Interview with ABC Illawarra on Election Eve

02 August 2016

NICK RHEINBERGER: Thats Jan Mandelson, the Nationals candidate for the seat of Whitlam talking to me earlier on the morning.


We did extend an invitation to Marcus Hewitt, the Liberal candidate but he declined that. Its twelve minutes to nine and in our studio Stephen Jones, Member for Whitlam, is with us now good morning.


RHEINBERGER: Did you start this campaign eight weeks ago thinking one thing about what was important to people, has anything changed your mind?

JONES: There were themes that sort of emerged at the beginning of the campaign. We were talking a lot about the future of our steel industry, a lot about manufacturing and jobs and theyre still really important. People still talk a lot about that, but Ive also got to say that the first or second thing people raise with me is Medicare when Im out and about whether its in the Illawarra, the Southern Highlands or elsewhere.

RHEINBERGER: The thing that the Labor party has been stoking hugely is privatisation. I mean is it reasonable for any government to try and make this behemoth of a department a little more efficient in its payment system, for instance?

JONES: Look, yes absolutely we should have the most efficient payment systems in place and the front-of-house should be efficient and successive governments of many years have been doing that. But the thing that concerns people that Im talking to is the out of pocket cost and the fact that bulk-billing is under threat. Just yesterday I was up in Bowral, Ive had other practices contact me since then from in the district and around the country saying theyre cutting bulk-billing arrangements next week or shortly thereafter. The practice that I was at yesterday in the Southern Highlands, they are going to be introducing $20 additional upfront payments. So far from it being a scare campaign -

RHEINBERGER: What is this real world example, I know you were in Bowral -

JONES: I was at the Walker Street Medical Practice yesterday.

RHEINBERGER: And one of the clinics is having to totally take away bulk-billing which they used to do for children and pensioners?

JONES: Children and pensioners and healthcare card customers. They were told yesterday and over the last week that that bulk billing will no longer. Pensioners, children over the age of 6 -

RHEINBERGER: With a day to go before the election, thats no longer the case.

JONES: Well, the message I was delivering yesterday is we hope we can turn this around. The reason for this is the Medicare rebate freeze, which means the money you are getting back from Medicare when you go and see your GP is getting less and less and less. Doctors costs are going up and theyre going to pass on a $20 fee to customers on top of what theyre getting back from Medicare from Monday this week. We want to turn this around by removing the Medicare rebate freeze. It will be one of our first acts if Bill Shorten is Prime Minister from Monday.

RHEINBERGER: And you can pay for that?

JONES: Of course we can and people have raised this regularly. We can pay for it. Budgets are about choices, weve decided that were not going to give a $50 billion tax cut to large companies, thats a choice. We have decided that we want to fund schools and Medicare.

RHEINBERGER: Thats an easy thing to say but most of the research says that flows on to more jobs in the community.

JONES: Actually, the research doesnt show that Nick. The research shows, not Labor party research, but senior economic analysis shows that the majority of the benefit of the $50 billion tax cut flow to overseas investors because of the nature of their share registries. So far from it being a boost to jobs, it is not. We think the better choice is to boost Medicare and boost Education.

RHEINBERGER: Where are you going to spend the last 24 hours or so of the campaign?

JONES: Ill be heading out and about to the pre-poll booths. I spent yesterday up in the Southern Highlands. Ill try and get around to all the pre-poll booths in Warilla and Dapto today. Ill be talking to my staff and my volunteers whove put in a lot of work over the last 8 weeks and say just one more sleep to go.

RHEINBERGER: Okay, Stephen Jones thanks for talking to us today.

JONES: Great to be with you Nick.

RHEINBERGER: Stephen Jones, the Member for Whitlam, previously Throsby, here at 97.3 ABC Illawarra.