MONDAY, 30 JUNE 2014
ST ALBANS, VICTORIA
SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s cuts to child care; McClure Review; Disability Support Pension; asylum seekers; government division on RET.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. Welcome to St Albans, in the electorate of Maribyrnong. I've had the privilege with our shadow spokesperson Kate Ellis to visit Jindi Waraback Centre which does a great job, it's a community run child care centre, helping keep costs down and providing not only care for littlies but providing an emotionally nourishing place where the kids are obviously having a great time.
That is why this budget is so unfair to hundreds of thousands of Australian families who rely on child care centres such as this all over Australia. Labor today is starting a national campaign. We will, Kate and I, write to over 14,000 child care services and agencies, places where our littlest Australians get their start in life, saying that we can oppose this dreadful budget attack by the Abbott Government of broken promises, which will see literally over half a million Australian families worse off.
The Abbott Government is making an unprecedented attack on the Child Care Benefit. Never before has Australia been witness to such a massive attack on support for child care for ordinary families. There are families who earn as little as $42,000 a year who are going to be hard hit by these government changes. We will see in the next three to four years families of modest means losing between $3,000 and $5,000 according to Early Childhood Australia.
The Labor Party will oppose these dreadful changes, which will see hundreds of thousands of families ripped off, and we are asking all of the child care centres and all the parents in Australia to stand up and say no to child care cuts. I might ask Kate Ellis to say a few words about the specific changes of the Abbott Government.
KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD: Thank you very much, Bill. Thank you to Michelle and your team for having us around to see what wonderful work you do here at this amazing quality centre.
Right now, before the Australian Parliament, the Abbott Government has introduced legislation which has one purpose only, and that is to cut the Child Care Benefit, which low and middle income families rely upon. This piece of legislation sits before the Parliament and we know that the Government's own Department of Education has admitted that over 500,000 Australian families will be worse off because of this budget attack. Labor is standing up saying we believe that we can stop this, but we need Australians to join with us in making very clear that we will not sit back quietly whilst Tony Abbott attacks the Child Care Benefit of the Australians that need it the most.
We know that people on incomes as low as $42,000 will be hit as a result of these changes. We know that for many families, this will influence the decisions that they make about participating in the work force. And it is absurd that at a time that Tony Abbott is looking to give out $50,000 cheques to wealthy families, he is looking to strip funding from the low and middle income families that need support the most. Early Childhood Australia has said that these changes and cuts to child care will impact between $3,000 and $5,000 on some family budgets. We also know this is part of over one billion dollars in cuts to early childhood that this government has introduced since they were elected.
We've seen over $450 million dollars cut from out of school hours care. We've seen over $100 million cut from family day care. We've seen cuts to early childhood education from a government that before the election said there'd be no cuts to education at all.
This is a terrible proposal. No government has ever attempted to cut the Child Care Benefit before, because it is means tested, and it is targeted to only the families that really need that support. That is why we'll stand up against these cuts.
SHORTEN: Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Wouldn't it be more helpful to focus your efforts on the Senate rather than a letter-writing campaign to people who at the end of the day can't really do anything?
SHORTEN: Labor fundamentally believes in people power. It is not right to simply leave what happens to the future of child care to the Parliament alone. Labor is saying to all the families in Australia, all the parents who go to work every day and make this a better country, that we want to stand up for your kids so that they get the best chance and best start in life. Politics in the future can no longer just be done through the broken promises of Tony Abbott or the antics in the Senate. But rest assured, we are doing everything we can in the Senate to defeat legislation which is going to hurt the child care prospects of literally millions of Australian children in the future.
JOURNALIST: On this particular issue, the Child Care Benefit, where are your discussions at with the crossbenchers?
SHORTEN: I don't think that any person who seriously believes in having accessible affordable child care could in good conscience vote for this proposition. But we've got to keep talking to the crossbench. The good news for Australian families is Labor has a plan which says that if you speak up for your kids, if you speak up to preserve the system that we've got which has been working reasonably well, we believe, then we are an even-money chance to defeat this terrible legislation in the Parliament. But Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party of Australia need to hear from the rest of Australia that they don't like his unfair budget.
JOURNALIST: Just on another issue, Mr Shorten, the welfare review. Is there anything in there that you are a fan of?
SHORTEN: Labor supports the principle of simplification. But I can't stand by and allow the demonisation of people with disabilities. In my experience, most people with permanent impairments in this country with disabilities, would gladly give away their disability in turn for the opportunity to be able to have a job. But they can't. So I am very wary of this society being lectured by the few, telling the many that somehow it's everyone else's fault if you can't get a job. People with disabilities suffer discrimination in this country. The barriers and obstacles confronting people with disabilities in Australia are real, and I don't think it helps anyone for this government, from the bully pulpit, just to start giving lectures to people with disabilities and tell people with disabilities it's all their fault they haven't got a job.
JOURNALIST: Is a six-week consultation period sufficient, do you think?
SHORTEN: This is a Government who is always springing surprises on Australians and always providing nasty excuses. Labor does support the principle of simplification. And we are certainly up for having an intelligent, sensible discussion about how we do these things. What we won’t do is be party to the mugging of people with disabilities by a cruel government who's not interested in people with disabilities and simply wants to blame people with disabilities for all the challenges of our country and the budget. Joe Hockey should stop telling people with disabilities to do the heavy lifting. Perhaps Joe Hockey should go back to the drawing board with their rotten, unfair budget.
JOURNALIST: Aside from those comments on the disability pension, are you happy with the review?
SHORTEN: Well, what we have noticed in the last 24 hours is that this government is keen always to divide Australia into the people who are doing the lifting and the people who are doing the leaning. I believe it is most serious that this is a government who's sinking the boot into people with disabilities and the disability pension seems to be attracting a lot of the Government's rhetoric. Well, there’s a message for Tony Abbott: don't pick on people with disabilities, pick on someone your own size. Try Labor rather than trying to have a go at people with disabilities.
JOURNALIST: But you support a simpler system?
SHORTEN: A simpler system is always to be preferred over a complex system and that’s why we’ll do that. What I don't support is the dog whistling which you always see this government, whenever they want to try to justify a change, they're always trying to tell people that there's a whole lot of rorts out there and in this case they're trying to attack people with disabilities.
This is a matter of values. People with disabilities deserve to have a government speak up for them. Most people with disabilities I meet would love to have a job but they confront discrimination. Most people with disabilities would love to have a job but they can't access the transport to get to work. Most people with disabilities would like to have a job but we've got an education system which doesn't always give them the best start in life. So what the government needs to do is, rather than just attack people on the disability pension willy-nilly, they need to understand the reasons why people with disabilities are treated as second-class citizens in Australia rather than blame them for having the status of second-class citizens.
JOURNALIST: Just on another issue, Scott Morrison has said this morning that Labor and the Greens are doing the bidding of people smugglers in regards to these two boats off Christmas Island. What do you say to that?
SHORTEN: Has Scott Morrison done a press conference today and said what's happening with these boats which are reported? What Australians want from their ministers is not just ministers who turn up when the news is easy or the weather is fair, they need ministers who don't go into hiding when the going gets tough. I think all Australians just want to know, are the reports right? Are there boats offshore Christmas Island? Are the people safe and secure? Are our search and rescue personnel, are they okay and is this system working? What we don't need is secrecy. You can't have a government run by just good news alone. Just be straight with the Australian people, Scott Morrison. Tell us what's really going on.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of the suggestion that the aluminium industry be fully exempt from the Renewable Energy Target?
SHORTEN: The Renewable Energy Target has been an important development in terms of Australia dealing sustainably with climate change. The Federal Government has got a review of the Renewable Energy Target. I think that this is a divided government where you’ve got the backbench fighting with the frontbench. I think for Australia’s sake we just need to wait and see what the Government’s review proposes on renewable energy, rather than just start this divisive, this division game within the government where you’ve got backbenchers going one way and the minsters going another way.
Thanks, everyone, have a lovely morning.
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