Health focus for Shorten's campaign launch

Labor leader Bill Shorten is expected to focus on health care at the party's campaign launch.
Labor leader Bill Shorten is expected to focus on health care at the party's campaign launch.

Bill Shorten will make a pitch to worried parents in hospital emergency waiting rooms at Labor's official campaign launch, marking out health funding as a major point of difference with the government.

In his speech to the party in Brisbane on Sunday, Mr Shorten is expected to put the finishing touches on Labor's health policy suite with a $500 million commitment for emergency department upgrades and more doctors and nurses to staff them.

"Chloe and I know what it's like to sit inside the emergency department, holding your child in the middle of the night," Mr Shorten will say, draft speech notes show.

"Most parents know what that's like, and every parent fears it. There's nothing more nerve-wracking, exhausting or dispiriting."

He will also promise Labor would spend almost $200 million filling a gap in youth mental health services to help those who need more care than their regular doctor can provide but don't need hospitalisation.

This will build four new headspace Plus hubs, in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Tasmania, to give young people with moderate to complex mental ill-health access to GPs, mental health nurses, psychiatrists and addiction specialists.

Labor says its promises to Australians on healthcare add up to $8 billion more than what the Morrison government has on offer.

This includes $2.8 billion in extra funding to hospitals, $2.4 billion for free dental care for pensioners, and $2.3 billion to extend the range of cancer-related services covered by Medicare.

The party sees health as one of its key strengths, with Mr Shorten spending the whole first week of the election campaign announcing new plans in the portfolio.

Labor has hammered its message over the past three weeks that it will close tax loopholes for the top earners and multinationals and use the money to fund better services, especially hospitals and schools, for everyone.

The government has countered by pointing to the record of the Rudd-Gillard government - which covered the period of the global financial crisis - and its legacy of deficit.

But the opposition has released a report on Sunday from the McKell Institute finding its plans for a permanent instant asset write-off for all businesses would lead to more 77,000 jobs and an average $1500 wage boost compared with the coalition's agenda.

The Labor-linked progressive think tank concluded that because the two parties had the same company tax rate policy - after the coalition dumped plans for further cuts to big business in the face of parliamentary opposition - but Labor offered accelerated depreciation, its Australian Investment Guarantee "provides greater incentives for new private-sector investment than the coalition's policy".

Opposition finance spokesman Jim Chalmers said the fact the Reserve Bank was contemplating cutting rates on Tuesday showed the coalition's true economic credentials were poor.

"The biggest lie of this campaign is that Morrison and the LNP have done a good job managing the economy," he told Sky News.

The campaign launch is a major set piece of the election race.

Deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and Senate leader Penny Wong will also make speeches, and former prime ministers Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard will all attend.

Australian Associated Press