Shorten faces billionaire lunch grilling

By | April 13, 2019

Bill Shorten will face awkward questions about a meeting with Australia’s richest man as his campaign visits New South Wales’ central coast today.

Mr Shorten wrapped up his public campaign events early in the afternoon yesterday after touring a medical centre in Sydney.

Then he reportedly visited the luxurious apartment of Anthony Pratt, where the pair shared lunch.

Mr Pratt has a $ 13 billion fortune, built through his cardboard box business Visy. He is a frequent political donor. At the last election he contributed nearly $ 800,000 to Malcolm Turnbull’s campaign.

Today Mr Shorten is heading to Gosford, where he will maintain his focus on cancer policy. This morning Labor announced it would spend $ 8.6 million with the Cancer Council for a renewed public awareness campaign on sun protection.

Later he will face voters at his first town hall forum of the campaign in Woy Woy.

Those events take him to the marginal Liberal-held seat Robertson, which is seen as a prime target for Labor. The incumbent MP Lucy Wicks is sitting on a margin of 1.1 per cent.

Yesterday Mr Shorten also spent all his time in Liberal seats, a sure sign that he is on the attack. He visited Reid, held by retiring Turnbull loyalist Craig Laundy, and Bennelong, held by former Australian tennis star John Alexander.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s first campaign stop today is in the inner west Sydney suburb of Ashfield, in the seat of Grayndler and on the border of Reid.

Mr Morrison will visit a Headspace youth mental health centre to announce a $ 42.1 million boost to Youth and Indigenous mental health research if the Coalition wins re-election.

As the election campaign heads into its second full day, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he will significantly increase the money announced for youth mental health.

As part of its Budget released earlier this month, the Coalition had already announced $ 461 million for youth mental health including for 30 new Headspace centres.

Today’s extra money will bring total funding for the Youth and Indigenous Mental Health and Suicide Prevention plan to $ 503.1 million.

“I want every young person in Australia to know that they are not alone and that we are committed to doing everything we can to support their mental health and wellbeing,” the Prime Minister said.

“Not just as a Prime Minister but as a parent I am going to do whatever it takes and whatever we can to break the curse of youth suicide in our country and ensure young people get the support they need.”

Suicide is the leading cause of death among Australians aged 15 to 44 years and almost half of all Australians will experience a mental health difficulty in their lifetime.

Three quarters of mental illness begins before the age of 25.

The new funding will support five projects as part of the $ 125 million Million Minds Mission, which aims to get one million extra Australians into new trials and programs focused on protecting their mental wellbeing.

The government says extra grants for eating disorders research will also be announced soon.

Of the $ 42.1 million announced today, about $ 10 million will go towards two research projects to deliver digital tools for common issues faced by young people including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, sleep problems, suicide and relationship difficulties. The projects hope to improve the treatment and experiences of those presenting to emergency departments with mental health crises.

Another $ 12.5 million will be spent on three projects to bring more social and cultural awareness to mental health services for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, to make them more effective.

Mainstream mental health and alcohol services will also be supported to work better for Indigenous Australians.

“Young Indigenous people face many barriers to accessing health care, one of which is finding and engaging services that are safe and tailored to meet their needs,” Minister for Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt AM said.

“This work will help change the way we deliver general mental health services so that they draw on the value of culture, community, and country to enrich the care provided to our First Nations people.”

The announcement comes as Labor campaigns hard on its health funding promises, including a $ 125 million research funding promise to improve cancer survival rates as well as billions to reduce out-of-pocket-costs for millions of medical scans.

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