Bill Shorten says the election referendum on Medicare

By Colin Brinsden, Paul Osborne

Bill Shorten officially launched Labor's campaign two weeks out from the federal election. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Bill Shorten officially launched Labor's campaign two weeks out from the federal election. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Bill Shorten has declared the Australian election a referendum on Medicare and promised extra help for small business, as he officially launched Labor's campaign two weeks out from the federal election.

The Labor leader was joined by luminaries Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Julia Gillard yesterday as he unveiled a suite of new promises under the campaign theme "We'll Put People First".

Labor strategists believe one of the key fears of voters is a privatised Medicare. Shorten said the Government's task force set up to look at private sector involvement in Medicare's payments system and a Productivity Commission review of the "contestability" of all human services delivered by the government amounted to privatisation.

"If you want to know why this election will make a difference - to you, to your family, to Australia's future - I can give you the answer in one word ... Medicare," Shorten told about 500 Labor faithful gathered in Penrith.

Labor has pledged to keep Medicare in public hands, unfreeze the GP rebate, scrap price hikes for medicines and reverse cuts to pathology and diagnostic imaging.

Another economic boost would come from Labor's plan to give a A$20,000 tax break for a small business - with a turnover under A$2 million - that hires a parent going back to work, a carer or an Australian under 25 or over 55, which would help create around 30,000 new jobs each year.

It would come on top of the existing promise of a company tax cut. "This is a real jobs plan and a responsible tax cut," Shorten said.

The Opposition Leader said he was "completely certain" Labor could win the election.

"Mr Turnbull says he's got this in the bag. He claims he's already won. But I say to him - never underestimate Labor, you ain't seen nothing yet."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Labor was peddling "extraordinary and audacious" lies on Medicare being privatised.

"There will be no outsourcing of any elements of the Medicare service currently delivered by government, full stop - there is no privatisation of Medicare."

- AAP

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