THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
THE HON AMANDA RISHWORTH MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
SHADOW MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE PERSONNEL
MEMBER FOR KINGSTON
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR WENTWORTH
MONDAY, 24 SEPTEMBER, 2018
SUBJECTS: Liberal cuts to early childhood education; Ban on non-educational inducements in early childhood education; School funding; Wentworth by-election; NSW Government chaos; Michelle Guthrie.
KAY TURNER, CEO OF SDN CHILDREN’S SERVICES: Welcome to SDM Paddington, my name is Kay Turner and I'm the CEO of SDN children's services. SDN wants children to thrive through learning and healthy development. The early years are absolutely vital, it's at this time the child's brain develops faster than at any other time in life and the environments and relationships that children experience, not only influences their learning but can influence their very biology. So early childhood educators have a huge responsibility. The quality of our educators has the most influence of the quality of the early childhood education the children receive. And so we support policies that prioritise and invest in early childhood education but also policies that invest in quality, well trained and well paid early childhood education workforce. Our children deserve no less than this. So it's with this in mind, I welcome to SDN Paddington, Tanya Plibersek, Amanda Rishworth and Tim Murray, welcome.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thank you Kay.
TIM MURRAY, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR WENTWORTH: Morning, I'd like to welcome Amanda and Tanya here today to the electorate of Wentworth where I am bringing up my family. I have three young children and my wife is an early years educator. A vote for me in the by-election will be an end to the cuts and chaos in early years. I'd like to hand over to Amanda now to talk in more detail.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Thank you and it's been really wonderful to be here to visit this fabulous centre and I'd like to thank Kay and Christine and all these early educators that do an amazing job at investing in those young years. For Labor, we believe in investing in the early years and we believe giving children the best start to life is the best possible thing we can do. That is why we've been fighting against the Liberal Party's cuts to preschool. As it stands now, we have no guarantee for funding for universal access to preschool past the calendar year 2019. That would leave many, many children around the country without that important investment in the year before school. We also know here in Wentworth, one in two families are worse off as a result of the Government's childcare changes and we know across Australia the majority of those are in lowest two income brackets.
But of course today, Labor is also announcing another important policy. We have been very, very disturbed about some of the reports coming out where centres have been offering inducements for families to sign up to lock in contracts. Whether that's thousand dollar payments up front or hotel resort weekends, we don't think that has any place in our early year system. That is why Labor has said that if we are to be elected, we will ban non-educational inducements to lock in parents to childcare centres. The Commonwealth invests such a huge amount in the early years and we don't want to see that used to mislead parents or trap them into contracts by using non-educational inducements. We want to see early learning centres thrive like the one here and we want to see them thrive and compete on quality, on great nurturing and investment in our children and not on cheap giveaways. So this is a policy that we think is really important, that we're really proud of and as a result we will ban these inducements by stopping the subsidy for those centres that offer these inducements. So Labor will have more to say on our early education policy, but this announcement today is a big plank in our early years policy.
PLIBERSEK: Thanks so much Amanda and thanks Tim for that introduction as well. Thank you Kay Turner for having us here today and thank you also Christina and all of the staff of SDN Paddington. My first two children went to an SDN service, not this one but another one and I know the fantastic quality of care that is offered by these dedicated early childhood teachers.
It's also a great pleasure to have the union here with us today, United Voice. United Voice have been standing up for decent pay and conditions for early childhood educators. It makes no sense to me that someone with a certificate three in early childhood education gets paid about $20 an hour, it's not fair to pay people who are looking after our youngest Australians, so little for the important work they do.
Now we're here today talking about education, we're focusing on the early years because those early years are so very important for children. It is absolutely unconscionable that so many families have been left worse off by the cuts and chaos of the Liberals when it comes to early childhood education. We know here in the electorate of Wentworth, about half of families will miss out because of the changes in the childcare funding formula. We know across the country that thousands of Australian families will be worse off. The number here in Wentworth is about three and a half thousand Australian families worse off because of the changes. And across the country, many of those families are low income families as Amanda has said.
We're also very worried about pre-school. Now after calendar year 2019, there is no funding in the budget for universal access to pre-school. Universal access to pre-school ensures that children start school ready to learn. Those investments in the early years have such an enormous payoff right across the life of a child in their social and emotional development, in their readiness for school, early literacy and numeracy skills. They start school ready to learn if they get that chance of pre-school. What kind of Government would deny four year olds the chance to go to pre-school? What kind of Government would do that?
And just last week, we saw another example of wrong priorities in education. Labor has stood side by side with Catholic and independent Schools demanding that the billions of dollars cut from their school systems be restored. But what kind of Government says, okay we'll restore the cuts to Catholic and independent Schools but not to public schools which educate two thirds of Australian children. Public schools that educate the majority of children from rural and regional areas, the majority of Indigenous kids, the majority of kids from poor families, the majority of children with a disability. What kind of Prime Minister says to some families: `Yeah, we're going to fund your kid's school’, but to other families: `No sorry, you're on your own’. Last week was a classic example of a Prime Minister that is determined to divide Australians, not to unite them.
I'm really pleased to be standing here with Tim Murray because he understands how important it is to invest in early childhood education and schooling. I think it helps that his wife is an early childhood educator and he's got three kids of his own. He's a local, he knows the situation of local families here and through his involvement in things like the Tamarama Surf Club, he has contact with thousands of families that are telling him his stories about their lives, their day to day lives. Having someone that's local rather than a blow in from Turramurra certainly makes a difference in understanding the local issues and having someone who's got someone at home talking to them about early childhood education means that Tim's not likely to make the sort of mistake that David Sharma made and say that teachers are only working part time jobs - they're only working 9am to 3pm and got 12 weeks off a year. I noticed that Mr Sharma apologised for those comments but not until he became a candidate in a by-election. I think that tells you a lot about his value for education.
I'll just finish by saying this; over the last few days, we've seen this chaos in New South Wales. Is the Deputy Premier going to knock off Ray Williams, is Ray Williams going to knock off the Deputy Premier and Treasurer? What kind of extraordinary chaos has infected the Liberal Party? One minute, the New South Wales Liberals are complaining about the division and disunity of their federal colleagues and blaming by-election losses on that division and disunity. And the next minute, they've imported it here to New South Wales. And you see the same divisions and disunity. The difference is: Labor is focused on what matters to people. Today we're making new announcements in early childhood education and care. On the weekend, we were talking about the gender pay gap. We'll continue to focus on what matters to Australians rather than on ourselves.
JOURNALIST: If we could return to child care and early education in just a moment. Could I ask you for your initial reaction to the news that the ABC board just removed Michelle Guthrie as Managing Director of the ABC half way through her term?
PLIBERSEK: I have got to say that I am perplexed. I heard the report just before this media conference. I had a look at the statement from the Board, I don't think that really clarifies matters. At a time when we've seen tens of millions of dollars cut from the ABC, I think what Australians would like to see is certainty, predictability and to see the funding restored. Of course, Labor has committed to restoring more than $80 million of funding cut from the ABC most recently. I'm going to ask Tim to add a few words because I know that the ABC is a huge issue here in Wentworth.
MURRAY: Thank you Tanya. Many people have raised the issue of restoring funding to the ABC, and returning independence to the ABC. A vote for Labor in the upcoming by-election will see independence and funding restored to the ABC, and stop the Liberal Party's intention of privatising the ABC.
PLIBERSEK: Thanks Tim. Any other questions?
JOURNALIST: With regards to Labor's childcare plan, when will it be announced?
PLIBERSEK: We've made a number of announcements about early childhood and the quality agenda, as Amanda has just pointed out. Making sure that early childhood centres compete on quality and also of course offering parents a good price for their day to day fees, rather than the strange kind of inducements we've seen - iPads and weekends away and so on. And what you know for certain is that Labor will always stand up for early childhood, for quality and availability of early childhood education. We've been very critical of the Government's cuts. We've been very critical, not just of the changed formula which leaves so many families worse off, but also the cuts to the national quality framework. Making sure that early learning opportunity like this genuinely is good quality so that children are starting life with all of the social, emotional, and educational supports they need to be successful in life. That's what early learning should be about. It's not just babysitting. The Government changes suggest that it's simply babysitting for working parents. We have a very different view about early learning.
JOURNALIST: Parents using childcare have just been through many major changes, how do you think they would react if Labor were to make other major changes to the system?
PLIBERSEK: Well our focus will always be on making sure that childcare is good quality, available, and affordable for parents, I'm sure that as we say to parents, your child care if going to be good quality, affordable and available they'll welcome it.
JOURNALIST: And with regard to funding announced for the Catholic and independent Schools sector, if Labor were to be elected, would you remove that fund?
PLIBERSEK: No we've stood side with the Catholic and independent schools from day one, arguing that the billions cut from their sectors should be restored. We agree that funding should be restored to Catholic and independent schools. We just can't believe that this Government hasn't also restored funding to public schools that teach two thirds of Australian children. The guy who is Prime Minister now, was Treasurer. He was the Treasurer that wanted to cut $17 billion from schools, and give the banks a $17 billion tax cut. You can see his priorities. He's thrown a few billion dollars on the table for Catholic and independent schools because it's a political problem inside the Liberal Party. That's why he's done it. Not because he wants to see a great education for every child. He's trying to, as he says, remove the barnacles. He's trying to clear the decks. He's trying to get the Liberal Party focused on winning the next election. This is a Party that is consumed by itself, by its own self-interest, its own focus on the next election. When what it should be consumed by is: what will benefit the Australian public. So here you have a decision that is simply made to put to bed internal conflicts in the Liberal Party, internal conflicts in the Government, instead of looking at what genuinely needs to happen to ensure every child in every school, in every part of Australia gets a great education. This is the Government that is still saying that public schools in the Northern Territory are over funded under their formula. How can a Federal Government look at the Northern Territory, with the small remote schools that need so much support, even to get teachers there in the first place, and say that those schools are over funded? It's beyond me.
JOURNALIST: One more question if I may. Michelle Guthrie was notable in that she was the first female managing director with the ABC. The Board is now actively looking for her replacement. Would you like to see a woman in that position?
PLIBERSEK: I think it's very important that senior management positions across the public and private sector better reflect the Australian community. Of course I think that [as] women have half the talent, half the ability, they should make up half of the senior executive positions we see in both the public and private sector. But I'm not going to start pointing out which particular jobs should be held by women. I think we need to work towards a better balance. Labor's already announced policies in relation to the gender pay gap, we've said in the public sector that we'd like to see positions at the senior executive level be improved, 50/50 as soon as possible, but as for individual positions I think that's best left for another day.