LOGAN CITY, QUEENSLAND
WEDNESDAY, 10 SEPTEMBER 2014
SUBJECT/S: Health, education, pensions, superannuation, national security
[Audio cuts in]
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I do not think anyone would have voted for Tony Abbott a year ago if they had known that he was going to break his promise on health, break his promise on education, break his promise on pensions, break his promise on superannuation, break his promise on jobs. A year into the Abbott Government, a government that came to office promising no cuts to health, no cuts to education, no change to pensions and no new taxes, we’ve seen every one of those promises broken.
Just this morning I have been visiting Logan Hospital which has a fantastic new facility, a new emergency department and new facilities there for both adults and children. That’s an investment made by the previous Labor Government and it is a terrific illustration of the difference between Labor’s approach to health and the Liberals’ approach to health.
When we were in government we invested, and what we have seen since the election of Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott are health cuts, one after the other. The Abbott Government has cut $80 billion from health and education, $50 billion from hospitals alone. You see Campbell Newman's government presiding over 4400 job cuts in the Queensland health system. A real attack on the staff of the Queensland health system who only want to look after their patients and give them the top quality care that they know that Queenslanders deserve. So you have on the one hand Campbell Newman making cuts to hospitals here in Queensland and on the other hand you’ve got Tony Abbott in Canberra making cuts to hospitals and also introducing $7 GP co-payments, increasing the cost of medicines, cutting $400 million from public dental, cuts right across the book. No one would have voted for Tony Abbott if they had known about the health cuts, and no one would have voted for Campbell Newman if they had known about health cuts.
Looking at education now. Cuts to schools, $30 billion despite Tony Abbott's promise that he was on a unity ticket with Labor on the Gonski school education [inaudible]. And now the people in Logan will miss out because of these massive cuts to schools and education. But it is not just schools, $1 billion cut from childcare, $30 billion cut from schools and now $100,000 university degrees. So from the time that a child first goes into childcare, right through their schooling right through TAFE and university, cuts right through their educational life.
And next we will be talking here in this community hall to pensioners. Pensioners believed Tony Abbott when he said “no change to pensions” but we know that there are massive changes to pensions. The Government's own Budget papers show a $23 billion cut to pensions. What does that mean for an average pensioner? Well, Tony Abbott is changing the rate that the pension will increase, he is changing the indexation of the pension and if the changes that Tony Abbott is making had been in place over the last four years a pensioner would be $1500 a year worse off. So if Tony Abbott’s proposal had been the way things were done over the last four years, pensioners would be $1500 a year worse off. What does that mean for the future? It means that pensioners will be $80 a week worse off because of the changes that Tony Abbott is proposing. He is also going to make people wait longer to get the pension. That is particularly hard on blue-collar workers, working till you are 70 if you’re doing heavy lifting and manual work. That is really tough and of course Tony Abbott is also making it harder for people to save for their own retirement.
We know that with the changes he's announced on superannuation, someone who is 25 years old today will be $100,000 worse off in their retirement income. We know as well that our pool of national savings will be affected by that. Australia has done really well economically - tough times like during the Global Financial Crisis, in part because we had our own national savings. By 2025 we will have almost $130 billion less in national savings because of Tony Abbott's attack on superannuation. This goes to show that what Tony Abbott said when he said superannuation was a con is still the way he thinks of it. It is incredible that Tony Abbott does not just want to cut the pension, he wants to make it harder for people to save for retirement by not proceeding with increases in superannuation, by cutting the Low Income Superannuation Contribution for about 3 million workers and by making it harder for us to save as much for the future.
And I want to make one last comment and then I’ll hand over to Jim, Tony Abbott has broken promise after promise during his first year in government. But there is one promise it looks like he will keep, Tony Abbott promised 1 million new jobs, we just thought some of them would be in Australia. Jim.
JIM CHALMERS: Welcome Tanya to Logan City. It is not the first time that Tanya has been to Logan and it won’t be the last.
I think among the many lies that Mr Abbott told over a year ago to get himself elected, one of the lowest acts was to lie to these pensioners that we’re about to meet with, when he told them that there would be “no change to pensions”. Of course, as Tanya explained, there are massive decreases in the pension going forward and that will impact on people around here, good people who are just trying to make ends meet. And when you combine the attack on the pension system with what they are doing to push up the price of petrol, of medicine, of visiting the doctor plus of course the cuts to hospital funding that Tanya also mentioned, this is nothing but an attack on good people, good local people who are just trying to make ends meet from week to week.
Our message to Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey is if you think that local people, local pensioners are going to forget this attack come election time, you have got another thing coming.
PLIBERSEK: Okay any questions?
JOURNALIST: Yes, Ms Plibersek, are you concerned at all about the potential to upgrade the terror threat in Australia at the moment?
PLIBERSEK: I think it is very important that all Australians are alert to any increase in the potential for a terrorist event in Australia. Of course, we receive as the Opposition, we receive frequent briefings from our national security agencies and whenever our national security agencies have argued for stronger powers in order to be able to protect Australians, we have been very supportive of these additional powers. Of course with additional powers come additional responsibilities and we have also made sure that independent oversight is included in any additional powers that the security agencies have granted.
JOURNALIST: Have those briefings indicated that the terror threat should be heightened?
PLIBERSEK: Well I am not going to speak about the details of the briefings that we get from our national security agencies. I think it is important that a very well respected leader like David Irvine is accorded the respect and attention that his warnings deserve and I think his comments speak for themselves.
JOURNALIST: The Greens say they’re concerned that if the terror threat level is raised there could be repercussions on ordinary Australians’ civil liberties. Does that concern you?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think what is very clear is that we are in a time internationally where there are heightened risks. I do not think anybody could ignore the fact that we have many Australians, dozens fighting overseas at the moment with organisations like IS, which are extremely dangerous organisations that are engaged in genocidal campaigns against ethnic and religious minorities overseas. I think it is foolish to ignore that sort of risk. On the other hand, if we argue for greater powers for our excellent security agencies here in Australia, those greater powers have to come with greater transparency and oversight as well. Australians value our freedom, we value the fact that we are a strong, multicultural democracy and that means that additional security measures come with additional accountability.
JOURNALIST: The former head of army, Peter Leahy, said today that if Australia gets involved in fighting ISIS directly that inevitably, or that could inevitably increase the risk of a terror attack in Australia. Would you agree with this assessment?
PLIBERSEK: I think that we need to be alert to any risk to Australians on Australian soil. It is clear that we have had Australians who have gone overseas and fought overseas, we’ve also had Australians who have returned from overseas. It is important that we are very focused on keeping Australians safe. I am not going to get into a discussion about the relative merits of the comments of two very senior and respected members of our intelligence and security operations.
JOURNALIST: Alright, one more final question on this issue though if I can. The Essential Media survey released overnight showed I think 54 per cent of Australians are directly and vehemently opposed to us having feet on the ground. Would you think that is likely to change?
PLIBERSEK: Well Labor has been very supportive of the humanitarian efforts in northern Iraq. Those humanitarian efforts started with providing food, water, medicines and so on to people who were surrounded on Mount Sinjar. Those humanitarian efforts have extended now to reaming fighters in northern Iraq, the Peshmerga and other Iraqi forces because to allow Iraqis to be slaughtered by IS because they’ve run out of weapons is a position that Australia could not accept. As a member of the international community, we join with the international community to acknowledge that when the government of Iraq asks us for help to protect its civilians against a genocidal army flooding across the border from Syria, we as an international community share a responsibility to protect. What we have seen in IS attacks are attacks on civilians, men, women, children, we have seen murder on a massive scale, forced abortions, rape, brutality that is - any number of examples of extraordinary brutality - we are being asked by the elected government in Iraq to help its people fight off this threat and I think it is important that Australia as a responsible member of the international community to contribute to that effort. Up till now it has been made very clear by the Prime Minister, by Bill Shorten as the Labor Leader and indeed by President Obama that there is no expectation that we will be putting regular forces on the ground in Iraq. Instead our mission is to support the Iraqis to fight off this threat on their own land.