PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY 23 JUNE 2016
SUBJECTS: Medicare, Vaccination register, Lucy Turnbull, Brexit.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks everyone for coming along today. My name's Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Treasurer. The Coalition's attempt to privatise Medicare by stealth continues again today with further news they've put out a tender for the privatisation of the Australian School Vaccination Register. This could potentially see the confidential details of the vaccination of Australian school children falling into private hands. We know the Coalition has never liked the public nature of Medicare. For a quarter of a century they campaigned against it. We've seen under the Abbott-Turnbull Government the promise of no cuts to health, which turned around after the election into savage cuts. The Coalition attempted to impose a GP co-payment. Stuck in the Senate is a $5 increase in the pharmaceutical benefits co-payment.
We've also got the Medicare payments freeze, a six year freeze which is increasing the private costs of health care in Australia. In 2009, Malcolm Turnbull said he thought it would be best if all Australians had private health insurance. So you can see the Coalition's ongoing agenda to try and increase the private share of Australian health care. Frankly, believing that the Coalition are going to come to love the public nature of Medicare is like believing that the Rolling Stones want to stop touring. They want to do it. They've always wanted to do it. Their fans want them to do it. The Coalition are going to continue to attempt to privatise Medicare by any means possible.
Finally, I just want to make some comments on the reports that the Liberal Party has attempted to use the public position of the Prime Minister's wife in order to raise money for the Liberal Party. This is the second time in which we've seen this sort of thing happen from the Liberal Party. The taxpayers of Sydney pay the Prime Minister's wife in order to do a job. They should be entitled to know that the Liberal Party won't attempt to raise money by using that political position. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: On the vaccination register, don't private health insurers carry millions of details anyway? What's the difference between private health insurers and a vaccination register?
LEIGH: The difference is that this is a register which includes the details of all Australian school children. It's not something that you can choose to opt into. It's something that covers all Australian kids. It is to bring together two existing registers. Labor supports the notion of a National Vaccination Register. What we don't support is that that should be privatised, another part of the Liberals' ongoing attempt to privatise Medicare.
REPORTER: Is the problem that the private operator of that could be the target of hacking or could sell it off for other purposes? What's the nefarious purposes behind it that you're concerned about?
LEIGH: I suspect if you asked most Australians, "would you like your kids' vaccination details held by the Government or held in private hands?" they'd say that information should be held by the Government. Only Labor will deliver that outcome. Only Labor will ensure that we have a strong public role in our health care system. Only Labor can be trusted to defend Medicare.
REPORTER: On Lucy Turnbull, aren't family members off limits during election campaigns? Should they be fair game, do you think?
LEIGH: This is a question about the Liberal Party's attempt to use Mrs Turnbull's position in order to raise money for the Liberal Party of Australia. Mrs Turnbull holds a position with the Greater Sydney Commission. That is a position that we're not questioning. What we're questioning is the use of that taxpayer-funded role in order to raise money for a political party.
REPORTER: Can I ask you about Labor's small business tax plans and the corporate tax cut? Is there any circumstances in which Labor would modestly raise that threshold from $2 million to something else? There are a lot of businesses that make a little bit more than $2 million. Is there some flexibility in that or are you absolutely stuck on it?
LEIGH: Australia's had a long held definition of small business. It's businesses that are less than $2 million. What the Liberal Party's been trying to do over recent months is to say that we ought to reclassify billion dollar businesses as small businesses so as to give them a tax cut. The Liberal Party of Australia is so desperate to help out their mates in the big end of town, the big banks, the big multinationals, that they want to reclassify them as small business. Labor won't have a bar of it. There's a definition of small business in Australia and we support that definition. We support small businesses getting a tax cut. What we don't believe that with debt having increased by $5,000 a person over the last term, that it's appropriate to blow a huge hole in the budget with a $50 billion corporate tax cut.
REPORTER: You're an avid observer of global economics, what do you think a Brexit, Britain leaving Europe, would do for the Australian economy and for the global economy. Is there a great fear that it could create instability?
LEIGH: I think what it would do in the immediate term is to lead Britain to look far more inward. Britain would, as a country outside the European Union, then have to spend considerable energy renegotiating trade agreements with other countries. For Australian companies that use Britain as an entry point to the European Union, that would also generate disruption. There would be disruption that would flow as a result of the labour market arrangements and it’s certainly a campaign that would be, in my view, destabilising to the global economy. Britain’s a significant trading partner for Australia, more so in services than in goods and all of our exporters who are involved in Britain would be potentially affected if Britain were to leave the Eurozone. No other questions? Thanks everyone.