely nothing around the implementation of this important plan to improve primary care other than apparently $500,000 for governance, whatever that means. Classic Scott Morrison, a big announcement about this 60-page plan and nothing to deliver it, nothing to actually make it happen. Well, we will deliver the change the patients need to strengthen Medicare and particularly to improve primary care. We will have better access for patients, particularly after hours with their own GPs. We will have better care options. As I said, particularly for patients with complex chronic disease. And we will do that through the Strengthening Medicare Fund that Anthony is announcing today, a commitment of $750 million over the forward estimates to implement the key priorities that doctors, nurses, allied health groups, and importantly patient groups have said that Medicare needs immediately. And we will do that through a taskforce that will report by the end of this year, including those sorts of groups, to make sure that we get those priorities right and we deliver the change that patients and medical groups need. Also, as Anthony has said, we are delivering grants to support and strengthen general practice. They have done it tough over the last several years, after almost a decade of constant cuts from this Government. But as Anthony said, in spite of all that, they stepped up magnificently, to keep us safe, to keep us healthy over the course of this pandemic, with no additional support to put in place the additional infrastructure they needed for COVID, for telehealth and those sorts of things. As Anthony said, Australian GPs need more than our thanks. They need real support to strengthen their practice, to improve practice, and we will give them that support through $220 million of grants to improve patient access, to help them upgrade IT equipment, to deliver telehealth, to change their practices to expand and improve patient access, to upgrade their equipment and things like that. Only Labor has a plan to strengthen Medicare as well as to cut the price of medicines.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, do you think the Government has an ulterior motive in announcing the presence of a Chinese warship off the coast of WA so close to the election?
ALBANESE: Sorry, I will just defog so I can see you. Look, Labor shares concerns about the presence of an intelligence ship off the coast of Western Australia from the Chinese Government. We have asked for a fuller briefing. But I make this point about national security issues. There is a report today in Nine Newspapers - it is a serious report. What it indicates is that for four and a half months in the lead-up to the announcement about AUKUS, the United States Government was saying to the Australian Government, very clearly and repeatedly, that they wanted the Opposition, Labor, to be briefed and that they wanted to have the confidence that this would be a bipartisan issue in terms of support. They understood - the Biden Administration understood - that this is an upgrade of our alliance with the United Kingdom and the United States, that would have implications beyond who was in government at any particular time. The Biden Administration reached out to Republicans and to people on the other side of their political system, to ensure that it would have that support within the United States. And the Biden Administration sought reassurance from the Australian Government that Australian Labor had been consulted on these issues. It is extraordinary that the Prime Minister broke that faith and trust with our most important ally by not briefing Australian Labor on these issues. We were briefed on the afternoon of the Wednesday before the 7am announcement. I was contacted by Scott Morrison only on the day before and asked to fly to Canberra, which I did, with Richard Marles and Penny Wong, and Brendan O'Connor was also there, some remotely, to be briefed on the AUKUS proposals. It was a good, comprehensive briefing by officials. But the fact that the United States had made a request to Australia that was ignored for four and a half months, shows that this is a Prime Minister who always plays short-term politics, isn’t interested in the national interest. If it is a choice between the two, he will always go the short-term political interest. So what we have here, and we are aware of this, very consciously, is not only will be causing tensions with our relationship with France, an important ally, we are also causing tensions with our most important ally, the United States of America. I will not treat national security issues as an opportunity to make a difference on partisan domestic political points. No Australian Prime Minister should do that. When the request came in, I should have been briefed. I don't talk about our national intelligence briefings and national security briefings which I receive in detail. The only time I have given any information is when I have sought permission of those agencies to disclose information. I take national security seriously. This Prime Minister is always, always interested in the wedge, always interested in the division. And that is why when he says that, "I'll change", he can't be trusted. If you want to support change in Australia, change the Government, because this Prime Minister will not change. It is what he does. It is what Gladys Berejiklian called him out for on the bushfires. When she said he was more interested in the politics than in the people who were at the centre of that bushfire crisis. This Prime Minister won't change, which is why we need to change the Government.
JOURNALIST: Just going back specifically to that issue with the Chinese ship off the WA coast. Are you suggesting that this is short-term politics from the Government?
ALBANESE: I'm not suggesting that. I am suggesting that it is an issue of concern that this ship was off the coast of Western Australia. It is appropriate that we get proper security briefings on those issues. Brendan O'Connor has made it clear that he has requested that issue. It is not an issue that was raised with me in any of the briefings I’ve received.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask about some comments about Zoe Daniel made this morning. She has criticised John Howard for using gendered language when he described teal Independents as “anti-Liberal groupies”. Do you think that’s sexist?
ALBANESE: That is a matter for Zoe Daniel.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton called the presence of the Chinese ship off the WA coast an aggressive act. What do you make of that language, and what do you make of the timing of the press conference?
ALBANESE: Well, Scott Morrison didn't use the same language, I know that.
JOURNALIST: The timing of the press conference yesterday?
ALBANESE: It is up to him to explain why on a Friday afternoon that occurred.
JOURNALIST: $750 million is a lot of money. What can you tell voters about what it will actually be spent on, more than just a Taskforce is going to decide, and also how long is the health system going to have to wait for this money to be spent? You said at the end of the year it will have to make a decision. Does that mean no money will be spent over the next six months?
BUTLER: Well, the second question first. The GP grants flow immediately. So they will start flowing this year and next year to strengthen GP practices. The Strengthening Medicare Fund, particularly focused on that 10-year primary care plan I talked about will start to flow from 1 July next year. Now, there are a range of improvements in our general practice system, some of which Emma talked about earlier, that are identified in the 10-year plan. And what the taskforce's job will be to do between now and the end of the year is to pull out the key priorities. The AMA and the College have talked about priorities of strengthening the relationship between a General Practice, and particularly patients with complex and chronic disease. Emma talked about that today. They talk about the importance of after-hours services being available so that you can actually see your own doctor rather than perhaps a locum. Strengthening the ability of general practices like this to employ nurses and allied health professionals. Those are the sorts of things that the GP organisations, nurses organisations, and patient groups like the Consumers Health Forum have said they want to talk to government about. The problem with the current Government is they published this plan, made a big announcement and then followed up with absolutely no delivery.
JOURNALIST: Can you just clarify so the end of the year is when it has to report, but no money will be spent until 1 July?
BUTLER: As I said, the taskforce will report by the end of the year, identify the key priorities out of this long-term 10-year plan that should be addressed immediately. That report will then feed into the budget process for 2023 and funding will start flowing on 1 July 2023.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Medicare announcement as well - I cannot believe I just won that –
ALBANESE: The tone was right, you know - it wasn't loud, it was just firm. And just to get a bit of order, we will go here, and then here, and along here, and then go over there.
JOURNALIST: On the Medicare announcement, the Fund section talks about improving access to GPs and greater affordability for patients. What are the checks and balances? Like, clearly the Health Minister is chairing the taskforce. And if Labor is not promising to increase Medicare rebates like doctors have asked, due to fears around practice viability, aren’t you just tinkering around the edges?
BUTLER: I would ask you to invite the AMA or the College about that, they’ve indicated their strong support for this announcement this morning because they are so focused on implementing the plan that they have worked on so hard to deliver over the last three years. A plan that, as I said, will strengthen that relationship between a GP and a patient, potentially involving enrolment to particular practices that give rise to whole other payments. After-hours services, strengthening the GP's practices to employ nurses and other health professionals, these are the things that nurses and AMA have been talking to us about for months. These are the things that they worked so hard to deliver over the past three years, but got no follow-up investment from the Government. Those are the things they’ve talked to us about, those are the reasons why they've welcomed our announcement this morning.
ALBANESE: I did go through - it is a bit hot in here, so I've gone through what the order will be. You won't get advanced by yelling.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, your candidate for Parramatta has admitted he had an oversight with regards to electorate law. I’m talking about Andrew Charlton, who said he had an oversight in relation to electoral laws. Given what you said about the Coalition's –
ALBANESE: What? What? Detail.
JOURNALIST: The detail is that he listed at his wife's rental property under the electoral laws. Given what you said about the candidate for Lilley, is there a case of double standards here and –
ALBANESE: You haven't explained what the issue is.
JOURNALIST: Should you refer Mr Charlton to the AFP?
ALBANESE: I'm not aware of the issue which you raise, so I can't comment.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese there was a bit of back-and-forth yesterday between Mark McGowan and Peter Dutton and the Prime Minister. Mark McGowan has been quite vocal in his criticism of Mr Dutton's rhetoric on China. The Prime Minister's response to that was that Mark McGowan is not in charge of foreign policy. Is Mark McGowan and state Premiers people you would be looking to in regards to the relationship with China if you are elected?
ALBANESE: Well, I do note that Peter Dutton's rhetoric is very different from his own Government's rhetoric. It is very different from - Marise Payne is in charge of foreign policy in the Government - she is the Foreign Minister. Her rhetoric is very different from Peter Dutton. What we see going on here - we've seen it for some period of time - you notice the really subtle thing about ‘you can't be leader if you haven't been Treasurer’ when Josh Frydenberg is sitting behind the Prime Minister - there is tension within the Liberal Party. It is being played out day after day. There is tension within the National Party whereby people are doing the numbers, whether they win or not, over who is either Deputy Prime Minister or Leader of the National Party, depending upon the seats and the outcomes, and the Liberals and Nationals don't like each other, don't like each other.
JOURNALIST: Back to the question, would you be talking to State Premiers regarding the relationship with China, would they be people you would be looking to?
ALBANESE: The Australian Government is in charge of our national policy, but I will be engaging in a constructive way with business, with State Premiers, with civil society about our relationships. Mark McGowan is doing a great job as the WA Premier. I stand with Mark McGowan. Scott Morrison stands with Clive Palmer.
JOURNALIST: Just while we’re here in the Northern Territory, Scott Morrison has said that it is not his Government's policy to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart. He says his Government is focusing on listening to local voices rather than a symbolic national voice. Ken Wyatt has also said he talks to Indigenous communities, and they are more concerned with things like housing and health. Do you agree with Ken Wyatt's assessment of this and what would you call on the Government to do when it comes to the Uluru Statement from the Heart?
ALBANESE: The only voice that Scott Morrison wants to hear is his own. It is not surprising that he has ruled out a Voice to Parliament, because the only voice that Scott Morrison ever wants to hear is his own. That's why, even in the Parliament, he shuts down other voices. So it is not surprising given he won't have any debates in the Parliament that he doesn't want a Voice to Parliament. This is a generous offer from First Nations People. First Nations people are just asking, just asking to be consulted on issues that affect their lives, on health, on education, on housing, on those issues. It is a generous hand out from First Nations People, and what they are asking for is a partner, is just a joining of hands in our common interests. This is the same political party that said if we apologise to the Stolen Generations, it would be divisive. Peter Dutton walked out of that apology. What we need to do is to bring this country together. We are a strong country, but we will be even stronger, more cohesive and more proud if we do this, if we recognise that our history didn't begin in 1788. It is 65,000 years of the oldest continuous civilisation on the planet. We should be celebrating that. That is such a national asset for us. And I want this young woman here, Marion, to join our First Nations Caucus with Malarndirri, Pat Dodson and of course Linda Burney is just extraordinary, my local member. I find it extraordinary that the last election there were three things in terms of values that you can say that Scott Morrison said in 2019. He said there would be a national integrity commission, now he says basically there will never be one under him. He said there would be a Voice to Parliament, and now he is walking away from that. And he said there would be religious discrimination laws, and he walked way from his own legislation there. This is a Prime Minister who hasn't changed, who hasn't changed and can't change and won't change. He is incapable of lifting the country up because he is too busy trying to divide it.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, do you agree with the principle that more women in Parliament is a good thing, regardless of their social and political views?
ALBANESE: Yes. I think Parliament should reflect the population and the population is made up of men and women. It’s made up of different of people different ethnicity, different religions and we should have a Parliament – it will be strengthened if it’s more reflective. I certainly know that our Caucus is strengthened by the fact that if we are successful, if we are in government after next Saturday, then our Caucus will be 50% women, 50% men. It is pretty clear that that will be the outcome and that will be a good thing. Trudy and then –
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, back on China, the polls show you are on track to win come May 21. If you do that, will you reach out to speak with the Chinese President Xi Jinping?
ALBANESE: I am not getting ahead of myself and the relationship with China will remain complex and will remain challenging, regardless of who wins the election. I tell you who I will be reaching out to. I will be, if we are successful, I will be reaching out to the United States and the Biden Administration. And what the Biden Administration will get from me is, as our most important ally, is straight answers. What is very clear from today's revelations is that they didn't get straight answers from the Morrison Government.
JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, GPs will be dealing with the COVID pandemic for years to come. Will some of the money from this Fund help fund free PPE which GPs have been calling for for a long time? Secondly, will it also help address the precipitous fall of young GPs coming into general practice?
ALBANESE: Thank you, James. I will deal with the second question first. We heard from Emma and her colleagues today that there is a real drop-off in the interest of young medical graduates taking up a career in general practice. Over the course of the last several years that has gone as low as 15 per cent. Just one five per cent of medical graduates indicating they want to be GPs. Now that is against an historical position of 50 per cent. If we do not turn that around, we will face an extraordinary crisis in general practice over the coming five to 10 years. The most important thing we can do turn that around is to strengthen Medicare. Because the biggest thing, the biggest signal from this Morrison Government and his predecessor prime minister, has been constant cuts. The freezing of the Medicare Rebate. 900 cuts and changes last year to the Medicare Benefit Schedule. It just sends a message to young doctors that the Government doesn't value and respect Medicare, that it doesn't value and respect general practice and you are better off finding a career in the health system. That won't be the approach of the Albanese Labor Government. We know that Medicare and general practice is the backbone of the health system. It means that people get the care that they need, where they need it, when they need it and don't deteriorate to the point where they end up in Emergency Department.
ALBANESE: We will go to Chloe then Anna. I'm running the press conference. Chloe?
JOURNALIST: If you win this election, will you also change?
ALBANESE: Scott Morrison got asked a question the other night to say something nice for a minute. He couldn't quite get there, but he did try. But one of the things he said about me was that I have never forgotten where I came from, and I haven't. What you see is what you get. The values that I was raised with are the values that I hold dear, and they are the values that I will take into government. With two key themes to that. No one left behind, because I believe we should look after the disadvantaged and aim to lift people up. But also, no-one held back. That Labor is the party of aspiration and opportunity, that we should look for ways in which people can be the best they can be, and that will be my driving force. I don't believe this Prime Minister can change. It is a desperate statement that he made. The more accurate one that he made yesterday was that he was a bulldozer, because this is a Prime Minister that does tear things down, he doesn't build things up. The other thing that I have always been is a builder. I helped build here in terms of funding, the Tiger Brennan Drive, the most significant road upgrade in the NT's history. I helped upgrade the Port before the CLP came in and sold it to a business connected with the Chinese Communist Party, with a $20 million incentive from Scott Morrison to do so, as Treasurer. I built things. I built remote roads. I worked with Warren Snowdon and I pay tribute to Waz because I won't see him again before the election, probably, but he has been an extraordinary advocate for the people of the Northern Territory. I must say, sometimes a complete pain, to be Regional Development Minister and Local Government Minister and Infrastructure Minister with this bloke storming through the door, but what an amazing career he has had, and what a difference he has made to the Northern Territory, and I pay tribute to him today, and I am so proud that Marion is a worthy successor of Warren Snowdon, and I can give Marian no greater compliment.
JOURNALIST: Just on that front, this is a question for Marion Scrymgour, please. You've previously advocated for the view that we should listen to the people of Yuendumu and stop police carrying guns in remote communities. Do you still hold that view and what can Labor do to advance that cause?
MARION SCRYMGOUR, CANDIDATE FOR LINGIARI: I thank you for the question. What I said was that when you go to communities and you look across the Northern Territory, there are many police, that work with communities, and they don't have their guns on them, and those communities and those police have a fantastic relationship, and we have to build on it. We have to, for the sustainability and the better outcomes for our communities, we've got to look at how do we get the relationship between police and community and that balance right. And I think that, rather than the divisions which we have seen from the CLP, rather than those divisions, we need to bring both together because we need police on the ground in those communities. I have said that women and children, to remove police or to not have law and order, it leaves women and children vulnerable in those communities and I stand by that.
ALBANESE: Last one.
JOURNALIST: Thanks very much. Thanks for taking our questions.
ALBANESE: I try to - everyone, if you miss out, you try to get one the next day. It is quite steamy in here.
JOURNALIST: When the Liberal National Party candidate in Lilley was found to be registered at one address, but presented to the Electoral Commission as living elsewhere, you said it was a very serious issue, that the Prime Minister should take action and that the media should ask about it –
ALBANESE: No, the Electoral Commission took action.
JOURNALIST: You said it was very serious for the Prime Minister. Does the same standard apply for your handpicked candidate for Parramatta, Andrew Charlton.
ALBANESE: The Electoral Commission took action on that issue and referred the candidate for Lilley to the AFP. I expect the rules to always be upheld. Thanks.