Australian Prime Minister Radio interview – ABC Central Coast

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, is visiting the Central Coast today, a place he has very close connections to with his now fiancé, Jodie Haydon, a local through and through. Good morning, Mr Prime Minister.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Scott. Very good to be with you. She is indeed a very proud Coastie, a product of Kincumber High School and Woy Woy Public School and a couple of others around there. And she loves the Central Coast and her parents and family are still there, her brother and sister in law and lovely little niece. And her grandma is, of course, there as well at age 95. She’s still going very, very strong there at Gosford.

LEVI: You know how parochial ABC local radios are, they’re in there to bat for their region and nothing else. That’s our job. But what I really liked about reading her bio was that she tried Asquith Girls and went there for a couple of years and said, no, this Sydney’s not for me. I want to go back to the coast and went back to Kincumber High School. That was pretty cool.

PRIME MINISTER: She went back. Yeah, that’s right. She’s very proud and her circle of friends is very much people that she went to school with. It’s amazing how tight they are and that provides a real foundation for her. It’s terrific that they still all get together, probably not as much as they used to now that we’re primarily living at the Lodge here in Canberra.

LEVI: That’s good to have the bridesmaids all sorted before the big event. And where on the Central Coast is this huge nuptial event going to happen?

PRIME MINISTER: We’re 24 hours in, a lot of planning went into the asking the question on Wednesday night. But we haven’t worked through any of those details. But there’s lots of time. And of course, in the meantime, pretty busy lives. Over the weekend, I’ll be on the coast this morning, looking forward to being there with Emma at the Urgent Care Clinic at Lake Haven, and then up in Newcastle, and then on Sunday I’m in the south coast at Nowra and then to Perth. So, it’s a busy time. I’m in Western Australia for three days, so we will at some stage have an opportunity to slow down a bit to talk these things through.

LEVI: All right, so no plans for the location on the Central Coast for the wedding as yet?

PRIME MINISTER: No, no indeed.

LEVI: If you didn’t get it right on Valentine’s Day, you’d have to wait another year so at least that worked well and the answer was in the affirmative, as it was for passing the tax cuts. The opposition had five hours, I think I listened to some of that on Newsradio to rail against what you were doing, but they eventually begrudgingly signed off on the legislation. The Stage Three Tax Cuts take effect from the 1 July. The tax cuts will reduce the 19 per cent tax rate to 16 per cent, reduce the 32.5 per cent tax rate to 30, increase the threshold above which the 37 per cent tax rate applies from $120 to $135,000 and so on and so forth. The threshold above 45 per cent rate applies from 180 to 190,000. So, you’re pretty familiar with the demographics of the Central Coast. Who are the winners and who are the losers?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, everyone’s a winner on the Central Coast because every single taxpayer will get a tax cut. But the good news is that average workers, whether they’re nurses or teachers or police officers or people working for the local council, will all get double the tax cut that they were going to get, and no one will miss out. So, on the Coast, of course, there’s a lot of part time workers, people who earn under $45,000, people who were working in aged care or working in the service industry, they will all get a tax cut. They were going to get absolutely nothing. And what was extraordinary about the debate yesterday was that we had amendments moved to remove the words cost of living from the title of the bill. These are cost of living tax cuts. The government changed its position because of the pressure that low and middle income earners are under. And we understood that we needed to take action in order to provide increased support. Now the Opposition, you’re quite right, they talked about it for hour after hour, criticised it and then voted for it. They had to vote for it because it’s a much better proposal than what was there before, where people were simply going to miss out and where the big beneficiaries would have been people like myself, the politicians. We’ll still get $4500 – that’s a sizeable tax cut. But it just means that instead of it all going to the top end, to high income earners, everyone will get a tax cut. And that will be of great benefit too, because low and middle income earners, they’ll go and support the small businesses in Wyong and in Gosford and in Woy Woy and in Kincumber. That will make a positive difference there as well.

LEVI: The cost of living rising, of course, is something that those opposite you in parliament brought up in all of those speeches saying that this will be absorbed by this cost of living crisis. Other have said that it’s knee jerk to do that now when down the track things could change. But what are your thoughts about that? And bracket creep as well, was something that they spoke about quite a bit.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we’ve done is that since we came to office, we’ve had a range of measures. We had the Energy Price Relief Plan – that has made an enormous difference to people who would have had much higher bills had we not intervened in what was a pretty radical intervention to put a cap on the price of coal and gas. And we did that, credit where credit’s due, in partnership with the Perrottet Liberal government in NSW, and that’s continued to be supported, of course, by Chris Minns and his government. The only people who opposed it were Peter Dutton and the federal Liberals. We have cheaper medicines there – that has already benefited Australians to the tune of $250 million. Cheaper childcare means average childcare costs have come down by 11 per cent. Fee free TAFE has benefited 300,000 Australians. One of the places I launched fee free TAFE was there on the coast with the co-located facility that’s there with the University of Newcastle. But this move is a sensible proposal and every measure that we have put in place to assist with cost of living has been opposed by the opposition. Now, just because you called the opposition doesn’t mean you should oppose everything, but that’s what they’ve done. Even when they voted for this yesterday, as you’ve said in your introduction, they kept railing against it. Well, if it’s a bad idea, they should have voted against it. But it is a good idea, which is why it’s gone through. And every Central Coast resident will benefit.

LEVI: On to other local issues because we better talk about what you’re here for, which is of course, to visit the Blue Haven Urgent Care Clinic, which will service shortly Shortland. We spoke to Pat Conroy about that, and Dobell. Emma McBride spoke to us from the opening of that facility. It’s to take pressure off the GPs and also the emergency departments. But the demise of bulk billing on the Central Coast is a huge issue. Have a listen to one of our texters this morning after it was revealed melanoma was the number one cancer on the coast. And Neil wrote in to say, ‘over many years, I’ve had hundreds of basal cell and squamous cell cancers removed. For years it was bulk billed, then all of a sudden it wasn’t. The initial consultation is, but having them removed is $200, depending on the time required. Three, four, five of them adds up. Also, the bulk billing of those skin testing clinics used to be quite common here on the coast. Now you’ve got to pay for that consultation, and people doing it tough are putting that off’. This is a real life example, according to Neil, of bulk billing being so important. How do we get that back? Or is it gone the days that you can get things bulk billed?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the good news is that it is coming back for the first time. It’s been decreasing over a long period of time, as your listeners would be aware. But we tripled the bulk billing incentive in the budget last year. That came into place in November and as a direct result of that the bulk billing rate rose by 2.1 per cent. Now that was a small increase, but it did mean that there were additional 360,000 bulk billed trips to the GP. Now this saved Australians just in that month alone, $15 million in GP gap fees. That’s one of the things that we’re doing. The other thing that we’re doing is the Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, where all you need is your Medicare card, you don’t need your credit card. I was at the one in Umina, the Peninsula Urgent Care Clinic, just last month with Dr. Gordon Reid and with Emma. Today I’ll be back on the coast and it’s fantastic I’ve got to say that the Central Coast have a doctor, someone who still helps out, of course, Gordon at Wyong Hospital, and we have a pharmacist in Dobell. So, they are very conscious about health policy issues. And both of them have played a critical role in emphasising how important it is to get those bulk billing rates up. We think it’s absolutely critical, and that’s why it’s a real priority for us.

LEVI: Okay, I think I said you were going to Blue Haven, it’s Lake Haven. I get my Charmhavens, Blue Havens, Lake Havens in that part of the world. Of course, that Lake Haven Clinic will service that whole area, the Urgent Care Clinic. And apparently the take up rate hasn’t been as strong as Umina. But Pat Conroy for Shortland, suggesting that the word is slowly getting out. So, we’ll let you go. Was that Toto the dog in the background? Because –

PRIME MINISTER: That was Toto, my security arriving at –

LEVI: Because the GMS, the Gosford Musical Society are putting on next month, they’re putting on the Wizard of Oz, so there might be a role there or perhaps carrying the ring down the aisle on a little cushion on the back of the collar. That’s happened before. I don’t know if Toto’s well trained enough to do all of those things.

PRIME MINISTER: She’s very well trained, but she also likes to let the federal police who come to take us up to Parliament House to the office this morning, she likes to let them know that this is her domain and she’s in charge here.

LEVI: Should be on the public purse for doing that work, protecting the Prime Minister. Thanks for your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, great to talk with you. And I so look forward to being back on the coast this morning.

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