MONDAY, 9 JULY 2018
SUBJECT/S: Braddon by-election, Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts to health and hospitals, mining in Tasmania’s North West, polling
JUSTINE KEAY: Thanks for coming today, it’s really great to have Catherine King our Shadow Minister for Health here in Ulverstone. We’ve been talking to Steven and Angela. Steven has a lot of complex health issues and he’s just one of the many faces of Tasmania’s health system, which is just not meeting his needs. He’s waiting a long time for a number of appointments and it’s creating a lot of issues for him in how he deals with his health. This happens across Tasmania all the time and what we want to see is Tasmanians actually accessing the health services they need when they need it. That’s why Labor, under a Shorten Labor Government, would commit $4.5m to the Tazreach program, which is an important program where specialists actually come to us. We don’t have to travel to them. This funding was cut in 2016 by Malcolm Turnbull – we’re committed to reinstating it so people like Steven can get the health care that they need.
JOURNALIST: Do you think this election will be fought on health in Braddon?
KEAY: Health is a critical issue in this electorate. There are so many people here that are waiting on elective surgery – that’s why a Shorten Labor Government will commit $30 million to reduce elective surgery waiting times. This election will be fought on the priorities of Labor and the priorities of the Coalition: Labor will invest money into our health, our schools, rebuilding TAFE; while Malcolm Turnbull and my opponent are quite happy to give $17 billion to the big banks at the expense that funding into our hospitals.
JOURNALIST: Just chuck one in on mining just quickly. The premier and prime minister’s announced $3.5 million in tax relief to get the Avebury Mine restarted on the West Coast. What’s Labor’s plan for mining on the West Coast and is it something you will focus on in your campaign?
KEAY: It’s great to see the nickel price has risen so that some of these mines can actually start to get ahead and mine the minerals we have so much of. We support jobs down the West Coast. We support the mining sector here in Tasmania very, very strongly. What we don’t support though is Malcolm Turnbull dudding the West Coast with his record on a lack of funding for our hospital system and health. He’s not making this Tazreach funding – he has said he will not do that. This service goes to the West Coast but they’re not going to get the services under Malcolm Turnbull. And he’s also given them a second-rate NBN service – and let’s not forget that Brett Whiteley was very committed for the West Coast, including the mines, to be on a satellite service. It took a lot of fight from the local community there to get him to back down to build a second-rate fibre-to-the-node service. Which is not great for the mines and it’s certainly not great for business and the residents there of the West Coast.
CATHERINE KING: I might just say a few words on health as well. Thanks very much for inviting me here Justine and it’s been lovely to meet with Steve and Angela to hear about their health journey and the difficulty that they’re experiencing here accessing outpatient services for a range of different conditions. Justine is absolutely right: Malcolm Turnbull has cut $11 million out of Tasmanian hospitals. They went to the 2013 election promising they would fund 50 per cent of growth in the efficient price in hospitals and they’re now only funding 45 per cent. That has cut $11 million. And alone here in this region, for the North West Regional Hospital, that’s over $700,000. That means that outpatient services for people in this region are blowing out, the waiting times are blowing out over and over again. We’re very proud that Justine and Labor have made the commitment of $30 million to improve elective surgery waiting times. Six thousand people here are waiting for elective surgery – whether it’s hip or knee replacements, or cataract surgery in this region. We’ve also said we want to restore the funding for the outreach services. Services that provide outpatient visits here in this community so people like Steven across this community can actually access the services they need. Now we know that Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t want to talk about health – and there’s a very good reason he doesn’t want to talk about health. It’s because they’ve got an appalling record when it comes to the North West of Tasmania, the whole of Tasmania, the whole of the country when it comes to health. I’m happy to take questions too.
JOURNALIST: Just coming to today’s Fairfax-IPSOS poll, I was just wondering Justine what you’re reaction to that would be given it shows that this is such a close race, within one per cent – it’s practically 50/50, what’s your reaction to that?
KEAY: This is a marginal seat. It has been for decades and every election here is a very hard-fought contest. It will go down to a very close election result. I understand that. But it’s quite clear with the 20,000 phone calls that my campaign has made to the electors of Braddon, the 8000 doors we’ve knocked on, that the people of Braddon do not support Malcolm Turnbull’s company tax cuts for multinationals and the big banks. They want to see money into hospitals and our health system. They want to see better resourcing of our schools and they want to see TAFE rebuilt so we can put on more apprentices here in the North West. That message is very clear. My job between now and polling day is to talk to as many voters as I can so they can understand that contrast between a Labor candidate and a Labor Government, and a Liberal candidate and a Coalition Government. The choice is very clear: money to the big banks or money to hospitals.
JOURNALIST: The independent Craig Garland has indicated that he will preference Labor over the Liberal Party, third and fourth, in that order. The Shooters and Fishers have yet to release their preference flows, although they're going to put Craig Garland number one. Has Labor been doing any deals with either independent Craig Garland or the Shooters and Fishers here in Braddon to ensure that they get first on the ticket, over the Liberals?
KEAY: Well certainly the comments from people like Senator Abetz - I think he's quite upset Craig Garland with his comments, calling him a closet Green. I don't think people that are rec fishers are closet Greens. They're people that care about their sector, they care about recreational and commercial and wild fisheries. They want both sides of politics to listen to what they have to say, and Craig Garland's a very strong advocate for recreational fishing. I've had a conversation with Craig to get an understanding of what it is that he would like both sides of politics to look at. It's a shame that my Liberal opponents cannot do the same.
JOURNALIST: And have there been any deals?
JOURNALIST: Another question on health. Would you say that North West Tasmania and Tasmania in general has a lower class health system than what you've seen on the mainland?
KING: We certainly know that in terms of the burden of chronic disease that is here in North West Tasmania - it's really high. We've got lots of people with chronic conditions and that means lots of people who need access to outpatient appointments, good GP services, good preventive health services here in this community. So the last thing you want to see for the people of the North West is funding being cut - whether it's the GP Tax that the Liberal candidate here backed in when he was in Government, said it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, to expect people to pay more to see their GP - whether it's GPs, whether it's cuts to hospitals, cuts to prevention, cuts to public dental, you name it, Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals have absolutely slashed funding. And when you've got a population that really needs and relies on its health services, the last thing you should be doing is backing in Malcolm Turnbull.
JOURNALIST: It is true that Tasmania does perform poorly in the public hospital system wait lists. The Royal Hobart Hospital for example has Cat 1 elective surgery, 74 per cent of those are met within the 28 days which is recommended, whereas the national average is more like 95 per cent. However that 74 is an improvement on the 69 per cent in recent years, so the direction has been an improvement in recent years. Do you admit that?
KING: What we've actually seen is that Labor's reforms, improvements to public hospitals, the extra money that we put in - $89 million extra that went here into Tasmania to improve elective surgery and emergency department waiting times - those improvements actually worked. They were really vital in improving particularly emergency department waiting times, and providing assistance to the Tasmanian State Government to provide those vital services.
But what you saw under Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull was all of that funding gone - that extra money to provide that. And what you've seen since is that elective surgery waiting list going up and up. And the latest figures, in June this year, showed that the list had again been increasing. And that's only going to continue if you don't properly fund your hospitals, if you don't fund outpatient appointments, if you don't get the funding back here in the North West for TazReach - which Labor has promised.