Doorstop - Flinders University, Adelaide - 09/05/2022

09 May 2022







SUBJECTS: Flinders Medical Centre; South Australian Labor Government; Medicare; Lyell McEwin hospital patient delay incident; Pacific relations; GST; AUKUS

LOUISE MILLER-FROST, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR BOOTHBY: Hi, everyone. My name is Louise Miller-Frost. I am the Labor candidate for Boothby, and I'd like to welcome you here to Flinders Medical Centre in the lovely seat of Boothby in South Australia. My background is in the health sector, I worked there for over 15 years in a number of different areas. So I'm really passionate about ensuring that South Australians and particularly those in the community of Boothby get the care that they need when they need it. And I'm thrilled to be here with the Leader, Anthony Albanese, back for the third or fourth time this year. Of course, the Premier here, Penny Wong, Jim Chalmers, Chris Picton, and of course, our candidate for Mayo, Marisa Bell, and our State team who are recently elected. So it's my great honour to be here today and to introduce Anthony Albanese. Thank you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Louise, and thanks for having us back in your electorate. And to Marisa Bell as well. This is my fifth visit to South Australia since December 29. And it is fantastic to be here. And particularly pleased to be here with the new Premier, the second time I've been here since the election. Look, this is a great announcement for Flinders Medical Centre. And I do want to thank the nurses, the students, the doctors, the staff, who've welcomed us here today and shown us around this facility. This facility has fantastic human beings, but the infrastructure could be better. It's obvious as you go around that that is the case. And that's why this commitment, a joint commitment between Labor federally and the Malinauskas South Australian Government of $400 million to build 160 new beds at this facility, is so important. It will also lead to the upgrading and expanding of the mental health centre, expanded ICU, new operating theatres, expanded medical imaging, brand new eye surgery clinic, upgraded care for older people. This is an important announcement today. And Peter Malinauskas has just been elected Premier of South Australia. One of the big priorities that came through for South Australia during that State campaign was health. It was front and centre of that campaign and South Australians voted for better health care. And at the centre of it is Medicare and public healthcare. This upgrade is the absolute priority that the new Premier raised with me before the election and then after the election. Which is why we have prioritised this commitment. It will make a major difference, not just to the people in the local community, but throughout Adelaide and throughout South Australia. And I'm very pleased to be able to make this joint announcement with the Premier today. Penny's going to introduce the new Premier, as our lead candidate in South Australia. And Penny of course leads our South Australian team and will make a great Leader of the Senate if we are successful on May the 21st.

PENNY WONG, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Thank you very much, Albo. And thanks to everyone for being here. Well, some seven weeks ago South Australians voted and they voted for change. South Australians decided they didn't want more of the same, they wanted a better future and they elected Peter Malinauskas and the Labor team for a better future. A vote for change. The same choice awaits South Australians and Australians in this election. Do you want more of the same? More of the same excuses? More of the same “It's not my job”? More of the same from Mr Morrison? Or do you want a better future? Do you want a better future that is about more secure work, about strengthening Medicare, about accessible childcare, about putting the dignity back into aged care. These are the choices that we face. And what I would say to South Australians is, what they will have in Anthony Albanese is what South Australia always needs. We always need a partner in Canberra. We always need a prime minister who's prepared to work with us, not one who wants to divide the States and Territories, not one who wants to divide communities. But a prime minister, a leader who brings people together and works with us. And that's what they will have if they elect Anthony Albanese. And to do that, they have to do something that hasn't happened for what, seven decades, and that is to elect a Labor candidate in the seat of Boothby with Louise Miller-Frost. I'd like to throw now to the wonderful Premier, Peter Malinauskas.

PETER MALINAUSKAS, PREMIER OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Well, good afternoon and thank you so much Penny for your warm introduction. Of course, I've been good friends with Penny for a long time now. And it gives me great pride to be introduced by her, particularly given the fact that she puts South Australia front and centre on the national stage in such an intelligent and thoughtful way. To Albo, thank you. This is exactly what South Australians have been calling out for. They want to see a State Government working with the Commonwealth to deliver on their number one concern, their number one priority - a health system that delivers and works for people. Now here at the Flinders Medical Centre, what we see is an ageing piece of infrastructure. There are parts of this building that are almost 50 years old, that have passed their use-by date. And over the course of the last four years under the former State Liberal government, we saw a piecemeal approach when it comes to investment at Flinders, when what really is required is a generational type of investment, the sort of investment that is going to see wholesale upgrades to the infrastructure here, which means the State Government ideally would like to have a partner in the Commonwealth. And I am so excited about the prospect of having a Federal Labor Albanese government that wants to work with my State Government to get Flinders back on track. Now this $400 million investment doesn't just mean a refurbishment, it means additional capacity. In and around the southern suburbs, we see an ageing population but also a rapidly growing population. So the additional capacity is absolutely essential. And of course, what this means is an additional 160 beds in the southern suburbs – 24 at the Repat Hospital, but then 136 right here at the Flinders Medical Centre. Albo already covered off what that actually means in terms of improved service delivery, everything from mental health, new operating theatres, what we also see is the opportunity to see a new eye surgery clinic as well. This is what this hospital desperately needs. And now we have the potential to be able to do that. But in order to be able to realise this ambition, fulfill the dream for many people working here, is to get Louise Miller-Frost elected in the seat of Boothby. And Louise has been working so exceptionally hard. I can tell you Albo, there isn't a day that goes by where Louise isn't out there on the frontline, door knocking, putting a call out for volunteers working with her and they are struggling to keep up the pace, because she's setting an incredible one. And that's because Boothby wants fresh representation. I think the Liberal Party in South Australia for too long, and certainly the Federal Coalition, has taken this seat for granted. It has neglected the principal concerns that residents in this community want. And the number one thing on the minds of constituents in the southern suburbs, including in Boothby, is having a health system that works. By having a State Labor Government partnering with a Federal Labor Government, we're going to deliver far more outcomes, which is a better result for everyone concerned. So I want to thank the Federal Labor team for making this announcement today. It's a significant one. But this is all about actually listening to people and then delivering on their principal concerns. And nothing is more important, particularly in this post pandemic era, to ensure that we have a health system delivering for people.

JOURNALIST: Premier, what happens to this project if Labor doesn’t win?

MALINAUSKAS: Well, I was quite disappointed this morning when I heard Senator Birmingham on the radio saying that they're not going to match Labor's commitment here. So now there's a clear choice. It's a crystal clear choice for people in South Australia. Do they want to see a Federal Government committing to the ambitions and hopes amongst everybody in South Australia for a hospital system that works? Because if they do, they've got to vote Labor. But if they want more of the same, they can choose to vote for Scott Morrison's Coalition. I mean, the fact that Birmo went on the radio this morning, within minutes of this announcement, and ruled it out, meant that now it's up to the South Australian people. This upgrade goes ahead if Federal Labor wins, and that's why naturally, I'll be doing everything I can to advocate for that outcome.

JOURNALIST: Premier, would you be willing to pay for the whole thing? If Labor doesn't get up, do you need 50 per cent coming from the Commonwealth?

MALINAUSKAS: Well, we've announced over 300 additional hospital beds during the course of our last State election campaign. And we're committed to delivering every single one of them. But this $200 million commitment from Federal Labor gives us the capacity and the ability to expand on that again by over an additional 100 more beds, to take the number for the 300 to 400. But we need a partner in the Commonwealth to be able to achieve a project of this scale and magnitude and that's why it's really up to the people of Australia.

JOURNALIST: Is it an attempt to buy votes in this crucial seat?

MALINAUSKAS: Absolutely not. What this is, is thoughtful leadership looking at what we need in South Australia into the long term. As I said to you previously, parts of this hospital are 50 years old. In and around the southern suburbs, it's an ageing population and it's a growing population. And without a partner in the Commonwealth, what we will see is this project not being realised on the timeline that has been proposed to you, which is actually an important point to reflect upon. If Federal Labor is elected, on the back of our election here, this project will start with major construction in 2024, due to be completed by 2028. Now, if we don't have a partner in the Commonwealth, that timeline will erode. We'll continue to honour our commitment to 300 additional beds that we made at the State election, but we just don't have the capacity to do this size project, considering everything else we've got going on.

JOURNALIST: Premier, this is the only hospital that is getting a funding announcement today. You went to the State election as well with a health plan. Can you explain what happened at the Lyell McEwin Hospital last night?

MALINAUSKAS: Yeah, absolutely. So tragically at the Lyell Mac last night, we saw someone not getting the sort of care that any Australian with a degree of compassion would want to see. Or certainly expect. We saw a person stuck outside the Lyell Mac, because we haven't seen the investments in health capacity that are required. Now we know —

JOURNALIST: But imagine if this was your grandmother. What happened, what went wrong last night?

MALINAUSKAS: Of course. Oh, there isn't a moment – the first thing that crossed my mind when I read about, that article that went up on my own Facebook page, was, imagine if that was your loved one. And what people want in this State, in fact, I think what people want throughout the country, is political leaders that care about people. And in Albo we have that, and that's why we can make this project realised. But in terms of the Lyell Mac last night, naturally we're commencing a thorough investigation, but I can report that there has already been an agreement to the change of procedure because what happened to that woman who was in her 90s, while she was outside waiting for a result of a rapid antigen test, having already conducted one. We don't see that as making any sense, particularly considering that isn't the consistent approach throughout the State. And already there's been a change of policy this morning to address what occurred last night.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese said the other day that times have changed – do you think the Albanese Government should still offer Rapid Antigen Tests?

MALINAUSKAS: No, what we've got is Anthony Albanese stepping up to the plate on the health infrastructure in South Australia that makes the difference. See the problem that we've got when it comes to help in South Australia, more than anything else is ramping. And ramping is here as a function of the fact we don't have enough capacity. And if you want more capacity, you need more beds. And if you want more beds, you've got to see the sorts of big capital injections that we're now seeing here as a result of this partnership. If Australians make the decision that I desperately hope they do, and elect an Albanese Labor government, here in South Australia we don't just have a little bit more capacity, we get a lot more capacity, which means ramping is reduced, it reduces pressure on EDs, and helps avoid the sort of thing we saw last night at the Lyell Mac. But what we're really talking about is putting people and patients in their greatest time of need at the centre of policy decision-making in this State. To have a Commonwealth partner committed to that endeavour is exactly what South Australians are looking for. And something that I'm very excited about.

JOURNALIST: Given that policy has now changed, can you assure South Australians that no other patients will be left out in the cold outside the Lyell Mac or any other hospital?

MALINAUSKAS: What I can assure you is that in Labor, you have leaders at a State and a federal level that put people at the centre of all decisions, and we will not leave a stone unturned in this State until we can see our hospital system working in a way that any reasonable person would expect.

JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to the family about what happened?

MALINAUSKAS: No, I haven't had a chance to do that. But I know the Health Minister has spoken to one of the relatives of the lady concerned.

JOURNALIST: And just in regard to the $200 million State contribution to this project, would that be in the upcoming Budget?

MALINAUSKAS: Naturally, we're going through the Budget process, which is going to be handed down on the second of June. And what you can be assured of is that if Federal Labor is elected, this project starts major commencement, major construction, in two years’ time or by the end of 2024.

JOURNALIST: So that would put us further into the red?

MALINAUSKAS: Well, I'm not going to start pre-empting the Budget on the second of June. But needless to say, all of our election commitments have been fully funded and will be realised in this, in the Budget. And should Federal Labor be elected in only a couple of weeks’ time, we'll be in a position to make sure this project goes ahead on time as announced today.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) Isn't it true that systemic reform of the health system would be better rather than piecemeal funding announcements in winnable seats?

ALBANESE: The States run the hospital system, I'm not planning to change that at all. What I am planning to do, though, is to sit down constructively with all State governments based upon their priorities. Now, Peter has just been through an election, where South Australians have said health is their number one priority. I came to the election, here with Pete, I was here on the day before the election, and the day before that, campaigning here in Adelaide. I was campaigning for a Malinauskas Government, because I know that this bloke behind me is someone whose values I share. Values of compassion, values of making a difference. We went into politics for exactly the same reason. And I look forward to working with him. And prior to the election, he spoke about this as being a priority since the election, we talked, we've come up with this joint commitment based upon priorities. I would, as I've said before, if we're successful, one of the first things I will do is to convene a meeting with State premiers and chief ministers, I want to work with all of them. And State premiers are in the best position on the ground to say what their priorities for service delivery are. This project is an important project, I'll tell you what, every single person that we spoke to who works here today, is crying out for this commitment.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, you have indicated that you're open to, that you will have a conversation with the different State Premiers on the issue of health funding. But you've also mentioned the Commonwealth's high debt level and the need to be measured on the funding decisions. So can you clarify, is Federal Labor committed to increasing to some degree, the Commonwealth share of health funding?

ALBANESE: Well, we've made a number of announcements during this campaign, including urgent care clinics that will take pressure off emergency departments, including the capital funding that we've announced here, including issues such as hearing for young people, telehealth in terms of mental health issues for people in regional communities. We will have some more to say on health during this campaign. Today is a significant announcement.

JOURNALIST: Is it just a coincidence that you're pumping $400 million dollars into a marginal Liberal-held seat so close to the election?

ALBANESE: This is the hospital that needs this infrastructure upgrade. This is the hospital that needs the upgrade. And it's needed right now.

JOURNALIST: On the Solomon Islands, there is a report today in The Australian that there are secret deals between China and the Solomon Islands to put in place infrastructure for fishing, infrastructure for mining. Do you think this relationship currently is in crisis? And what will you do if you're elected?

WONG: I can't verify that report, obviously. But what I would say is this, if it's true, it demonstrates the seriousness of what has occurred on Mr Morrison's watch. It also demonstrates that, you know, the sort of tough words he's talking about or trying to use about red lines don't appear, if the reports are correct, to be the way forward or appear to have much effect. What we have to do is to work with the whole Pacific family, the whole Pacific family to ensure —

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible).

WONG: Well, no the Pacific family, meaning the countries of the South-West Pacific and the members of the Pacific Islands Forum. We have to work with the whole Pacific family to ensure that security for the region is provided for in the region. But what I, what I would say is this, you know, this is a very serious problem which has occurred on Mr Morrison's watch. It will take, if we are elected, it will take a lot of work to address it. We've announced a series of policies around the Pacific to really ensure that we are much more actively the partner of choice in the region. And we announced them in Darwin a couple of weeks ago. And as you will see from that, it's about leveraging our strengths, our proximity, our voice. And we'll continue, we will make sure if we are elected that that's delivered.

JOURNALIST: It will take a lot of work. What will be your first point of action in terms of repairing the relationship with the Solomon Islands if you are elected?

WONG: Well, I think we've laid out a pretty good plan for the Pacific. And if I dare to say, a more detailed plan than the Government has put in place. A plan which recognises the place Australia has and seeks to leverage our strengths, including our proximity with the use of an additional visa, improving the labour market programs, funding more voices in the Pacific. So, we will implement that. But you know, I would say to Australians, what we are seeing is a demonstration of what has occurred on Mr Morrison's watch.

JOURNALIST: On the issue of GST distribution, the South Australian Premier wants the no worse off top up payments to States other than WA to be made permanent beyond 2026 to 27. Would you support that solution to end the eastern states anger over the current deal?

ALBANESE: We have no plans to change the arrangements that are in place. But you might want to add?

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: I mean, that’s basically it, I mean there's a deal that's been done between the Commonwealth and the States, which we have said in all of the capital cities right around Australia, that we intend to honour. You know, we totally understand that whether it's Premier Malinauskas or other premiers of both political persuasions around Australia, their job is to advocate for the best deal that they can get. And our job is to weigh that all up. But we've made it very clear – Anthony has, I have – that we don't intend to revisit the current deal.

JOURNALIST: Is this a first term promise, Jim? Or if there was a second term, can you reopen the conversation? Or is this literally a forever deal for WA?

CHALMERS: Well, the current arrangements go until 2026. That's the current deal in terms of the review. We don't intend to bring the review forward. And we have enough respect for the premiers of both political persuasions in every State and Territory of the Commonwealth, to say the same thing in Adelaide, that we say in Perth, that we say in Melbourne, or Brisbane or Sydney. And we've made our position clear.

JOURNALIST: Just on John Howard's comments, who said that it was inevitable Australia will develop a civil domestic nuclear industry. Are you concerned by those remarks? Considering Labor's support of AUKUS is predicated on that we do not develop one?

ALBANESE: No, I think Mr Howard is wrong. And indeed, the advice and part of the decision making process and the briefings that we had about AUKUS that included Senator Wong and Richard Marles and Brendan O'Connor, were that you didn't need a domestic civil nuclear industry in order to support the nuclear submarines. We made very clear our support for nuclear subs. We made that on the basis of the advice that we received. And we stand by it. Can I just make make one comment, because I'm not sure he's been asked. But I do want to say that the Prime Minister needs to do more to respond to the referral of the candidate for Lilley to the Australian Federal Police by the Australian Electoral Commission. This is a really serious issue. And the Prime Minister needs to respond as to what action he will take on this issue. Thanks very much.

Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.