Labor leader Bill Shorten has defended an infamous election day text message about Medicare, insisting the Queensland branch wasn’t trying to be deceptive.
The message, sent to Queensland voters on Saturday, declared time was running out to “save” the health insurer.
“Turnbull’s plans to privatise Medicare will take us down the road of no return,” it read.
The message sender showed up in phones as “Medicare”, despite it having nothing to do with the messages.
On the Network Ten’s The Project on Monday night Waleed Aly grilled Mr Shorten whether he had achieved the election result “on the back of fraud”.
“Not at all,” Mr Shorten said.
“If Malcolm Turnbull is complaining he lost the election because of a text … (and) doesn’t get the message about Medicare, he’s learnt nothing out of this election.”
Mr Aly asked Mr Shorten if he wanted to see criminal charges laid against those responsible for the texts.
“I won’t get ahead of myself,” he replied.
“Mr Turnbull has asked for the AFP to investigate. We’ll see what happens there.
“There’s an issue of substance in this election and Turnbull is trying to duck that issue which is the future of Medicare.”
Labor’s Queensland branch disputed that voters may have been deceived by the text, given the prominent role Medicare had played in the party’s campaign.
“The message was not intended to indicate that it was a message from Medicare, rather to identify the subject of the text,” a spokesman said.
“There should be no surprise that this was not a government message.”
Senior Liberal Arthur Sinodinos said the Labor campaign was emblematic of the public wanting to indicate how strongly they felt about health.
“Labor found a very clever way, if very cynical way, to do that,” he said.
But deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek put the outrage down to “the most acute example of sour grapes” she had ever seen.
“Medicare was at risk at this election and I don’t apologise for reminding people that there is a philosophical fundamental choice here,” she told ABC radio on Monday.
Ms Plibersek dismissed the police investigation into how the text message to voters carried Medicare branding as an “absurd proposition from the Liberals”.