DOORSTOP: Canberra, Wednesday 2nd December 2015






SUBJECTS: Child care, cuts to family payments, GST on everything, Mal Brough, Liberal leadership, Iraq, citizenship 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thanks very much for coming out this morning. We wanted to visit this child care centre because we know that families at this time of year are winding up for the year, they’re thinking about Christmas and they’re thinking about their plans for next year. The first thing to say of course is that the families who have their children in this child care centre are facing their last GST-free Christmas. Families at this time of year are saving up to buy presents for their kids; they’re thinking about the Christmas feast that they will have. This year is the last year that they will be able to buy toys without a 15 percent GST, and it’s the last year they’ll be able to put the Christmas dinner on the table without a GST on food. We also know that despite all the Government’s big talk on child care, we’ve seen a disastrous mismanagement of the child care package. We have a Government that seems to be promising to spend billions of dollars on child care, and yet make child care more expensive for about a quarter of families and see child care costs increase, in any case, by about 22 percent. Aside from that, they’re doing nothing to improve the quality of child care, and nothing to improve the critical issue facing many parents, which is the lack of availability of child care in the first place - I’ll shortly hand to Kate Ellis to talk about the child care changes in more detail. On top of the GST on Christmas that’s coming up; on top of the disastrous mismanagement of the child care package we’ve seen from the Government, we also know that this Government is planning to reintroduce the cuts to family tax benefit, leaving many families – well over a million families – worse off with their family tax benefit. This means that ordinary families will lose up to almost $5000. Put that on top of the GST that the Government is planning to introduce, and you see that at every turn, families will find it harder to make ends meet. I’m going to hand over now to Kate, to make a few comments about child care, and then to Jenny Macklin to make some comments about family tax benefits.

KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION & EARLY CHILDHOOD: Well thank you very much, Tanya. Before speaking about some of the concerns about the Government’s child care package, I’d just like to interrupt this broadcast to say also, Happy Birthday to Tanya Plibersek – and what better place could you begin your special birthday than back at this absolutely beautiful centre where we can see firsthand the amazing work that these professional educators are doing each and every day with some of Canberra’s children. Now of course, today we expect to finally see the legislation of the Government’s child care reform package. What we are saying is today we also need answers to the important questions which have remained unanswered for far too long now. We need the Turnbull Government to be clear with Australian families: how many tens of thousands of families will be worse off when it comes to their child care expenses, as a result of this Government’s child care package? How many children will be pushed out of the early childhood education sector all together as a result of this Government’s child care legislation? And of course, how many families will continue to search desperately for places, and to wait on lengthy waiting lists as a result of this Government giving up the opportunity to do absolutely anything when it came to addressing accessibility? There remain too many unanswered questions about this child care package and Labor will today be ensuring that this package goes to a full Senate Committee for examination as to the impacts on Australian families. What we do know is that this is a Government who is spending some 3 billion dollars to make child care more expensive for tens of thousands of Australian families. The time for them to duck questions and to evade giving answers on these important issues has come and gone. For legislation to be before the Parliament today, the Government needs to be honest with the Australian people. Just how many families are they kicking out of our child care sector? And how many families are they ripping money out of their pockets and making child care even more expensive? It is important to note that when the Government said that they would reform the child care system to make it more affordable and more accessible, they did not tell the Australian public that in the time since they announced this reform and the time that any of these reforms would come into effect, there will be a 22 percent increase in child care fees that Australian parents face, and that is without even considering the impact that the GST will have. Malcolm Turnbull needs to front up, needs to answer these questions today: Australian families deserve to know the damage that is being done to the child care sector.

JENNY MACKLIN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAMILIES & PAYMENTS & FOR DISABILITY REFORM: Thanks very much everyone. Today we will also see the reintroduction of major cuts to family tax benefits that will hurt around 1.6 million Australian families and 3 million children will be hurt as a result of the cuts that this Turnbull Government wants to impose on Australian families. If this is the case, these cuts to the family tax benefits show that Mr Turnbull is completely out of touch with the needs of Australian families. These cuts will mean the end of family tax benefit end of year supplements. This is worth more than $700 per child for every family that’s eligible for family tax benefit part a, and it will mean the end of family tax benefit part b supplements, that’s worth more than $300 a year per family. When you add this up, together with the cuts to family tax benefit part b, that will especially hurt single parents, some families, particularly some single-parent families, with a couple of teenagers, will be worse-off – worse-off by more than $4700 each and every year. That is what Malcolm Turnbull is saying to Australian families. He is going to cut their family budget by around $4700 each and every year. And that is the Christmas present that Malcolm Turnbull is delivering to Australian families.

GAI BRODTMANN, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Just before we go to questions I just again want to wish Tanya a Happy Birthday and thank Robby and her fantastic team of educators here at MOCCA, this is an iconic childcare centre, it’s been around for over 50 years here in Canberra. it's got intergenerations of families that have come here and it's wonderful to be back with the Labor female team here to share in the great, this wonderful centre, so thank you again Robby.

PLIBERSEK: Okay, any questions?

JOURNALIST: With child care first I wanted to ask, I think the Government's going to announce that they'll be rebates for people earning up to $250,000. Do you think that that threshold is too high? Should it be lowered?

ELLIS: Look the simple answer is until we see the detail of the Government's child care package then we can't really make judgement on a lot of these clauses. What we do know is a few things though. We know before the last election that the now government made a promise to the Australian people that they wouldn't means test the childcare rebate - that is a promise that will be broken when this legislation is introduced into the Parliament today. We also know that this is a Government that is spending $3 billion yet is making tens of thousands of Australian families worse off which is a pretty extraordinary achievement in itself. What we do want to do is make sure that this legislation is examined carefully and closely so that we can see what - any impacts would be on either children falling out of the early childhood sector or parents falling out of their workforce participation as a result of the impacts.

JOURNALIST: But generally when it comes to stuff like government assistance it's for people that need it most. Would you argue that someone earning, a family earning $250,000 is a wealthy family and potentially doesn't need any assistance?

ELLIS: Well as I said we want to have a clear look at the impact that this would have on workforce participation and particularly the impact that it would have on the second income earners workforce participation, which is important when you're looking at child care reforms. But we've made clear right from the outset that our primary concern is about the low and middle income families who are being hit hard as a result of these reforms. We will be closely looking at the vulnerable and disadvantaged children who will fall completely out of early childhood education as a result of these reforms, but obviously this is complex legislation which will impact on families across all income levels. Labor will stand up and make sure that we do not give the Government a leave pass that we closely examine the detail and the impacts of this legislation would have.

JOURNALIST: Tanya why is Labor moving a no-confidence motion this morning in Mal Brough, I mean he hasn't still been charged with anything even though there is this Federal Police investigation. Should the police investigation happen first and then a decision on his future to be made?

PLIBERSEK: Well we've got a Minister who's in charge of upholding integrity in the Parliament, who's actually been accused of some very serious matters - accused of asking a staff member to take diary copies of his former employer. But what we saw yesterday is this same Minister actually alleging that 60 Minutes had doctored an interview that went to air; that’s been proven false. So as well as the initial suggestions of wrong doing in the Ashby affair we now have the Minister seemingly misleading the Parliament yesterday. The question is if Mal Brough won't stand aside, what will Malcolm Turnbull do. Malcolm Turnbull showed a lack of judgement when he appointed Mal Brough with these questions hanging over him, he's now showing a lack of leadership by not taking action to stand Mal Brough aside while this issue is resolved.

JOURNALIST: Are you expecting the Prime Minister to stand him aside or are you expecting Mal Brough to potentially stand aside himself by tomorrow before Parliament rises for the year?

PLIBERSEK: Well the right thing for Mal Brough to do would be to stand aside but if he doesn't do that Malcolm Turnbull should make him.

JOURNALIST: On the Julie Bishop, Tony Abbott spat, Labor's been through this sort of stuff as well. Do you have any advice to the Liberal party on how they should handle this issue?

PLIBERSEK: No I'm in a position to offer that sort of advice but what I would say is that the role of the Foreign Minister is one of the most important roles in our federal parliament. It’s a role that deserves a person’s full attention and full focus. It's apparent that despite the fact that Julie Bishop is trying to keep a low profile in the leadership tussle within the Liberal Party, in fact she's been up to her neck in it for many, many months before the Prime Minister - before the previous Prime Minister was finally deposed. So I think its important first of all that the Foreign Minister focus on the very important job of being the Foreign Minister and it's up to people in the Liberal Party to determine whether what she claims about her loyalty to Tony Abbott is actually true.

JOURNALIST: Earlier in the week at the doors Stephen Jones says that Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, do have some explaining to do, they should clarify to the public about their role in toppling Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison as well. Do you think there is a need to make some sort of clear explanation on what happened?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I'm not going to offer a running commentary on the leadership battles within the Liberal Party, I think there’s plenty of media coverage of that as it is.

JOURNALIST: Overnight the US defence secretary Ashton Carter said that the US is planning to deploy more specialised forces to help Iraqi forces, more US specialised forces to help Iraqi forces. Does this mean that Australia should now reconsider its position with our forces, especially in Iraq and Syria?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we've responded strongly as a nation to the request from the Iraqi government to help it protect its people and its territory from IS, which is a brutal invading force. As a nation Australia has actually contributed very substantially, we are the second largest contributor so far to the mission in Iraq and of course our mission has extended air flight over Syria as well. On a per capita basis we are the largest contributor. So I don't believe at this stage that we should necessarily be expanding what we're doing.  What I say we should be doing is contributing to the international effort as we are doing to combat IS but also contributing to international effort to find a political solution to the problem in Syria. It is complex, it is difficult but it will not be resolved until we find a political solution for Syria. And thirdly, we need to continue to contribute to humanitarian assistance, to Syrians and Iraqis displaced from their homes. We have millions of people now who have had to flee IS or fighting more generally, in many cases flee the attacks of the Assad government on its own people. We have a responsibility to as a good global citizen, particularly as winter approaches and we have Syrians living in tents in the snow fearing they will freeze to death or starve to death. We can do more in a humanitarian sense.

JOURNALIST: On the citizenship bill which is expected to pass today. Why is Labor giving its support to the government given that you haven’t seen advice from the Solicitor General?

PLIBERSEK: Well we have worked very hard with the government over many months now to take a bipartisan approach to keeping Australians safe. There's certainly - it’s plain has been an increased level of threat to Australian citizens and we need to respond to that, keeping in mind our most important responsibility as government and opposition is to keep out citizen safe. At the same time, the work of our members on the National Security and Intelligence Committee has meant that over a hundred amendments have been made to several tranches of government legislation to ensure that we not only keep Australians safe but that we do our very best to ensure that our rights and our way of life are protected also.

JOURNALIST: I was just going to say Jenny, can you tell us is the government going to support any, sorry is Labor going to support any of the government’s family tax measures?

MACKLIN: Thanks very much, well there are four new bills being introduced today and if they contain the measures that were in the same legislation just a couple of weeks ago Labor will be opposing the abolition of the end of year supplements and we will do everything in our power to make sure that these cuts to end of the year supplements and to family tax benefit part B, the remaining cuts to family tax benefit part B are opposed right through the parliament. So we will do everything we can to stop these cuts that will hurt the lowest income families in this country. They will really hurt very low income families and we'll do all we can to stop them.