Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Sydney - Cyclone Marcia; Productivity Commission report into childcare






SUBJECT/S: Cyclone Marcia; Productivity Commission report into childcare, Liberal’s $1 billion cuts to childcare; Abbott Government’s broken promise on submarines; Biosecurity.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s really nice on a Friday morning to be in Randwick at a childcare centre seeing what great work that our community childcare is doing for the next generation of Australians. I’m accompanied here today by local member Matt Thistlethwaite in Kingsford-Smith, also Labor’s candidate in the state election for the seat of Coogee, Paul Pearce. Childcare’s certainly front and centre of concerns in 2015 for working Australian families. Labor fundamentally believes that we need a childcare system which is affordable, not with prohibitive fees, it’s accessible, people can get the places where they need them and that there’s quality in the system. There’s no more important proposition I believe or task than when you intrust the welfare of your children to people that you get the best quality system and workforce that we possible can encourage. So we see that today the Productivity Commission has a report out, the Governments started to speak about this matter, it’s been a long time coming but we’re pleased now that a report is out. Labor has always been committed to childcare. When Labor was last in office we significantly expanded the amount of resources that we provided for parents so they could help make ends meet. We really need a situation in this country where if parents are working and paying for childcare that one of the bread winner’s wages is effectively not just being eaten up in childcare fees and that people are just working to pay childcare, we need to do better than that.


The Liberal National Government has made mistakes in childcare in the last year and a half, they’ve cut over a billion dollars of resources, of scarce funds out of the system, and now we’ve got the prospect, and they’re also cutting family payments of up to $6,000 which is about three months’ worth of childcare fees, so childcare is important. Labor has always been the party of childcare and making sure that parents can make ends meet. We believe in affordable, accessible, quality childcare that allows people to go to work without necessarily spending every hour they work just paying their childcare bills. The Government has, the current government has made significant and damaging cutbacks but there is a report out today.


Labor will approach this report with a constructive view in mind. We’re interested in affordability, we’re interested in accessibility, we’re interested in quality, we want to make sure that mums aren’t going to work and every hour of pay they earn is being eaten up by childcare bills. So Labor will look at the report, I’ve asked my Shadow Minster to meet with the Government next week in Parliament, we will take a constructive attitude, this is a report from an independent body. But we also recognise that if the Government wants to show its bona fides in childcare, it’s going to have to explain how it’s going to make up the terrible damage it’s done by cutting a billion dollars. I might ask my colleague Matt Thistlethwaite to say some words from a local perspective.


MATT THISTLETHWAITE, MEMBER FOR KINGSFORD-SMITH: Thanks Bill. Can I firstly thank Sandra and the wonderful staff of Randwick Open Care for Kids. This is a moderately priced, important childcare facility in our community and for families the cost of living pressure on families in our community is increasing. The cost of housing has risen dramatically and support from government for childcare can mean the difference between having your kid in a childcare place and not having you child in childcare. Most families in our community both parents are working, so support by Government for childcare is vitally important to ensuring that families are able to make ends meet in our community. As Bill’s outlined the Abbott Government has cut $1 billion from childcare in the recent Budget. Cuts to after school care programs, cuts to family day care, cuts to Aboriginal childcare facilities in our community are making it harder for families in our area to make ends meet. The Government needs to have a look at the cuts that it made to childcare in the recent Budget and the effects that it’s having on local communities such as ours and that’s why I welcome Bill coming her today and talking to the centre staff, to the parents about the importance of childcare and affordability and quality for our community. We’ve got with us Paul Pearce, Labor’s excellent candidate for Coogee, I might handover to Paul to say a few words.


PAUL PEARCE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR COOGEE: Thank you and thank you Bill for coming out to the lovely seat of Coogee today. I’m very familiar with childcare, my children are somewhat older but I’ve got 4 grandchildren and without the support that myself and my wife Ingrid are able to give to our kids to assist in the baby sitting basically of the very younger grandchildren, they couldn’t make ends meet. The rents are high, the childcare fees are high even with the subsidies, and we need to be able to have a situation where if mothers or fathers choose to stay at home there is support, and if they choose to go to work there is proper support and currently that does not occur and it’s going to be detrimental into the future for our kids growing up.


The impact of childcare costs combined with other costs of living increases in the Sydney area and obviously in the eastern suburbs where we are here, is making a dramatic impact on the average families capacity to survive and do the proper thing by their kids. There’s got to be proper support for childcare, it’s critical for the future.


SHORTEN: Thanks Paul, just before I take any questions obviously all Australians are greatly concerned and are aware of a category 5 cyclone, cyclone Marcia which is crossing the Capricornia coast line of central Queensland as we speak. I’ve spoken to people in the cycle shelter in Yeppoon before coming here this morning, people are concerned. It would appear that the police and emergency services are doing what they always do, an excellent job. They have evacuated hundreds of people from low lying paths of the coastline. Also it was made clear to me to keep encouraging people to make sure they don’t go outside, these are incredibly killer winds, at killer speeds, people should not go outside.


I know that Premier Palaszczuk’s spoken with Tony Abbott, I know that the Federal Government and the federal level of government will do all they can to support it, our thoughts are with the people of central Queensland, of course there’s another cyclone hitting the top end in the Northern Territory as well so it’s a very tough day for many Australians.


JOURNALIST: On the issue of childcare Mr Shorten, will you support any moves to try and subsidise in home care such as nannies au pairs?


SHORTEN: The test that Labor has for childcare is very straight  forward, it’s time for straight speaking when we talk about childcare. Is the childcare system so expensive and prohibitive that it’d be cheaper for mum or in many cases dad, but mum in particular to actually not go to work. Is our system meaning that people are going to work every day and every dollar they’re earning is going to childcare fees, that’s what matters to real people.


Also what matters is quality, we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got a system which is really catering towards ensuring that quality is upheld because that’s what parents want for their children. They’re the tests we apply. Quality, affordability, accessibility, is it making it too hard for a mum or dad to be able to go to work if they are just paying to go to work. So when it comes to the question of in house nannies, we will look at the report and we will see what the report says, but just so everyone knows exactly what Labor believes, we are the party of childcare, we’ve expanded it significantly whenever we had the opportunity. For us the test is for the mums and dads who’ve got the train or driven into work today and they realise that a lot of their pay every hour is going to pay for childcare, that’s the challenge to fix and that’s the one we’ll be testing all the ideas about as we read the report and see in coming days and weeks.


JOURNALIST: So is your concern that childcare centres like this could go broke if parents are allowed to have in home care, maybe get a grandparent to look after kids, to pay them or give them some sort of subsidy to do so.


SHORTEN: Well, I don’t know about you but grandparents are already doing a lot of the heavy lifting, so -


JOURNALIST: Well ones that want to.


SHORTEN: Well again, that’s another interesting issue isn’t it, the grandparents having to become the new child carer’s of Australia. No in all seriousness though, it is about prohibitive fees making it hard for people to be able to go to, to make a ridiculous choice, do you go to work and pay the childcare or is the childcare so expensive you’re better off not going to work. This is a choice which we shouldn’t have Australians answering in 2015. So I think the Federal Government they’ve put the report on the table from the independent Productivity Commission, we will look at it. We will be very clear that if there are good ideas in the best interests of Australians it’ll get the tick, and we’ll work with them, that’s why there are meetings next week.


What I also say to the Federal Government is if you’re cutting $6000 off family payments or if you are making it a lot harder to, if you’re taking a billion dollars out of the system as Matt mentioned you know from extra hours of care, you’ve got to be careful that you’re not robbing Peter to pay Paul. We’ve got to make sure that we’re coming up with an answer which is not really just sticky taping last year’s unfair Budget.


JOURNALIST: On the billion dollar question, the Government says it really hasn’t taken that much out of the system and it wants to know where Labor would find this billion dollars to push back into the system if you think they’ve taken it out?


SHORTEN: There they go again. The Liberal National Government, they blame everyone except themselves. You know, they’re blaming us, the truth of the matter is they have taken out a billion dollars. We’ll put up a list of the specific cuts and we’ve articulated this in the past. But I think it shows that the Government’s got a bit of a glass jaw when it comes to their Budget. They don’t like to talk about their Budget. The truth of the matter is that the only answer the Liberal National Government have, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Morrison or Turnbull or Bishop or Abbott, they’re all cut from the same cloth, they’ve savagely cut childcare. Now they’re saying we’ve got a problem in childcare, well any parent could have told you that already. What we want to do is, we will be constructive with the Government, but let’s just call it as it is, there is significant cuts to childcare and this governments done them. That’ll be a problem as we deal with the issues but we’ll look at this, we will be positive, we will be constructive, we will look at this independent proposal and the ideas and we’ll help work with the Government to crunch the numbers because at the end of the day parents are more important and children are more important than necessarily a particular point to be scored off the Government.


JOURNALIST: The report is cost neutral so it’s shouldn’t be too hard to put these changes into place, are you overall broadly looking at in a positive way?


SHORTEN: We’re positive about the importance of childcare. When you say cost neutral and therefore it’s, you know, could be business as usual, first of all we haven’t seen the report it was provided, fair enough, the Government gave it to the media but they haven’t given it to us yet. We will look at it, we’ve arranged a meeting with the Government next week because we’re fair dinkum, but what we also say about all of this, is that we want to also make sure we understand if there’s any unintended consequences. See the way Labor operates is we will talk to experts, we will consult with parents, we will consult with childcare workers to understand the implications of the independent report but the short answer is we’re prepared to be positive about tackling the challenge of the prohibitive cost of childcare for Australians because that’s who we are.


JOURNALIST: Should childcare subsidies be means tested?


SHORTEN: Well different subsidies have been and some haven’t been so, again it will be a matter of us considering the report and seeing how it stacks up.


JOURNALIST: Can I ask you a question on submarines, Tony Abbott made an announcement this morning, he says Australia can’t design and build submarines on its own and does need international help, what’s your reaction to that?


SHORTEN: Well at the last election, before the last election the Liberal National opposition said they’d build the submarines in South Australia. Either they didn’t know what they were talking about then or they were lying to us then because if the Prime Minister and his team know, say now that they can’t be built here then why on earth did they promise it before the last election? The Liberal Nationals think people are stupid and they’re just trying to pretend that the past never happened about their election promises. They promised to build the subs in South Australia, that’s what they should do. There’s always been international involvement in our submarines, but the issue of building the submarines is pretty specific. And indeed we saw the complete circus a week and a half ago where it emerges that, you know, who does the submarine contact was the subject of some sort of late night horse trading to save the Prime Minsters job. I don’t think this Government has been anything other than chaotic and dysfunctional when it comes this very important part of our national security framework.


JOURNALIST: But would you accept that it’s tried to protect at least some jobs in submarine building industries?


SHORTEN: I’m not going to give a medal to a government for trying to keep some part of their promise, that’s their day job. The Liberal National Australian Government seem to think that when they say that they’ll spend any defence budget in Australian that they are somehow being heroic, no they’re not. Let’s just go to the facts, Tony Abbott broke the covenant of trust with the Australian people with his Budget, but he certainly broke it with his breach on submarine contract promise. They knew for months before the last election, they promised that the submarines would be built in South Australia. Now they have done everything, everything they can to avoid keeping that promise and Labor will stand up for South Australia and our defence industry and the Government keeping its promises.


JOURNALIST: On Barnaby Joyce this morning in the Oz said that he wants to see a review into food safety and also wants tougher laws for food labelling, what’s your reaction to that?


SHORTEN: To use an agricultural analogy, Barnaby Joyce’s shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. Where has Barnaby Joyce been for the last 6 to 12 months? Apparently this hepatitis scare, poisoning, has been occurring with berries and in Europe they’ve been monitoring this for a very long time. But Barnaby Joyce, the only way he finds out what’s happening is when tragically people fall sick here. This Governments all over the place on this whole food poisoning issue, we have Tony Abbott, you know, splitting the atom by saying companies shouldn’t poison their customers, well that’s, you know, that’s a useful contribution from the Prime Minister, I think we all knew that before that. And then he says there’s 100 per cent of testing, then Barnaby Joyce says there’s five per cent of testing, this is a circus. These guys love to give lectures to everyone else about security, but when it came to biosecurity they’ve, you know, they’re cutting the Inspector-General of Biosecurity so this Government obviously cannot be trusted with food safety in Australia.


JOURNALIST: Just back on the submarines, would Labor make any changes to any sort of construction contract that the Abbott Government were to sign if you did win next year’s election?


SHORTEN: Why don’t we not do hypothetical questions and let’s go to a couple of real questions, what contracts have been signed? What deals have been done? What promises have been made to other governments by Tony Abbott which he won’t tell the Australian people? And what promises were made to South Australian Liberal MPs in return for a grubby, dirty deal to try and save the current Prime Minister from one of the other contenders? I think if there’s questions to answer what does the Prime Minister know? What do his Cabinet Ministers know? What were the Liberals in South Australia promised to not change the leadership? And by the way why won’t the Government keep its promise to the Australian people? That’s the promise I’m interested in them keeping.


No other questions? Have a lovely day, thank you.