SUBJECTS: Budget 2019; Childcare; Labor’s fairer tax cuts; NDIS.

KIERAN GILBERT, CO-HOST: Tanya Plibersek, thanks very much for your time. 


GILBERT: So, how do you provide the tax cuts for those under $40,000 a year - two thirds of those are women, it's going to be a big focus for Mr Shorten in his Budget Reply tonight. Explain to those who are asking, you know, including James and others - how do you provide that tax relief when they don't actually pay that much tax?

PLIBERSEK: Well, people below about close to $19,000 are in the tax-free area but there are a lot of people between that amount and $40,000 a year and in fact, we had a bigger, fairer set of tax cuts that we proposed after the last Budget that was bigger and fairer for this group under $40,000 a year as well.

GILBERT: And you will go further tonight? 

PLIBERSEK: The Government has ignored, ignored that...

GILBERT: You will go further than that $350 figure that James refers to?

PLIBERSEK: No no it'll go further than the Government's proposing. We're proposing a tax cut that is about 30 per cent larger for those people earning less than $40,000 a year. Now, I think it's only, really a Liberal Government that thinks it's fair to give that group - if you're on $35,000 a year, you get a $250 a year tax cut and if you're on $200,000, they want to give you $11,000 a year. We think it's fair that the 3 million people earning less than $40,000 a year get a look in as well. This Government has forgotten them - just yesterday they had to fix up their energy payment because they'd forgotten people on Newstart, widows’ pensions, double orphan pensions, veterans' payments; a whole group of people on very low incomes. This is a Government that is focused on the top end of town.

LAURA JAYES, CO-HOST: So, Labor says it will be the party for working mums. Is that all mums or just some? 

PLIBERSEK: What do you mean? 

JAYES: Well, the childcare subsidies - basically, the fundamental question comes down to: should any woman - no matter how much they earn - ever have to choose, make that decision and look at how much they earn and say 'well, it's actually not worth me going back to work because the cost of childcare doesn't cost- is not covered by what they earn’.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I think there's something wrong with a system that drives skilled women out of the workforce because they can't afford childcare. So, we've committed, as you know...

JAYES: Do you accept that women are making that choice now under this Government?

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I think some people are. 

JAYES: But they would still be making that choice under your Government wouldn't they?

PLIBERSEK: Well, what we know with the last lot of childcare changes under this Government, a quarter of families were left worse off, some of those were on very high incomes but a lot of them were on very low incomes as well. So, we need to get childcare subsidies right and one of the...
JAYES: For both ends?

PLIBERSEK: Of course, yeah. One of the big things that we did - we announced already that we will continue to fund preschool for four year olds permanently. This Government, in the Budget, has done that for just one more year - so preschools can't plan, kindies can't build or extend, they can't get loans because they don't know whether they're going to get Government funding the following year. So, we need to make that permanent and we've also said we'll extend it to three year olds as well. Because when you look at highly performing education systems around the world, they have three and four year old kindy. And it is making a huge difference to our kids' learning outcomes and it's - so it's about tax, it's about wage equality as well. We still have a significant gender pay gap in Australia, it's reduced a little bit because men's wages have not been growing as fast in some male-dominated industries. That's not a way to fix the gender pay gap - so we've got measures to fix the gender pay gap. 

GILBERT: In terms of the, in terms of the 'aspiration' issue because this was something that, in years gone by, was a very important cohort in the electorate - in terms of aspirational voters, something that John Howard tapped into very successfully but do you lose the sense of, you know, aspirational - for workers to want to earn more when you keep a deficit levy even though the deficit's gone. Well, will be gone next year. 

PLIBERSEK: If someone offers you a pay rise, do you knock it back? Does anybody? I mean, I really do, I really do think that focusing on low income workers is very important for their family budgets...

GILBERT: No, it is important that you can lose people...

PLIBERSEK: So, childcare costs are up, healthcare costs are up...

GILBERT: ... you can lose people overseas can't you?

PLIBERSEK: Just a sec though. So you need to fix low income workers for the family budget, but it's also really important in our national economy.

Because people on low incomes go out and spend that money, they drive consumer confidence and spending which means that the rest of the economy's functioning well. I think for people on- everybody up to $126 000 a year, they're getting the same tax cut or a bigger tax cut under Labor. We proposed those bigger, fairer tax cuts last year. They can judge us on that record. I really think that this is a Government that is too focused on this $200,000 a year person who is mysteriously going to knock back a pay rise because of the tax rates. I haven't met a lot of people in that group, I've got to say.

JAYES: But, I mean, are you drawing the line there at $120,000 wage...

PLIBERSEK: $125,000 - $126,000.

JAYES: Yep $125,000 - $126,000. I mean, is that classified as rich?

Because you know, looking at your electorate in particular, if you look at a family, perhaps both people are earning $126,000 a year, they might be paying $160 a day for childcare. You know, those choices are being made, and I would suggest in your electorate and many others around the country - so what do you do about that, and it comes back to that choice that I don't think any family should have to make?

PLIBERSEK: It's what we can afford as a nation. So we have to, in my view, skew our tax cuts to people on low and middle incomes, and that's important for them in their family budgets, and it's important for us as a nation. And if we're making choices between properly funding our hospitals, properly funding our schools, funding preschool for three and four year olds, then those people on above $180,000 a year, where we're keeping the temporary tax on higher income earners, I think making that contribution to all those programs that all Australians rely on is fair.

GILBERT: The NDIS has been the focus of claims of under-funding.


GILBERT: Mr Morrison says it's not underfunded, it's just been taking longer than expected. Will Labor commit to returning all the funds that you say have been withdrawn from the NDIS? And will you fix the system? Because it's quite clear the administration is not much chop.

PLIBERSEK: Yeah, so, it's a demand-driven system, so he's technically correct in saying it's not underfunded, it's just that the NDIS roll-out is not keeping up with where it should be. 77,000 more people should've got an NDIS package this year than did. That's what the underspend represents. The reason it's rolling out so slowly is there's a staffing cap on the National Disability Insurance Agency, the programs that are being written or the packages that are being written for people are being written very slowly, it's a little bit inconsistent...

GILBERT: So you'll return the funds? You'll quarantine those funds?

PLIBERSEK: It's a demand-driven system. We will fund it appropriately. Of course, however much has to be spent to properly implement the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be spent under Labor. But what we need to do is remove the staffing cap on the National Disability Insurance Agency, make sure the packages are rolling out at a faster rate, make sure that we're properly paying for the services. There were service providers leaving the disability sector because the pay rates for their services were too low, and we have to engage people with lived experience of disability in running this system, to make sure that it works for them and for carers.

JAYES: Tanya Plibersek, a pleasure, thank you. And we'll speak to you next time when we're in an election campaign proper I think.

PLIBERSEK: Look forward to that.

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  • Rebeccah Miller
    published this page in Transcripts 2019-04-04 10:30:46 +1100