SUBJECTS: Child care crisis, Government cuts, Malcolm Turnbull’s wrong priorities. 

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Lot of shenanigans in Question Time. Kate Ellis is actually in the lower house, so she watched it all. Welcome to the program.




KARVELAS: Is Bill Shorten a sycophant?


ELLIS: No. I think that was a ridiculous example that was set by the Prime Minister today.




ELLIS: I think he absolutely proved the point. He spoke for 10 minutes without mentioning the pensioners who would be hit by this bill he’s introduced into the Parliament, without mentioning the new mothers who would be hit by his reforms to paid parental leave, without mentioning the families who he was ripping the family tax benefit off of them, and without mentioning families at all until the very last sentence. In fact, all he had to offer were personal attacks and I know that there were some amongst the press gallery who thought that was all very funny and entertaining, but I think it did absolutely nothing for the position of the Australian Parliament, for the position of Prime Minister and for the public’s perception of Australian politics.


KARVELAS: For our listeners who didn’t get a chance to hear him, we’re going to play a bit of Malcolm Turnbull’s spray. Here he is:


MALCOLM TURNBULL: There was never a union leader in Melbourne that tucked his knees under more billionaires tables than the Leader of the Opposition. He lapped it up, oh yes he lapped it up. He was such a sycophant, a social climbing sycophant if ever there was one. There has never been a more sycophantic leader of the Labor Party than this one, and he comes here and poses as a tribune of the people. Harbour side mansions? He’s yearning for one.


KARVELAS: He is ‘yearning’ for a harbour side mansion. He has a point, doesn’t he? Bill Shorten does have some very wealthy backers, and yet he spends all his time mocking the Prime Minister for being wealthy.


ELLIS: I don’t think he spends all of his time -


KARVELAS: He spends a lot of his time mocking the Prime Minister for being wealthy -  


ELLIS: I just don’t agree with that at all, Patricia. The 10 minutes prior to our Prime Minister ranting and raving, doing his best Barnaby Joyce impersonation today in Parliament, was spend with Bill Shorten outlining the members of the Australian community and the impacts they would feel as result of this Government’s introduction of legislation this morning. That’s what we’re meant to be focusing on. I think that it is such an insiders’ job to think that this is all very – something shiny, something entertaining, isn’t this great, this is what should be the story of the day. Well the story of the day is that once again, the Government have turned to those amongst the Australian community who can least afford it, to have money ripped out of their pockets to suit the Government’s priorities.


KARVELAS: Let’s get to the actual omnibus bill, which of course makes significant changes to the way our entire system works. Child care, family payments, paid parental leave, it is huge. Labor is opposed to these changes, why support the status quo in child care subsidies when we know many children are currently missing out on early learning because of affordability and access issues?


ELLIS: Look, I need to make absolutely clear we’re not about protecting the status quo, we are not about saying that the system doesn’t need reform. We hear the Australian parents who have been crying out for more assistance, we know that we just went through an entire term of Parliament without having any action when it came to reforming our child care system at all. And most of all, we actually see all of the research which actually shows how much Australian children can benefit from access to early childhood education. So we’re not about protecting the status quo, but what we are about is saying: one, we shouldn’t be robbing the pockets of pensioners and families and new mums to pay for it, and two, we need to get these reforms right. And I think it is astonishing that this Government have been talking about this package for so long, yet on your program, the Minister just admitted that they still haven’t got the detail right and they’re still trying to work out how many hours access disadvantaged children will get -


KARVELAS: You’re right, the Minister did just say that he was looking at increasing it to 15 hours and of course, the sector’s now tweeting about it, they’re quite pleased to hear the Minister is still consider that. If he does decide, and look I’ve watched politics for a while, it looked like he was erring on the side of doing that, if he does decide to do that will Labor get behind it? Because that’s exactly what the sector is asking for.


ELLIS: We believe that disadvantaged children should not have their access to care cut, as this Government is proposing to do. Now if they change the number of hours of access children get – and I should stress, that is not what is in the bill that was introduced into the Parliament just today, so I’m not sure when they’re intending to make these decisions and make these changes – then of course we will consider that. But what we won’t do is accept the cuts that they’ve put in place, hitting those who can least afford it, in order to fund it. I must say that I know there are those in the sector who have been arguing for 15 hours. I think that there are still some serious questions about how 15 hours would work. The Minister just said that 15 hours would mean that children had access to two days’ care, two days’ early education. At the moment that is not the way the Australian child care system works, and talking to providers, my conversations, many of them said they will not offer short sessions of care, they will not offer the six-hour sessions in a day that the Minister seems to assume are going to be available for children. So I think we’ll need to look through the detail of that. But certainly we believe that it is wrong that the Government is trying to spend more money, yet they are cutting the access of some of the most vulnerable young Australian children.


KARVELAS: What will it take to get your support?


ELLIS: What it will take is first of all, not funding it out of the pockets of those who can least afford it. But we’ve made really clear from the beginning, we are not about standing in the road of progress when it comes to early childhood education. And we’ve made very clear that the child care package itself has two overwhelming flaws – we’ve said that to the Senate Inquiry, we’ve said that publicly all along – that the Government needs to fix the activity test and make sure those children who have the most to gain from access to early childhood education don’t have their access cut -


KARVELAS: It looks like they’re going to address that.


ELLIS: We hope so. As I said, that is not what is in the legislation introduced into the Parliament today. So I’ve known for a long time this Government is a shambles, but when this legislation hasn’t even stood up for 12 hours, then they just demonstrate that again. But the other issue which you also indicated is there are some serious flaws in this package when it comes to the most vulnerable children in Australia, when it comes to those Indigenous children in remote communities, which as a result of the Government’s proposals face the very real prospect of having their services closed. And children in regional and remote Australia, whose funding is being threatened for their mobile services. This is something we’ve also been pointing out to the Government, and we need them to address that.


KARVELAS: Kate Ellis, thank you so much for coming on the show.


ELLIS: Always nice to be with you Patricia.