THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11 2014
SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Budget unfair on Australian women; Terror alert Level; Iraq; Treasury; Rozelle explosion.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It’s great to be here at this remarkable community centre meeting some of the leaders making this community a better community, and also ensuring that the hidden pockets of misery are not ignored, but people are empowered to have better lives.
I’m here today with my Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek, our spokeswoman in matters to do with women’s affairs, Senator Claire Moore, and also Verity Firth, Labor’s candidate for this area in the upcoming state election.
Today the Australia Institute has confirmed what many Australians were afraid was true: that this Tony Abbott-Joe Hockey unfair Budget is particularly unfair to Australian women. And amongst Australian women to whom it is particularly unfair is women who earn less incomes, from lower income households.
Remarkable numbers today confirm that Tony Abbott has turned his back on working women, on women from poorer backgrounds in this unfair Budget. Why is it that Tony Abbott prefers to give CEOs generous tax breaks, yet install new taxes on working women who earn less than $35,000 year?
It is a disgrace that over 2 million Australian women, as a result of the Abbott Government, will be paying more tax on their superannuation. It is a disgrace that Australian working women who have lower account balances in superannuation are going to have their superannuation contributions frozen, contrary to the pre-election promises of the Abbott Government.
I might ask my colleague Tanya Plibersek to say a few words on the unfairness of this Budget. But what is becoming clearer and clearer every day since the unfair Budget is that it’ll be Australian women, especially ones from lower income households, who are going to pay the price for Tony Abbott’s broken promises and lies before the election.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here at Rozelle Neighbourhood Centre. This is a Neighbourhood Centre that has always provided a fantastic service in our local community, supporting vulnerable people who live in the community, people who live in public housing, people with disabilities. A whole range of different people in our community get support from this Neighbourhood Centre, and that’s been especially apparent in the last week. We’ve had a terrible local tragedy, and this Neighbourhood Centre has been part of the glue holding this very close community together.
The work that’s done by the people in the Neighbourhood Centre is so important in our local community, but unfortunately it’s often lower paid and less valued than other types of work in our community. So if you’re a social worker for example, working in a neighbourhood centre, working for a women’s refuge, domestic violence service or a drug and alcohol service – you are already struggling on much lower wages than jobs with equivalent skills. When we were in government, we supported a wage increase for people working in the community sector, but it’s not just about the wages increase that these workers deserve. There are a whole range of things that impact on lower income working women in Australia today.
One of those things is the attack on their superannuation. Women make up two-thirds of the people, of the 3 million people who are getting the low income super contribution. They’ve lost $500 a year from their superannuation. We know also, at the same time Tony Abbott is protecting tax-breaks for high income super, at the same time as he is proposing to pay $50,000 to high income earners for paid parental leave, he is taking away the low-income super contribution for working women.
We also know of course, that women will be disproportionately affected by the increased cost of university education. Women once they leave university often have more broken working patterns because they are more likely to take time out of the workforce to have children. Think about the social workers who work in centres just like this around Australia. They study hard because they want to help their community; they leave university with the cost of a degree around their neck that might be 2 or 3 times the cost of a degree now because they often take time off to have children, they will take longer to pay it back and that means that interest on that university debt will continue to accumulate while they are out of the workforce having their kids. It means they will actually end up paying more for the same degree as the average man who won’t have that broken working pattern. The research that’s been done today shows the disproportionate effect of this unfair budget on Australian women and particularly, on lower-income Australian women.
SHORTEN: Thanks Tanya. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you think it is appropriate for the Government to raise the level of the terror alert?
SHORTEN: In terms of the terror alert getting raised, what matters is the best advice from our security agencies. On one hand, Labor accepts, with the rise of ISIS in northern Iraq and the recruitment of Australian citizens to become foreign fighters over there and to train them to send them back here to cause trouble, is a real, real problem. It is a real issue and appropriately our security agencies, the Government and the Opposition are treating this with the upmost seriousness. On the other hand, it’s important we don’t unduly panic people. I am confident that our security officials will act in the best interests of our security and Labor is supportive of what needs to be done in terms of making sure that Australians are secure in Australia.
JOURNALIST: There are reports SAS soldiers will be sent to Iraq, do you agree with those moves?
SHORTEN: In terms of sending soldiers to Iraq, Labor has had a clear position on this whole matter. First of all we do support humanitarian relief, we believe that Australia’s efforts thus far have been about the protection of innocent civilians. Secondly we do believe that ISIS has an insatiable appetite for violence, for using religion to justify extreme acts of behaviour. So we do think there is a clear problem to be dealt with in Iraq. In terms of whether or not further Australian defence personnel are engaged in supporting the humanitarian process we will wait until the Government formally advises us on this matter. We understand that the American President is speaking almost as I speak now and Labor has set out some clear principles for engagement. We will continue to treat this issue, not a political issue but as a matter of national security.
JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen has said that major budget forecasts should be done by the Parliamentary Budget Office, not the Treasury, what do you think of this?
SHORTEN: I understand that Chris is speaking today at lunch time, I am supportive of what our shadow treasurer is saying on this matter.
JOURNALIST: He’s defended Treasury forecasts in the past though so why would he change it?
SHORTEN: Well Chris will give a very informative speech, I’m not going to steal his thunder. Sufficed to say that we do believe that these forecasts and this process should be as independent as possible and transparent as possible.
JOURNALIST: Isn’t Treasury best placed to do this type of forecasting?
SHORTEN: I beg your pardon, sorry –
JOURNALIST: Isn’t Treasury the best place to do this kind of forecasting?
SHORTEN: Well Chris has worked hard on his speech, I will let Chris explain these matters when he gives the talk.
JOURNALIST: You’re here in Rozelle after the last weeks deadly explosion, and obviously you’ve seen all the tributes on the street here, is there anything you want to say about that?
SHORTEN: I think that when innocent people are taken unexpectedly in the most shocking of circumstances that we all feel diminished. Tanya and Verity have been explaining to me what a tight knit community this is and that the ripple effects of this terrible event are going to be felt for a long, long time. My thoughts are with the families, it’s unbelievable what’s happened and I can only feel extreme sadness.
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