TUESDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2015
BILL SHORTEN , LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everyone, it’s a real pleasure to be here at the Flinders Street Early Learning Centre with my colleague and Shadow Spokesperson for Education and Childcare Kate Ellis.
This is great because we get to go and talk to children and also talk to the people that are really giving their all to make sure that the precious children here are getting the best start in life. All over Australia, parents are entrusting their most precious people, their little children, to our hard-working professional childcare staff and we see the great results of their hard work.
But talking of hard work, it is really important that Tony Abbott starts, and his entire Government, starts to talk about protecting the living standards of Australians rather than just protecting their own jobs. As Tony Abbott and his Government's popularity sinks lower and lower, the cost of living on Australians and Australian families gets higher and higher. It is now time to end the paralysis in Canberra with the Abbott Liberal Government. They are so transfixed about talking to each other and keeping their own jobs, they have forgotten that their job is to look after Australians. Tony Abbott, in a desperate attempt to shore up his failing support, yesterday gave a speech, but he neglected to mention families or what he's going to do the help the cost of living of families. If this Government, be it Tony Abbott or any of the other pretenders to his job, are fair dinkum about Australian families they shouldn't have more meetings, what they need to do is drop the $6,000 cuts they are making to family budgets, $6,000 is about three months' worth of childcare costs for families in Australia. The Abbott Government must end the paralysis, start fighting for Australians, not their own jobs, as Mr Abbott's popularity falls lower and lower, Australians are facing higher and higher costs of living. I might just ask my colleague Kate Ellis, to add some further words about the importance of childcare in Australia.
KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND EARLY CHILDHOOD: Well, thank you very much, Bill And thank you to all of the amazing early childhood educators who we are visiting in their workplace here today. Today the chaos and dysfunction of the Abbott Government continues without so much as an announcement or a childcare policy. Let's be very clear - the families of Australia have been waiting for too long for action on childcare. This Government spent almost six years in Opposition without coming up with a single childcare policy, except to have an inquiry. This Government have then sat on the results of that inquiry since last October and yesterday the Prime Minister went to the National Press Club to say he wanted to talk about childcare and families packages but refusing to outline a single policy and refusing to even release the Productivity Commission's report into childcare.
Let's be very clear that the Abbott Government have only ever had one policy when it comes to childcare, and that is the billion dollars in cuts that they have already announced. Tony Abbott's policy, when it comes to childcare, has been to cap the childcare rebate. It has been to try and limit the childcare benefit. It has been to cut funding from family day care, they have slashed funding to out-of-school-hours care and with over a billion dollars in damage that this Government has already done, if they are to have a shred of credibility when it comes to childcare, the Prime Minister will announce that they are immediately reversing the billion dollars in cuts that they have already made. It is not good enough for this Government to have a plan, to one day have a plan when it comes to childcare. Families across Australian are hurting as a result of their cuts, they need action now and the first step is to reverse the billion dollars in cuts. The second step if they claim they’re going to consult with the sector, is to at least release the report which we will be discussing and consulting upon. Anything else is nothing more than just weasel words dseigned to try and save Tony Abbott’s job, not to save the budgets of the Australian families who are counting on him.
SHORTEN: Thanks Kate. Are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten would the ALP support any changes to childcare subsidies?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, the first change which we think that the Government should do is get their foot off the neck of Australian families. Tony Abbott wants us to forget that he has been in government for 500 days, he just wishes he could airbrush history. He wants all Australians to forget his broken promises and his unfair Budget. The first step towards helping Australian families meet their child care bills is to remove the $6000 in cuts per family, that would be a great first step. The real trouble we have got with this Government is that they think by dumping the Families Minister, that they’ve actually changed, people would think they’ve changed their policies, they haven’t.
The Abbott Government needs to revisit its unfair Budget, it’s in tatters, it’s not fair to Australians. If they’re fair dinkum about saying they’ve got the message from Victoria, Queensland and South Australia they should stop worrying about which sales person they put up the front of the queue, and all of them should actually go back and take their foot off the throat of families with $6000 in cuts to be removed.
JOURNALIST: Do you recognise that childcare subsidies as they stand at the moment are confusing and inadequate?
SHORTEN: I recognise that at the moment it’s the Abbott Government putting pressure on cost of living. Families have just returned to school and we’ve lost the Schoolkids Bonus. Families are dealing with cuts to payments of up to $6000 to family budgets every year. This Government does not know what Australians want, the Prime Minister is unsuitable for the task of looking after Australians.
JOURNALIST: Would you support a levy through Parliament to increase childcare subsidies?
SHORTEN: The Abbott Government needs to reconsider its whole Budget. They are in disarray, chaos and dysfunction. Today we’ve got the Abbott Government convening a two day Cabinet meeting. I don’t know if that’s a group therapy session for a dysfunctional organisation or whether or not it’s a circular firing squad. Either way the real problem is that Tony Abbott in recent days and weeks has not shown any humility or repentance about his policies. What Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop, Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison or any other contender for the Liberal leader and Prime Minister’s job needs to recognise is that it’s not the sales erson which matters here it’s the actual policies they’re selling; $6000 cuts to families and reversing that would be a good first step to help with childcare costs in this country.
JOURNALIST: But would Labor support and increase, sorry a levy through Parliament to increase childcare subsidies?
SHORTEN: You’re asking us a hypothetical question about what the Liberals are proposing. We don't even know who the Liberal Prime Minister is going to be next week. We know that their Budget is in disarray and it’s unfair. This Government are chaotic and dysfunctional, they’re more interested in talking about themselves. They have got leaks, they have got attacks on each other, this Government needs to remember it's Australian families who suffer while this Government's purely concerned about its own popularity and job prospects.
JOURNALIST: The grassroots ballot for leadership for the Labor Party seemed to have worked, should the Liberals do something similar?
SHORTEN: Thank you for that. Yes, I do think it worked. In terms of stability and certainty for Australians. Again, the Liberal Party are just interested in talking about themselves. Now Tony Abbott, though, dismissed this morning on morning television that speculation about his job security and who is going to be Prime Minister is just insider talk. The Liberal Party don't get it. It's not insider talk for Australians to want to know who the Prime Minister is going to be. It's not insider talk for Australians to express concern about the wrong priorities of this Government. What Tony Abbott and any of the other contenders should do, is rather than argue about who is going to sell these unfair policies, change your unfair policies. The best advice on behalf of Australians I can give the Government of Australia is drop your GP Tax, drop your $100,000 degrees, drop your $6,000 cuts to families, drop your cuts to pensions. That would be a good start for Australia.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it's ever possible to get a national consensus on changing the GST?
SHORTEN: First of all we’ve got to say what is the problem we are trying to solve here? Australians go to work every day, the parents of those marvellous, happy children are working as we speak. What they don't need is a Government increasing taxes on their cost of living. What they need is a Government who is focused on making sure their children get the best start in life, in childcare, in schools, in universities and in TAFE. What we don't need to see is more pressure on pensioners in the fresh food aisles of Australia’s supermarkets with new taxes. What we need to see is a Government who has got a strategy for growth. This a Government who just needs to keep its promises, they need to revisit their unfair Budget, they need to stop fighting amongst themselves and start fighting for Australia's future.
JOURNALIST: Andrew Lamming says he wants to introduce a Private Members Bill to abolish the knights and dames system. Will Labor support that?
SHORTEN: Andrew Lamming is 10 months late to this battle. Labor is the only political party, mainstream political party, who has already said that we will scrap the knighthoods and dame positions that Tony Abbott’s created. The problem with Tony Abbott's decision on Australia Day was three fold: 1. He should never have introduced knights and dames. Labor was against it. 2. There's a real debate that Prince Phillip, the consort to the Queen, was the most worthy person in Australia to get it - absolutely not. Whilst he's a significant person, there are many Australians deserving. The third mistake he made is to make it on Australia Day, overshadowing Rosie Batty and literally hundreds of other deserving Australians. Deeper than that, though, as much as the Liberal Party try and airbrush the extent of the gaffe, it's not even the political ineptitude which is most worrying for Labor and the nation. We have a Prime Minister who thinks his priority should be to spend his efforts on looking at Buckingham Palace and seeking approval from the Queen of England or his consort. What really matters is the future. Tony Abbott is trapped in the wrong century on the wrong side of the world with the wrong priorities. We need to focus on the future not on the past.
JOURNALIST: So you would support that bill to abolish the system of knighthoods?
SHORTEN: The question is Andrew Laming is now supporting what Labor has been saying for 10 months, but clearly though, the point which I think is inherent in your question, is Tony Abbott says to the journalists and the people of Australia, move along, there's no dissent to see here. If Tony Abbott has his own party moving a private members bill and contradiction to his policy, and if that vote gets up, it really is, I think this is a proxy war for the leadership, and what will happen is you watch it, the Liberals who vote for this measure against Tony Abbott's proposals are actually having a proxy vote on whether or not Tony Abbott can continue to be the Prime Minister of Australia. I just wish this whole mob would get on with governing and stop worrying about themselves
SHORTEN: I didn't quite hear all of the question, but if you're saying would we…
JOURNALIST: Strip the titles?
SHORTEN: We are not going to be in the business of retrospective honours, taking them away, but we think it was a bad idea at the time, it is still a bad idea and if we win an election we will remove the proposition in the future. For those of you who have been interested in history, Labor's been against imperial honours since 1918. Last question, thanks.
JOURNALIST: Would you introduce your own bill to abolish the system before the end of this Parliament?
SHORTEN: You can try and airbrush what Mr Abbott's done or you can just change the Government. For me the real priority for Liberal backbenchers isn't attacking the Prime Minister over the crazy decision to reintroduce knights and dames, the only reason they are doing it now, and Queensland Liberal MPs are doing it now, is they’ve had a Queensland election where they realise how out of touch their Government is.
But the real issue here isn't private members bills. If you want to change the priorities of Tony Abbott and the rest of his colleagues who have had ten months to change this issue, for instance, you have to change the Government of Australia. Labor stands for a better future, we want early childcare properly funded, we want to see education based on needs funding, we want to see Medicare protected, we want to see our pensioners do better, we want to see small business flourish. That's what we need in this country, we don't need this proxy fight over which Liberal will be the chief salesman for unpopular and unfair policies. Thanks everyone, see you soon.