DOORSTOP: 5/11/21

November 05, 2021


CHRIS LYNCH, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BRADDON: My name is Chris Lynch, I’m the Labor candidate for Braddon in the upcoming Federal election, and we’re just walking through the University and the School of Nursing, and had a good chat to Steve, but I’m here to introduce Mark Butler, who is the Member for Hindmarsh and the Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing, and I’ll hand it over to you. 

MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING: Thanks Chris. This has been a great visit to this wonderful new campus here in Burnie, the Cradle Coast Campus, because we know how important it is to be able to train the next generation of health professionals, not just in our big cities but right through regional communities. We know if we do that, they're more likely to set up practice in those communities themselves. 

This is my third visit to Northern Tasmania this year and every time I come here and talk to health groups or doctors and nurses and other health professionals, they're saying the same thing. Which is, it is becoming harder and harder to get access to the health care that people need, where they need it and when they need it, at an affordable price. 

That's why we're so focused on these health issues in the lead into the next election. But today we have a National Cabinet meeting, there hasn't been one for four weeks, this is obviously a really challenging period of time for all states, either because lockdowns are being lifted in Victoria, NSW and the ACT, or in other states that are COVID-free currently, there is a plan to lift border restrictions which raises the prospect obviously of the virus reaching into those jurisdictions and everyone wants to be assured that hospital systems are going to be kept safe and strong in that period.

Now the AMA is out yet again this morning, calling on the Federal Government to put in place a plan that will keep our hospitals safe and strong over the next phase of the National Cabinet plan. We've said the Prime Minister needs to do two things.

Firstly, he needs to release the modelling that was conducted by the Doherty Institute about what the impact on our hospital systems would be, of borders being opened and lockdowns being lifted, and yet he's kept that modelling secret since September. The AMA, Federal Labor, many other groups have been calling for that to be released, and then the Commonwealth needs to sit down with the states and develop a plan to make sure our hospitals remain safe and strong. Here in Tasmania, in my state of South Australia, other states that are currently COVID-free, hospital systems are already under enormous pressure, already struggling to cope with demand even without the COVID virus in those states, effectively without a significant flu season.

Nurses and doctors simply can't afford for Scott Morrison, yet again, to pretend that keeping hospitals safe is all someone else’s responsibility. He must stop making political fights with the states, particularly the Labor states. This is a demand of all state governments, for the Commonwealth to put their shoulder to the wheel, sit down and develop a plan to keep us safe. 

JOURNALIST: You sort of mentioned before you've been here a couple of times, but how do you know what problems are facing the region here?

BUTLER: This morning we had a breakfast with a range of GPs and pharmacists, over in Ulverstone yesterday, and in Launceston, I was meeting with range of groups like Dementia Australia, Men’s Sheds and other health providers, primary care health providers working out in the community, as I did five weeks ago when I was in Launceston and earlier this year as well. And talking to those groups there's a very clear and consistent message that I hear right through the country, particularly as you get out of our big cities and that is, it has become harder and harder particularly to get into a GP when you need it, where you need it, and when you do get in, you're more likely to be paying big gap fees because of the Federal Government’s freeze for years, of the Medicare rebate. 

All of those pressures, pressures in being able to get into see a GP, pressures in our aged care facilities which have a nursing crisis because of budget cuts there, all end up in our emergency departments, placing huge pressure on hospital systems to deal with care needs that could be dealt with in the community if we had those services available to people. 

So, we've got a Senate Inquiry underway into the crisis in regional communities, in terms of GP access, that is hearing those stories, the stories I'm hearing in Northern Tasmania, right through regional Australia and even in our outer suburbs as well. 

JOURNALIST: One of the things we hear a lot from doctors and nurses is just the lack of staffing and then how difficult it is to get people to come here and then to get them to stay. How do you propose to help that?

BUTLER: One of the things that can help with that is training people in the regional communities themselves rather than expecting young people to travel to the big cities to become doctors, to become nurses, to become allied health professionals.

The more people get trained in their own community, we know from good evidence the more likely they are they are have set up their work lives there, to build families and to build a career in communities like this, in Burnie. So, congratulations to you Tas for doing this. This is going be training generations of new nurses who will build a career in the North West of Tas to provide exactly those care needs that we've been talking about.

JOURNALIST: On borders, we've had an issue come up locally to do with FIFO workers and paying for tests to cross borders, once this 90 per cent is reached, once the borders are open, should these tests be free?

BUTLER: We've heard that National Cabinet apparently intends to discuss today the testing and tracing regimes. We think that business and the broader community need a clear message from Scott Morrison about how the testing arrangements are going to be put in place. Is it going to be all someone else’s responsibility again to make sure that there are good testing arrangements in place? 

We've been calling for weeks and weeks now, the business community has been making the same calls, for good access to rapid antigen testing that's been rolled out for months now in other countries around the world. We do need some greater clarity around particularly those testing arrangements. Not just over state borders, but within states too, increasingly businesses are going to expect people to be able to test to get into aged care facilities and a range of other settings, but there's no clarity from Government about what support there will be for that.

JOURNALIST: So, would you have a national system rather than this patchwork state system?

BUTLER: We'd like to see the National Cabinet have a discussion about that today and put some ideas out for the community to consider, including the business community, because at the moment all of that responsibility is on their shoulders.

JOURNALIST: Just to go back to my other question, personally do you think it should be free? It does cost a lot to come back and forth between borders and FIFO workers are thinking “maybe I should just stay where the job is”.

BUTLER: We don't think there's a single sort of rule that should be applied here, but we do think it's something that National Cabinet should consider and then put some ideas out to the community for us all to have a debate about. 

JOURNALIST: Then just on another topic, how do you think you're going in Braddon? How are the internal polls looking?

BUTLER: As an outsider who gets to travel to a lot of electorates, we've got a great candidate in Chris, who has got such deep roots in this community and a great background of representation as well. So from a Federal perspective, we're really excited that Chris has decided to run for the Labor Party. We think he's got a great background, a great resumé for public service and would make a great addition to our group in Canberra. 

Obviously as I get around I'm particularly focused on health issues and the sense I've got in my three visits to Tasmania over the last several months, particularly here in Northern Tasmania, is health issues are really prominent in people’s thinking about the next election. 

We've had eight long years of cuts to Medicare that have made it much harder for people to get in to see a GP and when they do get in there, their gap fees have climbed enormously over the last eight years. We're seeing a real crisis in aged care that causes enormous concern to people about their ability to make sure that their loved ones are going to be cared for properly in aged care, and I think people trust the Labor Party with Medicare. We built it, if you're concerned about health issues then I think we are going to have a really compelling set of policies to take to the next election.

JOURNALIST: And you Chris? How are you feeling about your prospects of winning a seat?

LYNCH: That is my intention - I'm doing everything I can every day. Knocking on doors, making phone calls, and in streets stalls trying to push the policies of the Anthony Albanese Labor Government.

I believe in those policies and I look forward to continuing the work that I've already been doing here in Burnie.