SUNDAY, 5 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plans to make child care more affordable; United Firefighters Union; Baby Bonus; Labor’s positive plans for the economy
JULIAN HILL, LABOR’S CANDIDATE FOR BRUCE: I'm Labor's candidate for the Federal seat of Bruce, which includes the great suburb of Glen Waverley. Pleasure to have Bill here this morning, Kate Ellis and Stefanie Perri, our candidate for Chisholm and also thanks to bestchance for hosting us this morning, on a Sunday morning. I've door knocked over 12,000 houses in the last 12 months and in this area, a little atypical perhaps to some other places, education is overwhelmingly the issue that most people raise. People from all over the world choose to settle here and raise their kids and have that real focus on getting a better life for their children through education. So, it's a really exciting announcement to have this morning because early childhood of course is a part of that. So, welcome Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Julian. Good morning everybody. Great to be here in the electorate of Bruce with Kate Ellis and of course Stefanie Perri from the neighbouring electorate of Chisholm. Today is one of the most important announcements that I'm looking forward to making in this campaign. Well-funded, affordable accessible quality child care is one of the big gateway issues for Australian families and the Australian economy. Child care makes the difference - affordable, quality, accessible child care makes the difference as to whether or not mums are able to go to work, whether or not children get the best start in life. That's why I'm really pleased to announce our plan, which is fairer, which is affordable and which provides sooner child care relief than my opponents are proposing in this election. What Labor will do is we will increase the child care benefit by 15 per cent. Or in straight family budget terms - that's an improvement of about up to $31 a week. What we will also do is increase the cap on the child care rebate to $10,000. This is literally going to help hundreds of thousands of families be able to deal with the terrible choice they currently face. Working mums in this country should not face the choice as to whether or not they pay double child care fees, or drop out of work. Child care is much more than a women's issue. It's an economic issue. If in this country we're able to ensure that women are able to participate more equally in the workforce, well, that'll really kick along the Australian economy. So when we talk about child care, we are talking about investing in the development of our children in their very early years, and we're talking about investing in the Australian economy. Child care is not just the issue of where you leave your children when you go to work. Child care is one of those things where mums and dads have to know that their children are not only being looked after but they're being well looked after. That's why we need to make sure that child care remains affordable, it remains quality and it remains fair. I should also just point out that we set ourselves a goal in the last 12 months as we have been developing this policy, to use the same funding envelope that the Government's already announced. But what are doing is we are orienting the benefits to people on lower and middle incomes, not at the top end in particular, because what we want to make sure is that we don't see the unfortunate results of the Government proposal, with their activity test which has been independently assessed as harming one in three Australian families. Labor's great plan for child care is fairer, it's affordable, it's quality and it's going to happen a year and a half earlier than the Liberals. I'd now like to get Kate Ellis who's been working on this policy, amongst others, to talk more about it and then let's take some questions.
KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD & ECUATION: Fantastic, well, thank you very much Bill. There is now a very clear choice before the Australian public at this election, when it comes to the support that they will get for vital early childhood the education services. We know that the Liberal Party went to the last election with a clear promise that they would make child care more affordable. They broke that promise and in fact they have done absolutely nothing for an entire Parliamentary term. A child who was born when the Liberal Party were saying that they would make child care more affordable will be in school before Malcolm Turnbull actually delivers a thing to make child care more affordable. Labor knows that that is not good enough for Australian working families. That is why we have said that not only will we increase child care affordability, but these measures in terms of the increase in both the child care benefit and the cap on the child care rebate will come into effect from the 1st of January next year. We've heard that Australian parents cannot sit around waiting for the Liberal Party as they delay and delay again any measures to deliver real reform. But sadly it's not just on affordability that Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party have dropped the ball when it comes to child care. There are a host of issues which have just been placed in the too-hard basket which Labor is today announcing our policy to address. And I want to particularly focus on one issue: that is on the workforce. There is nothing more important to a child's early childhood education than the educator that stands before them. Yet, we know that there are serious workforce issues. This Government has not renewed a national workforce strategy for the child care sector and, in fact, they have cut the on-going professional development fund. Labor today announces that we will place $150 million into ongoing professional development for our vital early childhood educators. But we also know that there is a serious issue in the sector when it comes to wages, and today we also announce that we will make submissions to Fair Work to stand up for the pay case which is currently progressing. When it comes to family day care, they have suffered nothing but cuts from this Government. Today, we announce $50 million to invest in family day care to work through compliance, but also increase flexibility measures. And finally, I would say that we know that we need to work to place downward pressure on fees. Today, Labor has also announced a number of measures to crackdown on unjustified fee increases. This includes mandatory reporting of fee increases by services across Australia. It includes the ACCC being tasked with looking into issues of price gouging and new powers given to the department to not just investigate any issues of unjustified price increases, but to put in place consequences and sanctions, including potentially losing your child care benefit for any service which has done this. Labor's heard from Australian families. Today, we announce a number of measures where we will ensure that Australian families will have better access to child care under a Shorten Labor Government.
SHORTEN: Thank you. Before we take questions I just want to make a couple of comments about the passing of Muhammad Ali. The world has lost a champion. He will always be remembered as a man who would fight for his principles and for his people. He will, rightly be remembered as a champion who never looked down on all of the people who looked up to him. He will live long in the memories of all those who are fans of sport and all of those who believe and recognise what a hero he was for the causes which he espoused so strongly and so beautifully all his life. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on child care, can you guarantee providers won't put up fees and can you guarantee that there'll be more child care places after this announcement?
SHORTEN: I can guarantee that our proposals are fairer because they won't harm one-in-three Australian families. I can guarantee that our proposals will be rolled in sooner. Mr Turnbull and my opponents said they won't introduce any improvements to child care, such as they say they are, until 1 July 2018. That is effectively five years of inaction on child care. Mr Abbott and the Liberals propose they were going to improve child care for when they got elected in 2013. For the last 1,000 days parents are struggling with costs, we're seeing the system becoming less and less effective for parents who need it. And now, all the Liberals are offering is to wait until July 1, 2018. Furthermore, when it comes to prices and places, what we are doing is we're making a practical difference for families. The biggest single issue that families tell me as I travel around Australia is that child care is increasingly for many of them becoming a bit of a nightmare. A nightmare in terms of costs. You know, for working mums, and just speak to any working mum, child care is not just the centre and the time that the child spends at the centre. It's from start of the day to the end of the day. What we don't want to see is child care becoming a job for parents on top of the job they're already doing. Mr Turnbull, he talks a lot about how he wants to innovate, but there is no innovation in a system which doesn't help working and middle income Australian families. It's becoming increasingly clear to me, it's becoming increasingly clear, I think, to Australians in this election, that whenever there is a proposal that will help low and middle income Australians, well then Mr Turnbull says "we can't afford that". But when it comes to helping the top end of town, well absolutely, Mr Turnbull's the first in the queue to help them. So I do believe that our sensible measures, improving the child care benefit, by the 15 per cent, by lifting the child care rebate, where parents can claim up to $10,000, that is going to provide the whole system with that extra certainty which they need. I might get Kate to talk a bit further of the specifics and the ACCC.
ELLIS: We absolutely recognise that we will put in place new powers to make sure that we can put downward pressure on fees. The announcement that we make today is about assisting Australian families, not about boosting the profits of our child care providers. And that's why we have taken special measures, announced today, to ensure that this money flows to where it's meant to be and that is - assisting the hard-working Australian families who are battling with the cost of child care. On the issue of child care places, sadly this is yet another issue which has just been sat on the sidelines and the Government has done absolutely nothing to address accessibility in the child care sector. We will be having more to say about this. We know that Australian families are battling when it comes to affordability. But they are also battling when it comes to accessibility. Many of them spending years on waiting lists and having to go from centre to centre hopping around trying to find a day where their child can get access and we'll be having more to say on that issue.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, how are you paying for this? Can you outline where the money where is coming from to fund this program because one of the reasons the Government isn't introducing their program until later is because they say they don't currently have the money available?
SHORTEN: Well, I'll refer you to the earlier answer. When it comes to looking after lower and middle income families in this country, it's becoming increasingly clear that Mr Turnbull’s stock standard reaction is “we can't afford that” but when it comes to giving the banks $7.5 billion over the next 10 years, Mr Turnbull, “no worries, where do I sign?”. This is the problem. There's a very clear choice in this election. It is stark and frankly I think the choice is easy. Mr Turnbull's always got plenty to say about protecting the negative gearing for the top end of town. He'll, you know, die in a ditch over his ability to give overseas shareholders and the four big banks in Australia - ANZ, Westpac, NAB and Commonwealth - a $7.5 billion improvement to their bottom line. But when it comes to investing in child care, when it comes to standing up for the working women of Australia, the working families of Australia, well then he gets out the abacus and says it can't be done. Let's also just clear very specifically how we pay for this. We are spending the same money that the Government is. This is a no spending, no new spending announcement day. What we are doing, is that we're just using our principles of fairness and affordability and quality and we have come up with a better solution. Mr Turnbull's much vaunted solution, which the Liberals have been promising for 1,000 days, well, you’re going to have to wait another two years for it, that's not really a solution, it's a strategy for delay. But what they are doing, they have introduced a new activity test. This activity test is a nightmare to work out but what it effectively is saying is that mums who are on casual jobs, part-time jobs, not very high-paying jobs, that they are potentially going to fall between the cracks of the Liberal child care policy, and these are exactly the working women we want to encourage and support to go to work. We do not want to see parents, in particular working women in this country, have to choose between paying double fees or dropping out of the workplace. And for the record - we have supported some sensible reforms and improvements in terms of the social security expenditure of the Budget. We have looked at proper means tests, and we have also made very clear that we will not go ahead with the midnight deal struck between Mr Turnbull and the National Party to secure their acquiescence to Mr Turnbull rolling Mr Abbott where they introduced a new $1.2 billion baby bonus over the next 10 years. So Labor not only can afford this promise, not only are we just matching the Government's promise, we're doing it smarter, fairer and sooner.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, there's concerns that as many as 60,000 CFA volunteer firefighters are going to be disenfranchised by a deal that the Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews is due to sign tomorrow with the United Firefighters Union. It’s a deal which even the State Government estimates will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Mr Andrews has sidelined his own Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett to do the deal. The CFA volunteers are holding protests near State Parliament today. Malcolm Turnbull has written to Daniel Andrews to express his concerns, and the Employment Minister Michaelia Cash is heading down here to meet with the CFA and she's planning changes to the Fair Work Act. As someone who for decades has been heavily involved in unions in Victoria, and with the Labor Party in Victoria, where do you stand on the dispute? And are you concerned about the impact it may have on Labor's chances in outer suburban and regional electorates?
SHORTEN: Thank you for that question. First of all, it's a state issue as your question clearly acknowledged. I would expect, however, as a proud Victorian, that Mr Andrews and the CFA will get the balance right. The CFA has responsibilities. They have got fantastic volunteers and volunteer brigades. They have also got some professional full time firefighters. I’ve got no doubt that there's a workable solution here. I have got no doubt that Premier Andrews will be able to work that issue out.
JOURNALIST: On the funding of this policy, you say you're matching the Government's funding commitment, but they are relying on Family Tax Benefit cuts that you oppose to fund that $3 billion so where's your money coming from?
SHORTEN: First of all, we don't think that Mr Turnbull's proposition is actually in the best interests of Australians. And whilst I'll come to the funding question in a moment, let me just again reiterate - there's a clear pattern of behaviour in this election. When Mr Turnbull says it's time to give the big banks a tax cut, when it's time to give overseas shareholders the benefit of a tax cut, when it’s time to give someone earning $1 million a year a $17,000 tax cut, when it's time to protect a subsidy or a tax concession paid by every Australian that goes in capital gains discount and negative gearing benefit to just a few Australians, Mr Turnbull will die in a ditch for this - the top end of town. But whenever it comes to try to do something better for working-class families, for women who are working part-time and facing the choice of being able to afford fees or give up their job. When it comes to standing up for everyday families in terms of child care relief, Mr Turnbull's missing in action. He's always out there whinging about things and he’s never backing most Australians up. We can afford to do what we’re doing because one, we're doing it with the same envelope of expenditure and two, we have made it clear, we're not going ahead with the Baby Bonus. Three, we also making sure that we have supported reforms in the Social Services system which will see means testing mean we rein in some of the Social Services funding. But I don't believe that you need to just punish families on $50,000 and $60,000 year with Family Tax Benefits payments, and that the only way that you can afford child care in this country is by robbing these same parents when their kids get a bit older. That's just silly economics from Mr Turnbull and reflects his lack of priority and that's why this election is a choice. It's a choice between Labor who stands up for working and middle class families, or Mr Turnbull who seems to complain about standing up for them, but is prepared to give a handout to companies who simply don't need it at this point.
JOURNALIST: On the Baby Bonus, Labor won't go ahead with but you said Labor made $9 billion worth of savings in social services and child care. What's the rest?
SHORTEN: Oh well, if we want to go through all of the things that we have done. We're not wasting $50 billion that Mr Turnbull is on the corporate tax cuts.
SHORTEN: Sorry, it's called a Budget. It's not just one item.
JOURNALIST: And so...You're saying...
SHORTEN: Why don't I answer your first question with respect and then if you feel that you’ve got another question we can come to that. But let's talk about the big lie of this election where Mr Turnbull is trying to pretend that the only things that are being spent by Government or Opposition occurred when the chequered flag went down on the start of this election. Mr Turnbull's Budget was one of the giant spends of the Liberal Party. I tell you what they’re spending money on that we won't, we won't spend $50 billion, you know, big, big sums of money which even his old bank says is going 60 per cent overseas. I'm not going to give $7.4 billion in taxpayer money to the four big banks to take as profit and not properly invest in our child care. Also, let's be clear about the Negative Gearing, Capital Gains Tax changes we're making. That’s $32 billion of sensible reform by Labor which allows us to prioritise other needs that people need. We're not going ahead with abolishing the deficit levy for high income earners. That provides $16-17 billion over a decade. And also I should say - we have identified savings measures of the Government that we would make that they're spending. We wouldn't spend billions of dollars on the Emissions Reduction Fund which is just propping up Tony Abbott's discredited climate sceptic views on climate change. We're not going to waste money on the Marriage Equality plebiscite, we’ll just let the politicians do what they’re paid to do and make some decisions. And we’ve also said that we’re going to rein in the rorts of the loans in the Vocational Education system. The truth of the matter is, that Labor is making savings in terms of tax subsidies we're not giving certain sectors of the economy. That we're reducing spending and we’ve also said that we will increase revenue in terms of tobacco excise. Labor has been doing something this Government hasn't been doing for a long time. We have been preparing for Government. And we can very clearly make sure that we can afford our promises, but more specifically than that - through rigid budget discipline, through investing in child care education, TAFE and universities, we're providing skills and the opportunity for people to work. Through our nation-building infrastructure and for our commitment to local content and local jobs, we’ll clear up the productivity and the congestion in big cities through public transport investment. We’ll also ensure that people are able to spend more time with their families. We’re getting the balance right because unlike Mr Turnbull I see investing in child care as helping all Australian women. I see investing in education as helping every Australian child. I see investing in our healthcare system as providing a healthier workforce for the future. I see investing in public transport as jobs and liveability. Mr Turnbull by contrast, he just wants to give away a lot of money to the top end of town.
JOURNALIST: This is a very important issue for families. What do you say to a family that’s sitting on the couch this afternoon watching this thinking that you're just looking at a magic pudding with that $50 billion, just paying for absolutely everything?
SHORTEN: Well, first of all, when I think about a family sitting on the couch, I understand how frustrated working mums are with the logistics of child care. I understand that the family listening on the couch actually says, "What is Mr Turnbull doing for me and what is Bill Shorten going to do for me?". I make it clear if you're currently getting the child care benefit, if you vote for us, you’re going to see a $31 a week improvement.
JOURNALIST: But how are you paying for it? You just cut that company tax cut on Budget night. Did you just do this on the back of an envelope?
SHORTEN: You asked me in your first question, what would a family on the couch think. Believe me, that's the question which gets me up in the morning. When I answer your questions here, I'm actually thinking about how does what I say make a practical difference in the lives of Australians? I understand how everyday people live their lives. I understand the dilemma of the pickup and the drop off. I understand how difficult it is for a working woman, with the kids, trying to work out how on earth does she go to work if 80 per cent of what she's earning gets eaten up in child care fees? I understand that people are trying to work out, can the, let's face it, men in Australia rely on the women in Australia to do the child care and to organise the child care. So what I would say to a family sitting on the couch is this - I'll make sure that it's easier for both of you to go to work if that's what you choose to do. I'll make sure that we can do this also because I'm not going to waste $100 billion in just giving away money in negative gearing tax subsidies to an unproductive area in terms of what people are making in that system…I'm not going to give away $50 billion. I didn't ask Mr Turnbull to prioritise the top end of town. But he has. The truth of the matter is that he talks about these corporate tax cuts as, you know, the panacea for everything. But the truth of the matter is that only $1.5 billion of that is going to very small businesses and most of it goes to the big-end of town. Forming the Government of this country is about making choices. And the choices between myself and Mr Turnbull are quite stark. I choose not to spend Budget money on his priorities. Instead I choose to spend my Government's Budget on the priorities of the people sitting in the lounge rooms of Australia. $31 a week for child care benefit, lifting the cap on the rebate to $10,000. Our proposition is much more in the keeping with the aspirations of middle Australia than Mr Turnbull.
JOURNALIST: There is a problem, or there has been in the past, with rebates lifting and then the cost of care also rising. How can you be so sure and how confident are you that you can actually stop that from happening this time?
SHORTEN: I might get Kate to answer that, because that's something we have been turning our mind to.
ELLIS: It's really important to recognise that unlike the last time the child care rebate was increased, it was, the rate was increased from 30 to 50 percent. That is not what Labor is proposing to do here. What we are doing is increasing the cap on the rebate. So we do not believe that, A) it would have the same inflationary issue, but secondly, it's also why we have gone out of our way to make sure that we are clamping down with new powers, both for the ACCC and the department, to investigate and respond to unjustified price increases in the sector. But to answer your question - the difference is it's not an increase in the rate of CCR. It's an increase in the cap on CCR, which makes a huge difference.
JOURNALIST: Kate, when will the families be able to see the information about the price increases when they go up? Will it have to be on the provider's website?
ELLIS: Well, what we'll do is we'll work through providers, with the providers, the details around that. But we have a strong record in Government of transparency when it came to price increases, when it came to child care fees, and importantly, when it came to the out of pocket costs which Australian families were paying. That's something that has been hidden away under this Government. But we believe that we do need to be upfront about it. We believe that it is incredibly important that we support Australian families and that we support Australian families with their child care. The difference is, Labor doesn't believe that the only way you can support Australian families with their child care costs is by ripping money off of other Australian families.
JOURNALIST: How big a pay increase are you going to be pushing for? How confident are you that that will eventuate, and will parents pay for it?
ELLIS: It's really important to just go through. There is a process, that is an independent process, that is already underway at the moment. And that has got some way to run. What we're saying is that we believe that the Government should support and put forward supporting documentation to say that we recognise how important our early childhood workforce is, and we do believe that there are issues around gender pay in particular, with the feminised nature of the workforce. It will be a matter for the independent body to look at the merits of the case and to make a ruling on the case and that's some way down the track.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just one more question if I may on the $9 billion ...
SHORTEN: Sorry, I'm just going to give someone else a question, someone who hasn't asked a question, and then I'll come back.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you about the funding as well. You say that this is a no-new money announcement today, but if you can't bank the savings the Government is relying on for their $3 billion, then how is there not going to be any new money?
SHORTEN: Very straightforward, thank you. There are other savings we're taking which the Government are not taking. There's $1.2 billion for the baby bonus, for example. Also we have previously supported other savings in the system which help us pay for this. And, again, I'm not going to let go of this point, because it's the core choice in this election. Mr Turnbull is defending tens and tens of billions of dollars of budget spending on tax subsidies and negative gearing, on corporate tax giveaways, on getting rid of the high income earners deficit levy. We are not going down that path. So when the Liberals say, you cannot afford to invest in child care, the difference is that I view that there is an opportunity cost in not investing in child care for lower and middle income families. Mr Turnbull on the other hand views that there is an opportunity cost to not giving away lots of Budget money to the top end of town. It's just we look at the world differently, and I look at the world from the view of families who are trying to go to work every day. Where you've got mums working part-time or full-time, it's the second job in the family, and frankly they're doing a lot of the unpaid work, they've got to try to work out the child care bills. And I want to get rid of the sort of real dilemma in Australia, that child care is becoming so expensive, that it becomes a disincentive for mum to go to work. Thanks, everybody. See you soon. Thank you, everyone.