WEDNESDAY, 3 OCTOBER 2018
SUBJECTS: Morrison’s preschool cuts; aged care; tampon tax; GST; pay equity; Banking Royal Commission
ALI FRANCE, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR DICKSON: Good afternoon, my name is Ali France and I am Labor's candidate for the Federal seat of Dickson. Firstly, I'd really like to thank the staff and the parents of the children here at Goodstart Early Learning here in Albany Creek for having us here today and I'd also like to thank Bill and Amanda for taking the time to talk to educators here in Dickson about the important work that they do in early childhood education.
There's no doubt that a good early childhood education gives our kids the best start in life and Labor is focused on ensuring that every family has the opportunity for good quality and affordable early childhood education for their kids before they start school.
Now unfortunately, as a result of the Liberals new child care funding regime which was introduced in July, we know that nearly 2,000 families here in Dickson are worse off. At the same time, funding cuts and uncertainty around the National Preschool Program will leave more than 2,500 preschoolers here in Dickson in limbo after next year. I think that our children deserve more and I'm now going to hand over to Bill to talk a bit more about those cuts. Thank you.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Ali. It's great to be here with Ali France, Labor's candidate in the seat of Dickson and Amanda Rishworth our spokesperson for early childhood education. My mum was a teacher and an educator, she taught me the value of education. As a dad of three children I have seen the benefits of early childhood education.
That is why I just do not understand why Prime Minister Scott Morrison is essentially cutting funding for four year olds’ educational preschool from 2020. They have simply cancelled the funding after next year. What this means is that the 347,000 four year olds who would be seeking universal access to preschool in 2020, there's no money at all. This government, under Mr Morrison when he was Treasurer, has made no provision. It is about $440 million a year. While that is a large amount of money at one level, the fact of the matter is, investing in our little ones is the best use of taxpayer money just about I can think of. All the research, all the science, all the experts know that these marvellous little kids, 90 per cent of their brain develops by the time they are five years old. The early years of a child's life are fundamental in terms of giving them access to quality education.
So I have got a challenge for Mr Morrison today: you are now the Prime Minister, you say that the buck stops with you well it is not good enough to have cancelled funding, cut funding after next year for universal preschool for Australia's four year olds. I think the Government is trying to cook the books and try and make their budget look better and not provide any funding for preschool kids. The point is, if it is our four year olds who miss out, and their families, 347,000 kids and their families deserve to know that the Morrison Government will put the money back that they have taken out of the Budget and properly fund our preschools.
This is my challenge for Mr Morrison, put the money back, cancel the cuts, put the money back and make sure our four year olds get the funding they deserve. The more money that we invest in our little kids’ opportunities, the better the benefits going to be for them and for the future. We should be a nation who hands on a better deal to the next generation, not a worse deal. I would now like to invite Amanda Rishworth to talk a bit further about the shocking cuts by this Government of the funding of four year olds’ preschool.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION: Thanks, Bill. It is just wonderful to be here at this Goodstart Early Learning Centre. One of many early learning centres around the country that does an excellent job in providing high quality early education. Of course we know and we were able to see just before the preschool program in full swing with young people learning and being inquisitive and seeing those educators are providing a fabulous opportunity.
But of course, what we know is that these educators and this preschool program is not backed in by the Government. It is not backed in by Scott Morrison and it is not backed in by the Education Minister. And that is plain to see in the Budget papers. At the end of 2019, there is zero dollars allocated for this important program. Labor brought in this program. It was a Labor initiative which saw an increase of enrolment in four year old preschool from about 77 per cent to 93 per cent. That is a huge increase in making early education available for more children. However, this Government is putting that under threat. The Education Minister has said he is happy to talk about it but what can you talk about when there is no money allocated? It is zero, zero, zero across the forward estimates. This just isn't good enough for centres and educators like here, like around Australia, that want to deliver a high quality preschool program but up are not backed up by their Federal Government. I'd like to also introduce Julia Davidson, the CEO of Goodstart, just to make a few comments about how important early education is.
JULIA DAVIDSON, CEO OF GOODSTART: Thank you Amanda. We feel passionately about the importance of the early years, and I think as we've all come to learn in recent years, it's the early years that make the biggest difference. They're the foundation of children's lives and children's educations. It won't surprise you to hear me saying that we really ask governments to commit to long-term funding for all four year olds. But not just four year olds. We would like to see universal access for all three year olds in this country so that every single three and four year old can be sure of having access to high quality early learning in a whole range of different settings. Thank you.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Julia. Any questions on this?
JOURNALIST: For employees, what will you do to increase wages that has been a really big issue?
SHORTEN: That's a really good point, thank you very much. There's no doubt that this nation is relying on a gender pay gap to subsidise the care and education of our young ones. What I specifically mean, is that because early childhood educators are predominantly women, we've seen an undervaluing of this sector of work compared to other occupations and industries where men are the predominant number of employees. So we're working on policies right now to improve the pay equity.
When you think about it, who were the first people in the world that parents allow the education and development of their children to from the family home? And it's early childhood educators. They're very competent and they're very trained; both teaching and educating the kids is a really important role.
So we are committed to closing the gender pay gap between early childhood educators and other important areas of our society and we'll have more to say about that between now and the federal election.
But an important first step would be for Mr Morrison to come clean. Is he going to put the money back to fund four year olds in 2020, 2021, 2022? It's a very simple decision. We all know that Scott Morrison found the energy to vote against a Banking Royal Commission 26 times. We all know that his CV to be Prime Minister is the work he's done as Treasurer, where he's cut funding to schools and hospitals and now, to the education of four year olds.
I mean, no Australian voted for Mr Morrison, no Australian voted for cutting the funding to four year olds. So I think Mr Morrison needs to come clean, step up, the buck stops with him. There's enough money in the Budget to properly ensure our four year olds get universal access. I think this is an issue where the Government's delay and cuts are unacceptable and it just doesn't pass the test.
JOURNALIST: More revelations keep coming in about abuse in aged care homes, and we know a Royal Commission is coming but what should be done now to protect residents?
SHORTEN: They're shocking the revelations. Be it the stuff we saw, the images we saw on Four Corners, the ABC, or indeed, today in one of the Sydney newspapers. The reality is that Labor has been saying there's been a crisis in aged care. When I called that out earlier this year, the Government didn't do anything to help older Australians, instead they just attacked and abused me and said I was fear mongering, I was just telling the truth. The aged care system is in crisis.
We support there being a Royal Commission but what this government can do without waiting for a Royal Commission, is start tackling the unacceptable waiting list for aged care places. In Australia, there are now a 121,000 older Australians who are waiting to be assessed about what aged care packages they can get, to either help them live at home, or indeed if they have complex higher needs, in residential care. I think it is a disgrace, it is shocking, it's morally repugnant that you've got a government spending money - taxpayer money - advertising trying to convince people there isn't a problem and you got 121,000 of our fellow Australians waiting for packages. So this government should reduce the waiting list now on aged care packages. I think that would be a very sensible step forward.
I think they also need to sit down and talk to aged care workers and their unions about paying aged care workers better and I think this government needs to stop cutting TAFE because we need to train more people in aged care.
Now these things we already know and they can be acted on right now. I also think this government needs to do a lot more with making sure we've got proper regulation of retirement villages. A lot of people there complaining about being ripped off. These are things the Government can do right now. They don't need to wait for a Royal Commission.
JOURNALIST: The GST is gone on tampons. Do you think it should be removed from anything else?
SHORTEN: Well, I think it's great news for Australian women. It shouldn't be taken this long. I want to acknowledge the women of the Labor Party who've made this particular campaign, amongst many others, to remove this discriminatory tax. I look forward to that happening from 1 January.
In terms of what we can do to give a better deal to Australian women, there's a whole range of things we can do. One thing I think we need to do is tackle the unfairness pay between men and women in Australia. I also think that if you want to give Australian women a better deal, then the Liberal Party need to pull up their socks and preselect more women for parliament. The good news in Dickson is if you vote Labor at the next election, you'll get Ali France, which will increase the representation of women in the Federal Parliament.
JOURNALIST: In terms of the GST fix, if the states want a guarantee that it won't leave them worse off, should the Federal Government only have to top up the difference each year rather than the guaranteed $1 billion a year (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: I think the Government - whenever they see a policy issue, they always seem to turn into politics - no wonder people hate politics. I've been at the forefront of leading the case, saying that Western Australia has been getting an unfair deal. I've said that we need to make the floor the law. Or in other words, guarantee that Western Australia should always get at least 75 cents of every dollar Western Australians pay in GST come back to Western Australia in the form of untied grants.
But I think there should be one rule for all Australians, one rule for every state. I think we need to make sure this guarantee exists for all states. Now, the people who missed out are the West, so we should have certainly act on that. But what Mr. Morrison shouldn't try and do is put some oxygen into it his - you know, pump up his own tyres - by saying that he won't guarantee that every other state won't be worse off. We're going to set a test for Liberals in South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, New South Wales and of course, Victoria and the Northern Territory and say, hey you better make sure that you support legislation which guarantees no state will be worse off.
This Hunger Games approach to relationships between Canberra and the states has got to end. We've got to make sure that every Australian, no matter where they live, gets the same treatment from the national government.
JOURNALIST: You say you're going to tackle pay equality but how exactly can you do that?
SHORTEN: There's a number of ways. First of all, we can start reporting discrepancy between the wages of men and women in organisations. We announced Sunday-week ago, I think it was, that we're going to get companies with over 1000 employees to report the data, get all of the wages that the men are paid and all of the wages that the women are paid and then look at what the averages work out to be. That's one measure.
What we also want to do is restore penalty rates which have been cut for public holidays and for weekends - which the burden has unfairly fallen upon women workers.
We also want to improve the wages bargaining system in this country which allows workers and women workers to get a better deal.
And we also want to see how the law is operating in terms of highly feminised industries where there's a lot of women working in it in proportion to other industries and examine, through the Fair Work Commission, how we can put in place plans to lift wages in areas such as early childhood education.
SHORTEN: Sorry, I missed that.
JOURNALIST: Sorry. Will there be penalties for employers who (inaudible).
SHORTEN: Let's walk before we run. I actually think that there's a lot of unconscious discrimination. There's certainly some conscious discrimination that goes on but I think there's a fair bit of unconscious bias where I think once you put the facts in front of Australians, their fair mindedness kicks in. I think though that we do need that information upfront.
I know of companies who have already done reviews of the wages of all of the women in their business and all of the men in their business and they've taken their own steps already to lift the wages of women. So I think that we need to walk before we run. It's a collective effort but I want to make very clear that women don't get paid the same as men. Why should the little girls here as opposed to the little boys here when they become adults have to basically work the first two months of every year for nothing compared to the average wages that the little boys will get when they grow up?
JOURNALIST: On the Banking Royal Commission, you've been accused of threatening its independence, holding your own round tables, you've disagree with the Commission re: an extension. Are you undermining the Royal Commission?
SHORTEN: That's just rubbish. I saw the Government attacking us on the Royal Commission. You know, this Royal Commission, every day must make Scott Morrison feel guilty. He spoke against having a Royal Commission 26 times. We didn't write his lines. We didn't ask him to come out for two years and fiercely attack Labor for wanting to hold a Royal Commission.
The Royal Commission exists because of the determination of the Labor Party to make sure that we hold the banks and big financial institutions to account. Yes, we think there should be an extension and if this government says that somehow it's unfair to listen to the stories of victims, they're just more out of touch than I humanly thought possible.
The Royal Commission's independent, it's got its processes to do - and, it's doing a good job, doing a very good job - and thank goodness we have one.
But what I've got to say to Mr Morrison is stop trying to resist Labor and fight with Labor about the Royal Commission. It's not about him and it's not about me, it's about the literally tens of thousands of victims. As I said yesterday, how was it in Australia that if you steal from a bank, you go to jail. But if a bank steals from you, see who gets a promotion and a bonus and a golden package.
JOURNALIST: Tech giants are concerned about new laws being rushed through, allowing police to make companies install spy software. Would you force more detail (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: We've always got to make sure that we're maintaining our security systems but walk before you run. So what this government's got to be careful of - and we've given bipartisanship where the principles are sound - is don't put the headline ahead of the details.
I understand that Australians don't know why we changed from Malcolm Turnbull to Scott Morrison, so I understand why the Government wants to keep putting up headlines and stories to take people's mind off the fact this government is completely, fundamentally, dysfunctionally divided.
What we're not going to do is compromise a good outcome by rushing the detail. I want to reassure Australians, we'll do the work professionally, steady, sensible but we're not going to sacrifice getting things right merely to get a quick headline and a story on the news.
JOURNALIST: So you won't support it in its current form?
SHORTEN: We will just get the detail right.
One more question?
JOURNALIST: You've commented on the Tampon Tax. Why didn't your government remove the GST on tampons?
JOURNALIST: I said, you've commented on the Tampon Tax. Why didn't your government remove the GST on tampons?
SHORTEN: We should have, but we got around to it and Labor called for it well ahead of the Liberals. The fact of the matter is that most of the issues at the moment, Labor's leading and the Government's adopting our policies. But that's fair enough, that's a democracy. And I want to congratulate in particular, women of the Labor Party who worked so hard to focus everyone's attention on this overdue reform.