Transcript: Doorstop

13 October 2016

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services
Topics: 
Labor continuing its Mediscare campaign in the ACT
E&OE

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks very much for coming along. As you probably know, my department has responsibility for maintaining the integrity of many of the government brands and trademarks. Things like Centrelink, Child Services, myGov and of course Medicare.

It takes these responsibilities very seriously and it does so for a reason, and that is because Australians need to have confidence that when they receive a letter, or a message from an entity like Medicare, that they have faith that in fact, that message came from that organisation.

If we breach that faith, then Australians will always be second-guessing as to whether or not a letter or a piece of correspondence is indeed from that organisation.

We all know, that during the federal election campaign, the Labor Party sent out numerous text messages, they sent out a card purporting to be Medicare and deliberately deceived Australians in doing so.

This week, we have discovered that the ACT Labor Party has done a similar thing. They, this week, have been distributing these Medicare cards, again purporting to be Medicare and using the Medicare brand.

On this occasion they have been caught out, because as soon as my department was made aware of this, they took immediate action. Indeed, the Australian Government solicitors immediately wrote to the ACT Labor Party and asked them to cease and desist.

They were doing the wrong thing, and they were caught out. But within nine minutes of receiving that letter, the ACT Labor Party had apologised and had agreed to cease to use that Medicare logo again.

My question now is to Bill Shorten. If the Secretary of the ACT Labor Party can realise within nine minutes that what they did was wrong, and could apologise for that action, how long will it take Bill Shorten to be big enough to do a similar action?

How long will it take Bill Shorten to also do the right thing and apologise for misleading the Australian public during the last federal election campaign.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST:
Are you calling Bill Shorten personally responsible? I thought it was the Queensland Labor Party branch that were taking responsibility?

ALAN TUDGE:

Bill Shorten should be overall responsible for the campaign that was led by the Labor Party. Just as the Prime Minister takes responsibility for our federal campaign, Bill Shorten should take responsibility for his federal campaign.

Now we know there were text messages sent, we know that the letters and the cards which were sent out using the Medicare logo inappropriately.

If the ACT Labor Party, having been caught out, can immediately apologise for their actions, why can’t Bill Shorten also be big enough and apologise for what he did during the federal election campaign?

JOURNALIST:
Just on the text messages that you mentioned several times there, is the Government pre-empting the electoral matters investigation about what happened during the federal election and including provisions in the plebiscite bill about the use of robo-calls and text messages?

ALAN TUDGE:
No it is not and the Minister of State has dealt with these particular questions also. The issues which I am actually referring to here don’t concern the electoral law, but concern the Human Services (Medicare) Act, which specifically protects Medicare trademark and branding from misuse.

My department, the Department of Human Services, takes very seriously the protection of that brand and for very good reason. It is the same reason why companies protect their brands, why non-profits protect their brands from misuse from third parties.

When they found out this week, that the ACT Labor Party was using, inappropriately, the Medicare brand, they took immediate action.

The ACT Labor Party, and indeed the Secretary of the ACT Labor Party, within nine minutes wrote, and I can quote from the letter. He said:

Thank you for your letter. I sincerely apologise on behalf of ACT Labor for this error and the use of the Medicare logo. I can confirm that ACT Labor has ceased distributing this material and we undertake not to distribute any material that features the Medicare logo.

That was nine minutes after the Australian Solicitor General had sent a letter to the head of the ACT Labor Party. They were willing to fess up to their mistake immediately and apologise for their actions.

The question now is:  will Bill Shorten apologise for his actions because what they did during the federal election campaign was much more grievous, much more serious than what the ACT Labor Party did this week because they purported to be Medicare.

They purported, they went out of their way to deliberately mislead vulnerable Australians that they would have to pay more to see a doctor. So we are asking Bill Shorten to step up and be big enough and do what the ACT Labor Party did and that is apologise for his actions.

JOURNALIST:
Can I just ask on another matter today, the Northern Territory Royal Commission has been told that Indigenous women are locking themselves in shipping containers because they are so afraid of family violence. This has also been described as a situation that is at crisis levels.

What is the Federal Government’s policy, or what is your position about addressing this particular crisis?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well as you know, Minister Scullion is leading that particular effort as well of course the Attorney General in relation to our Royal Commission up there.

I’ve been concerned about violence against Indigenous women for many years and I am particularly concerned about the extraordinary rates of assault against Indigenous women in the Northern Territory, which are, from memory, about ten assaults per 100 women every single year.

This is frankly, a figure that is so far off the scale that it should make all of us stand up and pay attention. I also know that about two thirds of those assaults have alcohol related to them and much of that alcohol would be purchased by the welfare dollar.

We are trialling a cashless debit card in a couple of locations and it seems to be having a good result to date. That is reducing the amount of discretionary cash which can be spent on alcohol.

We have got to take this issue very, very seriously.  Every woman in Australia should be safe in whatever community they are in, and sadly, the assault rate against Indigenous women, particularly in the NT, is frankly unacceptable.

JOURNALIST:
Senator Malarndirri McCarthy has just called for the Prime Minister to make this his priority. To travel to central Australia and look at the work that is being done there. That sounds like a fair call. Do you back that?

ALAN TUDGE:
I am not aware of what he is proposing to do….

JOURNALIST:
That is a call from Malarndirri McCarthy.

ALAN TUDGE:
I will leave further comments on this issue, I have given a pretty robust comment there, but I’ll leave further comments to Minister Scullion and other responsible ministers on it.

[ENDS]