Television Interview with Greg Jennett – ABC Afternoon Briefing – Wednesday 13 April 2022


SUBJECTS: Federal election; Medicare; National Anti-Corruption Commission.
GREG JENNETT, HOST: Let’s check in now on some of the campaign issues of the day, with Labor’s spokesman Jason Clare who’s with us from Sydney. And apologies for any delays there Jason Clare. The style of the Leaders’ daily campaign messaging, Fran and I just reflecting on that and we’re obviously not alone. Why has it changed? 

We may still have a problem Jason, hopefully you can hear me.


JENNETT: I can sorry, a few gremlins today. So if you didn’t hear the question, it was why, why has the style of messaging from Anthony Albanese, noticeably a shorter media conference, why has that changed? 

CLARE: Oh, you know, you’ll answer a lot of questions one day, you might answer a few less the next I’ll bet 10 bucks, Greg, that Anthony Albanese will answer more questions from journalists over the course of this campaign then Scott Morrison will. What we were talking about today was the same thing we’ve been talking about over the last few days. And that’s Medicare. The Labor Party is the party of Medicare, that green card that people have in their wallet or their purse or their pocket that’s there because of Bob Hawke and Labor. It means that when you’re sick, you pull out that card, not your credit card, but we need to make it stronger. And that’s what the policy we announced today was all about.

JENNETT: And I do want to pull that apart and look at some of the costings with you in in just a moment. But there were these reports today, I think Phil Coorey in the Fin Review was one saying that someone in the campaign had diagnosed a need for greater brevity. And then of course, there was the celebrated failure to remember some economic data on Monday. So 35 minutes was the opening gambit from your leader down to eight and a half minutes today. I know we’re not going to run a stopwatch, over each and every media appearance. But there’s there’s been a change, I just put to you again, what’s lying behind that?

CLARE: Oh, look, I wouldn’t look too much into that, mate. Albo forgot a number. Scott Morrison forgot to order enough vaccines. Let’s put all of this in perspective here. I’ll make the point to you I made to Leigh on 7.30 the other night – politics is not a pop quiz. Leadership is not a pop quiz. It’s not a game between journalists and politicians here. This is about the future of the country. It’s about making sure, leadership is about making sure, that you understand the problems our country is facing and come up with ideas to fix them. That’s what we’re talking about today by strengthening Medicare. It’s the same reason that we’ve come forward with policies to fix the crisis in aged care, to make childcare cheaper so that more and more Australians can get back to work and their kids get a better education. The same is true with the policies to build more affordable housing, make it easier for young Australians to buy a home. And for that matter, Greg, the necessity in this country, long overdue necessity to set up a National Anti-Corruption Commission. I noticed the Prime Minister in his late afternoon press conference, refused to commit to doing that, he promised it at the last election, never delivered. Now it seems he won’t do that if he wins this election. There’s only one way we’ll get an integrity commission at a national level and that’s if Labor wins this election.

JENNETT: Yeah he’s put it up as a take it or leave it proposition. One final one just on campaign style. So no, no confidence, rattled in your leader in the opening days then? 

CLARE: No, not at all. 

JENNETT: Okay, Medicare Urgent Care Clinics – what actually are they funding at $135 million, because it doesn’t seem an awful lot of money for 50 sites?

CLARE: But it’s not about bricks and mortar. It’s about extending the operation of existing GP clinics and community health centers so they’re open from eight o’clock in the morning till 10 o’clock at night. Let me give you a real life example Greg, it might help to make it easier for people to see the policy and how it will help.  At Christmas time, my 13 year old nephew fell over at my house. We thought that he had either sprained his wrist or might have broken something – we took him to the hospital because it was COVID we couldn’t go inside the ED, so he was in a ED full of people waiting to be helped on his own. Didn’t get an x-ray until midnight that night until we finally got him home. There’s four million examples of that right across the country every year where people have either got a sprain or a cut or a burn, they have got something in their eye perhaps or their ear that they need help with where they don’t need to necessarily be at the Emergency Department but there’s no GP that’s open at the time. 

JENNETT: So this is a halfway house position between the GP and the ED, I guess, it’s always been a pinch point around the ED…

CLARE: And it’s about making sure that you don’t have to pay, right, it’s fully bulk billed. It’s about extending and strengthening Medicare, and making sure that you take pressure off those Emergency Departments who are under pressure like never before.

JENNETT: Yeah, so is it just the bulk billing component that is covered by this costing, because if you do the basic mathematics, allowing for the fact you say we’re not buying bricks and mortar here, you’re paying for services, it comes down to about $670,000 on average, per site, per year to operate for 40 hours a week, what exactly is that buying?

CLARE: What it covers is that bulk billing, it also covers block payments, because the ordinary rebate that a GP gets for a normal consultation is not enough to cover this sort of work. And that’s why you need those block payments as well. It also has money there for equipment that GPs need. The important point to understand here, Greg is this has been tried and tested by the kiwis in New Zealand, they do this and it works on a per capita basis. They’ve got lower rates of ED admissions in New Zealand, and I think any other developed country in the world. So here’s a practical, sensible, common sense policy that will work that will help people that are crook and don’t need to be at the hospital and can turn up to one of these centers and get the help that they know. 

JENNETT: And it’s called a trial. Because why? Because it could be extended beyond the initial figure?

CLARE: That’s right. So trialing at 50 sites, get it up and running. See that it works like it is over the ditch, and then it’s got the potential to expand.

JENNETT: All right now JobSeeker. Labor’s cleared up its position, there is no review. And ipso facto no increase because it’s not affordable, not on the horizon anyway, what does that mean Labor would actually consider at each budget when it comes to JobSeeker payment, we’re told by your leader that he would consider it each budget, well consider what?

CLARE: Well Albo’s said it’s the job of a Treasurer, it’s the job of the Government to go line by line through every budget every year and see what you can do to help people in need. But the fact is, this Government is leaving Australia, almost a trillion dollars in debt. That’s a trillion dollars in debt. That means that we’re going to have to make some hard choices and you can’t do everything. But I’m pretty proud to be the author of a policy that’s going to help Australians in some of the most desperate need. We’ve got more homeless Aussies today than ever before. Outside this studio in Ultimo Sydney, you’ll find people sleeping in the streets. One in 10 of those are veterans. It’s unbelievable, Greg but true, that you’ve got one in 10 people sleeping on the streets in Sydney as a veteran, someone we trained, sent overseas, we say on ANZAC Day, it’s coming up, that we will remember them. But that’s not true. Not if you’ve got one in 10 people sleeping on the streets of Sydney, a veteran, our $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund is about building homes for them. It’s also about building homes for women and kids fleeing domestic violence. 

JENNETT: And so would you consider at your first budget, Treasurer, and Prime Minister and others, each and every social security payment, and at its adequacy, each and every year, but particularly in the first budget, which in the case of every government would be six months away?

CLARE: That’s what governments should do each and every year, they need to look at the budget and see how it can respond to the needs and the issues in the local community.

JENNETT: So a review could be possible at Jim Chalmers’ first budget in six months from now?

CLARE: We’re not committing to do that in this election. We’re saying that you can’t do everything. You can’t fix everything, that is an issue in the community in one election, in one budget. But what we can do is develop targeted policies that are going to help people in the most desperate need. Homeless Aussies are an example of that. And as I said, the biggest group of homeless Australians are mums and kids, and many of them are fleeing domestic violence. At this election, we’re taking a policy, which is a $10 billion housing fund. That will build thousands of homes for women and kids fleeing domestic violence, it will be a $1.7 billion investment here in homes just for women and kids fleeing domestic violence. And to put that in perspective, Greg, that would be the biggest investment in permanent housing for women and kids fleeing domestic violence in the history of this nation, in the history of this nation. So we’re making serious commitments here. By contrast, yesterday, the Prime Minister was asked a question about an aged care worker sleeping in a car. And his answer was buy a house that shows just how out of touch this Government is.

JENNETT: Yeah, not we will no doubt have further discussions about this and other policy matters on the way through, Jason Clare. Thanks for joining afternoon briefing and once again for your patience on a few technical gremlins today.

CLARE: No worries mate, thanks.