TRANSCRIPT - MELBOURNE - 1 MAY 2015

May 01, 2015


SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott & Joe Hockey’s second Budget; More cuts to child care; More cuts to the pension; Indonesian Ambassador’s comments

 

BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Today we've seen yet again more chaos and confusion from the Abbott Government. Australians know that the last Budget, nearly 12 months ago, was a train wreck with unemployment up, business confidence down and cost of living up, and the dishonesty and incompetence of the Abbott Government hurting Australians.  Now is time for the chaos and confusion of the Abbott Government to stop hurting child care.

 

The chaos and confusion about the future of child care funding has to stop. The problem is that when it comes to child care, Tony Abbott sees child care as a way to save his job and Scott Morrison sees child care as a way to steal Joe Hockey's job.  And in the meantime families are just getting hurt.

 

There are questions which the Government has to come clean on about the future of child care. How many families will be worse off because of the Abbott Budget? How many children will lose funding and drop out of the system because of the Abbott Budget? And indeed, how many stay-at-home mums are going to lose valuable support because of the Abbott Government? And when will the Abbott Government stop holding low and middle-income earners to ransom by cutting family tax payments to underwrite whatever policies they are cooking up? And while they are at it, it is 11 and a half months overdue for the Abbott Government to stop breaking their promises on pensions. The cuts of up to $80 per week for Australia’s pensioners are unacceptable and they simply must be dropped and yet again today we see Tony Abbott at it again, the repeat offender, breaking his promises, indicating new cuts to pensioners in the next Budget.

 

I might ask Jenny Macklin to talk further about the upcoming chaos and confusion in the upcoming Budget.

 

MACKLIN: Thanks very much Bill. On both of these issues on child care and pensions, we have large groups of Australian families and pensioners totally uncertain about the future because of the chaos of this Government. Here we are, just a week or so away from the next Budget and we're still arguing about what is going to happen to Australian families, and to Australian pensioners from last year's Budget. That's the state of chaos in this country at the moment.

 

Let's just take families, first. In last year's Budget, the Abbott Government announced that they wanted to cut the family support that millions of families get through Family Tax Benefit. Many of those families get Family Tax Benefit Part B. That's particularly support that goes to single income families, families where there is only one parent working, or where there is a single parent family. I will just give one example - a family, a single-income family on $65,000 a year with two children at school, will be $6,000 a year, every year, worse off because of the cuts of the Abbott Government.

 

These cuts are in the Parliament right now, in the Parliament right now. We have stopped them going through the Senate, but today we call on Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison, to take those cuts out of the Parliament, take them out of the Parliament if you are serious about helping single income families. Otherwise, you are going to have thousands and thousands of families right around Australia who are worse off because of this Government's budget. We'll see the figures again in the Budget in a week or so. And families will know that they are going to be worse off.

 

As Bill Shorten has just indicated, the child care changes are at the moment a complete mess. No family knows whether they'll be better off or not. No Family knows whether they will be locked out of childcare or not. The childcare sector has no certainty about what is going to happen in the future. So we have had enough of Scott Morrison dripping out bits of information. It's time that families were given the certainty that they deserve so they know whether or not they will be able to afford childcare and whether or not they'll get the family payment support that they have traditionally had.

 

On pensions, today's media shows that there is further chaos in the Abbott Government. We know that Mr Abbott said before the last election ’no changes to pensions’. He said it over and over again. He broke that promise in the last Budget by introducing a cut to indexation of pensions, cuts to deeming rates, and so the list went on. All of these measures are in the Parliament. Tony Abbott wants to cut the pension indexation rate and that will see pensioners lose around $80 a week over the next decade. We call on Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey to take those pension cuts out of the Parliament, and not put any more cuts to the pension in this year's budget. That's the promise he made to the people at the last election, and we'll hold him to it.

 

SHORTEN: Thanks Jenny, are there any questions?

 

JOURNALIST: Should child care subsidies be prioritised for those families who want to go back to work? 

 

SHORTEN: I'll get Jenny to answer that question in detail but on this question of childcare, it is in chaos and confusion. The real problem we’ve got here is that last year's Budget was a train wreck for families and family payments. This year, you've got Scott Morrison playing ‘look at me’ games, because Scott Morrison sees child care as a way to get Joe Hockey's job, you’ve got Tony Abbott who just sees child care as a way to save his own job and where is Joe Hockey? His Budget’s due in ten days and everyone else is out talking about his Budget but not Joe Hockey.

 

This is a mess. On child care, there’s some basic questions which only the Government can answer. How many families will be worse off, which goes to your question about stay at home versus working. How many stay at home mums are going to lose because of the Budget? How many children will be forced out of the system and receive no support at all and is the Government going to underwrite whatever it cooks up by cutting family payments to people currently receiving them? I might get Jenny to talk a little further.

 

MACKLIN: The important thing to remember is that child care is there for children. We want to make sure that the children in child care get the best care and support and early education that will see them grow and develop. Child care is also there to support families who need to work, but child care needs to do both things. It needs to be great for kids and great for families. That's Labor's view.

 

Unfortunately, Scott Morrison has forgotten the children. The children aren't part of his equation, and he needs to remember just how important it is to have high quality child care that delivers for children. Particularly, it needs to deliver for those families who sometimes need extra support, who need time to have their children going to childcare, to get that early education and support, families - a mother might be on maternity leave trying to hold a place at a child care centre.

 

A mother might be trying to go back to work. She needs time to have - to be looking for a job, to have her child in a childcare centre. There's a whole range of reasons why parents need access to childcare while they might have just a small amount of work or while they’re looking for work and Scott Morrison just seems to have forgotten that families need a whole range of supports, not just what he seems to be offering.

 

JOURNALIST: Would you support more stringent testing for those who receive child care subsidies?

 

MACKLIN: What we want to do is make sure that we support high-quality childcare for children, as well as making sure that we provide support to families who need to go to work. Both objectives are absolutely imperative and the way you pay for it and the sort of subsidies you have, have to, in the end, benefit families. We don't want to be taking from Peter to pay Paul, which is what the Government's proposing - cut family payments to pay for childcare. How stupidly short-sighted is that.

 

SHORTEN: Thanks, are there any other questions?

 

JOURNALIST: Yes, what was your reaction to the Indonesian Ambassadors statement expressing sympathy to the family after the execution? 

 

SHORTEN: I think the words are cold comfort, actually, to the families. Well intentioned no doubt, but too little, too late.

 

JOURNALIST: The current level at which you can be considered working is one hour currently within a week. Now, is that a very low barrier? Do you think that should that be increased from one hour?

 

MACKLIN: Well that's really why I'm emphasising all the different ways in which we currently support people who need to use childcare. It might be people who are looking for work, it might be people who are - who have a small amount of work. We don't want to exclude casual and part-time workers from having access to childcare. We know how important it is for those families. We know how important it is for vulnerable families, families who have children with a disability. All of these different types of families in their different circumstances deserve support. But more than anything, right now, families need answers. They don't want this chaos, they don't want this confusion. They want to know what the Government is proposing. They want to know which families will be worse off and they need to know it now. Enough of the thought-bubbles, enough of dripping out the information.

 

JOURNALIST: So you don’t believe that families will, people would be encouraged to go back to work therefore increasing the amount of income that a family receives? 

 

MACKLIN: Well of course we support families going to work, and making sure that childcare is available for those families. That's one of the main reasons that we introduced larger childcare subsidies when we were in Government. Of course we understand how important that is, but there's a range of other circumstances where families and children need support. We have to remember, and so much of the evidence and research tells us this, that childcare and early childhood development really benefits from children being in these really great early childhood learning environments, and we want to support that.

 

JOURNALIST: Well Mr Shorten, there’s reports that Joko Widodo had bipartisan support to stop the executions, what’s your reaction to that?

 

SHORTEN: Bipartisan support from within Indonesia? Well I haven't seen that particular report, as a matter of fact. We deplore the executions. I think for a lot of Australians those executions came as a shock. We got to know these two men over the last ten years, they weren't just names in the newspaper, or a couple of family's personal concerns, we got to know them. The executions that were carried out the other morning have shocked people.

 

Australians are rightly disappointed at the inability of us to convince Indonesia to provide clemency. I do think that there are lessons here to make sure that this doesn't happen again to other people who get caught up in this situation. Labor knows that these men broke the law and they should be punished, but this wasn't justice. This was just futile, the deaths of these two men. And we are supportive of the Government withdrawing our Ambassador and we are supportive of withdrawing Ministerial communications, as has been done by the Government.

 

Thank you.

 

ENDS