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Labor leader Bill Shorten promises $2.3 billion Medicare plan to fight cancer

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Labor leader Bill Shorten has delivered his 2019 Budget reply speech, promising "the most important investment in Medicare since Bob Hawke created it".

An elected Labor government will invest $2.3 billion to boost cancer care, eliminating almost all out-of-pocket costs for cancer scans.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten made the announcement in his 2019 Budget reply. The plan includes three million cancer specialist consultations to be bulk-billed over four years. 

"Cancer is a curse," Mr Shorten told the House of Representatives.

"I wish I could stand here tonight and guarantee you we will find a cure to cancer, no politician can give that promise. 

"Until the day we find a cure, I promise the men and women of Australia this: under Labor, if you're battling cancer, you'll focus on getting well without worrying about going broke."

The plan will also guarantee that all drugs recommended by independent experts for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will be listed.

Labor's main promises

  • Stronger surpluses
  • Defence spending of two per cent of GDP
  • Uncapped university places opening up extra 200,000 spots
  • Guaranteed universal access to pre-school or kinder for every three and four year old for 15 hours a week, 40 weeks a year
  • $1 billion for TAFE and apprentices, ensuring 100,000 Australians will go to TAFE with no upfront fees, and an additional 150,000 apprenticeships will be made available

Mr Shorten has also vowed to put back ‘every single dollar’ the current government has cut from public schools and hospitals, adding a Labor government would lift the NDIS cap on staff numbers if elected.  

"We can get the support out the door, keep the promises made to people with disabilities and we will put people with disabilities at the centre of decision-making in the National Disability Insurance Scheme," he said. 

Higher income tax breaks

Mr Shorten commended the Federal Government's pledge to tax cuts in Tuesday night's budget, promising to match its tax drop for those who earn between $48,000 and $126,000, but he made another promise. 

"But the Liberal tax plan does not do enough for 2.9 million Australians who earn less than $40,000," he added.

"I am pleased to say that in Chris Bowen's first Budget, Labor will provide a bigger tax return than the Liberals for 3.6 million Australians, all-told, an extra $1 billion for low-income earners in this country."

'Australia cannot afford Labor', says Cormann

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann critised Labor's response to his party's 2019 Budget, saying a strong economy was central to everything. 

"Bill Shorten had no plan to keep our economy strong. Instead, he put forward an agenda for over $200 billion in higher taxes, on retirees, housing, income, investments, small and family business, electricity, you name it.

Mr Cormann went on to say the opposition didn't know how to manage money. 

"When Labor was last in government, for six years, they delivered six record deficits, totaling $240 billion," he said.

"This is not the time to go back to the discredited Labor ways of the past. Australia cannot afford Labor.”

'We choose real action on climate change' 

In a bid to tackle climate change, Labor - if elected - also pledged a $2,000 payment to families who want to lower power bills by installing a battery storage system.

"Climate change is real," Mr Shorten said.

"We choose renewables and we choose real action on climate change."

Greens MP Adam Bandt was quick to share his disappointment on Twitter, saying it wasn't a serious plan to tackle climate change.

During his Budget 2019 reply, Mr Shorten name-checked his team, in a show of unity.

When announcing his commitments to education, such as equal opportunity for Aboriginal and indigenous children, children with disability and children with learning difficulties, he also made special mention to his deputy.

"I want every child participating in sport, trying drama, learning music, going on camps, having access to new technology and not as optional extras to which parents pay levies and not luxuries that rely on teachers raising the money," he said.

"There is one more thing that we will do to make Australian schools the best in the world. We will make Tanya Plibersek the Minister for Education."

Additional reporting by AAP

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