SUBJECTS: Polls; by-elections; My Health Record.
TOM CONNELL: Joining me for more on this and a few other topics, Michelle Rowland, Labor frontbencher joins me from our Sky News Centre. Michelle, thanks for your time today. Your thoughts first of all on this poll, the theoretical one about Anthony Albanese?
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Tom, I think these sorts of hypotheticals are a bit silly in some ways because firstly, it is, as you say, theoretical. But secondly, this is exactly what the voters in the by-election seats on Saturday are not concerned about. They're more concerned about issues such as cost of living, they’re concerned about issues of insecurity, in particular job insecurity, about flatlining wages and I think that this simply feeds into the fact that these people feel quite disconnected in some of these by-election seats. And I think it’s the job of Labor in these by-elections, and it’s certainly what Bill Shorten and his entire team has been doing which is to get out there in those five seats and to let people know that we understand their concerns and we're ready to respond, unlike Malcolm Turnbull.
CONNELL: Bill Shorten has absolutely been out there in Braddon, in Longman a lot of appearances as well. This result, whichever way it goes, is surely in part a reflection of what voters think of Bill Shorten?
ROWLAND: I think the key thing with Bill Shorten, Tom, is that the commentariat continues to underestimate him. And the only people who underestimate Bill Shorten more is the other mob. And Malcolm Turnbull is probably the only person who thinks that these by-elections are a shoe-in for him. He's probably the only person who thinks the next general election is going to be a shoe-in. But we know that this weekend it's going to be close in Braddon and Longman.
Let's look at the facts: Labor actually hasn't held Longman other than twice out of eight elections and, quite frankly, I think it was amazing that Susan Lamb won it last time and it was an extraordinary set of circumstances. In Braddon, Justine Keay was coming from way behind in initial polling, coming off a resounding win for the Liberals in that area at a State level, and the fact that she's in the race again speaks volumes about these two women and their capacities. And I've watched them Tom, they have gone from strength to strength as this campaign has gone on.
CONNELL: I mean what this sounds like, Michelle Rowland, is some level of expectation management. Again to that question I just asked you though, because I'm not saying which way these by-elections will go. I'm certainly not thinking either side is a shoe-in but given the number of visits from Bill Shorten, he does have skin in the game in these by-elections surely?
ROWLAND: He absolutely does. Labor has skin in the game, but more importantly this is not about him, this is not about Bill Shorten. This is about the people in those electorates. This is about all Australians who want to decide whether they want a better future, what sort of choices they want made about giving $17 billion to the big banks or whether to invest in hospitals. Bill has said himself: this is not about him. This is about the people whom he is seeking to represent as the future Prime Minister of Australia and the candidates who want to represent those people in our Parliament.
CONNELL: Is this the most pressure Bill Shorten's been under since the last election?
ROWLAND: I think the fact is Bill has had the pile on from Malcolm Turnbull and his cronies every day of the week. This is nothing new and I say to Malcolm Turnbull and his mates, please go on ahead underestimating him because if there’s one thing Bill knows, and what came through in 2016, is that people are genuinely concerned and are genuinely interested in policy. You cannot accuse Bill Shorten of having made Labor a small target since the 2016 election and certainly since the 2013 election. He hasn't been afraid to make big calls, unlike Malcolm Turnbull who’s too afraid even to front up in the two by-election seats in WA.
If I was a betting person, I would say the person under more pressure here is Malcolm Turnbull who looks like he's about to lose the most blue-ribbon blue seat in Australia in Mayo – again! And if this bloke doesn't come under intense scrutiny for that, then I think the Liberal Party would need to have a good hard look at themselves.
CONNELL: Well we'll see where the results happen first of all and where the pressure goes I suppose. I do want to ask you about policy in regards to My Health. This is the online service, obviously, which would take Australians medical history online and GPs would be able to access it, but there have been concerns that it possibly could be hacked. Also concerns that it's opt-out. You're automatically in unless you say so. Given some of the recent history of the government on IT for example, I know this has been a bipartisan measure, but do you have any concerns about My Health?
ROWLAND: Well you nailed it there in your comments, Tom, in terms of given past history of this government and I can understand the concerns of many of my constituents who have said to me that they're worried about issues of cybersecurity, about privacy and let's face it, this is a government that has botched just about every big digital call that it's made under Malcolm Turnbull. The so-called “innovation Prime Minister” can't get an online census to work properly, let alone the myGov portal, let alone the ATO portal and everything else that goes with it. They've had appalling incidents of medical data that has ended up going on the dark web. That's a huge concern in the Medicare space. But as I said, I can understand people's concerns. We need to ensure that we have the most efficient mechanism in place, but certainly those concerns are very valid. People's privacy should be paramount.
CONNELL: So what does that actually mean in terms of what should happen? This is at the pointy end, this project, and it has had bipartisan support. Does there need to be a pause, a delay on when the cut-off date is? What would you actually say in terms of action?
ROWLAND: Well we certainly are at the pointy end, Tom, and this has been going on for years. The opt-out date is in October and from Labor's point of view the government has not done enough to explain to people how this works. There are too many people who don't even know, apparently, that they've got a health record created, even though there's something like 6 million people with these e-health records. So Labor's point of view is that that date should be extended and if the government were to go down that path, then certainly that would be very welcome because it would give time to explain this to people, to explain the benefits, but also to alleviate some of those very valid concerns that are out there right now.
CONNELL: Michelle Rowland, thanks for your time this morning.
ROWLAND: My pleasure.