MONDAY, 8 OCTOBER 2018
SUBJECTS: Labor’s National Preschool and Kindy Program; Sydney Opera House advertising; industrial relations; IPCC report; negative gearing.
PETA MURPHY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR DUNKLEY: Hi everyone, my name is Peta Murphy and I am Labor's candidate for Dunkley at the upcoming federal election. It has been my pleasure to have Bill Shorten and Amanda Rishworth here today at the Carrum Downs Early Learning Centre, to meet some of the terrific kids that we have locally, the wonderful educators that work at this centre, and to talk about Labor's commitment for the children of today and the children of tomorrow, and the sort of Australia we want to build particularly with three and four year old kindergarten. So it's an absolute honour to have Bill here and I'll hand over to him now.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you. That was Peta Murphy, Labor's fantastic candidate in the seat of Dunkley. I'm here today with Labor's spokesperson on Early Childhood Education, Amanda Rishworth to again talk about Labor's fantastic new promise to the next generation of Australians and their parents now.
Labor is committed that if we are elected, we will provide universal access to 15 hours preschool for every Australian three and four year old. This is great news for their parents because this will help of course, with the cost of sending their kids to get three year old preschool. But it's even more important for the kids and the future of Australia.
All of the science, all of the educational experts have made it really clear that if kids can get two years of preschool, they just do so much better at school. This is an investment, not just in the cost of living hip pocket of parents, this is an investment in the next generation. Labor is really committed to making sure that we hand on a better deal to the next generation of Australians than the one that all Australians receive from their parents. The educational experts are united in the view that if we can give our kids access to 15 years of learning before they finish school, then that's just going to be great news for the nation and great news for these kids when they become adults.
I also want to recognise the great work of Goodstart and the staff here led by Nichelle at the Carrum Downs Goodstart Learning Centre. What we see here is hard working staff looking after 97 families. What that means though, is that this country needs to do better in the way that we remunerate and support our early childhood educators. This country for too long has basically required early childhood educators to accept very low wages, just so that we can make sure that our kids have a quality preschool experience. Labor will have more to say on this important issue, but if we think that the education of our kids, the learning of our kids, is important then we should actually prioritise that in all of our policies.
Labor can afford to do these good things because we've decided we want a fairer tax system not a higher tax system. What we're proposing to do is to wind back some of the concessions which some of the very wealthy in society receive, and instead prioritise our kids. It's worth remembering that in Victoria alone, in the first three years of a Labor Government, about 350,000 young Victorian kids will get access to the preschool that they need, to give them the best start in life.
I'd now like to hand over to Amanda Rishworth, our spokesperson on Early Childhood Education.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: I'd like to start by thanking Nichelle and her team for inviting us here today, and of course, we were able to speak about the benefits of what both three year old and four year old kindy has to offer young children here today. Of course, what Labor has announced when it comes to three year old kindy and locking in four year old kindy, is a huge investment in the future of the children here today and children right around the country.
Of course, funding three year old and four year old preschool is part of Labor's Fair Go Action Plan, where Bill Shorten and Labor have outlined a clear vision for this country. And a vision that importantly, is about the long term not just the short term and three year old and four year old preschool is part of that vision.
Of course this is a sharp contrast to the Liberal Government who refuses to lock in four year old funding for kindergarten, and won't even consider three year old kindergarten. That just shows how short sighted they are when 350,000 four year olds potentially will lose access to subsidised kindy.
Labor has a different plan, Labor has a better plan. Our plan has been welcomed by the sector, by educational experts - it's been roundly welcomed across the country. The only group not welcoming this announcement is the Liberal Party, and that's because they're into short term politics and not the long term future of this country. Well I want to stick with Bill Shorten's plan for a fairer Australia and that's why I'm so proud to be here today, discussing our plan for three and four year old kindy.
SHORTEN: Thanks Amanda, thanks Peta. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Why all this money for three year old kinder? Why don't you subsidise all children, more to attend childcare services like this one?
SHORTEN: We're already so far ahead of the Liberals on our policy to give our kids the best start in life it's not funny. I mean, what we're doing is we're going to restore $14 billion to public education. I think it is regrettable that whilst the current Government have listened to Labor about the importance of funding low fee Catholic parish schools, they haven't found the money for our public schools system. So we're already putting much more money into the education of our kids at school.
But what Labor's doing here by proposing universal access for three and four year olds, is it’s showing that we are listening to what is the best practice in the world, what is the best practice from our educators and our experts and what families are telling us. Other countries in the world, some of the other countries in the world, are already cutting edge; France and England, New Zealand, Norway, other countries, even China, are moving towards universal access for preschool for three and four year olds. But Australia's been lagging behind.
I don't want to be Prime Minister of a country which gives our kids second best in life. I want them to have the best. That is what parents reasonably pay taxes to Canberra for. They would like to see some of the taxes they pay to Canberra reinvested in the education and early learning of their kids. So that is what we're doing.
We've made clear on our well-costed and clearly-costed policies, that we can afford to do this because we're going to make multinationals pay their fair share of tax. We've made hard decisions. We are treating the Australian people with respect. Australian people don't want a policy or a comment that lasts a 12 hour media cycle. They want vision, they want long term, they want things which are going to hand on a better deal to the next generation, and early childhood education is one of the best things we can do for our kids and that is why it is good enough for us to propose.
JOURNALIST: How are you actually planning to get a guarantee in legislation that no state or territory will be worse off under changes to how GST revenue is distributed?
SHORTEN: We need to see the Government's legislation, but it's a clause which will make sure that no State goes through what Western Australia has been put through. Labor has been leading the debate about a better deal than they've received currently under GST distribution from Canberra. What happens with the GST is it's collected - people pay their GST but it is distributed to the states. What's happened though, is that Western Australia, for every dollar they have paid in GST revenue to Canberra, they have only been getting at the worst times, 34 or 37 cents back in the dollar. So Labor has said we should have a floor of at least 70 cents, going to 75 cents. In other words, for every dollar that West Australians pay in the GST, they should get at least a minimum of 70 cents and then 75 cents back.
But what we want to make sure is that having learned about this problem with Western Australia, we don't repeat this mistake in other parts of Australia. I don't believe that the future of this country involves in one state being engaged in a hunger games debate over school and hospital funding with another state. So we want to make sure that in fixing this problem - which Labor will by the way, that we don't cause new and unintended consequences down the track. I'm sure we can work this out with the Government. This isn't an issue which should be too political. We have said make the floor the law, let's put it in black and white. But let's also as we cure one ill, not create other ills along the way.
JOURNALIST: Just on another issue, are you comfortable with racing advertising being on the sails of the Opera House?
SHORTEN: I should just declare an interest; my own electorate of Maribyrnong is home to both the Flemington Race Club and the Moonee Valley Race Club. So in fact I'm the local member for the Cox Plate and the Melbourne Cup, arguably, two of Australia's, indeed the world's finest race meetings. So I like racing and I can see the impact that promoting racing brings to jobs. I've watched this argument about what should go on the Opera House or not. But I tell you what has certainly solidified my thinking, it was Prime Minister Morrison's intervention where he described the Opera House as 'Australia's biggest billboard'.
I mean I don't think most Australians, when they think about the Opera House, think of it as a billboard. The billboard proposition isn't the Opera House. The Opera House is well-known all around the world. Have you ever seen a film about Australia where you don't see the plane coming in over Sydney, flying in over the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge? These are national icons. For me, what the Opera House means is that we're capable of doing - building things of great beauty. To me, the Opera House is a representation of Australia's capacity to build splendid things. Unlike Prime Minister Morrison, I don't look at the Opera House and see a billboard, I see a remarkable Australian achievement.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that this would have happened without the intervention from Alan Jones?
SHORTEN: Well I think countries all around the world sort of battle with the arrival of new technology, being able to use surfaces which previously wouldn't have been thought could be used, in the way of advertising. You know I think periodically, if you look at everything from the Colosseum, built by the ancient Romans through to Big Ben, there are debates but I think communities around the world draw the line at describing their national heritage as a billboard. In terms or Mr Jones' interview, I've seen the reports. The Opera House employee is a paid employee, she wasn't a politician or indeed a shock jock. I think she went on the show, she displayed courtesy when on the show, she explained her position. I don't think she received the same courtesy back to herself.
JOURNALIST: What sort of precedent does this set for other advertising?
SHORTEN: We can't take our national heritage for granted. On one hand we should promote Australian sporting activity, we should promote national achievement. But I think that Australians are concerned that if everything is up for sale or everything's for commercialisation. I would say to Prime Minister Morrison, you're not a marketing executive, you're the Prime Minister of Australia and that involves the obligation to respect our national icons. I think I do actually speak for a lot of Australians, without getting into the ins and outs of promoting the horse races, which I like, the Opera House is not a billboard. It's a thing of great beauty, it is part of our national treasure and deserves the respect that comes with it.
JOURNALIST: On another issue, what would you like to see the chief executives of the big banks asked by the Economics Committee when they participate in public hearings later this week?
SHORTEN: Well I'll leave it to my colleagues who get to ask them the questions. I won't steal their thunder. But I think the big bank executives do need to show some humility. They and Mr Morrison resisted a Banking Royal Commission. The Prime Minister voted 26 times against having a Royal Commission. The big bank executives attacked Labor and accused us of being unfair when we said there should be a Royal Commission. So I do think the big banking executives should give an apology for opposing the Royal Commission. Mind you, I think the Government should too.
I do think the big banking executives need to explain what they're going to do to reform their remuneration system. The Royal Commissioner has made it clear, and he didn't use these exact words but this was the sense of it, that one of the big problems in banking in Australia has been that the greed has triumphed over everything else. There has been too much about the profit motive. The fact of the matter is we have in our banking sector, a remuneration system which means that the bonuses become more important than the ethics. That is completely undesirable. So I'd like to hear him explain how they're revisiting the remuneration system. I would also like them to explain how they're going to materially demonstrate real contrition for having ripped off tens of thousands of people literally millions of dollars, over previous years.
JOURNALIST: Do you support the ACTU’s call to return to sector-wide bargaining?
SHORTEN: Well we haven't finalised our policy there. But I think it's not just the ACTU but a lot of Australians who are concerned about the problem in Australian society under the Liberal Government, that everything goes up except your wages. Most Australians haven't had a wage rise faster than inflation. Most Australians have seen their household debt increase. Most Australians are seeing their family savings accounts go down, not up. The Coalition has no plan to lift wages in this country, so I do think it is time to examine how we can improve the level playing field for millions of Australian working people. It's one reason why Labor, if we get elected after the next election, is offering a better deal to ten million working Australians. If Labor gets elected after the next election, ten million working Australians thereabouts, will receive a bigger tax cut, income tax cut, than they would if the Liberals get returned. That'll help with wages.
JOURNALIST: So you're open to it?
SHORTEN: We're open to sensible and constructive measures, wherever they come from - from unions, from business, we've even said we will work with the Government. I should just say on that issue of working with the Government on sensible suggestions, when will Scott Morrison have a national anti-corruption commission? This is a sensible idea which would do much to improve the reputation and trust in Australian politics.
JOURNALIST: Isn't this going to - if we did go ahead with this idea from the ACTU, isn't this going to take us back to the pre Hawke/Keating industrial era?
SHORTEN: Right now under the Coalition Government, where back before where records were kept, we have the lowest wage growth - we're bumping along record low wage growth. The problem in Australia at the moment, is that some people are doing very well. If you own a lot of houses, if you have a lot of money, you are doing well under this Government. But the real issue is that for millions of Australians, they're not benefiting in the economic growth which is disproportionately going to a few. We do need to see wages moving again. I make no apology for wanting to see wages move again. I want to see the wages of women come up to match the wages of men. I want to see the penalty rates of 700,000 Australians who work Sundays and public holidays restored, before they had their arbitrary cut. These are important issues, and I want to see working Australians be able to see their cost of living dealt with effectively.
That's why, from what we're doing with early childhood learning, to investing in renewable energy, to putting a cap on the premium increases for the private health insurance companies, and indeed, providing bigger and better income tax cuts for ten million Australians, we have got a plan that will not only fix our schools and hospitals, that will not only make sure we have cleaner and cheaper energy, that will not only make sure that working people have someone to stand up for them, but we'll also make sure that the economy works in the interests of everyone, not just some people.
JOURNALIST: A few issues, a major climate report today says coal must be phased out by 2050 to avoid the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. What does this - does this have any impact on your plans for the Adani mine?
SHORTEN: Well there are two questions there or three. First of all, what we need to do is move our energy mix to having a greater proportion of renewables. But we are not saying that there won't be fossil fuel as part of our energy mix going forward. But what we want to see is more renewable energy in our energy mix, because the technology, the jobs, and the environment all benefit by a greater emphasis on renewables, and in particular, it's going to lead to cheaper prices. In terms of specific projects, they have got to stack up under the scientific evidence that is put forward at the time.
In terms of the Barrier Reef, I am still not going to let the Government off the hook that they managed to find $444 million for a private charitable foundation in a half hour meeting, yet if you're waiting for the aged pension, you've got to wait seven and a half months to get an answer.
This Government's priorities are all wrong. They're not taking action on renewables. They're not worrying about future generations from education to climate change to health care, and again, if you're a well off ex-mining executive, you can get half a billion dollars from the Government in half an hour but if you're an aged pensioner waiting for a legitimate entitlement, well that means you've got to wait seven and a half months.
JOURNALIST: Property prices - sorry, last question.
SHORTEN: Sure, no worries.
JOURNALIST: Are property prices falling because the market is concerned about Labor's negative gearing policy?
SHORTEN: No, Labor's not in. It is a bit hard to blame Labor when we're not even in. I think fundamentally, banks are tightening credit, and that has been a result of changed APRA guidelines. If is it is harder to borrow money then it is harder to buy houses. The real problem though in housing prices, is they're still very high in terms of being unaffordable and inaccessible for first home buyers. I make no apology for wanting to see young couples be able to afford to buy their first home. You know, I think that's the problem, that's the challenge and too many young Australians are priced out of the housing market because we've got a tax system which wants to give a tax subsidy, a hand-out from the Government to people buying their seventh property. And yet if you're a young couple, perhaps a childcare worker and a policeman and you are in a relationship, you've saved for your first deposit, you go along to the auction on the Saturday and you are still $100,000 shy of even what the deposits required. The problem in Australia is that the first home dream is becoming just that, a dream and it is not becoming a reality for too many Australians.
All good? Thanks everybody.