SUBJECT/S: Government’s broken promises on child care and paid parental leave; Turnbull’s plan to cut tax for high income earners and make families worse off; Safe Schools; election speculation
SUNDAY, 20 MARCH 2016
KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD: It is clear that the Turnbull Government is a Government that does absolutely nothing for Australian families. This was a Government that went to the last election promising action to help Australian families - they promised, quote, "a rolled gold" Paid Parental Leave scheme, and they promised that they would make child care more affordable and more accessible. But it is clear today, we will go to the next election with this Government delivering absolutely nothing on these promises, and we will go to the next election with zero action having taken place for an entire parliamentary term when it comes to helping Australian families with the cost of child care. This Government has promised the world but they are only ever looking for political fixes and not looking for real policies and real assistance for Australian families.
It has been reported today that 100,000 Australian families will be worse off because the Government has not acted on child care. What we do know is that this is a Government that is completely defined by their own chaos and dysfunction. They are more interested in fighting each other than they are in fighting for Australian families.
And this week it has also become clear that the Government have abandoned plans for income tax cuts for low and middle-income Australian families and the only people that will be seeing any tax relief from the Turnbull Government are those high-income earners on over $180,000.
Government is all about priorities. Scott Morrison went out there and railed about the need to address bracket creep and the need to bring about major tax reform but they have abandoned all initiatives in this area except one - to deliver tax relief for high-income Australians.
Time and time again we see that it is low and middle-income Australian families who are being hit hard by the Turnbull Government's cuts and the only people they can deliver anything for are high-income earners. When it comes to the deficit we know this Government has doubled the deficit which has increased by $33 billion since they came to office. Now Scott Morrison has been out here talking big but he will deliver absolutely nothing for Australian families. Just like the child care package was his thought bubble when he briefly had the portfolio, now we see that income tax cuts for low and middle-income families were just another Morrison thought bubble and absolutely nothing will be delivered or achieved by this Government in the area.
JOURNALIST: We saw the impact of having an attack on families in the last budget, do you think the Government will learn its lesson this time around?
ELLIS: The Government clearly hasn't learnt their lesson. Time and time again when this Government has to make cuts, they make the cuts that hit families and particularly low and middle-income families. This is also an area where the Government has form. We have seen so many broken promises, but Australian families will remember there was a very clear promise at the last election - if elected the Liberal Party were going to make child care more affordable and more accessible, and today it becomes clear that they will do absolutely nothing to address Australian child care issues at all.
JOURNALIST: If elected though, what will Labor do?
ELLIS: Well we have made clear that we are the one and only party out there that is promising more support for the Australian child care system without tying it to cuts to family budgets. We have made clear, and we will obviously be releasing our full child care policies in the weeks or months ahead, but we are incredibly clear that we are proud of our record when it comes to action to address child care affordability. We were the party that increased the child care rebate from 30 to 50 per cent. We were the party that ensured parents didn't have to wait until they received their child care rebate once a year but instead could receive fortnightly payments. We have runs on the board, all that the Turnbull Government has is empty promises, lies and hypocrisy and Australian families are paying the price.
JOURNALIST: At the same time haven't you not even released your policy how can you be critical of the Government when you haven't shown what your cards are at this stage?
ELLIS: Well we have made clear that we would support additional investment in Australian child care and we also announced publicly that if the Turnbull Government brought on the child care legislation debate in the House of Representatives that we would support its passage through the House. They are now making excuses. What they haven't done is even brought on the debate in the Parliament and we will go an entire Parliamentary term. Now they are in Government and they made very clear promises to the Australian public and it has become clear that these are just more lies, more broken promises and Australian families are paying the price.
JOURNALIST: Isn't it a bit disingenuous, I guess, to block child care legislation and then complain about the savings?
ELLIS: Well, as I said, the Government has not even brought on the debate of the child care legislation. We have publicly announced, and we have told the Government that we would support passage of this legislation through the House of Representatives. The Government are being very deceptive here today. They cannot accuse Labor of blocking legislation that they won't even bring on for a debate. And there are probably a number of reasons why they won’t bring this legislation on for debate. One is because we know that it is full of problems and that thousands of Australian families would be worse off because they haven't thought it through. But we also know that this is a Government that is time and time again all about talk and absolutely zero action, and when it comes to Australian child care there is a very clear example that the Turnbull Government are all talk, no action.
JOURNALIST: Just on another matter, do you think that a July 2 double dissolution election is inevitable?
ELLIS: From my reading of things, every time the Liberal party are together in one building in Parliament House, they seem to implode even further, and they spend more time on how to fight each other than on how to fight for the Australian people. It stands to reason that if they continue to fight each other - this week again we have seen Malcolm Turnbull be bullied by his own backbench - that their position is only deteriorating . But obviously it is an issue for the Prime Minister how long he wants to allow that to continue for.
JOURNALIST: On Safe Schools, do you think that Victoria is right to fully continue the Safe Schools program?
ELLIS: Obviously that is an issue for the Victorian Government. What I am deeply concerned about is that Malcolm Turnbull and Simon Birmingham have been bullied by their own backbench into gutting a program that was put in place to assist Australian children who need support. I also think that it is very disingenuous for the Minister to put out a statement about his reforms to the Safe Schools program that failed to mention that this Government will discontinue funding for it entirely from next year. This is a program that has been placed on the scrapheap because Malcolm Turnbull was too weak to stand up for Australian students who were relying upon him. I think that the Victorian Government has funded this program for a number of years, we know that this is something that has been in place in Victorian schools for a number of years, and it's up to them to determine what its future is.
JOURNALIST: Do you agree with Richard Di Natale who said today that MPs who are against safe schools are homophobic and transphobic?
ELLIS: I think that there is no doubt that we have seen some appalling statements and that we have seen some deeply offensive behaviour from some members of the Liberal and National parties. I also think it’s true to say that there has been a whole lot of misinformation about this program that has been allowed to spread because the Prime Minister has failed to stand up and show leadership and actually call out some of these lies that have been circulated. I'm sure that there are some reasonable members of the community who are now left with concerns because they have heard misinformation, they have heard lies and they have heard myths which have not been corrected by the Government. This week when we saw the review of Safe Schools release, just a couple of days ago, we saw clearly the finding that the content was age appropriate, that it was in line with the national curriculum and that the sort of things that members of the Liberal Party backbench had been standing up and saying under Parliamentary Privilege were false, they were lies, they were myths and they were just divisive. What we really need to see is some leadership from the Prime Minister, to actually call out this sort of behaviour and set the record straight.
JOURNALIST: Are they homophobic?
ELLIS: Well, I have no doubt that there are some members of the Liberal and National Party who have displayed homophobic behaviour in recent days and weeks and who have made some utterly disgusting statements. What I would also say if that there is such a level of misinformation around about this program that I think many reasonable members of the community may have been left with concerns that are unfounded.
JOURNALIST: Just back on the Senate - do you think that the current crossbench would make arrangements untenable for the next four years?
ELLIS: Oh well, the Government have treated the crossbench appallingly, they have negotiated appallingly and they have shown that they are unable to successfully negotiate passage of a number of pieces of legislation. But equally, the Government have also shown that they are not even willing to engage in debate on a range of things. This is a Government that is utterly hapless, this is a Government that don't know what they stand for and this is a Government that are focussed on themselves and not the Australian public. They can't blame the Senate and they can't blame the crossbench for the fact that this Government is more interested in fighting each other than fighting for the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor guarantee to pass supply in whatever time the Government makes available?
ELLIS: Obviously we have a long history of ensuring that supply is passed. We wouldn't be looking to block supply. Obviously we will need to engage in discussions with the Government if they choose to change the parliamentary timetable.
JOURNALIST: On Insiders this morning, Arthur Sinodinos made the case for company tax cuts. Does Labor agree that that might be more effective than personal tax cuts?
ELLIS: I'm not the Shadow Treasurer, and Chris Bowen has been releasing all of our tax policy. Obviously we've made a number of announcements in this areas already. But I missed Senator Sinodinos' comments and I will have a look at them. What we are saying though is that Labor's priority is fighting for the Australian people who need our support, not Liberal cuts. What I will say is, that we will show, as we have shown previously, that we will stand up and fight against the cuts to the health system, against the cuts to the education system and against the cuts to family payments which we know will hit low and middle income families Australian the hardest, at a time then they need support, whilst the Government are finding it a priority to give tax relief to high income earners on over $180,000 a year.
JOURNALIST: On Friday, Cory Bernardi blamed Bill Shorten for inciting the people that went into his office. What's your view on this?
ELLIS: Well I didn't see those comments of Senator Bernardi's, but I would find them pretty disappointing. We've been really clear, and have made really strong statements condemning the action that we saw at Senator Bernardi's office. As I said at the time, that action was wrong, that action was dumb and that action actually undermined the point that the protesters claimed they were trying to make. We don't have any tolerance for violence, any tolerance for bullying or any tolerance for the destruction of property, no matter what side of the debate people happen to be on.