Subjects: Reclink Community Cup, Medicare, negative gearing, the Liberal Party’s cuts
PETER VAN ONSELEN: For now we’re going to talk to a former Deputy Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. Now, still in Parliament; I’m not putting an end to your political career just yet. You’re in Melbourne, Mr Albanese. What are you doing in Melbourne?
ALBANESE: I have a few things to do today; media commitments, but primarily tonight I’m doing a fundraiser at the Corner Hotel in Richmond for Reclink. I’m DJing – playing some music as a fundraiser. Reclink do a lot of work with disadvantaged youth and their major fundraising activity is the Community Cup, footy, that’s played not just here in Melbourne now, but around the country.
That footy game is on Sunday between the Rockdogs and the Megahertz, between people in the music industry. It’s a way of engaging young people, who are outside the mainstream, and bringing them in, and including them, in society through the use of arts and sport. So the fundraiser tonight has the Draught Dodgers, who are Tim Rogers’ new band from You Am I playing as well. It’s a bit of fun, but for a very good cause. Hopefully people can get along there tonight and support Reclink.
VAN ONSELEN: Absolutely. Just don’t go wearing a Malcolm Turnbull leather jacket when you’re DJing there, Anthony Albanese, if you want to maintain your credibility.
ALBANESE: We’ll see.
VAN ONSELEN: Tweet something so we can get a look at it.
ALBANESE: It depends how you wear it, Peter.
VAN ONSELEN: I notice he wasn’t wearing it –
ALBANESE: But certainly not on Q&A.
VAN ONSELEN: I was about to say, I notice he isn’t doing that now that he is Prime Minister. He is all serious with his suit and tie for appearance.
Let me ask you about a couple of Labor policies before we move into the Medicare debate, which is really front and centre now; which, whatever you think of the campaign, that’s not what I think the Liberals want. What about another one – the negative gearing policy? I see that there’s another report that’s come out, claiming that it will put downward pressure on house prices. That’s what Labor wants though isn’t it? For it to put downward pressure on house prices, that’s the purpose?
ALBANESE: I think what it will clearly do is mean that the increase in housing prices will be less than what it would have been without this. And that’s really what analysis has shown. There’s been report after report now saying prices will go up, they’ll go down. It’s a modest measure, but it’s a modest measure aimed at giving first homebuyers an opportunity to get into home ownership without having to compete for an existing home with investors.
I believe it’s a strong policy. There’s been substantial support for it as I’ve gone around my electorate, not just with first home buyers, but with people my age and older who are worried about whether their children, let alone their grandchildren will have the opportunity that we had to get into home ownership. That great Australian dream; we want to keep it alive.
VAN ONSELEN: Just one thing though, which is a little bit of a fly in the ointment to the argument that it gets investors out of the road for new home buyers. Are you a little bit concerned at least with the model? Because the model says that new housing stock in greenfields, as well, will still be something that investors can buy into as long as it’s new housing stock. But that’s traditionally been the cheapest housing in the outer suburbs, which is purchased by new home buyers.
So if you drive the investors into that market that they haven’t really been in isn’t that going to, if you like, wedge a lot of first homebuyers that can only afford to buy housing in those outer suburbs, in those greenfield areas?
ALBANESE: Well I was at a forum the other night – we had a joint Grayndler/Reid Candidates Forum and someone made the point to Craig Laundy, the Liberal Member for Reid, my neighbouring seat, that Malcolm Turnbull had said essentially, get rich parents if you want to get into home ownership. And he said that you could just move out to Marsden Park, was the example he gave.
Now people want to buy into homes, be they existing units or houses, in the area in which they grew up. That’s something that we have had – I’m a living example. I’ve lived all over the world: Camperdown, Newtown and Marrickville. It’s all within about 5 km of each other. That’s the community I know, that’s the community I represent.
When I was growing up, I grew up in public housing with just myself and my mother. And my mum instilled in me the idea, she never got to own her own home, that when you get the opportunity, get into home ownership. That’s something that parents have been passing on to their children in Australia for generations and I don’t want to see that lost. I want to see the opportunity for people to get into home ownership. I think it’s a great concern out there in the community.
VAN ONSELEN: Well I like the fact that you’re doing something about negative gearing, I’m just not sold on the model, if I could put it that way. But if you win, then perhaps it will be up for grabs.
ALBANESE: Well, of course the model is aimed at providing new construction activity, as well. That’s the benefit of the model. New construction creates jobs. But importantly, it increases supply, which is a key factor when it comes to the housing affordability issue.
VAN ONSELEN: Let’s move on to another issue if I can, Anthony Albanese. I’ve got to ask you about the Medicare campaign and the argument that the Government is looking to privatise it. Maybe this is a definitional thing, but I don’t understand how you can privatise something that loses $11 billion a year. I think there’s a lot to attack the Government on in the health policy space, don’t get me wrong: freezing the rebate, the pathology changes they’re making, and the co-payment they tried to put in for example. But I just don’t see how an argument they want to privatise Medicare is anything other than rubbish.
ALBANESE: Freezing the rebate – take that Peter. What that is, is privatisation by stealth. It’s an attack on bulk billing. It is deliberately, consciously, trying to ensure that doctors won’t be able to bulk bill in the suburbs of Australia, by freezing it indefinitely, in the way that they have. By extending the freeze further and further out.
This is a political party, in terms of the Liberal Party, who has in its DNA, the destruction of Medicare. Medibank was introduced by Whitlam. The Fraser Government got rid of it. It took a Labor Government, under Bob Hawke to bring back Medibank and rename it Medicare, and since then John Howard of course, when he was Opposition Leader the first time, committed to getting rid of Medicare.
VAN ONSELEN: Can I just jump in there – sorry to jump in – those are all good reasons for attacking them on health, I just don’t like the overreach of saying they want to privatise Medicare. Say that they want to unwind it, that they want to almost even virtually abolish it, or even your rhetoric just then, privatisation by stealth maybe. But the idea they want to privatise it, that just conjures up images of selling it, for example, like they did with Telstra. I just don’t see that happening.
ALBANESE: Well there are two competing models for healthcare in this country. One is that everyone pays through the tax system for the health system to operate, with Medicare as its centrepiece and then you get care, not according to your income, but according to your need. When Kerry Packer had a heart attack, he ended up in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in emergency. And no matter what your wealth you get access to healthcare and the best care possible is what we want to ensure. So that’s one model.
The other model is, essentially, the old American model of user pays. Essentially a private system; whereby you get healthcare according to your ability to pay. Now that’s the model that the Liberal Party would like to see implemented in Australia. That’s what they’ve done, whether it is on the macro level of cuts to hospitals that have occurred under this Government, or whether it is the local GP services through the freezing of the Medicare rebate. So they’re the two models.
Essentially one’s a public model, and one’s a private model. And that’s why this is a significant issue for this election campaign. We know that before the last election, the Liberals said there would be no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no cuts to the ABC or SBS. What do all those things have in common? The cuts hit the public system, rather than the private system, of course and they were ideological. This is a political party that has at its core a view that the public system is inferior to the private system.
Well, we believe that the public system of Medicare is the best in the world. We should be proud of it. We should be making sure that we preserve it and we’re fighting for it in this election campaign.
VAN ONSELEN: Well, I’m willing to bet that this has got a long way to go, and the scare campaign is not one that the Liberal Party like, there’s no doubt about it. We’re out of time though, because we’ve got to get to the National Press Club. Anthony Albanese we appreciate your time, as always, here on News Day. Thanks very much.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.