MONDAY, 26 OCTOBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Labor’s childcare policy; lack of integrity from the Morrison Government; ASIC; AusPost; need for a National Integrity Commission; incident at Doha Airport.
KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Thank you very much. Thank you for being in Yass today. I am here today with the Leader, Anthony Albanese, and our Shadow Minister, Amanda Rishworth, at the Goodstart Early Learning Centre in Yass. Childcare has a huge place in our families’ lives. For me, I had three kids, all whom went to long-day care whilst I was working. And this policy means so much to me and to people my age because we are utilising these centres on a daily basis. I had to make a decision when I returned to work about how many days I could come back to work. And it didn’t make financial sense to me to work more than three days. So, I am a big proponent of this childcare policy because I know the difference this would make to young families like my own, to many small business owners who have no choice but to pay full-fee every day. So, I'm really excited to be part of an Albanese led Government into the future, where childcare is at the centre of what it means to have an equal and fair workforce going forward. Anthony?
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Kristy. And thank you to Goodstart for welcoming us here in Yass this morning. And for the children, particularly young Sophie, who I got to enjoy some time with that this morning. This policy is about economic reform. It's about women's workforce participation. It's about lifting productivity. It's about dealing with issues of population. They're the three Ps that drive economic growth. It's also about fairness. Fairness in terms of women being able to participate in the workforce. The fact is that too many working mums can't work a fourth or a fifth day, even though they would like to, because the cost of doing so, because of the way that the childcare subsidy system interacts with the tax system, means that 80-90 sometimes 100 per cent or more goes towards childcare costs. That's not fair. It's holding back women from participating in the workforce fully. It's also having an impact on our economy. And all of the studies that have been done show that this is a policy that will more than pay for itself, because it will grow the economy. The big disappointment in the Budget was that you have $100 billion of new investment, funds created, expenditure, a trillion dollars of debt growing to $1.7 trillion over the next decade, but no reform whatsoever. Labor is putting this forward because we understand the pressure that's on working families. We also understand that the job of economic reform is never done. And we want to see the recovery grow back not just to what was there, but how we can improve society and the fair go. That's why this policy is aimed solidly at working families. But it's also aimed at early childhood education. The fact is that education is a great leveller. It is a great creator of opportunity. And you need to begin at the beginning. And early childhood education is so important. The human brain develops 90 per cent of its capacity in the first five years of life. That's why this is good for children, it's good for parents, and it's good for our national economy.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Thank you. And it's been really wonderful to visit this Goodstart centre here in Yass and see the early educators at work teaching our littlest citizens. And I just like to say a big thank you to all those educators that work so hard in looking after our youngest citizens. Well, you couldn't get a sharper contrast between the Government's Budget that has held too any people back and left too many people behind and what Labor is proposing. And this proposal for early childhood education to lift the subsidy, to remove the cap and support more women fully participate in the workforce and give children the best start to life, is a policy that's been widely welcomed across the spectrum. Families have welcomed it, because they know that this will make it easier for their family budgets and to fully get to work. Women's groups have welcomed it, because this is about supporting women's workforce participation. Economists have welcomed it, because they can see the benefit to our economy, the growth that this opportunity provides. The early learning service sector has supported it because they know that their work is essential and want to continue supporting so many families across this country. And of course, we've got business groups welcoming it, because business knows that they want to have the most productive skilled workforce. And they understand that when there are potentially the second-income earner, women in particular, that have the skills and want to work more hours, but financially doesn't make sense, then they miss out as well. So, across the board, we have the community welcoming Labor's policy, because this is the right thing to do. And I'm very proud that this policy, if elected, will really unleash economic growth, really support women are going back into the workforce and remove that fundamental disincentive, the financial disincentive, that the Government itself has built into the current childcare system that leads to women, or the second-income earner, losing money potentially on the fourth and fifth day, that it means that they actually are working for free. Now, that doesn't make sense for so many families, and it doesn't make sense for our economy. So, this is about economic reform. This is about families. This is supporting early education in this country. This is a good policy. And I'm very proud to stand with the Leader of the Opposition to back in this policy right up until election day.
ALBANESE: Thanks so much, Amanda and Kristy. Happy to take questions that are now on the phone.
JOURNALIST: Hi, Anthony. It is Sarah from the West Australian. This is really the centrepiece, early child childhood education, of the Budget Reply and what we've heard from Labor in the last few weeks. Why is it the first really big thing that you decided to announce and hone in on? We're in a recession, we're in a huge pandemic, why is childcare the most important thing and the biggest cab off the rank for Labor?
ALBANESE: Well, because it is so critical. It's so critical to families who are really doing it tough. But it's also critical that we use the pandemic, which no one wanted, to take a step back and look at what's wrong with our economy, where the economy is not working for people, where people are being held back, where they've been left behind in terms of the aspiration to be able to pursue a career to contribute to the economy. That's why this is absolutely critical. And I've looked at this policy for a while. When I appointed Amanda as the Early Childhood spokesperson for Labor, I indicated that this was the direction I wanted to go in. It seems to me that it makes no sense that we all accept that once a child turns the age of five, then the care responsibility, the education responsibility, we all as a society contribute to it in a way, that has universal access for any child to go to a public school. But before then, which is when 90 per cent of brain development happens, then that's not the case. There's something wrong there. And we need to rebalance. We need to emerge from this pandemic with a stronger economy, with stronger policy settings put in place. Not just try and return to what was there. Because what was there wasn't good enough. We did have insecure work. We did have insecure income. We saw during the pandemic, the issue of job security being a major issue where the most casual employees were the ones who were put off first. It's also the case that all of the evidence tells us that women have been particularly adversely affected during this pandemic. This is a policy that adversely affects women in the way that it is applied at the moment with that disincentive to work. So, it seems to me that it is common sense that when you've had a pink recession, what you need to do is to make sure that you address some of those imbalances. So, the two priorities we had were early childhood, our Working Family Childcare Boost policy, but also Future Made in Australia, how we build things with manufacturing, how we make sure we have a national energy grid that functions for the 21st century, how we deal with issues such as building rail here, how we improve the apprenticeships and training here as well. We had two major elements of our Budget Reply, and I always said when I gave my first vision statement in Perth and announced we would support Jobs and Skills Australia, that from the Government's first Budget, we would start to roll-out major policy initiatives. We will be having less, but they will be of great significance. And we think that this is something that we will be talking about every day between now and the next Federal election, and then look forward to implementing after the next election. Next?
JOURNALIST: Can I ask if you've heard the news, what do you make of the announcement that the Deputy Chair of ASIC, Daniel Crennan, has provided his resignation?
ALBANESE: Can I say this, that under this Government you had the ASIC circumstances, they are of great concern. Over $100,000 in legal fees paid for by taxpayers. The issue of the Cartier watches of $20,000. But that pales into insignificance compared with the bonuses that have been given. But can I say that Scott Morrison will stand in the Parliament today at Question Time, no doubt once again expressing concern about integrity issues relating to public servants. But behind him sit a range of ministers who it seems it is fair game. Stuart Robert, of course, has had issues with watchers in the past. And he has been returned to the Cabinet. Angus Taylor is involved in so many issues. We still don't know where the downloaded document came from that just wasn't true based upon the facts and the research. We still have, then of course, the AFP during that inquiry didn't make inquiries of Angus Taylor, didn't ask the simple question about where he got the document. We know that the inquiry that was set up for Michael Sukkar and Kevin Andrews, conducted by Michael Sukkar's former law firm, didn't ask the witnesses, or take evidence from people about those issues. It is just extraordinary. We shouldn't rely upon the media to expose issues. And once exposed, have Scott Morrison say there is nothing to see here. There is still the scandalous Sports Rorts where we know that the Prime Minister's office was directly involved in the intervening in that abuse of public funds. So, it is one thing for Scott Morrison to talk about public servants. But it is another thing for him to defend his ministers involved in scandal after scandal, and the involvement of his own office in the abuse of public funds from taxpayers. What I want is a National Integrity Commission that will drive home the need to have change in culture, both in the political process, but it is not surprising that public servants get confused about the role of taxpayers’ funds when the Liberal Party and the National Party seem to think that there is no distinction between taxpayer funds and their own party-political interests.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it is appropriate that he has stepped down?
ALBANESE: I think that he has clearly accepted responsibility for the issues that came out, only came out from Senate Estimates on Friday. We need to bear in mind that Scott Morrison tried to cancel Parliament for six months earlier this year. There wouldn't have been any Senate Estimates were it up to Scott Morrison. And it shouldn't need that. There should be a National Integrity Commission that can examine issues, that is a watchdog, keeping its eye on watches and other issues that are, frankly, of more significance in terms of the abuse of taxpayer funds. We have something like $5.7 billion of pots of funds set up with ministerial discretion in the Budget of two weeks ago. It is a real concern that there is no proper oversight by an anticorruption body of the use of those funds.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the treatment of female passengers at the Doha Airport?
ALBANESE: The reports are really disturbing. The idea that women could be subject to these very intrusive searches is, in my view, an absolute disgrace. The Australian Government should be demanding answers from the Qataris, the airline, but also the government that would have regulated the airports. I'm familiar with these issues. Indeed, the CEO of Qatar Airways has a role at the airport in Doha as well. And there is a real concern here. The Government needs to really make the strongest possible protest to the government of Qatar. But also, anyone who has heard those reports will be thinking with just a great deal of sympathy. And our hearts go out to the women impacted by this. This is incredibly intrusive behaviour.
JOURNALIST: What do you mean by the strongest possible protest? What should the Government be doing?
ALBANESE: I will be asking for a proper briefing as to the details. I've heard the reports. But in my view, it is completely unacceptable. The Government has a relationship with Qatar. It is in a position to regulate a range of activities. And I would have thought that it needs something other than just strong words.
JOURNALIST: Can you provide any more detail?
ALBANESE: I will wait for a full briefing about the events. But I would have thought that this requires not just words, but action from the Government to demonstrate how seriously we take this abuse.
JOURNALIST: But you won't say what action in particular?
ALBANESE: I will have a briefing, which is appropriate, when we're dealing with government to government relations. Thank you.