TRANSCRIPT: DOORSTOP SYDNEY TUESDAY, 6 MARCH 2018

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMPETITION AND PRODUCTIVITY
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CHARITIES AND NOT-FOR-PROFITS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE IN SERVICES
MEMBER FOR FENNER

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
DOORSTOP INTERVIEW
SYDNEY
TUESDAY 6 MARCH 2018

SUBJECTS:  Time Use Survey announcement; Carmichael coal mine; Batman.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much for coming out this morning. I'm delighted to be with my colleague Andrew Leigh and with Professor Marian Baird to announce that if re-elected a Labor Government would commit around $15 million to the Australian Bureau of Statistics undertaking a time use survey in both 2020 and 2027. The information collected in time use surveys is absolutely critical to making good policy in Australia. We know that there is a vast amount of unpaid caring work done in our community and while we love to look after the people that we love, this unpaid caring work is undervalued as an economic resource for our country. We also know that women disproportionately do their share of this work. About two thirds of the housework is done by women, about three-quarters of caring for children, about 70 percent of caring work in general is done by women. And what that means is reduced paid workforce participation for many of those women. It means an increase in the gender pay gap, it means women retiring with lower income for retirement than men, lower superannuation balances than men. We know that for women to get their fair share, men have to do their fair share, and these time use surveys give us an understanding of whether that's happening. The last time that we measured the value of unpaid caring work in Australia was in the late 90s, before the iPhone, and at that time, in 1997, the value of unpaid caring work to the Australian economy was about $260 billion, about half the value of GDP in that year. So the contribution of this unpaid caring work is absolutely enormous to our economy and to our society, and it's important that we have this regularly updated baseline to measure the value of that work. We know that when governments are making policies around increasing workforce participation, we have to know who's doing the work at home to be able to support people moving into the paid work force. It gives us a better understanding about paid parental leave policies, flexible work policies, other sorts of family income support policies. It even helps with things like transport planning. So it's with great pleasure that I say that we will recommit to two time use surveys, giving certainty over the next decade to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I'd like my colleague Andrew Leigh to say a few words about these surveys, and then Professor Marian Baird will say a few words too.

 

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well thanks very much Tanya. When I was working as a Professor at the Australian National University, the time use surveys were some of the data that I relied on. I was particularly proud then as I am now that Australia was a pioneer in the introduction of time use surveys. In 1992 the Keating Government commissioned the Bureau of Statistics to conduct our first time use survey and that led international researchers such as Daniel Hamermesh to come to Australia deliberately for the purpose of using those early data. That survey was conducted in 1992, 1997 and 2006. But as Tanya said, it hasn't been conducted since then. And as a result we're missing out on many of the insights that come from time use surveys. The Australian Bureau of Statistics is very good at measuring what we do with our money, but not very good at measuring what we do with our time. And increasingly we're coming to realise that time has a heavily gendered dimension. If you want to understand housework, caring for older Australians, caring for children, then you need a time use survey. It's important, as Tanya has pointed out, in a gendered dimension, for looking at how housework breaks down across husbands and wives. But it's also important for other reasons too. An emerging strand from the United States has suggested that some of the decline in labour force participation among lower skilled young men has to do with the increased use of computer games. We simply can't look at that question in Australia because we don't have the data. Labor is committed to evidence-based policy, and that means collecting the right evidence. In the United States now, time use surveys are carried out annually. They're a regular feature of Britain and Canada. But in Australia we've had a drought in the time use survey. We need to break that. We need to have the data available at our fingertips, so governments, non-government organisations and businesses can make better decisions because they better understand what Australians do with our time. I'll hand over now to Professor Baird.

 

PROFESSOR MARIAN BAIRD AO: Thank you very much. I'm speaking on behalf of academics around Australia. We have a wonderful resource in our academics in Australia, they're world leaders in the research that they do. But they can't do that research unless they have the appropriate data. And that data in the world of work and life comes from time use surveys. So we are delighted with this announcement. We have been arguing for the reintroduction of the ABS time use survey for many years, and I can assure you that it will be used as an invaluable resource for Australians. They will able to now publish their articles on the international stage, we'll be able to make comparative use of the data with the UK, with Canada, with the USA, Spain and France. All leading economies have time use surveys and it's critical that Australia does too. So once again it's a welcome announcement. It's a very useful piece of information that they collect in the time use surveys and it will feed directly into our research. Thank you.

 

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Marian. Any questions on the time use survey?

 

JOURNALIST: How would it operate?  Would it be done as part of the Census or, and what questions are you going to ask, is it just about women and housework or are you talking about people playing video games. What questions are the people going to be asked?

 

LEIGH: So the time use survey is a standalone survey which asks people to carry out time diaries. That means that at intervals through the day, you're recording what you are doing. The methodology for carrying out a time use survey has steadily improved over time. The Australian Bureau of Statistics will be working with its international counterparts, in Europe, in North America, as it always does, to gain best practice on deploying a time use survey. But it is literally a snapshot of how a representative sample of Australians use their time and therefore is able to inform a whole host of policy questions. We've outlined some of them for you today. But the great thing about providing new data is that this will help us answer questions we haven't  even thought of.

 

JOURNALIST: Ms Plibersek, putting a dollar value on something like unpaid housework, looking after children, could it, having this data, it's not necessarily going to mean that those women get paid for that unpaid work, or, you know, it's important for policy and for academics, but what is the real meaning of it, for women who are doing [inaudible]?

 

PLIBERSEK:  Well if we don't measure something we're really not valuing it appropriately. So the first step is to see the massive unpaid contribution of carers to the Australian economy or for caring work to the Australian economy. But the fact that we know that there is an imbalance in the hours contributed to that unpaid caring work between men and women does also give us a foundation for better public policy. One example is in the area of paid parental leave, we need to make sure that more men are taking their paid parental leave. It's in the area of flexible work, we know that men are twice as likely to have their request for flexible work rejected as Australian women. Now if we want women to participate more fully in the economy, if we want to see increased women's workforce participation and both the government and the Opposition share that as an objective - if we want to see women reduce the gender pay gap - if we want to see women retire with higher superannuation balances that does mean men more equally sharing the responsibilities of unpaid caring work at home. Now we can't talk about that in a vacuum, we actually have to know what we are dealing with and these sorts of surveys give us a really good starting point to value that unpaid caring work and to have the conversations about what sort of changes we need to make, including in government policy, to support a more equal sharing of paid and unpaid roles.

 

JOURNALIST: Would that potentially mean forcing companies to make their male staff members take parental leave? I think they do that in some Scandinavian countries, is that the kind of thing that you're talking about?

 

PLIBERSEK: This survey gives us information about how people are spending their time. What we do with that information will vary considerably over the years but having the base line, having the information lets us make good decisions about government policies in all sorts of areas. We've named some of them but there are issues like women returning to the workforce, the impact of effective marginal tax rates on whether returning to work is attractive or not. This type of information gives us a baseline for making all sorts of decisions.

 

JOURNALIST: Just on another topic...

 

PLIBERSEK: Sorry are we done on the time use survey now?

 

JOURNALIST: On Adani, does Labor support the Adani project if it stacks up both economically and environmentally?

 

PLIBERSEK: It just doesn't. I mean, we've been looking at this project for a couple of years now and you've got a project that has overstated the number of jobs that it's likely to create, to the tune of several thousand. You've got a project where it's reported that they've been doctoring environmental samples, when challenged about the pollution in their local area. You've got a project that no one wants to finance, they can't get private sector finance for this project because the world understands that the global economy is changing, the demand for this type of coal is reducing. This is not a project that stacks up environmentally or economically and today we see that the Government having been thwarted by the Queensland Government, trying to give a billion dollars to this project through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund,  the NAIF, isn't able to give that billion dollars through NAIF so they are trying to give it through another set of programs, through EFIC the program that supports export finance loans. I don't see how this project can proceed given what we know about it.

 

JOURNALIST: Given Labor's on track to win the next federal election though is there the potential that investors will be put off?

 

PLIBERSEK: I think investors have made their decision, I mean this project has missed deadline after deadline, at least in part, because no one wants to put their money into it. The market has made a decision that this project doesn't stack up economically. It's missed deadline after deadline, it can't attract financing, the Turnbull Government's response is to try and throw a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money at a project that the private sector won’t back.

 

JOURNALIST: Will this position hurt Labor in the electorates effected by this decision?

 

PLIBERSEK: No because we have got a real plan for jobs in Queensland. We're not counting on an Indian billionaire with mystical jobs that originally were 10,000 or more and now we’re told would be maybe 1,400 if we are lucky in a mine that is fully automated from pit to port. We've got, in contrast to that, a real plan for jobs. We've already talked about our investment in the Gladstone Port access road, we've talked about our investment in the Rookwood wier, we've talked about our investment in the Townsville Port channel widening project. These are thousands of jobs that we are prepared to invest in, in tourism, in agriculture, in infrastructure, in Northern Queensland. Real jobs not imaginary jobs on the never never from a Indian mining magnate.

 

JOURNALIST: So what is Labor's message then to resource companies looking to establish mines in Australia?

 

PLIBERSEK: Our message is very clearly that we follow the rules. If this project is already underway, if the Turnbull Government throws money at it, we're not going to rip up contacts, we don't want that sort of sovereign risk in Australia. My view is this project can't proceed because it doesn't stack up environmentally or economically. We want investment from overseas in Australia, think about the potential for renewable energy investment in Australia - we certainly don't want to send a signal that we're not interested in investment in our renewables sector or in our broader economy, we do have to give clarity, we so have to give certainty. I think the market has made its mind up about Adani and certainly the environmental elements of this, the risk to our Great Barrier Reef, our greatest natural resource that supports tens of thousands of jobs already in Queensland - these things I think make it a very risky proposition.

 

LEIGH: Can I just a final comment on one other issue - we've seen this morning the Greens’ candidate for the seat of Batman making comments about negative gearing which are entirely at odds with her party's policy, suggesting that her party's policy is somehow an immediate cessation of all negative gearing, whereas in fact it’s nothing of the sort. It goes on to demonstrate yet again that the Greens simply haven't done the hard work on housing affordability.  This is somebody who, if elected, would immediately be a frontbencher for the Greens, would immediately hold a portfolio for the Greens, but yet isn't even able to articulate that party's housing affordability policy.  We know housing affordability is complex which is why Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen, Doug Cameron have engaged  extensively with the sector talking about the housing supply council, about carefully calibrated reforms to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount and engaging with expert bodies – from the IMF to the OECD to the Reserve Bank, to the Grattan Institute.  The Liberals’ solution to housing affordability is unfair, the Greens’ solution is inept. The Greens simply won't deliver on housing affordability. Only Labor has a clear, carefully costed plan to tackle housing affordability.

 

PLIBERSEK: Thanks everyone.