SUBJECT/S: The Abbott Government’s second Budget; Child care; Marriage Equality; AFP; The Royal Baby.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning everyone. Lovely to be out in one of Melbourne’s great parks, talking to families about the Budget and how they are making ends meet. I am here of course with Jenny Macklin talking about the future of child care and talking about future of support for Australian families. The families we are speaking to, they are working hard to make ends meet, they want to make sure their kids get the best quality child care and they get the best possible support in those really important early years of life.
Last year’s Budget did nothing for families, and in fact it triggered cuts to families and made it hard to make ends meet. This year’s Budget doesn’t seem to be any better. All that the Government has announced today is that they are going to keep a great Labor program and they are not going to cut this program further for the next two years.
Australians need a federal government who are focused on the future of families. One of the test for this Budget is what does it do about the future? So far it seems to most Australians that last year’s Budget was a bad, bad, bad Budget – unfair and breaking promises – and this year’s Budget is all about Tony Abbott trying to keep his own job.
I might ask Jenny Macklin to make some more comments about the future of child care in the future and what the Government should be doing for families.
JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES & PAYMENTS: Thanks very much, Bill and it is great to be here with you in Moonee Ponds on this beautiful Melbourne morning and wonderful to see all of the children having such a great time here in this lovely park.
When Labor looks at child care, we have a number of things we want to deliver. We want to make sure that families get access to affordable, high quality child care. We know how important it is for families who are working to be able to get child care when they need it. One of the big concerns we have with what we know about the Government’s plans so far is that the Government may end up locking out around 100,000 families from child care. We want to make sure that the parent who has got a very part-time or casual job, parents who are looking for work, are able to get access to high-quality child care. That’s the test for us. Will this actually improve access to affordable, high-quality child care for parents? Will it make sure that children get the early education and care that we know is so great for children?
We also understand that the Government wants to fund their child care changes by cuts to family payments. This is extraordinarily short-sighted. Really all the Government is saying is they are going to take money off one group of families and give it to pay for child care for another group of families.
Labor is not going to support that. We want a great child care system but we do not want to have parents being punished in the way that this Government has set out to do. In last year’s Budget, there were huge cuts to Family Tax Benefits, up to $6,000 a year for some families. Labor will do everything we possibly can to look after and protect those families so that they get the support they deserve.
Just on the pre-school funding that was announced today, one of the things that Labor is very proud of is that we delivered this early education program for four year-olds. When Labor came into government, there were thousands of four year-olds around Australia that were didn’t have access to pre-school or kindergartens. And because of Labor, children now have this great start in life to get them ready for school. So of course it has been a great campaign by parents to make sure Labor’s program pre-school education, early childhood education continues for those four year-olds.
SHORTEN: Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Do you welcome Tony Abbott’s pre-school funding announcement today?
SHORTEN: Labor is pleased that Tony Abbott isn’t cutting one of the best ideas that Labor introduced for Australian families. We don’t think it should have taken as long as it has to make sure that preschool children get a guaranteed number of hours when they are going to pre-school. But what we have here is a week before, it appears that the best Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey can do is promise not to cut some of the good ideas for families, ideas which Labor has championed.
JOURNALIST: Labor had not put the funding throughout the forward estimates, is this just the Abbott Government cleaning up your work?
SHORTEN: First of all, the Abbott Government have only indicated they are going to guarantee funding for the next two years so that’s not in fact the forward estimates. What really matters here is that the Abbott Government has been in power for nearly two years. They have brought down one of the most horrible Budgets in memory. And now, the best they can do is to try and work out how to save Tony Abbott’s job. We have a Budget which is fundamental to the progress of our economy being presented to Australians in less than two weeks. It seems that the best that they can do is simply say they won’t cut Labor’s good ideas. When it comes to child care, Tony Abbott just sees child care as a way to saving Tony Abbott’s job. When it comes to child care, it appears that Scott Morrison just sees child care as a way to get Joe Hockey’s job. The nation deserves better than this last minute nip-and-tuck of the Abbott Government when it comes to the budget.
JOURNALIST: Just on the debate over a binding vote on same-sex marriage, do you worry about driving a wedge between the left and right factions of the Labor party?
SHORTEN: Not at all. What we see is the Labor party debating ideas about the future of Australia. Today, we have been talking about child care and certainly at our national conference we will have a debate about marriage equality. I am a strong supporter of marriage equality – most people in the Labor party are. All we are having a debate about is the best way to achieve it. But what I would also say is when it is 10 days before the budget, what we see from Tony Abbott is that all he can say today is after 11 and a half months of procrastination and dithering and confusing families, all that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey can do today is to say ‘Hang on, we will make sure that four year-olds get a minimum number of hours, a program that Labor invented and developed’, and that Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott are saying they will keep it for the next two years.
If the best that they have got is merely just finally support fundamental programs which help our youngest children do well, than what else is in their Budget that will be any good for the future?
JOURNALIST: Just back to my question though about same sex marraige, are you welcoming your deputy’s call for a binding vote?
SHORTEN: I clearly support marriage equality. I welcome all of the members of the Labor team putting forward a view which they think is important. I have made it clear, over a long period of time, that whilst I support marriage equality unequivocally, I don’t think people should be forced to vote for it, I think we should persuade them. I recognise there are competing opinions. I also recognise there are people who don’t recognise marriage equality at all. But I would say to Australians is that the Labor party I lead is determined to be the party of ideas and the party of debates and that is what we are seeing and today, Jenny Macklin and I are standing up, making it clear that if Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey want to stand up for Australian families, drop the cuts to family payments, drop the cuts to the pensions, stop mucking around with GP taxes in whatever guise – charging sick people pay to go to the doctor – and drop these $100,000 university degrees. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are some of the worst things that could happen to Australian families at the moment.
This Budget needs to be about the future, not just Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s jobs.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Bali 9, the AFP are going to hold a conference tomorrow. What would you like to see from them regarding their involvement with the case?
SHORTEN: I am not going to start second-guessing the AFP, we will have to wait and see what they have to say. It has barely been a few days since those dreadful executions took place. And again, my first thoughts are with the families and friends, and the people who worked so hard to keep these two young men alive. Labor stands opposed to the death penalty wherever it occurs and we are certainly determined to do more in the future to use Australia’s diplomatic capital and our capacity in the world to help persuade all the nations that use the death penalty to reconsider that. I think that is the best thing we can do going forward.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it is too early for the AFP to come out and answer these questions?
SHORTEN: That is a matter for the AFP. They will have the opportunity to explain themselves. Again, I am not going to start second guessing every detail but what I say today is that Labor recommits itself to using the capacities of our government and the Australian political influence to talk to jurisdictions around the world about why we oppose the death penalty. This was a futile death of two men who have rehabilitated themselves by all accounts. It achieved nothing and I think if we are going to be fair dinkum in the future, we need to not just talk about Indonesia but we need to talk about opposing the death penalty internationally.
One more question if there is one.
JOURNALIST: Just a quick response on the Royal Baby overnight?
SHORTEN: I am very pleased for the good news for the Royal Family and the arrival of a new child. I am sure that the new parents are like all of us who have been new parents; they will be excited, they will be tired – mum more so than dad – and I think, probably a little daunted. But I would also like to remind people that according to the ABS, there have probably been another 850 babies born in Australia in the last 24 hours. I would like to congratulate all new parents, not just in Buckingham Palace, but at all of the maternity hospitals around Australia because each of them will be holding a little piece of perfection which they are going to love dearly for the rest of their lives.