PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 2018
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH ANDE MEDICARE: Thanks everybody for coming out this morning. The first thing I do want to say is how incredibly sorry I was to hear about the death of Michael Gordon on the weekend, I know for many in the press gallery and the whole community who knew him this has come as an enormous shock. Particularly I want to commend Michael’s work that he was dealing with recently where he was investigating in aged care, very important work to expose the terrible things that have been happening in some of our aged care services across the country. But again to Michael’s family and to the press gallery, I do want to say how incredibly sorry I am and we feel his loss very keenly in this place.
Bill Shorten and I on the weekend announced Labor’s plans to improve private health insurance affordability, it is a policy that will benefit 13 million Australians with private health insurance, making savings of over $340 for over 1.7 million Australia families. We know that under Malcolm Turnbull they have been putting the profits of private health insurers over the needs of patients. It was no surprise over the weekend to hear Malcolm Turnbull again echo the cries of private health insurers, because that is what he has been doing, putting the profits of private health insurers over the needs of patients. We know that private health insurance premiums over the course of the Abbott-Turnbull Government have gone up by $1000, it has become the norm that on average those increases that around about 5% across the term.
What we also know is that there are people leaving private health insurance in droves, people are voting with their feet, this product is becoming unaffordable for many Australians. We also know that people are finding the value that they get for their private health insurance has been going down, with record numbers of complaints about private health insurance to the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman. Labor has a plan to both try and keep premiums down, but also to reform the sector substantially, we want to put the balance back into the hands of consumers, into the hands of patients using their private health insurers and away from the profits of private health insurers. Very happy to take questions.
REPORTER: You mentioned there raising the value of the insurance coverage going down, the industry reported on the weekend that if you cap fees you’ll overload the health costs, other than that it will just lead to an increase in general policies?
KING: Well this is an industry that has made 1.8 billion dollars pre-tax in the last year alone, this is an industry that has been basically given massive taxpayer subsidies – $6 billion a year – by way of the private health insurance rebate. It has been getting increases and increases year upon year, it is making massive profits but it is not delivering value for money for consumers. And the reality of that is that people leave private health insurance, they downgrade their products and they do not get the health care that they need from the products that they have actually paid for. What we’ve said with our 2% cap over two years is we will also give new powers to the ACCC and to the Ombudsman to make sure that private health insurers do not increase exclusions as a result of this policy. We’re very determined to get value for money for consumers, unfortunately Malcolm Turnbull and the private health insurers seem to be only interested in getting profits for their shareholders.
REPORTER: Newspoll this morning showing Labor’s primary vote still stagnating, Malcolm Turnbull is getting ahead as preferred Prime Minister over Bill Shorten and even Labor voters think that maybe some others on your team would make a better leader, is it time for Bill Shorten to consider his position?
KING: Well as you can see from what Bill and I did on the weekend, what we are absolutely focused on is taking off cost of living pressures from Australian families. We have been busy over the summer break developing policies to try and make sure we alleviate, the extraordinary pressure many families are under, whether it be in the wages stagnation, private health insurance or in energy policy, all really important areas. I know by Malcolm Turnbull’s own words, that he has got four news polls to go before he has to resign, let’s see what happens in 4 weeks’ time. But we’re pretty happy as a team under Bill Shorten’s incredible leadership, to be working together to try and develop policies to really do what matters to Australian people, actually take pressure off the cost of living and make life better.
REPORTER: Bill made his speech on Tuesday, he has been pitched by Newspoll what had gone into the thought after that, people have that have had time to understand what he’s talking about, cost of living pressures, do you think that message just isn’t coming through?
KING: I think that we have a long way to go before this year is out and the election is out, and I think if I was Malcolm Turnbull at this point in time, he’s got 4 Newspolls to go until -according to his own words – he should stand down, let’s see what happens. I think that it is going to be a very, very tight contest and under the leadership of Bill Shorten, I am very proud to be developing policies such as our one in private health insurance to try and take pressure off the cost of living for Australian families.
REPORTER: Will you be checking all of your filing cabinet draws?
KING: I think we are all very scrupulous about that, I think that it has been a very unfortunate and very serious, serious leak of private documents and I think everybody in this place has to be very careful about that. Thank you.