SUBJECTS: Greg Hunt; Sound Radiology MRI licence; Kara Miller; Newstart; Barnaby Joyce; Bear Grylls.
HOST: Albo, good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: G’day, how are you going?
HOST: Are you missing Chris Pyne, Albo?
ALBANESE: Not at all; not at all. This is half the commentators but twice the content. You should try The One by Vera Blue.
HOST: All right, we’ll do that next week.
HOST: We can do a different ‘one’ song each week, U2’s One – there’s quite a few.
ALBANESE: There’s a lot.
HOST: Mate, you’d know with you extensive DJ career. Hey, what’s the go with Greg Hunt? We mentioned in breaking at eight, we thought it deserved a little bit of extra attention placed on it because, as South Australians, we were intrigued by the fact that the company that’s headed up by the Vice pPresident of the SA Liberal Party, managed to land one of these lucrative licence approvals for an MRI machine.
ALBANESE: We asked questions about this yesterday. Chris Bowen, our Health Spokesperson, and this just looks to me to be a little bit red hot. We asked, the fact that this company, Sound Radiology it’s called; the CEO happens to be the Vice President of the South Australian Liberal Party, Kara Miller. Now, they got an MRI licence at a time where 443 other applications were overlooked. And we pointed out, that within five kilometres of this company, there are nine other fully Medicare eligible machines or partly eligible, and at a time where a whole lot of areas including in regional communities don’t have access. And we also pointed out that in response to a Question on Notice that we made about Budget Estimates, the Department said, and I quote: “the successful applications were decided by the Government, taking into account the assessment information provided by the Department.” So …
HOST: But didn’t the Minister say that it was an independent process and the Department did the assessment rather than the Government?
ALBANESE: He did, that’s why there’s a problem here for the Minister because he said that, but that was contradicted by his own very Department, which said that it was the Government that made these decisions. Now, he pointed out when Labor was in office that decisions were made as well, under the same process. The difference is, that Labor awarded these licences to hospitals, to public hospitals, that went through processes. So, people weren’t making a profit, by definition an MRI machine in a hospital isn’t there to make money for the owners of the company.
HOST: Does he know Kara Miller, did he explain anything about that?
ALBANESE: There’s a photo floating around of him with Kara Miller. So, clearly they are known to each other. He said in Parliament yesterday that he wasn’t aware of the connection and it’s up to him to explain that. But in this process there were only four licences handed out in South Australia, two of which were in Adelaide and two of which were in regional communities. So, one half literally of the licences that were granted in Adelaide went to this company; Sound Radiology, which she is the CEO as well. She’s not the, you know, it’s her full-time job one would assume given she’s the CEO. She’s not the chair of the company, or just a board member, she clearly has that as her main preoccupation. And given she’s Vice President not of a local branch, but of the entire South Australian Liberal Party Branch, one would expect that she is – well, we know that she is certainly known to the Minister – and that’s why I think there are real questions to be asked and answered out of this. This government has a history of supporting its friends through government decision making.
HOST: It’s a curiosity that story. We’ll put a call in to her, you know, on grounds of fairness and give her a chance to come on the show tomorrow to talk about it.
HOST: Absolutely. Albo, want to talk about Newstart. How you think it should be managed going forward. Is this sort of piecemeal political debate over $75 here or $50 there the best way to do it? Or do we need to just change the way it’s indexed and put it to say, I mean, wages really wouldn’t help at the moment, but generally speaking wages as opposed to CPI?
ALBANESE: This is one of the reasons why, during the lead up to the election, we said there should be an inquiry. And a government inquiry which would lead, obviously, to an increase. So, that we didn’t get into a debate about whether, some people say $75, or what the amount should be. What’s clear at the moment, is that it’s not enough and it’s not just me saying that and the Labor Party. It’s elements at least if not all of the National Party, it’s John Howard, it’s the Business Council of Australia, it’s the ACTU, It’s the Reserve Bank, a range of economists have all pointed out – on two grounds, one: poverty. People literally just can’t live on $40 a day, and that is having consequences for their capacity to get work, to get off Newstart, that’s the problem here. Apart from poverty in itself, if you’re struggling then you can’t dress appropriately, you can’t afford to get to job interviews, all of those issues come into play. As well as, of course, the impact on the economy, any increase in Newstart at a time where we’re looking to stimulate the economy, clearly, if you lifted that up it would be spent and would help to create jobs and therefore help to get people off Newstart through that economic activity.
HOST: But how do you fund it though, Albo? It’s a $5 billion hit on the economy; might start taxing franking credits or something like that?
ALBANESE: No. It’s a matter of government priorities, frankly, and the Government is in a position, they’ve just been elected for three years, they’re in a position to determine what their priorities are on both expenditure and revenues. And that’s why we say: the Government needs to act on this. We were going to act after we gave a proper assessment as to what the amount should be. So, the impact on the Budget would depend obviously on what amount was picked. But, clearly, the voices saying that it has been decades since a real increase in the rate; what that means in real terms is that people are really struggling just to get by on a day to day basis.
HOST: Even Barnaby Joyce is struggling to get by at the moment, Albo.
ALBANESE: That was an extraordinary intervention, I’ve got to say. He’s having to kill his sheep or cows in order to eat, apparently.
HOST: Bear Grylls.
ALBANESE: It does say something about – maybe he could appear in a Bear Grylls documentary, that’s something I would want to see on prime time.
HOST: Good on you, Albo.