Earlier, I spoke with the Minister for Health and Sport, GREG HUNT. I started by asking him if the Government is willing to compromise and change the point at which the increased Medicare levy kicks in. Right now, it’s at $27,000 but Derryn Hinch, earlier on Sky News, suggested a $35,000 kick in point might be more appropriate.
There shouldn’t be any need to water down what was Labor’s proposal in government, which was given bipartisan support and that was a levy which is proportionate to the income of all of those affected.
So someone on 10 times the amount would pay 10 times the contribution. Someone on one-tenth the amount would pay one-tenth the contribution.
And Mr Shorten said at the time that it would be dumb and he didn’t say it once, he said it twice, on Sky News in 2013.
It would be dumb and it would be an insult to Australians not to support the Medicare levy and this is simply something which is about ensuring that each Australian who may face a disability is effectively making a contribution proportionate to their income.
It’s not just fair, it’s the right thing to do and I’ve got to say I’ve been deeply disappointed. We’ve seen today that his colleagues are equally disappointed. That the Shadow Cabinet overwhelmingly wants to back Labor’s own measure.
And you know, Mr Shorten supported the NDIS concept but wouldn’t pay for it in government, wouldn’t allow us to pay for it with savings and now doesn’t want us to pay for it with Labor’s own levy measure. You’ve got to get a sense that he’s not serious and in the end he’s an NDIS fraud.
Well is it there shouldn’t a need to have to change the kick in point but the numbers in the Senate seem to suggest otherwise.
I understand you’re yet to convince the Greens. Senators Jacqui Lambie and Lucy Gichuhi, Labor, David Leyonhjelm, and Cory Bernardi have said they won’t be supporting your plan as it is.
So again, to get the numbers to pass this measure in the Senate, are you open to negotiating on that kick in level?
Oh look I’ve been told on many occasions about many pieces of legislation that it will never happen.
We were told repeatedly that we would never be able to repeal the carbon tax and we did. We would never be able to pass the Emissions Reduction Fund and we did. I cannot believe that Labor will, in the end, block support for the NDIS.
You have revealed today that you’d like to set up a national lottery to help fund the future of Australian sport.
Is relying on Australians to gamble at a time when the Government is actively trying to decouple gambling and sport really the best way to raise an extra $30 million, $40 million or $50 million for sport?
Look I respectively don’t accept the characterisation there. There are two quite different things. There’s a long tradition of public good lotteries and we see it in the way the Sydney Opera House was funded, West Australia has a public good lottery for heritage.
The UK has a sports lottery which has really underpinned a lot of their revival in major international competitive sport.
It’s allowed for consistent long term funding and that in turn helps people to not just have elite sport but to encourage participation and the more young people who can be involved in sport, that is a public good outcome. In a public good lottery, everybody wins.
But even if there’s a public good, that doesn’t mean participating in a lottery isn’t gambling, does it?
It’s completely different to this idea of betting on either a sports outcome or betting on even an action.
Will there be a no ball in a particular over. Who will kick the first goal. And those things are legal. All we have done by the way is say we don’t think that there should be advertising foisted upon families in the midst of prime time television when young children, you know, seven eight and nine are watching their sporting heroes, whether it’s the NRL, whether it’s Australian rules football. Whether it’s any number of other sports.
So simply about quarantining family time for families rather than saying that we think something is a particular evil.
The Government is working to combat gambling more broadly, you mentioned the UK, experts there have warned that a national lottery like the one you’re talking about is likely to exacerbate problems for addicted gamblers.
They warn that it adds a veneer of respectability to gambling because it’s government sanctioned. There’s also a fear that this sort of lottery gives young people their first taste of gambling and can act as a catalyst for problem gambling in later years.
Have you asked for any advice about the possible impacts of this? Or you just have no concerns; you don’t define it as gambling?
Look, we’ve just gone out today to commission public consultation. So the whole point of today is to launch this debate, to have this debate.
I believe, myself, that there is a world of difference between a public good lottery and betting on sports and particular activities and particularly when it can offer a line of additional sports funding going to elite performance, going to participation, improving preventive health outcomes which won’t last just for 10 or 20 years but I suspect will be here for 30, 50, 100 years.
People cry out for long term stable sports funding. This is one opportunity and it’s one that personally I believe in, I’m supportive of and what we’ve seen in the UK is a very successful model.
Just finally, Minister, over the weekend, the AMA, which of course if Australia’s most powerful doctor lobby group, it’s declared its support for same sex marriage to be legalised. It’s declared that this is a public health issue.
Now I know you personally support gay marriage but do you agree that this is a public health issue, that there is a real urgency to get this resolved?
Look, as you know, my position is clear, I do support it and I would vote for it in a plebiscite. I think that’s the right mechanism to do it.
I’ve expressed my support for the right of every Australian to have a say on this matter, whichever way they come to a conclusion.
I’ll leave health judgments to the heath professionals. I think they’re the right people to be making their own comments on that but my view is to stand for the right of the AMA and people on either side of the debate to have their views, to have their judgements and ultimately to express that through the form of a plebiscite. Every Australian gets a free vote in a plebiscite.