Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Interview - Child care cuts; Liberals in chaos

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

SYDNEY

FRIDAY, 6 FEBRUARY 2015

 

SUBJECT/S: Child care cuts; Liberals in chaos; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget.

 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s really great to be here at Little Dolphins Child Care Centre with my friend, Steve Kamper, who’s Labor’s state candidate for the seat of Rockdale, of course, in the marginal seat of Barton. The reason why it is so good to be here at Little Dolphins, other than the obvious pleasure of meeting up with little children and their hard working carers, is today a new report has revealed that families are paying between a quarter and a third of their income to pay their child care costs. Child care is fundamental to the well-being of our children and also ensuring their parents are able to go to work. Yet this report confirms that Australian families are struggling with the cost of living.

 

And yet, as families are struggling with the cost of living and child care, we’ve got the Liberal Government in Canberra arguing amongst themselves in chaos and dysfunction. We've got a Budget which means that families will see up to $6,000 cut from the family budget. That's about three months’ worth of child care, and what are the Liberals doing about it? Nothing. Their Budget in fact is making life worse. What we need to see in Australia is affordable quality child care but not prohibitive fees. Families should not have to make a choice between whether mum works or stays at home because of the cost of child care. This is not the right future for this country.

 

And yet at this stage we just see the Liberal Government in chaos. There's debate about the leadership of the Liberal Party, yet both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull voted for this unfair budget putting pressure on child care. Child care is more important than who leads the Liberal Party and it's about time that the Liberal Party realise that.

 

Malcolm Turnbull may have a nicer suit than Tony Abbott but when it comes to cost of living pressures and cutting a billion dollars from child care, Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott are cut from the same cloth.  Happy to take any questions.

 

JOURNALIST: Will you support the Government's decision to consult the child care industry as part of its family’s package to try to bring relief to parents with child care responsibilities?

 

SHORTEN: The Liberal Government wants a medal for getting out of bed these days it seems. They should be consulting with the industry, that's what Labor's doing as we develop our policies for the next election. But we start from the principle that child care should both be affordable in quality and there shouldn't be prohibitive fee increases at the same time as this Government cutting the family package and family benefits of Australians. The first step that the Liberal Government needs to do, regardless of who's in charge of that circus, is that they need to come clean and drop their Budget cuts to family payments which will see $6,000 taken away from Australian families.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you think more consultation really is needed, though, on this issue and most people agree that it's affordability and that needs to be tackled?

 

SHORTEN: Well the Abbott Government's been in power now for over 500 days and it doesn't seem to matter who's in charge, they think it's just a matter of changing the salesperson, it's not. Go and talk to ordinary Australian families who are paying a quarter of their wages to child care fees. That's the real challenge. We've got a Productivity Commission inquiry. What's also clear is that the current government, when in Opposition, did no homework. That's when they should have been doing, as we are doing in Opposition, talking, consulting, listening. Talking to the families, listening to the experts, consulting people. It's a bit late now, isn't it, that the Liberal Government - they're having an argument about who's in charge and yet they have no plan for child care in this country. What have they been doing for the last year and a half?

 

JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison said he would like the Opposition to work with them on this, to, you know, in a bipartisan approach. Would you agree to that?

 

SHORTEN: We're also up for what's in the best interests of the Australian people. On child care, Labor's always been the party of child care. And what we've seen under the Liberals is a billion dollars in cuts to child care. We're happy to be constructive and bipartisan, we always are, but we don't think it's a good start when there's a billion dollars cut out of child care. It's unprecedented. The other thing which needs to be reminded here is all the contenders are names for the Liberal leadership are all people who supported Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey's cuts to child care.

 

JOURNALIST: You were asked yesterday whether you were ready to be PM, but you didn't directly answer that question, are you?

 

SHORTEN: We will be ready when the election's called, absolutely. People say this Government’s in chaos wherever you go. What I can promise Australian people is this: when it comes to Medicare we don't support a GP tax, we support a universal healthcare system. When it comes to higher education in this country we don't support $100,000 degrees. When it comes to child care we believe it should be affordable and quality, not with prohibitive fees forcing parents to make invidious choices between work and family.

 

JOURNALIST: Would you be a better PM than Malcolm Turnbull?

 

SHORTEN: Well currently Tony Abbott's the PM. I believe that the policies of my party, the Labor Party, the values which we stand for, are the right values for Australia. With Labor you know what you get. You know you get commitment to needs-based education in our schools and funding accordingly. You know when it comes to higher education, we think that children of merit from whatever background should have the opportunity to go to university. We believe that you shouldn't be cutting the pension - the people have worked hard their whole life shouldn't have the rate of increase of their pension cut by an unfair budget and an out of-touch Liberal Government. And we certainly believe the working women of Australia who are going to raising their families, who are going to work, shouldn't have to be going to work for every hour of the day just to pay their child care fees.

 

JOURNALIST: Would you be a better PM than Malcolm Turnbull?

 

SHORTEN: Well currently Tony Abbott's the PM. I believe that the policies of my party, the Labor Party, the values which we stand for, are the right values for Australia. With Labor you know what you get. You know that you get commitment to needs-based education in our schools and funding accordingly. You know that when it comes to higher education, we think that children of merit from whatever background should have the opportunity to go to university. We believe that you shouldn't be cutting the pension, the people have worked hard their whole life shouldn't have the rate of increase of their pension cut by an unfair budget in and out of-touch Liberal Government. And we certainly believe the working women of Australia who are raising their families, who are going to work, shouldn't have to be going to work for every hour of the day just to pay for their child care fees.

 

JOURNALIST: Do you think in principle a Prime Minister who leads a party to an electoral win should be dumped mid-term?

 

SHORTEN: Well Labor's learnt the lesson of this mistake. We all know that the only reason why Tony Abbott is being dumped is with because of an unfair Budget with an out-of-touch set of values and broken promises. Does anyone really think that when you change the salesperson that somehow that wipes the slate clean of the unfair Budget? I'm more interested in what people do than what they say. I'm interested to see if the Government will finally drop its GP tax. I'm interested to see if they’ll drop their $100,000 university degrees. I'm interested to see if they will drop their pension cuts. I'm interested to see if they have got the courage of their convictions to make sure that this country is united, not divided.

 

But so far the signs are not good. You've got a whole lot of Ministers and Liberal backbenchers, all of them, an untidy rabble desperately scrabbling for their own jobs backgrounding against the current Prime Minister. But they all voted for the Budget. On Budget night when Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott brought down their Budget, they were slamming the desks and they were cheering and that's the issue and, you know, Malcolm Turnbull, as I say, Malcolm Turnbull may wear nicer suits but he's just Tony Abbott in a nicer suit.

 

JOURNALIST: On the Bali nine, Mr Abbott says that he's not optimistic that they can be saved. Do you share that view?

 

SHORTEN: Yes, I will say that the Government, the families, the foreign affairs experts we've got and the Opposition are united to try and save these two young men. I don't want to speculate about their prospects. Where there is hope there is life. The Labor Party believes that the death penalty anywhere demeans us all as human beings. Again we would repress our claims, along with the Government, along with the representatives of the family, along with many Australians, that we don't want to see these two young men executed.

 

JOURNALIST: You've spoken a lot about Malcolm Turnbull, do you think he will become the next PM?

 

SHORTEN: I have no idea who the Liberals are going to pick next but we all know why they are doing it. What I am disappointed and why I think Malcolm Turnbull is seriously doing the numbers, is because he's turned his back on what he's believed on climate change. Australians are respected - even if they didn't agree with his politics - Malcolm Turnbull when he voted in favour of an emissions trading scheme, a market-based system which both Labor and the Liberals, that he led, took to the 2009 and 2008 Parliaments. What's happened now is that Malcolm Turnbull's decided that he's more interested in replacing Tony Abbott than sticking to his convictions on climate change. It's a sorry betrayal and what I believe is that the real challenge here in Australia is not who the chief salesperson of the Liberals is, Malcolm Turnbull or Tony Abbott, it's what they're selling Australians.

 

JOURNALIST: How would you feel about going up against Malcolm Turnbull?

 

SHORTEN: I'm interested in what's in the best interests of Australia. If they want to change their leaders bring it on, because what Labor stands for is we stand for a Medicare system which doesn't have a GP tax. We stand for a fair pension safety net which doesn't see the rate of increase cut. We stand for the idea that women can go to work and not have to spend every hour of the income that they earn paying child care bills. We stand for the idea that working class kids should be able to go to university and not face the prospect of a deregulated market and $100,000 degrees.

 

JOURNALIST: You mentioned the mistakes that the Labor Party’s made in terms of leadership, do you think that the Liberal Party are resembling the previous Labor leadership fiasco?

 

SHORTEN: Well I think Australians see Canberra under the Liberals and they see a fiasco. They see a circus. What they want to see out of a government, regardless of its political affiliation, is a government focused on the issues that affect Australians. I'm here today, as I have been every day this week, talking about cost of living and child care fees and making sure that Australian families can make ends meet. This Government, regardless of who leads it, is out of touch. They're all happy to background against Tony Abbott about the decision, the crazy decision to give a knighthood to Prince Philip, but none of them have been able to background against Tony Abbott on how they spoke up in Cabinet in defence of real Australia because they haven't. They're just interested in keeping their jobs. They're not interested in the jobs of other Australians.

 

JOURNALIST: Is it fair to make those comments when Labor, in the wake of Labor's leadership turmoil?

 

SHORTEN: Well, Labor paid the price for our division, we clearly did. But what is so amazing is that the Liberal Party of today made such a virtue that they were not a party who would change a first-term Prime Minister. This is a Government, this is a political party who will say and do anything to keep power. It doesn't matter if it’s Malcolm Turnbull's backflip on climate change. It doesn't matter if it's Tony Abbott saying that he wants to introduce Knights and Dames, the problem with this Government is they're out of touch with the future of this country. Labor has learnt its lessons. We've put in place rules that the debacle which we're currently seeing with the Liberal Party cannot be repeated in the Labor administration. We've learnt our lesson. Clearly the Liberals haven't. Any other questions?

 

Thanks very much, everyone.

 

ENDS

 

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