SUBJECTS: Early childhood education; Emma Husar; Princes Highway; Electoral fraud; NAPLAN; overseas aid.

FIONA PHILLIPS, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR GILMORE: Well thank you everyone for coming here today. I’m here with with Tanya Plibersek, the Shadow Minister for Education and we've just done a visit to Jerry Bailey Children’s Centre at Shoalhaven Heads for Early Learning Matters Week. We have just had an amazing tour, we have met the most wonderful children and early learning workers, I think we've seen a squirrel. We've seen the wonderful learning that is so important for these children to help prepare these children for school. I'm just so excited that Tanya has been able to visit the children, the staff and this centre as well because we know that early learning matters and it's absolutely crucial for young people going forward to schools and further on. I'm really concerned as well obviously about the changes to the child care benefits Scheme that will see 953 families disadvantaged or worse off in the Gilmore electorate. I'm just going to hand over to Tanya to speak a bit more about that. Thank you.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you, thank you Fiona. It's so great to be here with Fiona Phillips and we have as Fiona said, just visited the most delightful early learning centre. We're here during Early Learning Matters Week because we know that those years nought to five are so very important in giving children the best start in life. Parents of course are their first educators and it's important to support families but child care centres like the one we've just visited provide an absolutely vital service, preparing young people for school and for their lives ahead. We know that child care is absolutely vital for working parents, nobody can go to work unless they are confident that their children are getting high quality care in an appropriate setting. But we know that child care is more than just babysitting for working parents, it's an early learning opportunity. That's why it is so very difficult to understand the cuts that this government is making to the availability of childcare and early learning across Australia. As Fiona said almost a thousand families will be worse off in Gilmore because of the changes that the Government’s made to childcare benefits. Right across Australia about 280,000 families will miss out or see their subsidies reduced, many of these families are amongst the poorest families, that means the poorest kids are going to miss out on early learning opportunities. We also heard just this week that the government has said that they will not fund pre-school beyond the year 2020, that means more than 300,000 children will miss out potentially on a pre-school education, in fact about 350,000 children miss out on pre-school from 2020 onwards. Here in the electorate of Gilmore that would be about 2,000 children  missing out on a pre-school education. What we know is that pre-school sets kids up to be successful learners at school. We know it makes the world of difference to a child's education to get that early pre-school opportunity. When Labor was last in government we increased pre-school attendance from 77 percent to 93 percent of children and it would be devastating to see those numbers go backwards because of the Liberal Government's cuts. When Labor was in government we also improved the quality of childcare with a National Quality Framework for early learning that again this Government has undermined. So they've made it harder for families to afford childcare, parents are choosing between paying for childcare and other family necessities, they've made it less likely that children will be able to go to early learning centres like this, they've reduced investment in quality, there are cuts all around. Now I don't understand any government that thinks it's more important to give a $17 billion tax cut to the big banks than to properly fund early learning opportunities for our children. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: Should Bill Shorten have known earlier about the Emma Husar investigation?
PLIBERSEK: Look I don't think it's reasonable to expect the leader of a party to know the ins and outs of every staffing arrangement in every MP's office. What we have now is an independent inquiry that will be concluded, I believe, very shortly. It's important of course if staff make allegations that they've been poorly treated, that those allegations are properly investigated. It's important that the person about whom the allegations have been made receives natural justice and has the opportunity to answer those allegations - that is best done with an independent inquiry, with a well respected person running it like Mr Whelan, that's what we've done.
JOURNALIST: Will the results of that be made public?
PLIBERSEK: I think it's clear now that Emma Husar has experienced an awful lot of personal stress, her family has been through a lot during this inquiry and she's made a decision not to re-contest the next election. I think it's important now that this matter is laid to rest because it's not just difficult for Emma, it's very intrusive for the staff that have been involved. Many of these staff would have presumably made contributions to the inquiry expecting that what they say would be kept confidential - so I don't know the status of the report. I think what we need to do now is ensure that the report completes its work.
JOURNALIST: Tanya, the electorate's had a gutful of infighting, the Libs are constantly at each other’s throat here and Labor's in hot water now with this Emma issue, when are both sides of politics going to stop focusing on themselves and start focusing on the things that matter to the things that matter to their constituents? 
PLIBERSEK: Well I completely agree, wouldn't it be great if we had a Prime Minister right now who instead of cutting funding for early childhood education, cutting $17 billion from our schools, cutting hospital funding, undermining Medicare, instead of doing that actually focused on making people's lives better. We have got a government that's cut penalty rates, so people are working on Sundays for less money this year than they did last year, and less money than they did the year before. That's what Ann Sudmalis is delivering for the people of Gilmore, that's what she supports, let’s talk about that.
JOURNALIST: Has the situation damaged the Labor Party?
PLIBERSEK: Well the previous question I think tells you all you need to know, what we are focused on is delivering a great school system, fantastic early education for our children, a strong Medicare system, investment in our hospitals, great jobs with decent pay and conditions, pay rises to deal with the fact that the cost of everything is going up but peoples wages aren't keeping pace. That's what we're focused on. 

JOURNALIST: Tanya would it have impacted on the reputation at all?
PLIBERSEK: Look I think it is important to deal with these issues quickly, thoroughly, properly - with a proper process. But we are focussed on what matters in people’s lives, the healthcare they can rely on, a great education for their kids, a decent job with decent pay and conditions, hope for the future, good infrastructure, cheaper energy prices, a clean environment, dealing with climate change, this is what we’re focussed on. 
JOURNALIST: Tanya what about the Princes Highway, in July Labor's Pat Conroy visited Gilmore and had a look at a 59 km stretch of the Princes Highway; does Labor have a funding commitment for that deadly stretch of road?
PLIBERSEK: Well I will let Fiona answer the local questions about local roads infrastructure, but I can tell you that we are absolutely committed to investments that make a difference, including upgrading roads and upgrading rail, port and airport facilities right across Australia. We know that in regional areas like this, road safety is not just about convenience, it’s about saving lives, making sure that the roads that we are drive on are convenient, yes, but safe too so that we save lives in regional communities. Fiona, do you want to add any comments about the Princes  Highway?
PHILLIPS: Yeah sure look the Princes Highway upgrade is of utmost importance, so we have seen particularly that stretch of road from the Jervis Bay turn off further south in the Gilmore electorate and further on as well - there are real safety upgrades that need to happen there in terms of upgrading. If you look at Mad Mile further down south, just south of Batemans Bay, so what I am doing is having a look at those projects and you know putting cases forward through to Anthony Albanese, so he is the Shadow Minister for that so that is certainly something that we are following up on and we will have a lot more to say before the next election. 
JOURNALIST: When we will have some sort of commitment?
PHILLIPS: Well look at this stage as I've said I have brought Pat Conroy here, we have had the Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and we will be having a visit by Anthony Albanese as well. So I think it is important that we do that, we have not seen that from the opposition - we haven’t seen any federal funding like that, for the Princes Highway. We have seen the Mad Mile project which has been like that for a very long time so you know I am bringing the Assistant Shadow Minister here, the Shadow Minister and that's because we have got to identify the projects and seek funding because that just hasn't happened in the past. 
JOURNALIST: So is Labor willing to take the lead and actually put a figure out there?
PHILLIPS: Well we are certainly looking to identify the projects, and where possible put business cases forward to attract federal funding. 
JOURNALIST: Tanya this morning in Albion Park, an ex-Labor staffer has actually been sentenced over electoral fraud, what does this mean for I guess the integrity of the electoral role and democracy as a whole?
Well I think anybody who has done the wrong thing should be punished, and I don't care whether they are people on our side or the Government’s side, or minor parties, if people do the wrong thing they should be punished. If the courts have found that someone has done the wrong thing, good luck to them they need to face the full force of the law. 
JOURNALIST: Just back to education, why should parents have faith in NAPLAN results if the agency responsible for them doesn't and is it time to pause these tests given the concerns about the reliability?
PLIBERSEK: I am very disappointed that it has been revealed over the last few days that the move to NAPLAN online testing is seriously flawed because data from the online tests can’t be appropriately compared with data from the old pen and paper tests. It is concerning for parents, because what parents want to know is if their kids are falling behind in a particular area, that that gets picked up quickly, it’s dealt with effectively by the school. Principals are saying that they have got programs available to help kids who are falling behind - they need the information to know which children to offer those programs to. It is important that we sort this out. I think over time a move to online testing will be beneficial because we will get information much sooner and in a much more finessed way, a graduated way where we can tell very clearly where children need extra support in their learning. But like the census, like the personally controlled electronic health record, like the NBN roll out, like the robo-debt problems - there is not a big project that this Government does not stuff up in the implementation. 
JOURNALIST:  Tanya a new report has found Australia is still by far the largest aid donor in the Pacific, do you think fears of China's rise in the region has been over hyped?
PLIBERSEK:  Well I think if you look at the years that the Lowy Institute report is looking at, you will see that yes there is a significant Australian amount of aid money donated in those years, but you will also notice that in more recent times Australian aid funding has decreased substantially and Chinese aid funding has increased substantially including the provision of soft loans, so called soft loans. It is absolutely vital not just because we have a moral responsibility to our near neighbours to make sure that they have a decent quality of life and the ability to lift themselves out of poverty but also for strategic reasons, that Australia continues to have good strong partnerships in our region, and reducing aid funding and allowing other entrants into the Pacific aid arena I don't think is in our long term strategic interests.