SATURDAY, 11 JUNE 2016
SUBJECT/S: Women’s policy announcement; Labor’s plan for more affordable child care; Labor’s plan for Budget repair that’s fair; Foreign policy; CFA
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It's fantastic to be here with our leader, Bill Shorten, and with Katy Gallagher today for the launch of Labor's women’s policy statement. It's very important today that we reflect Labor's tradition of always being the party of equality between men and women. From our history where we introduced equal pay for work of equal value, where we introduced the Sex Discrimination Act and the Family Law Act, no-fault divorce. Labor has had a strong tradition of working for equality between men and women. And that is reflected in today's policy statement as well. When we look to the future, we say that it is important that men and women in Australia work in equal partnership. It is true that it’s important for individual women to be able to achieve equality in their own lives, but it's equally important for us as a nation. We know that if you loo k around the world, in fact Australian women are often working fewer hours than women overseas. They're really struggling to balance work and family. Child care is difficult, and often expensive and a disincentive to returning to work. So in the first instance, we say - as we always have - that it's absolutely vital that our governments work to give women economic security and independence. That means addressing the gender pay gap. It means addressing the gap in superannuation. It means more affordable child care, more available, sooner. And today we'll be outlining a number of policies in this area of economic security and independence. We also know that women experience - still - completely unreasonable, unfair, unacceptable rates of violence in their lives. Too many Australian women experience domestic violence or sexual assault in their lifetime. And in a moment, we'll turn to today's specific announcement that relates to accommodation for women and t heir children escaping domestic violence. Before we go to Katy and the specifics of the announcement though, I want to ask Bill Shorten to say a few words. From day one as Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten has prioritised gender equality. The very first set of announcements we made as an Opposition were around violence against women - making sure that women had safer places to go. Making sure that they had the legal support that they need at the most desperate time in their lives when they are seeking to leave a violent relationship. Ensuring that they had the ability to keep their jobs with taking a few days off work to deal with the legal issues and so on around domestic violence. Bill has lead this debate in our Australian community since he became Opposition Leader and it comes from a deep place of commitment within Bill, so it's a great pleasure to introduce him to say a few words today.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Tanya, and good morning everybody, and just want to thank Tanya for that very generous introduction at a press conference. I and Labor believe in the equal treatment of women. We believe that if we are elected after July 2, and we were to secure no other outcome other than improve and achieve the equal treatment of women, this country would be a much more prosperous, successful and united society. We're taking the time to launch our women's policy today because we do not believe that the treatment of women and the equal treatment of women is a marginal issue. It's not an issue separate to the mainstream of this election. It is one of the key changes in Australian society. The onward march of women to achieve true equality in our society is a purpose which the Labor Party is dedicated to. I'm very grateful for the work of my whole team on these policies and we 'll hear from Senator Gallagher in a moment about more of the detail of what we're talking about today. But let me just state for the record: this country can't be the country that it should be unless women are treated equally. In our policy, we want to see more women in more positions of power in our society, both in politics, in the community, and in business. We understand the fundamental importance of economic independence for women. That is why we'll be talking about today closing the gender pay gap. We'll be talking about ensuring that there's a square deal in terms of child care and support. We'll be talking about our policies today which see more women encouraged into science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Economic independence is a prerequisite towards true equality in our society. But of course it's not just positions of political influence or corporate influence or economic independence which secure the equal treatment of women, there can be no issue any more acute, any more stark, about the lack of equality in Australia than the challenge and the scourge of family violence. When I ran for the leadership of the Labor Party three years ago, I said that the Labor Party needed to be a voice for the voiceless. Women, the survivors of family violence, are voiceless in our society, and I'm determined that the Labor Party in Opposition in preparation for Government talk about the scourge of family violence. We've all been moved by the stories including those of Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, about how challenging the system is and how after the initial injury and violence, the system doesn't sufficiently support the victims and survivors. That's why today, we'll be announcing and building upon our Safe Housing plans, the $15 million we committed to in 2015, today we'll be announcing that, if elected, a Labor Government will spend $88 million to secure safe housing opti ons for women and children who are surviving family violence. One undeniable fact of family violence is that women are not safe in their own homes. So we'll be proposing innovative programs which see the perpetrator have to move on rather than the survivor and the victim have to move on, and we'll also be looking at how we provide options for women and children to be able to be in secure, safe accommodation. It's one of the reasons why we are supporting domestic violence leave. If we want to make sure that the survivors are not doubly injured in the process of family violence, we have to make sure that the safety net is there. Legal services, accommodation, support in the workplace, and a Government that understands that. Whilst in the long term we've got to change attitudes, in the short term, there's a crisis right here and now. A Labor Government will speak up for the voiceless, will speak up for those who are being deprived unjustly of their own safet y, we will make sure, through everything we do, in every policy we do, that Australian women fulfil their full potential. I'd now like to ask Senator Gallagher to make some comments further about the detail of our policy today.
SENATOR KATY GALLAGHER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: Thanks very much Bill and it's great to be here with you and Tanya for this important policy announcement. We know that the leading cause of homelessness in Australia is caused by family violence. Over a three-year period 110,000 women needed to use homelessness services when they made that decision to leave a violent situation at home and we know that 45,000 had children with them, dependent children with them. We also know one of the big issues for women when they're making that choice about leaving is do I have somewhere to go? And one of the gaps that has existed for the last couple of years has been a program which helps increase the number of housing options for women when they make that choice. So this program is $88 million. We want to work with the states and territories to see if they can partner with us if we're elected to delive r an increase in the number of transitional housing options for women. So that means something in-between a long-term housing option and a crisis housing option. For some women they will not leave if they don't have somewhere to go or if the only choice is to go into crisis accommodation. And so this program is specifically designed to meet the needs of women in the short-term and particularly the needs of women and children so that if they make that decision to leave they have somewhere to go, they can get back on their feet, they can make decision about whether they can return home if it's safe or whether they need to go into other housing options for the long-term. So this has been developed closely with women's housing organisations. They keep telling Labor that there is a gap and that there is not enough housing options for women and we know that where transitional housing options do operate across Australia that they operate successfully and they really mee t the need for women and children when they're escaping violent situations.
SHORTEN: Thanks Katy. Are there any questions on this and any other matters?
REPORTER: Mr Shorten, how are you actually going to address the gender pay gap? What are you doing about it? Are you going to force companies to pay women extra? How is that going to work?
SHORTEN: There's a range of ways which we have been promoting the challenge of the gender pay gap. It's roughly $277 per week in this country. To use a percentage, it's about 17 per cent less for women than men on average across this nation. Today at our launch we will be outlining a number of measures which we think will start focusing corporations, business and the nation on the gender pay gap. For instance, some are more direct. We are interested if we form government to make submissions in terms of a childcare workers, early-educators case to look at the gender impact of a highly feminised industry and the gender impact that has on wages. So that's a specific measure. More generally though, the Labor Party is committed that by 2025 we'll have 50 per cent of our MPs who will be women. I'm pleased with the fact that 44 per cent of our candidates are women. I'm pleased with the fact that appr oximately 40 per cent plus of our shadow executive are women. What we're also going to do is be talking to corporate Australia about how they can improve the proportion of women in positions of leadership and boards. We'll certainly be making it clear today that on government boards we intend to get to 50-50, because we think that in order to close the gender gap you've got to close the power gap. And by putting more women in positions of leadership and by encouraging Australian institutions to have more women in positions of leadership the message gets out that women are the equal of men and that we need to see a better deal for women all the way around. We'll have more to say at our launch on other matters including superannuation and the savings gap, for example. Another way we'd close the gender pay gap is by providing better and more calibrated child care support which means that women who principally do the unpaid caring have the opportunity to go t o work and not see most of their wages go on child care bills. So if you look at it, the beauty of what Labor is doing is we're not only helping close the gender pay gap, we're helping create a more sustainable platform for economic growth in this country. It is the core Labor story. The greater there is fairness in our community, the more likely it is we're going to have more participation in our community. The greater opportunities women have for instance to go to university and study science and mathematics, and we're going to create 50,000 places for women in the next five years to go to university to study science and engineering and mathematics, what we're doing is ensuring that women get their fair share of the benefits of Australian society and that will create unstoppable growth. Mr Turnbull, by contrast, says the only way this country can grow is by giving big corporations a $50 billion cash splash. What we are doing by promoting the equal treat ment of women is we're actually benefiting everyone and that's why we think the equal treatment of women is not just a fairness issue, it's an economic growth issue and when those two come together we are an unstoppable nation.
REPORTER: Mr Shorten more than 130,000 families are worse off in this country by hundreds of dollars a year as a result of your changes to Family Tax Benefits A alone, notwithstanding the others. Can those families, or might those families, feel a bit cheated by you given how vocal you were in your opposition to the Government's cuts on family tax benefits?
SHORTEN: Well Tim your question clearly shows that you understand that many more hundreds of thousands of families are not going to feel the cuts that the Liberals are getting if we elect Labor. What we've made clear is that families underneath $100,000 shouldn't receive the brunt of government cuts. That's the direct opposite to Mr Turnbull, a point which your question recognises in terms of the proportionate numbers. But let's also be clear about families earning more than $100,000 a year. Their children go to school. Under a Labor Government, every child in every school gets every opportunity because we're going to properly resource their education. Mr Turnbull is robbing the children's future of literally thousands of dollars of resources in every school across the country. Now we said that we will make difficult decisions. We have to, in part, make difficult decisions because of the chronic e conomic mismanagement of the current mob in power. But what we will do is we will make sure by making these tough decisions is that we will be able to fund a much better quality education for the children of Australia. And need I make the point about Medicare. The families of Australia will be able to keep going to see the doctor and still have bulk billing because of Labor's sensible measures. We are the Party standing up for the families of Australia because we don't take the view that you need to smash the household budget to protect the national budget. Mr Turnbull by contrast has said that he will give $50 billion in corporate tax give-aways to large corporations who don't need it, yet families who do need support in schools and Medicare get nothing from this Government.
REPORTER: Mr Shorten you're talking about equality today, with that in mind do you support the CFA EBA given that the Victorian Human Rights Commission found that it breached anti-discrimination laws?
SHORTEN: Certainly when it comes to equal opportunity in the workplace, my record is that we support equal opportunity. Now when it comes to the CFA debate, discussions, arguments going on in Victoria as we speak, I do expect that the Government and the CFA will resolve this issue. I have no time for discrimination in the workplace though, and so I certainly want to make that very clear. Now every dispute has a start, a middle and an end. This is a very vexed state issue, clearly, and I do expect them to move from the middle of the dispute to the end of the dispute. And our career fire-fighters, our volunteer fire-fighters deserve nothing less than the most capable leadership from all of the actors in this current dispute.
REPORTER: Was Labor acting economically irresponsibly by not agreeing to that billion dollars’ worth of zombie measures when they were proposed by the Coalition?
SHORTEN: Could you repeat that question?
REPORTER: Was Labor acting irresponsibly by not accepting those billion dollars’ worth of savings when they were first put up by the Liberals?
SHORTEN: What's happened in the last three years, and the last 12 months, is that the Government's position on the balance sheet has deteriorated. In the last Budget that came out on May 3, we discovered that they've tripled the deficit. Back in April, the credit rating agencies had to make the unusual step, the quite unorthodox and radical step, to say that the triple A credit rating under this Government was under threat. Of course you always have to have a look at the latest facts and figures. What we've been able to do is make hard decisions but not compromise Medicare. We're able to make hard decisions but still make sure that we can properly fund our schools. We're able to do this because we will have rigorous budget discipline, but what we will not do is smash the family budget in order to rescue the national budget. What we will do instead, is not go down the path of the economic mistake of giving banks a $7.5 billion tax give away, of giving overseas shareholders $30 billion of Australian taxpayer budget bottom line. What we will do is make hard decisions, but do so, so that we can have sustainable growth, so we can have real jobs.
REPORTER: Yesterday Chris Bowen said that there will be more announcements regarding savings measures. Are the bulk of your savings measures now out there or can we expect significant announcements on that issue in weeks to come?
SHORTEN: I think the Opposition that I lead has been redefining national politics, not just during this election but in the 12 months before. We have been more transparent than the Liberals were in Opposition. We explained well before the Budget that we would make multinationals pay their fair share, that we would reform negative gearing and capital gains tax discount concessions. We've made it very clear during my Budget Reply that we would clamp down on needless and wasteful Government spending, the Emissions Reduction Fund, the rorts going on in the vocational education sector loans. Yesterday we outlined more savings. We will have more to say as Chris has said. There's still another 21 days of Mr Turnbull's eight week election. But Australians can rest assured that we will outline our full program before the election and that we won't be a big-spending Government after the election and we won't be proposing measures after the election that we're not talking about now and in coming weeks.
REPORTER: To the family tax benefit cuts and those savings, will that go directly to benefits and child-care or will it be used for other measures?
SHORTEN: I think this hypothecation argument between the Government's family tax benefit cuts, which are massive and far deeper than what we're proposing, hypothecating that to childcare to somehow justify robbing families of children over the age of child-care age, to give to families of child-care age. Senator Sinodinos in one of his appearances has confirmed it was just a political stunt. What we are doing is lining up all our budget measures and we've given this commitment to Australians. We'll get back to balance at the same point as the Liberals and after that point we will improve the bottom line of the Budget and start tackling the very vexd issue of Government debt. What we're not going to do is simply pretend, with zombie measures or retrospective changes, that you can dodgy up a national balance sheet. We are clearing room, both over the forward estimates and over ten years, so that we can invest if schools, invest in Medicare, and keep the price of medicine cheap. We're able to do so because we're making hard decisions, tough decisions, in some part forced upon us by an incompetent Liberal administration. We're also able to do it because, quite frankly, there's two economic choices at this election, and if you remember at the start of this election, right back down when I gave a talk in Beaconsfield, the very first day that the election was called, I said this would be an election of choices. We're offering positive choices in terms of defending Medicare, prioritising a world class education system, in terms of promoting renewable energy, in terms of nation building and job creating infrastructure and in terms of fair taxation. I also said on the very first day that our policies would be about the equal treatment of women in our society. By contrast, Mr Turnbull's economic model is to provide $50 billion i n a corporate tax give away. Mr Turnbull knows he's made a mistake. He knows his policy is a mistake, he should admit it's a mistake, that this $50 billion will not generate economic growth and he has the wrong priorities for the nation and the nation has been telling them ever since the election started.
REPORTER: In three weeks you could be elected the new Prime Minister of the country. I don't think Australians have a sense of your view of our place in the world. What do you see as our major foreign policy challenge and have you put any thoughts to where you might visit your first port of call as Prime Minister because obviously that will speak to your priorities as well?
SHORTEN: I'm lucky to have my shadow Foreign Minister here too, so I won't hog all the limelight, she is our foreign policy spokesperson. If you want me to outline our foreign policy, some of our principles, engagement in Asia. We'll only get one China in the history of Australia, so we should take every opportunity for the rise of China and indeed the rise of Asia, the great expansion of the middle class in Asia. I see the American alliance as fundamental to our foreign policy and I also see ongoing and improved engagement with international institutions as part of Australia's foreign policy. In terms of my first priority where I visit, it would be within the region. Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, New Zealand. Start close and expand out.
REPORTER: Malcolm Turnbull has compared Australia after the mining boom to the oil States. Is that a characterisation you'd agree with?
SHORTEN: No, I saw Mr Turnbull's sort of interview, if you call it that, in one of the papers this morning. If Labor's elected, we have a clear path to the future. I don't accept Mr Turnbull's characterisation that it's inevitable that we have some sort of Banana Republic moment. I think that's severely underestimating the capacity of Australians. What does frighten me, is if the Liberals are re-elected, their policy is simply a corporate tax give away. Mr Turnbull knows that he's read the future Australian economy wrong. I said in an early answer that he's made a mistake. It's a massive mistake and I think he knows he's made a mistake, he just won't admit it. We don't need to drive Australia by giving a $50 billion give away to large corporations. That's the centre piece, the latest centre piece of Mr Turnbull's economic plan. Remember, first of all, it was th e 15% GST, then he said he wanted to have State income taxes now he's come across the corporate tax angle.
REPORTER: We did some maths yesterday and we figured out that you've found $3.62 billion of new money with what you announced yesterday. Will there be any left over, once you finish spending?
SHORTEN: Yes. That will be the short answer, but let's talk about the remaining three weeks. There is another three weeks to go. Labor has said that we will keep outlining our policies, but just to remind you of the last six weeks with what we've already said, the last five weeks. Education, properly funded. Medicare, saved. Price of medicine, downward pressure. We have talked about nation-building infrastructure, cross river rail in Brisbane for example, ADELINK, Perth metro net, Melbourne Metro in Melbourne. So we've talked about nation building infrastructure, we're talking about education and healthcare, saving Medicare, and now what we've spoken about this week is how we are make hard decisions which allow us to invest in the future. The other choice is Mr Turnbull's corporate tax cut. I have got a launch to go to but you are all, I think, coming do that…
REPORTER: Very quickly on Mike Kelly...
SHORTEN: I'm sorry, we have a lot of people waiting for us, but I will see you at the launch.