Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Cairns - Cost of living; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; cuts to child care; superannuation;






SUBJECT/S: Cost of living; Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget; cuts to child care; superannuation; spread of TB; Reef Trust Tender, G20.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Morning everyone, it’s great to be here in Cairns at Child's World Early Learning Centre with Senator Jan McLucas. We’ve had a fantastic opportunity to have morning tea with a whole lot of mums who are doing everything they can in the world to make sure their children get the best start in life. We see though cost of living pressures across Australia and in Cairns are at the top of a list of worries which working parents have and people looking for the best start for their children. At this child care centre, there are dedicated staff, but of course there’s never enough money to go around, in child care to go around at the moment with Tony Abbott’s cruel cuts to child care.


Cost of living is a real issue for many Australian families and many Australians generally who are struggling to make ends meet. And we see the repercussions of this unfair Budget reverberating across Australian households every day. Australian mums are worried about having to pay an extra GP Tax to take their sick children to the doctor, they are worried about the cost of pharmaceuticals for their aging parents, they are worried for their own health in terms of can they afford to get the necessary scans they need in order to be healthy and have a long life. And we see the petrol tax costing people and people are dreadfully worried about that. And we see the ongoing attack on education funding. A lot of parents are finding it hard when they get all the extras from the school for the camps and the extra tuition. They are seeing cost of living rising, yet this Government has been cutting away payments for families which help them make ends meet.


And then there is child care. Child care is fundamental for Australian women to be able to enter the workforce or re-enter the workforce. Child care is fundamental to the early learning in those most important years of a child’s development. Yet we have the Abbott Government, through their unfair Budget putting upward pressure on child care fees through their harsh cuts to child care. It isn’t good enough and when you talk to the working women of Australia they just feel that the Government is not on their side from child care, to cost of living, to cutting superannuation benefits for working women. There’s a lot of problems out there for families and it’s time the Abbott Government stopped being part of the problem and started being part of the solution.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: What have been some of the issues that mothers have raised with you this morning?


SHORTEN: There are a lot of women here who feel trapped between the cost of child care and returning to work. They go back to work but with the mounting cost of child care and mortgages, they feel that they are practically working for nothing because every dollar they earn goes back into paying the bills and managing the cost of living from fortnight to fortnight. So the women here, they are dedicated to raising their children with the best start in life but they feel trapped between the cycle of increasing child care fees and cost of living burdens which make it harder for them to work and if they are not working, then they get the downward pressure in terms of their family finances.


The other thing which emerged really clearly here is that a lot of parents are worried about the mounting cost of educating their children at primary and secondary school. They know how important it is but they feel the Abbott Government doesn’t seem to understand the lives they lead. And also, there is real and deep seeded concern with a lot of the women here about will they have enough money when they retire. Superannuation account balances for women are much lower than for Australian men and they are worried about if they will have enough money after a lifetime of working hard.


JOURNALIST: Under the current Budget, how much more are these families paying per households?


SHORTEN: What they pay in households varies from region to region, but for a family earning $60,000, by the end of the four year cycle of this Budget, they could be down $5000 on what they currently getting. We know that Australia needs to maintain over the medium term a strong Budget position, but the Abbott Government’s wrong priorities and broken promises are making people who earn in the lower 50 per cent of income, carry the unfair burden of the Budget issues because of this Government doesn’t seem to know what it should do with the Budget. The Abbott Government should drop its paid parental leave scheme, giving millionaires $50,000 they don’t need and put some of that money into child care and education. The Abbott Government should stop going soft on multinationals who don’t pay their fair share of tax in Australia. The Abbott Government should also stop giving tax holidays to multi-millionaires with multi-million dollar superannuation accounts in retirement yet at the same time, ripping away tax refunds from over 2 million working women in their superannuation accounts.


JOURNALIST: In terms of child care, what are some other alternatives?


SHORTEN: In terms of child care, we’ve seen the Government keep trying to launch attacks and cutting back programs. We’ve got a Productivity Commission report. The real challenge here is that the Government thinks it can solve child care with deploying less resources, not more resources. That is not the answer. What we’ve got to respect is that women are returning to work and they want to return to work and they are willing to – and they are doing not only all the majority of unpaid work in Australia, but they’re willing to work hard. We’ve just got to get them out of this trap where they feel like every dollar they earn is just going straight back into child care which is a disincentive to go back to work at all.


JOURNALIST: So what was your alternative to that?


SHORTEN: With our plans, which we’ll unveil in more detail before the next election, we’ve got to be able to break the cycle and our principle is breaking the cycle that working women, or women returning to work don’t feel like they’re paying every cent they earn back into back into child care. That has to involve greater investment. It also has to involve, I believe, greater support for the staff working in child care which means providing them with better wages than they currently receive.


JOURNALIST: Just on a separate issue, we’ve had two doctors suspended from Cairns Base Hospital. Obviously it is on a state level, however there is a lot of concern and talk about TB and trying to stopping TB from spreading to the mainland. Do you think by suspending two doctors it is going to make that fight harder?


SHORTEN: I think we are seeing some knee-jerk reactions out of the State Government. Rather than punishing people working in the system, work with the people in the system to find the best way to defeat health scares and health concerns. This notion that an LNP Government can punish their way to a better health system in Queensland is just wrong-headed and it takes our health system in the wrong direction.


JOURNALIST: What do you think of the Government’s $5 million reef trust tender to prevent run-off?


SHORTEN: On the one hand, it is always good to see money being spent to protect our environment. Not only are the benefits of the environment clear in terms of sustainability, but the reef employs upwards of 65,000 people. So on the one hand, money being expended to preserve the reef is an excellent idea. But if this money is being taken from existing programs, such as reef rescue, or if this money is being taken from other programs designed to improve environmental sustainability, then all this Government is doing is shifting deck chairs on the Titanic. This is a Government who is not committed to the environment, so we will be scrutinising very carefully, is it just another pea and thimble trick where the Government is making you look in another direction while they are shifting money from another source and they are not adding anything to the net spend on the environment or the protection of our environment.


JOURNALIST: Is $5million enough?


SHORTEN: I don’t think it will be enough. Again, if the Government is doing something positive for the environment, that is not a bad thing, but this is not a Government I trust on the environment. The fact they want to give money to large polluters to keep putting carbon pollution into the atmosphere, yet they don’t want to take any real action on climate change means that their credentials are not strong.  The fact that this Government is vandalising the Renewable Energy Target in Australia and undermining billions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs does not give me any confidence that the climate change sceptics in charge in Canberra are doing anything meaningful for the reef or the rest of the environment.


JOURNALIST: Do you have any update on the shirt-front affair?


SHORTEN: I understand that the Prime Minister has backed down from shirt-fronting the Russian President. The real issue here is though that 298 people were shot out of the sky over eastern Ukraine and there seems to be a lot of argument, and evidence shows, that the Russian Federation was either directly or indirectly involved with this atrocity. I understand the hard place which Tony Abbott is in. On one hand, the G20 is an international conference, so Australia doesn’t get to pick the guest-list. But on the other hand, I think a lot of Australians are dissatisfied with the lack of answers and support we’ve had from Putin and his Russian Federation officials in terms of the shooting down of the plane. I think everybody seems to agree that Tony Abbott overreached with his language and that Tony Abbott probably doesn’t know anything about AFL and didn’t realise that when he was referring to shirt-front that he was actually seriously going to physically confront Vladimir Putin. It is now time for everybody to get serious and indicate to Putin and to his government that they really need to do more to satisfy Australian opinion about finding justice for the families who have been put through just a terrible situation.


JOURNALIST: Does Labor have any plans to confront Putin at the G20?


SHORTEN: I am not about to challenge him to a chess game or something like that, but what I do believe is that Tony Abbott and the Government need to make clear in the most unambiguous terms, without perhaps threatening physically altercation, that Australia doesn’t like having its face rubbed in it. That we don’t like what has happened to Australians and indeed the people on the Malaysian flight generally, and they need to come up with answers. It is not the right way for civilised Nations to treat each other. This should of never have happened. MH17 and the shooting down of it should simply have never have happened and until we have all the answers on that, this nation can never be satisfied with anything less than the truth.


Thanks everyone.