Release type: Transcript


Interview - ABC Wide Bay


Senator the Hon Anthony Chisholm
Assistant Minister for Education
Assistant Minister for Regional Development

DAVID DOWSETT [HOST]: Senator for Queensland, Anthony Chisholm has a really busy week in Parliament with big issues to address, from tax cuts for Aussies doing it tough, to the gender pay gap, highlighting the disadvantage to women taking paid parental leave and the impacts to their super. Like I said, it's been a big week, that's for sure. But while the pollies are having a chat about these things, are these the issues that the rest of us are really worried about? Senator Anthony Chisholm, good morning.

ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Good morning, David. Good to be with you.

DOWSETT: Some really big news yesterday with Coles posting big profits and accusations of price gouging as well. Is the government in a position to really challenge the mighty retailer? I mean, let's face it, families are really crying out for help in this cost of living crisis.

CHISHOLM: They certainly are. We know people right across the country are doing it tough. That's why in particular in relation to what we can do around the cost of living, you've seen it since we came to government, the focus of the Budget. Obviously, the tax cuts that passed the parliament on Wednesday night, on Tuesday night, sorry, are going to be a significant contribution from us. But we also know that people want to ensure that they're getting a fair price when they do go to the supermarket. And we also want to ensure that farmers are getting a fair price as well. That's why we've tasked the ACCC with doing their investigation. We think that they're the ones that are best placed at the moment to do that and ensure that we get the setting rights to ensure that there's competition, that families are getting value for money, but farmers are also getting a fair deal for the produce that they have.

DOWSETT: So, the government can't really stand up to these big retailers?

CHISHOLM: Well, I think we can. And I think we've shown that what we're doing by initiating the ACCC inquiry into supermarket prices. We've got Choice doing the quarterly price reporting as well. And we want to ensure that there is a fair deal for families, but also farmers as well. And I know that's an important industry up in your part of the world, David. So, I think that the government are acting on this. We do know that it's important and we do think that families deserve to be treated fairly, but so do farmers as well.

DOWSETT: On another issue, we're hearing that constituents in our region are heading to their local representatives complaining that, well, the fact is that we have the lowest bulk billing rates in our region and the cost of healthcare continues to climb. I know you recently supported the Urgent Care Clinic that was launched in Bundaberg. Is that the answer to this issue?

CHISHOLM: We think it's important. We've obviously increased the bulk billing rebate as well, which we think will be important. It is something that we've had a significant focus on since we came to government because we are the party of Medicare, and we want to protect it and we want to ensure that people can get in to see a doctor when they need to. We think the Urgent Care Clinics are an important part of that, for one, freeing up the hospital so that people who don't have something that needs to be treated by the hospital, or they can go to the Urgent Care Clinic and get treatment, particularly on the weekends as well and after hours. So, we think that they will make a difference. But certainly the government is committed to doing what we can to ensure that those bulk billing rates – that people can get in to see a bulk billing doctor when necessary.

DOWSETT: Can more be done to get GP's to really come to the table on this?

CHISHOLM: Well, obviously, we think we've put incentives in place already to encourage doctors to do it. I know it's something that we're committed to, and I'm sure that the Health Minister would be willing to do more if it is going to mean that more people are able to get in to see a bulk billing doctor, particularly those on low incomes and families and children.

DOWSETT: And just finally, the University Accord was released this week. Does that mean that further education becomes more affordable for low socioeconomic regions such as ours?

CHISHOLM: That's certainly the aim of the Accord. And if you've heard anything that Minister Clare has said since he announced the review, it was focused on ensuring that more people from more parts of the country can get an education through university. There is a significant focus out of the Accord Report around ensuring better access for those on lower socioeconomic and in regional areas. We think that it's important because what we know and what the Accord Report sets out is that, we want 80% of people to have a university or VET degree by 2050. We're only going to achieve that if more people from the regions are studying. So, there are significant recommendations in there. It's now up to the government to implement those at a timetable that is sustainable. But we know that ensuring access of opportunity right across the country is really important when it comes to education.

DOWSETT: So, that Accord does indeed make a difference. Senator Anthony Chisholm, thanks very much.

CHISHOLM: Thank you.