MONDAY, 4 MARCH 2019
SUBJECTS: Labor’s plan for Flexible Support Packages to help domestic violence survivors; Indonesian Free Trade Agreement.
LINDA BURNEY, SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE PREVENTION OF FAMILY VIOLENCE: Well good morning everyone and thank you for coming. I'm joined by many of my colleagues today, including the Leader Bill Shorten, the Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek, Clare O'Neil, and Jenny McAllister, and Jenny from Domestic Violence Victoria who's going to say something.
Today's announcement is a very important one. To leave a violent situation for women and children takes bravery, it takes sometimes many years, but it also takes practical help as well, and that's what we're announcing today. We're announcing $60 million from the Banking Fairness Fund, and 20,000 packages of flexible support packages for women and their children leaving domestic violence. These support packages are incredibly important and they are a practical way to support women and their children who have made the very brave decision to leave a violent situation.
We have seen how important and how successful these packages have been in Victoria and we have looked at that model. There is absolute accountability, there is the involvement of service providers, there is the involvement of state governments. This announcement today is part of Labor's package for addressing the great scourge in this country of domestic and family violence.
When a woman and her children decide to leave a situation, when they finally have that opportunity, you need more than bravery - you need practical assistance and many women and children stay in violent situations because they simply do not have the financial resources to be able to leave. We have heard stories today of women turning up here in Victoria with five dollars in their bank account and the clothes on their back. And this flexible support packages announcement will give capacity for women to be able to do very practical things, very practical things like a rental bond, very practical things like transport, very practical things like school fees and school uniforms. Incredibly practical things like sporting equipment, very practical things like utility bills and security for houses if women decide that they will stay. These are the things that make it a reality for many women and their children to leave violent situations.
These packages will be up to $10,000 each and we know from the Victorian experiences, most packages are around $3,000. We believe that we can offer 20,000 packages over the next four years. That means 20,000 families will be safe and that is a very very important initiative and very welcome I know by the sector.
Labor was work with states to implement this. Will work with service providers. This support will be available to all people across the sector no matter who they are. It will also make sure that we include Family Violence Prevention Legal Services for Aboriginal women as well. The packages will be determined with social workers and domestic violence workers and the individuals and families involved. There will be goals and outcomes attached because we are helping people to leave violent situations and it is a very very significant and practical way to do that.
I'm going to ask the Leader Bill Shorten to make some comments as well, but when you think about a woman making the decision with her children to leave a violent situation, she needs help with a working car. She needs help to house her family pets. She needs help for school gear. She needs help for utility bills. She needs help for rental bonds and she needs help for making her home secure. This is an incredibly important part of Labor's commitment to supporting people who are in difficult circumstances and also addressing the great scourge of family violence in Australia.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Linda. Good morning everybody.
I'd like to address my remarks to those Australians, to Australian women, who are currently trapped in abusive and violent relationships. Today the Labor Party is saying that we want to provide Flexible Support Packages. We want to provide you with the ability to say that you no longer have to be trapped in an intolerable situation because of financial and economic reasons.
The reality is that violence against women in the family context is happening right now. The truth is that every two minutes, on average, somewhere in Australia the police will be called to a domestic violence situation. That's about 657 times a day that Australian women are seeking help to escape a violent relationship. Last October in 2018, in a period of 27 days, 11 women were killed by partners or ex-partners who once said they love them.
We have an epidemic of family violence in this country. We're better at talking about it than we ever used to be. We've only really started to deal with it. Once upon a time people would turn up the television or pull the curtains across not to hear what was happening next door. More and more Australians are not turning their back on their fellow Australians who are the victims of violence. But we've got to do far more, and it won't be quick or overnight that we can engineer these changes. Even the very expression 'family violence' sort of creates a notion that it's just a family matter - it's not, it's violence - there's not first class violence and second class violence, there's just violence. So what we need to do is be better at helping women escape abusive relationships.
Women should not be remaining in intolerable situations of danger to their physical or emotional and mental health just because they don't know where to go and because they are worried about who's going to pay the rent, who is going to pay the school fees, who's going to pay the cost of the utilities, who's going to pay for the very things which are trapping women in violent, abusive relationships.
So what Labor's announcing today is that we will fund 20,000 Flexible Support Packages. These are modest packages - no woman who gets one has won the lotto getting one of these packages. The fact of the matter is we're allowing up to $10,000, the average claimed by women escaping violence is about $3,000, so it's not very much to free a mother and kids from a violent relationship. But what we've seen in Victoria is an excellent experience. So I say to women who are in abusive and violent and exploitative relationships you can actually draw a line under the sand, there are places to go.
After the next election if Labor's elected, we'll be rolling out these support packages. And I'm pleased to say that we can fund these support packages because we've set up a Bank Fairness Fund. What we want to do is make sure the banks contribute towards the safety net in the community. Nothing could be more fundamental a safety-net than ensuring that women and kids are safe. So what we're able to do is that the banks can help assist pay for these packages and what it means is that for women and kids tonight who are waiting at home, who might have a spouse who comes home who is either drunk or violent, aggressive, this does not have to be the way things have to be in the future. So there is support available now and if Labor gets elected, there'll be these Flexible Support Packages.
I'd like to invite Clare O'Neil, one of our financial spokespeople, to talk a bit more about how we're funding the Bank Fairness Fund and how we're going to support women escaping violence. We want women to be able to recover. We want women to be able to be safe and we want them to work on their wellbeing.
I'll hand over to Claire next.
CLARE O'NEIL, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES: Thanks Bill.
Australians do a lot for our big banks. Almost everyone watching at home right now is probably a customer of a big bank and all of the Australian people support the big banks through what is an implicit guarantee that they are too big to fail. What we are saying to the big banks today is that we want you to do more to give back to the Australian community.
Now we agitated for two years for a Banking Royal Commission. Scott Morrison voted against it 26 times. And for those two years, while Labor was asking for a Royal Commission into the big banks, Scott Morrison was trying to give them $17 billion in a tax cut.
Labor is going to take a very different approach. The Banking Royal Commission gives us a genuine, once in a generation opportunity to rebalance financial services in this country back in favour of the consumer and Labor is going to take it. The Banking Fairness Fund is a $640 million expression of that thought. It is $640 million that we'll levy on the big banks that are on the ASX 100 and all of those dollars will be reinvested back into services that support everyday Australians. We are making a very important announcement today that Linda's talked about, $60 million for women and their children who are fleeing violent relationships. Now, I am sure there will be some out there who say, what has it got to do with the banks? Why should the banks be funding this sort of service? Well, what we say to those people is this, last year the big four banks in this country made $30 billion in profit alone. For every woman, for every of the 1,000 women who will be helped by these packages, that small amount of money that she will get will be life changing for her. For the bank, it will be merely a rounding error. This is about making sure the banks give back to us - and that is the sort of attitude you'll see from a Shorten Labor government.
I want to now introduce Jenny Jackson, who is the CEO of EDVOS. They get a 1,000 referrals a month from women who are fleeing violent relationships. Thanks, Jenny.
JENNY JACKSON, CEO OF EDVOS: On behalf of EDVOS, I'd like to say that we are incredibly excited to hear about the flexible support packages. The reality is that they simply are life-changing. Whether it's preventing homelessness by enabling a woman to move into new accommodation with her children, whether it's fixing the car so that she can get her kids to school in the morning or perhaps, school uniforms or school books so that the children aren't removed from school and so that they continue their education. It's incredibly exciting and these packages are incredibly important.
SHORTEN: Thanks, Jenny.
Before we take questions on this and other initiatives, I just want to express my solidarity with Victorians who've encountered the last weekend of shocking bushfires. Now, at least nine properties have been destroyed which is devastating for those families. There's 19 different bushfires. The Bunyip fire has already burnt 12,000 hectares, the Licola fire 15,000 hectares so far. There's nearly 2,000 volunteer firefighters and emergency services personnel. It has been a very difficult weekend for Victorians, in particular the people who live in west Gippsland and Gippsland more generally and our thoughts are with them. This will be a very difficult time.
Happy to take questions on the great announcement today.
JOURNALIST: Are there any other components of the Victorian Government's Royal Commission into Family Violence that you'd be looking at adopting?
SHORTEN: There have been a range. What I'll do is get Linda and Tanya, who has been giving a lot of the leadership here in terms of tackling family violence to talk about our other initiatives.
BURNEY: There are a number of other initiatives that we've already announced, including a program that gives capacity for women to stay at home and make their home safe. We've already announced a very significant amount of money to support legal services in the context of women seeking legal redress and we're also clearly looking very carefully at what Victoria is doing - and also what other states and territories are doing. We're developing a 10-year action plan on this so it takes up the point that Jenny has made - that this is about generational approaches to the issue of family violence. This issue is not about electoral cycles and we're about making sure that these flexible support packages and a 10-year action plan goes over a whole decade. We're also making sure that this issue is put back on the national agenda. Bill and Tanya and our leadership team have made an enormous commitment to this and the issue of family violence will be back clearly on the COAG agenda.
JOURNALIST: On another matter then, would you be looking at following the Coalition's lead and using Kyoto credits towards the Paris agreement?
SHORTEN: On the specific question, we're taking advice on that. I think the broader issue though is that this is a government under whom carbon emission pollution is going up and up and up. We welcome an election fought on climate change. The problem is for the last six years, we have had a government who can't agree on what they should do about climate change and the losers are going to be future generations of Australians.
The Government record on not taking action on climate change: they got rid of Malcolm Turnbull because he wanted to. Energy prices have gone up for households and for businesses and carbon pollution emissions have gone up. This Government can't be trusted on climate change.
JOURNALIST: Just to clarify, you have taken advice or you'll be - ?
SHORTEN: We are taking advice now.
JOURNALIST: You have received it?
SHORTEN: We're taking it, we're in the process of it.
JOURNALIST: Alright. Is your feeling though that this is exploiting a loophole?
SHORTEN: It is technically possible what they're doing, but really, what we all suspect is this government is relying on a technical loophole to do the heavy lifting because they don't have any other climate change policies. So what they are doing may be technically possible to do but practically, it shouldn't be used as an excuse to avoid real action on climate change. Under the Liberals in Canberra, under the Liberal National Government in Canberra, emissions are going up. That's the fact. Under this government, electricity and gas prices are going up. That's just a fact. Under Labor, we want to by 2030 get to 50 per cent renewables in our energy mix , we want to give Australian households the opportunity to get their power bills down and do something meaningful on climate change, that's why we're going to encourage the rollout of solar batteries. Australian households, already two million, have solar rooftop. What we want to do is get people to be able to capture that benefit by being able to get batteries installed so they can access that energy all the time. The Australian people are so far in front of the Government in Canberra when it comes to climate change, it is beyond a joke.
JOURNALIST: Just on the issue of women in cabinet, Scott Morrison says he will have seven women in cabinet if he wins the election. Is it good enough?
SHORTEN: I think the Liberal Party has got a problem with promoting women, full stop. You can only draw that conclusion when you realise they have 58 members of the House of Representatives, the Liberals, and there are 11 women but four are not re-standing. They have either been dumped by their party or they're standing down. Of those four who are quitting, two of them have been replaced by blokes. One of them said the party has a problem with women and Julie Bishop, I notice, who said that she could have been a contender and done well if she was leader of the Liberal Party is now being attacked by her party again today.
But I might get Tanya to talk further about the substantive issues.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much, Bill. And is it any wonder that Julie Bishop thinks there is no future for her in the Liberal Party. This is a party where a quarter of its female members have said that the party has a problem with bullying and intimidation within the parliamentary party. And Scott Morrison, as Prime Minister, has just refused to listen to those women MPs that have called out the culture in the Liberal Party. We've got Julie Bishop saying that she could have been leader but her party wouldn't hack it. I think if you look at - the first thing to say about the leadership is they still haven't explained why Malcolm Turnbull isn't the leader. But if you look at alternative leaders beside Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop consistently rated above the blokes but the blokes couldn't bring themselves to vote for Julie Bishop. Again, that shows that they have got a woman problem.
The real problem is not just the fact that their parliamentary party is less than a quarter female when the Labor Party's almost half female, their problem is in the policies that
they're adopting. They show how profoundly out of touch they are with Australian women when they do things like cut penalty rates that so many Australian women rely on to make ends meet. When they change the child care policy to make a quarter of families worse off.
When they five times try and reduce paid parental leave. When they undermine the very legal services that help victims of violence escape violent relationships. When they cut funding for emergency accommodation for victims of domestic violence. They show how out of touch they are, out of the mouths of their own women MPs - not forgetting Kelly O'Dwyer their most senior front bencher until recently said that the Liberal Party is perceived as anti-women and Julie Bishop actually said that some of the bullying behaviour might be potentially illegal.
I mean that's the scale we're talking about within the parliamentary Liberal Party. They show how profoundly out of touch they are with their own Parliamentary Party and the way it conducts itself but most particularly, they show how profoundly out of touch they are with modern Australian women by their policies. The policies they adopt undermine Australian women, undermine their economic security and independence.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, just on that do you agree with her statement though that she would have been more competitive at this election than Scott Morrison?
PLIBERSEK: Well, Julie Bishop consistently rated higher than either Peter Dutton or Scott Morrison as potential alternative leaders but Malcolm Turnbull was doing better than all of them and the mystery still stands, why did the Liberal Party get rid of Malcolm Turnbull?
JOURNALIST: So just still on that, if Labor wins the election will you have seven or more women in your Cabinet?
SHORTEN: We haven't finalised our line-up. Who the Ministry will be is ultimately decided by the Parliamentary Party, but I would be amazed if we didn't have more women in the Cabinet and in the Ministry and indeed the Parliament because we are already at 46 percent.
My choices and options as you can see even by today's press conference are so much more than the government.
JOURNALIST: Should there be a minimum number as the new norm now in every Cabinet?
SHORTEN: We do have rules of thumb and I expect that we will have very high representation but the best way to ensure that we have more women in positions of power in Australia is to vote Labor at the next election because we are running more women candidates, we've already got more women MPs and I have got an absolutely outstanding front bench and senior leadership team with Tanya and Penny.
JOURNALISTS: Just on the diplomatic posts issue, have you drawn up a hit list of Liberal political appointees?
SHORTEN: The only people drawing up the list of Liberal appointees is the current government. This government is out of control. They are like a kid in the lolly shop with no governors on their own behaviour.
This is a government who has never seen a job they don't want to fill a job with a Liberal hack. Let me use, for example the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, there's about 365 people serve on this tribunal, it is very important it actually makes decisions. Fifty-five of them are Liberal hacks, they've either been Liberal MPs, or failed Liberal candidates or ex-Liberal staffers, this government is out of control.
Liberals rail against big government but they have not seen a government position they haven't sought to fill with a crony or a hack. This government is out of control, I think it is a disgrace. The sooner we can have a National Anti-Corruption Commission the better because the Liberals view being in power is their sort of, natural right and I think they think because they don't earn what some of their rich mates in the private sector earn that they can supplement their wages by picking their mates and putting them in positions of influence. This is a crony government, run for the cronies, by the cronies, on behalf of the cronies, they are out of control.
JOURNALIST: Just on the diplomatic appointees though, Marise Payne pointed out that Labor Governments have previously made political appointments to diplomatic appointments to diplomatic posts, do you think you are applying a double standard?
SHORTEN: Listen, I think poor old Marise Payne, the government wheel her out to defend the indefensible don't they? I guess she is the Minister for Defence.
The point about it is when Labor was is in we would appoint ex-conservative politicians and Labor politicians. When the Liberals are in they don't make that mistake, they just appoint their own. I mean you can't see a major capital in the world where you can't run into an ex Liberal politician who is getting a pension, getting paid by the government to represent Australia overseas and probably teeing up a contract, who knows?
JOURNALIST: What did you make of the reports on the contract awarded for the (inaudible) immigration centre?
SHORTEN: This government really has to explain what's going on with the allocation of its Department of Home Affairs contracts, Paladin is an ongoing set of rolling scandals. Most Australians, you can't get a bank loan in this country if you just live in a beach shack normally but that's acceptable if you're applying for a Liberal government contract then you get - you can register your office at a beach shack in Kangaroo Island and you get a $423 million contract, as you do. This is a government where the Treasurer of the Liberal Party runs a big travel company, HelloWorld and they get contracts. This is a government which looks after themselves. They talk about themselves. They've run out of governing. They're running out of time and they're running out of office.
JOURNALIST: If Labor wins the election, do you have plans for who will be the Defence and Home Affairs Minister?
SHORTEN: Yes, we will certainly be filling both portfolios if we win the election but I notice the Government's trying to make an issue about demanding Labor name a particular Minister in a particular spot now. I mean, I would have thought the one issue that this beleaguered strife-prone Prime Minister wouldn't have gone to is the issue of ministerial stability.
This Government - this current Prime Minister can't guarantee from one week to the next who will be in the Cabinet. They can't work out who will be their team at the election because they don't even know who else is going to drop out of their team. Did you know that under the Liberals they've had 22 reshuffles since they got elected. This is a revolving
door Government, It is not worth getting to know who the Minister is because as soon as you form an emotional attachment, they will be gone. This Government is divided beyond all means of any semblance of being taken seriously on ministerial stability.
JOURNALIST: Does Labor definitely plan to keep the Home Affairs Minister portfolio?
SHORTEN: Yes, we do. We will do the same as the Government, the Government said that they would review the efficiency of it next term. We will, but we will certainly keep a Home Affairs Ministry, I can also say that if you look at my front bench, other than I think Senator Cameron, all of my colleagues have said they intend to run for election - that is the difference. Labor Ministers, Labor Shadow Ministers are hungry to see what they can do for the people of Australia. Liberal Ministers are just hungry to work out what sort of package they can get on the way out the door.
JOURNALIST: Does Labor support the Indonesian Free Trade Agreement? Will you be passing it without amendments?
SHORTEN: Well, let's just do a little bit of history here, it was Labor who got the Indonesian Free Trade Agreement negotiations started. It is a Labor project, so I feel very positive about it from what we've seen. We'll have to study the details as you always do.
We want to make sure that Australian jobs are prioritised but we are very positive, from what we have seen so far.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Indonesian Australian Trade Deal, will you support it? Morrison says Labor is the only thing standing in its way?
SHORTEN: This man just blames Labor for everything. First of all, we haven't seen the detail but Labor started the process we are positively disposed towards it, no question. I have said that on Friday. So I think Mr Morrison should spend less time worrying about Labor on trade and more time worrying about the unity of his team.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any particular concerns that certain issues around it?
SHORTEN: We always want to make sure that Australians are getting jobs out of it, not being displaced by it. We make no apology for wanting to see Australian workers get jobs in Australia. But having said that trade with Indonesia is fundamentally important. It has been a neglected part of our foreign policy, 18,000 Australian companies trade with New Zealand, only 2,000 with Indonesia.
Indonesia is much bigger. We are supportive of the live cattle trade to Indonesia and so obviously if this trade agreement can be made to work for Australia, it is in the national interest. Absolutely, we think that is a good thing.
JOURNALIST: So if it includes provisions which allow companies to sue Australia over investment disputes, will you then seek to block ratification.
SHORTEN: I am not going to start second-guessing the detail of arrangements. I think what we want to do is look at the net benefit of the agreement and that's what we will do and that is what we will study.
Labor, when it was in office, did the Malaysian Free Trade Agreement, Chile and ASEAN when it was in office. When it came to the Korean trade agreement signed by Tony Abbott or the Japanese trade agreement signed by Tony Abbott, we supported it.
We make no apology though that we always want to make sure that Australian trade qualifications are being recognised, that Australians are getting first priority. That Australian companies are not unduly subjected to our capricious legal claims elsewhere.
But having said that, we're positive about what we see. Mr Morrison knows that, he is just trying to create an argument where one doesn't exist.
JOURNALIST: Any union concerns, particularly about it?
SHORTEN: Unions are entitled to have their view on matters but I will look at the total national interest. Thanks everybody.