Bill's Transcripts

PRESS CONFERENCE: Melbourne - Government implosion over PM’s PPL signature policy






SUBJECT/S: Government implosion over PM’s PPL signature policy; Abbott Government’s broken promise and unfair cuts to childcare; Nick Xenophon; Fisher by-election; Abbott Government’s broken promise on building submarines in South Australia; Rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks for coming today. I’m here with our Shadow spokesperson on Families Jenny Macklin to discuss Tony Abbott’s latest chaotic announcement with regard to paid parental leave. Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave announcement today shows three things. One, that this scheme was always unfair and unaffordable. Two, the Prime Minister is in deep trouble with his colleagues. And three, Tony Abbott should never have cut $1 billion away from child care as he has.


Tony Abbott has defended this paid parental leave scheme up hill and down dale. He's taken it to two elections. It is his signature policy. He said that no matter what, this was the thing that you would judge Tony Abbott by. The fact that today Tony Abbott has broken this promise, too, shows that there is no promise he makes which is sacred to him. Indeed, this is not about Tony Abbott changing his policies because he's admitting he's wrong. This is about Tony Abbott changing his tactics, because he's in deep political trouble with his colleagues and the nation. If given half a chance, Tony Abbott will bring back all of the things he says he’s changing. I might ask my colleague Jenny Macklin to talk further about this chaotic announcement today.


JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DISABILITY REFORM: Thanks very much, Bill. Tony Abbott promised before the last election that his signature paid parental leave scheme would start in July next year and now we have this announcement today that they have no idea how much women will get paid or what the state's responsibility would be. The question to Joe Hockey is, how much will this paid parental leave scheme cost? Joe Hockey's supposed to be announcing a mini-budget next week. How much is Joe Hockey going to have in his mini-budget as the cost for Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme? Honestly, Tony Abbott can't even make a back down without a complete mess.


SHORTEN: Thanks, are there any questions?


JOURNALIST: Do you at least welcome that the PM's acknowledgement that it needs changing?


SHORTEN: Well, to go back to what I said in my opening remarks, no-one believes that Tony Abbott is making his changes because he believes he's wrong. Everyone knows that Tony Abbott’s changing his tactics, because he's in deep political trouble. If given half a chance, Tony Abbott will change again and re-introduce the lot of what he's spoken about on this and other matters.


JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister hasn't clarified exactly what changes he's talking about, do you need to see a specific proposal or is it helpful that he’s left room for negotiation?


MACKLIN: Well we should have seen the legislation by now. It's supposed to start in July next year. We have no legislation and now it's clear the Government has no idea what they are actually going to do. This is a complete and utter mess and it really shows that no promise from this Prime Minister is sacred. If he's prepared to give up on his most significant promise, that he made to the Australian people in 2010 and 2013, it just shows no promise from Tony Abbott is sacred.


JOURNALIST: Will you have direct negotiations with the Coalition on this?


MACKLIN: Well who knows? Once again, the Prime Minister plainly has no idea where he's going. We, of course, know how important it is to have paid parental leave in Australia. It was the Labor Government that introduced Australia's first national Paid Parental Leave scheme. So Tony Abbott really needs to sort out what he's going to do before anybody could begin discussions.


JOURNALIST: There does seem to be a suggestion though that means testing could be brought back in and further investment in child care, is that something positive?


SHORTEN: Just on the child care proposition, what Tony Abbott needs to do if he's fair dinkum about child care rather than using it as a smokescreen for whatever new political tactic he’s dreamed up about his signature broken promise, on child care, he's cut $1 billion out of child care. Let's see if he's offering to replace the money that he's cut out of the scheme. Everyone has known that his paid parental leave scheme was a bad idea. Everyone – ordinary Australians, the experts in these matters, the Productivity Commission, right through to his own colleagues.


Everyone knows, though, that Tony Abbott's only changing his policy not because he's admitting it's wrong, but because he's in deep political problems and trouble with his colleagues. And when he starts talking about child care, the first question to ask is why are you cutting $1 billion out of child care Tony Abbott? Are you saying that you're going to restore all of the cuts that you've made, which again were a broken promise from the election?


JOURNALIST: Are you risking more child care funding cuts if you don't give some ground though?


SHORTEN: Well first of all, it’s Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey's unfair Budget. For them to talk about child care they need to explain why they're taking $1 billion out of the system. This is too little too late. This is a Government in damage control mode. We all know about Tony Abbott, that this was his signature policy. If he's willing to break his signature policy, what promise isn't he willing to break? And furthermore, this is not Tony Abbott admitting he's wrong on his policy, this is Tony Abbott admitting he's in political trouble with his colleagues and he wants to change his tactics. Why wait until Sunday morning when he's had the last two weeks in Parliament to do it? This is all politics, no policy and it's not great for the children and the families of Australia.


JOURNALIST: Are you ruling out, is Labor ruling out ever supporting a PPL scheme put forward by Tony Abbott?


MACKLIN: We have no idea what Tony Abbott is proposing. Nobody knows. You don't know, I wonder if Joe Hockey knows. Let's find out what it is that Tony Abbott is actually proposing. This Government is in a complete and utter mess.


JOURNALIST: Would you agree though to sit down with talks and for Labor to put a plan on the table and say this [inaudible]?


MACKLIN: Well it's really up to the Government. They're the Government. We put forward a Paid Parental Leave Scheme. It got through the Parliament. Now we've got 400,000 families benefiting from Labor's Paid Parental Leave Scheme. We want paid parental leave to work in Australia. It's great for families and it's great for the workplaces. But this mess that Tony Abbott has created, it's really up to him to put forward some sensible policy if he's capable.


JOURNALIST: When do you anticipate that might actually happen?


MACKLIN: How would you know?


JOURNALIST: Do you support the PM’s focus on in-home care as a priority for more funding when it comes to child care?


MACKLIN: Well it's a bit the same as paid parental leave, all you get from Tony Abbott is a complete mess of ideas. We don't actually know what he is proposing to do in child care other than as Bill Shorten has indicated, the Government's taken $1 billion out of child care in the Budget. So let's see if they can put a sensible policy forward. At the moment you would have to say this Government's chaos indicates they really are incapable of delivering a paid parental leave scheme or a child care policy that will suit the needs of Australian families.


JOURNALIST: Just on some other matters for Mr Shorten, are you concerned about Nick Xenophon starting up his own party, that that might be a serious challenge to Labor in both the State and upcoming Federal elections?


SHORTEN: Nick Xenophon is a very strong representative for South Australia. I think the real message that I'm getting out of South Australia and everywhere is that people are concerned that this is a government asleep at the wheel when it comes to jobs and creating jobs. We've just seen the Fisher by-election in South Australia. The latest advice I have is a swing against the Liberals there is 9.3 per cent. Scrutineers from both sides of politics are making it clear that it's Tony Abbott and Federal issues which have dominated this by-election.


There is no doubt that when it comes to broken promises, South Australians are feeling very bruised from the death of the car industry through to the Government breaking its promises on the Australian Submarine Corp threatening thousands of jobs. There's no doubt in my mind that the Liberals as they approach Christmas are suffering because Tony Abbott and the Federal Government are conducting the unfair Budget which they are.


JOURNALIST: What's your initial reaction to David Murray's inquiry?


SHORTEN: Well, as your question appreciates, it can only be an initial reaction, because we've just seen the report, but I congratulate David Murray on the work he's done. It's been a very exhaustive, thousands of submissions. We will study it very carefully as my Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said a little earlier this morning. But two points I can make to you, one is that David Murray cannot be, with his experience in financial services in particular CEO of Australia's largest bank, he can't be accused of having a bias against the big banks.


So we will in considering this report one, recognise that David Murray is very experienced and doesn't come with a big agenda to be pro or anti-bank, but just deal with the issues straight. The second issue though is this and we make this promise to Australians, that as the Government considers the Murray Report, Labor will make sure to the best extent that we can that whatever is changed and recommended and occurs, we don't see costs being passed onto consumers. We do not believe in strengthening our financial system, that it is necessary for financial institutions to pass costs onto consumers and leave consumers the ones footing the bill.


JOURNALIST: And does the Government also need to be more clear about the role out of the NDIS?


SHORTEN: Well, I’ll just make an initial comment and then pass to Jenny. On the NDIS, the Government made it very clear before the last election that there was no day light between Liberal and Labor. That you could trust the Liberals with the National Disability Insurance Scheme, trust Tony Abbott, the same as you could trust Labor. Now what's happened since then is we've seen worrying signals that the Government's got cold feet. The problem with this broken promise is it's not a prospective promise, it's one where the system's already rolling out now. And there are hundreds of thousands of carers looking after hundreds of thousands of people who are concerned that, you know, each night at midnight who's going to care for their adult child when they no longer can? The Abbott Government needs to be very careful before it starts damaging the hopes and dreams of millions of vulnerable people, but Jenny’s been following this even more closely.


MACKLIN: Thanks Bill, I think the most important thing to say to people with disability and carers and family members is that we want to see the National Disability Insurance Scheme rolled out in full and on time. It is absolutely critical that people with disability do not face any delay in the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. As you saw from the story in the newspapers this morning, a mother describing just how desperate she is to get the National Disability Insurance Scheme delivered so that she gets the support that she needs for her child. It is critical that we understand just how broken the system of disability care and support is in Australia. We want the National Disability Insurance Scheme and it must be done on time. Thank you.


SHORTEN: Any other questions? Thank you.