Australian Prime Minister Doorstop Interview – Gosford

Prime Minister

Well, good morning, everyone. My name is Dr Gordon Reid. I’m the Federal Member for Robertson here. I want to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet, and pay my respects to all elders past, present and emerging, and recognise that the land upon which we learn, love and heal always was and always will be Aboriginal land. Today we are in Gosford Hospital, and can I welcome the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, along with my friend and colleague, Assistant Minister Emma McBride, and also Liesl Tesch, the State Member for Gosford. Gosford Hospital is much more than a hospital. It’s an educational institution. It’s where I first was a medical student and then an intern, resident, senior resident, and then continued my emergency department work, and now continue to practice in the emergency department at Wyong Hospital. And I’m seeing firsthand the benefits of the Albanese Labor Government’s health policies. Whether it is the Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, one in the north, one in the south. If you’re too sick for the GP and not sick enough for ED, now you have somewhere to go that is bulk billed. The changes to our cheaper medicines policies, making medicines more affordable for more people, making sure those chronic medical conditions don’t exacerbate and become acute conditions and then you have to see me in the middle of the night. So it is an absolute pleasure to be here today. Can I thank Scott McLachlan and the team here at Central Coast Local Health District for having us here today, and also to the staff on J8 in the cardiac ward and in coronary care. Ash, the nurse unit manager and the staff there, Dr Maged Williams, the Head of Cardiology. You all do amazing work saving lives of people here on the Central Coast. And with that, I will now hand over to the Prime Minister.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks very much, Gordon. And I do want to join with you, firstly, in thanking the doctors and nurses and health professionals who provided such a warm welcome here this morning at Gosford Hospital and who’ve shown us around the facilities. We’ve had the opportunity to talk to some patients, importantly, as well. We’ve had the opportunity to hear firsthand of the benefit that the announcement that we made in Tuesday night’s Budget will do when it comes to prac payments for nurses and for other people as well in essential work, such as educators, teachers and, of course, social workers as well. This is a practical reform that we have put forward. A practical reform that ensures something that I think most Australians will think was happening already, that when someone who’s doing a nurse degree is working here, doing their prac placement at a hospital that’s a compulsory part of their course, that they’d be paid. And so, this will make an enormous difference. And it’s been very well received. On top of that, we have the $3 billion of savings that we’ve made for people with their HECS debt. This will make an enormous difference, backdated as we have so that it wipes out last year’s jump that we saw in the costs of inflation. So, this will make a big difference for students. We want to attract people into teaching, into nursing, into these professions, because it is so necessary. This is a part of our health policy. The health policy that saw us triple the bulk billing rate for Medicare for seeing the doctor last year. That already is seen, over a period, we’ve seen a decline in bulk billing rates. That has seen the uptick in people being able to see a bulk billed doctor. Some 400,000 extra people have been able to do that since that came into effect. On top of that, we have our Medicare Urgent Care Clinics. There’s one at the Peninsula just down at Umina, and there’s one further north. We have 58 around the country. We’re going to roll out an additional 29. What that does is take pressure off emergency departments of hospitals. It has been incredibly effective. People can get in to see the care that they need without their credit card. All they need is their Medicare card. Again, making an enormous difference. This is a part of our plan that we put forward in the Budget to address cost of living pressures, to provide people with the care that they need when they need it. And there’s nowhere better to do that, of course, than the Central Coast, because we’re represented here by a doctor and a pharmacist in the Federal Parliament. And certainly, the work that Dr Reid and Emma McBride do is outstanding. Emma, of course, is an Assistant Minister in the health area as well. This is a part of our commitment that we put forward in the Budget. A tax cut for every taxpayer. Energy bill relief for every household. Strengthening Medicare for every community. And making a difference to people. Our priority was to provide cost of living relief without putting pressure on inflation. And we’ve done that. But a second priority as well is, of course, a Future Made in Australia. And this week, you’ll have Ministers, including myself, around the nation, talking about how we need to make more things here, how a Government that is responsible deals with immediate pressures that are before us, such as cost of living issues, but at the same time, always has our eye on the future. How do we build economic growth? How do we add to the 820,000 jobs that have been created since we’ve come to office, a record for any new first term government? So, I’m very proud to be here today to be talking about health. I’m very pleased and thank the health professionals who’ve welcomed us here today and told us their stories as well. And I’ll hand to Emma before we take questions.

EMMA MCBRIDE, MEMBER FOR DOBELL: It’s a real honour to be here today with my colleague and friend, Dr Gordon Reid and Liesl Tesch, the State Member. The Prime Minister has a deep and ongoing interest in the Central Coast, in our community. (Inaudible). Nursing students, social work students weren’t being paid. What I’ve heard in places all around the country is the cost of prac has meant students have to drop out, can’t complete their nursing degree, can’t complete their social work degree. This will make such a big difference in areas of workforce shortage, particularly in regional and more rural parts of Australia. We know that prac payment will mean that someone will have a little bit extra to be able to help them to finish their degree. We know that will improve retention, recruitment, and make a big difference in the most regional and rural parts of Australia. And this is on the back of the investment that the Prime Minister’s mentioned in the last Budget, a tripling of the bulk milling incentive, more than $3 billion, the biggest investment in Medicare since it was introduced. The biggest difference we’ve seen is in regional and more remote parts of Australia. In my electorate of Dobell, a 5.8 per cent jump in bulk billing. That saved collectively $200,000 for more than 5,000 patients, being able to have a fully bulk billed GP appointment. I want to thank the PM for his leadership. My colleague, Dr Gordon Reid, is such a strong advocate in our community, and being able to work alongside a powerhouse like Liesl Tesch, the State Member for Gosford. Collectively, this is making a difference. We know people are doing it tough. And what these measures will mean is improving access to healthcare at the same time as taking pressure off the family budget. And as a pharmacist to see a freeze on the PBS co-payments for five years for a pensioner, a healthcare cardholder, I’ve seen people with prescriptions come to me and say ‘Which one can I delay, or which one can I avoid to fill’. They’re the people that end up seeing Gordon in the emergency department because they’ve missed essential medicines that are vital to their care. So, a big investment in this Budget, building on the investment in the last budget, will make such a big difference to people seeking care, to the people providing it and to our wider community. So, thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much. We are happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: I understand you would be very limited in what you can talk about, but the report from the ABCs Andrew Greene today suggesting that there are six members of the ADF, specifically the five of them, plus another related to the rigging department in the army, tested positive to illicit drugs immediately before Lance Corporal Jack Fitzgibbon died in an accident. That must cause some concern.

PRIME MINISTER: My thoughts are very much with Jack Fitzgibbon’s family on this news. Of course, the investigation is ongoing, so I can’t talk in any further detail about the specifics, but my heart goes out to Joel and Diane, Jack’s parents, and that whole family who, it was an enormous tragedy. I visited the ADF personnel there in Richmond in the days after the tragedy, and my heart goes out to them at this time. This will be a difficult day for them, on top of the difficult days and weeks that they’ve gone through.

JOURNALIST: How concerning is it, though, these members, as you mentioned, this unit rigs these parachutes for training jumps, that they tested positive just days before his death?

PRIME MINISTER: This is of concern. I can’t comment on the detail because clearly the ADF’s investigations are ongoing. And that’s why my thoughts will be with the family and friends of Jack Fitzgibbon. I attended his memorial service there in Cessnock for Jack. I knew Jack personally. I’d met him because of my friendship with his family. And he was much loved by his co-members and by his local community. And it was quite a send off for Jack. And that community will be having another tough day today on top of the very difficult period that they have gone through.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident that it’s being investigated properly?

PRIME MINISTER: The ADF, quite clearly, the fact that you’re asking me questions about it is a clear indication that the ADF are being transparent in how they’re dealing with these issues.

JOURNALIST: This was leaked media, though. It wasn’t a press release from the ADF.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the ADF have clearly undertaken appropriate investigations. The ADF, it’s important that they be allowed to conduct these processes through to conclusion.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask about the diplomatic help offered to Gregor Haas at the moment, who is facing the death penalty arrested in Manila?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Australian Government has a bipartisan position of being opposed to the death penalty for a long period of time. That remains our position, and we always make representations. It is, of course, at a very early stage of these accusations which have been made. We will provide consular assistance to Mr Haas, as we do for all Australian citizens in such circumstances.

JOURNALIST: And what’s your response to his proposed deportation to Indonesia?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we will continue to make diplomatic representations in an appropriate way. One of the things that the Australian Government do is we stand up for Australian citizens, we make appropriate representations through diplomatic channels. And we’ll be doing that in this occasion again.

JOURNALIST: The Smart Energy Council has released a new report confirming nuclear power is six times more expensive than renewables. What do you think of the policy of pursuing nuclear energy in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it just doesn’t make sense. And I notice that David Littleproud today, having said previously that they would release the location of where these nuclear reactors would be held or built under the Coalition if ever they came to government, today he’s saying sometime before the end of the year. At the same time, David Littleproud has said that they have done polling in the areas where the nuclear reactors are going to be built. So, he clearly has full knowledge of where these reactors will be built, but he won’t tell Australians where it will be. Earlier this week, he said he’d look Australians in the eye and tell them where it would be, what it would cost, who would build them and who would finance them. Today, he’s saying, ‘We’ve got polling, but we’re not going to tell you’. It’s not good enough. The fact is that the markets have spoken. The market is saying that renewables are six times cheaper than new nuclear power energy. And that is why no one is putting their hand up and saying, ‘We will finance these reactors’. It will need massive government subsidies. Nothing will happen for at least a decade on the best case scenario, they have no financing, will require massive subsidies upfront as well as, of course, energy shortfalls because in the meantime we’ll go back to nothing happening when what we need is additional energy supply. This is a shocking policy. It doesn’t stack up, which is why they’re hiding it from the Australian people. Peter Dutton has given three budget replies and has yet to come out with a single costed policy on any measure that he has put forward. When I was the Labor Leader, we had fully costed policies on issues like rewiring the nation, on cheaper child care, on the Housing Australia Future Fund, on Australian manufacturing, on the National Reconstruction Fund, on all of these positive measures that we are now putting in place. He wants to keep everything silent because he has nothing positive to offer the Australian people. No positive plans, just nuclear-level negativity is all that Peter Dutton has. And his nuclear plan is just a part of that nuclear negativity.

JOURNALIST: The suggestion today is that the $300 energy rebate is an admission that currently your energy policy is failing. Australians are still paying too much for their energy. What do you say there?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they’re all over the shop, aren’t they? First they voted against energy price relief that we previously has put in place that’s assisted people and has reduced inflation. Now, firstly, they said it was too much, the energy price relief plan. Now they’re coming up with another reason to complain about it. We’ll see whether they actually oppose it. On taxpayer relief as well, on our tax cuts, they came out and said they’d reverse it. Then they said that we should go to an election on it, before they voted against it. And again, in that area, they’re saying they’ll have their own tax cuts. They’ll restore, at various times, they’ve said they would restore the tax cuts to the high end. They need to say how they’re going to pay for that, when they’re going to do that, what the cost is. This is not an alternative government. This is just a relentlessly negative Opposition that just oppose things. You can’t actually build a nation and take it forward with just a policy of opposing any measures.

JOURNALIST: Just on New Caledonia, what’s being done to help the Australian stranded there?

PRIME MINISTER: The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are working very closely to examine the need to protect Australians who are in New Caledonia. We know that there’s around about 300 people are registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, so that those people who are looking for information can call 1300 555 135 to get that assistance. The Australian Government is closely monitoring events in New Caledonia.

JOURNALIST: There are reports they’re running out of food and commercial flights are stopped.

PRIME MINISTER: Commercial flights stopped a couple of days ago. We are looking at in what way we can provide assistance to Australians who are currently in New Caledonia.

JOURNALIST: Final question for me, if you can explain, please, the one-click switch program in the Budget to help households find better electricity deals?

PRIME MINISTER: What that is, there’s an idea so that people can just log on, do a click and get the support that they need to transition to a cheaper energy bill. At the moment, one of the things that’s happened is if people are on a time limited deal, when it runs out, often their costs go up because they get immediately put onto a higher cost package. Now, what this will do is to make sure that consumers can get the support that they need. Chris Bowen is making that major announcement today. And it’s a very positive one.

JOURNALIST: Should there be a compulsory message to the consumer from the energy provider that their contract is about to end, which would subsequently mean they’re put onto a higher tier?

PRIME MINISTER: I think that energy companies have a responsibility to be transparent and to look after their customers. That’s how they’ll keep them.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask one more question about the Australian injured in Afghanistan in a deadly attack there? Do you have an update on it?

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, no, I don’t. But the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, my understanding is, will be making a more detailed, be responding to that later today.

JOURNALIST: Is there any investigation here to determine whether there are any drugs linked to the cartel here? Alleged cartel?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are looking after these issues.

/Public Release. View in full here.