Oct 9, 2020







SUBJECTS: Federal Budget; Budget reply; Labor’s Working Family Child Care Boost; childcare; women; manufacturing; economic reforms; energy prices; Labor’s plan to Rewire the Nation; jobs for Western Australia; JobSeeker; South Sydney Rabbitohs; NRL.


OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: Australian Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, has put childcare system reform in the centre of his Federal Budget Reply speech last night. The Opposition Leader, he argues simplifying childcare will boost women’s participation in the workforce. Albo can tell you more, he is on the line. Welcome back to Perth Live.




PETERSON: Under your plan, 97 per cent of families would be able to save up to $3,000 a year and no family would be worse off. How does it work?


ALBANESE: How it works is, essentially, first thing, it removes the cap. Because that’s the big thing that makes a difference in terms of a disincentive to work. It then provides an increase in the subsidy to 90 per cent. And that tapers off down to $530,000. But we also said that in our first term we will have a Productivity Commission have a look at how this change is operating and to see whether we move to just 90 per cent universal across the board. So, this is about a simplification of the system that will benefit families. I, frankly, think that the system is so complex at the moment, the interaction with the tax system. The real problem is that so many women out there who want to work full-time, once they go past three days, if they work a fourth day or a fifth day a week, then, essentially, they’re paying 80-90, sometimes 100 per cent just goes straight to childcare. So, it provides real disincentive to workforce participation, which is a handbrake on productivity in the economy. And that’s why so many business organisations have been asking for reform. This is real reform that will make a difference.


PETERSON: It has been wildly welcomed by a lot of interest groups. But I’ve also seen some modelling which shows a family with two kids at childcare, earning under $70,000 a year, would save $1,700 dollars a year under your plan. But if the family earned $360,000 a year, it would save $11,000 a year. Are you able to justify giving more money for childcare to the wealthy?


ALBANESE: Well, this isn’t a welfare program. I mean, I’m amazed that you have the Coalition that has complained in the past that Labor doesn’t support aspiration. Because the system is so complex at the moment, when you look at the graph of how the system works, it’s not a slippery dip, it is sort of up and down and across. And it’s incredibly complex. There are real disincentives there. This is a simplification of the system. Yes, there are benefits across the board. Overwhelmingly, the majority, overwhelming majority, of benefit is to low-income earners and to the lower/middle-income bracket. But yes, it is true that in terms of some people who aren’t low-income earners will also benefit from this policy. But, overwhelmingly, it is aimed at the low- and middle-end, but it’s also aimed at being an economic reform. And, Oli, if a man is on $200,000 a year, $250,000 a year, and the woman in the relationship, or vice versa for that matter, wants to work also, then there’s no reason why we should have a system that encourages a complete disincentive. And that’s why we’re looking at moving towards universal provision. When someone goes into Perth Hospital, they don’t check out their bank account. Medicare is universal healthcare. People can go to a public school, regardless of their income as well. It’s one of the things that benefits from universality is that you have much more broader support for the system. And if the Coalition want to argue that the current system is working, they should go and talk.


PETERSON: How much is your plan going to cost, Anthony Albanese?


ALBANESE: It will cost $6 billion over the forward estimates. That’s the cost. But there’s a revenue coming back for that. Because what happens is that productivity will increase. And every serious economic study, our costing was modelled by KPMG, every serious economic model shows that every time you would invest $1 in childcare, you get at least $2 back in terms of benefits for the economy.


PETERSON: Why have you put childcare as the centrepiece of Labor’s policy agenda?


ALBANESE: Because there are three things you can do to boost the economy. Population. Productivity. And participation. This is the easiest way in which you increase workforce participation, which is one of those big three Ps. It also boosts productivity. So, that’s a double tick. And it also will assist with population at a time when, for the first time in our lifetime, more people will leave Australia this year than come here. We have emigration, not immigration to Australia for the first time, as long as you and I, Oli, have been walking on this earth. And what this will do, one of the disincentives for people to have more children is economic uncertainty, the insecurity of being able to be certain that another child or a first child can be afforded. And that’s why this is also good in that measure. But particularly for participation and productivity. This is about how you boost the economy. It’s also the case that on Tuesday night, we saw a Budget handed down that will deliver a trillion dollars of debt, and not one bit of reform. Not one thing that will last. Not one piece of policy legacy from this Government. We need to emerge from this crisis even stronger. And the way to do that is economic reform.


PETERSON: 9221 1882 is our open line. Is cheaper childcare a vote winner? My guest is Anthony Albanese, the Australian Labor Leader. Now, you’ve also pledged to spend $20 billion on rebuilding the electricity transmission network, focusing on renewables. There’s obviously jobs in this. Will it also lead to our listeners paying less for power?


ALBANESE: It will, absolutely. And the Australian Energy Market Operator makes it very clear that the benefit from this is more than $40 billion. They’ve already done the plan. The Integrated Systems Plan, that identifies how we upgrade the grid to the 21st century. The grid was there from a time when we thought of solar power as being something that we had on our calculators at school. What it is now, of course, one in four households have rooftop solar. The potential that is there, the potential in the west is quite enormous, actually, and quite exciting that you have solar farms to be exporting energy to the east coast, taking advantage of the fact that when it’s still daylight and the sun is still shining in the west, it is the peak hour on the East Coast as well. One of the things that we need to do is to make sure that we modernise the grid. This is technology-neutral, but it makes sure that the power that we produce can actually be given at the cheapest cost possible, which is about also making manufacturing and other activity cheaper as well, which will boost jobs directly. But it’s also, of course, about making household power cheaper as well.


PETERSON: The Government likes gas. Does Labor?


ALBANESE: Yes. We regard that gas is going to continue to play an important role. It plays an important role in energy, but specifically it plays an important role in production and in manufacturing. It plays an important role in our exports in terms of LNG is a major source of income for Australia. And, of course, nowhere more so than in the west.


PETERSON: The Government’s Budget has a big emphasis on getting young people into work. But despite the Prime Minister’s assurances right here on Perth Live yesterday afternoon that the wage subsidy is only for new jobs, some of our listeners, Albo, they say that their children are already seeing their hours reduced, like Andy. Now, could this be an unintended consequence of the $200 wage subsidy policy, and not just affecting young people already employed, but also discriminating against older unemployed Australians? Because won’t employers just prioritise hiring younger workers, so the Government can pay some of their wages?


ALBANESE: Well, it’s a real concern that is there that the Government, of course, we’ve seen real problems with people who took their super out, who weren’t eligible. We’ve had all sorts of fraud committed there. We’ve seen some activity and JobKeeper as well, and abuse of that system. We’ve seen millionaires getting JobSeeker. We’ve seen a range of problems with the way that the Government has rolled-out its plans. And on this plan, explicitly, they are saying that if you are over 35, and when we raised this in Parliament, the Prime Minister referred to someone as being over 35 as being senior Australians. I’m not quite sure that’s right. But you’ve had your wage subsidies cut this week, you will have your wage subsidies abolished in March. If you’re on unemployment benefits, then you’ll be reduced to poverty levels of $40 a day. And you’ll have to compete to get back into the workforce with someone who can get a wage subsidy of $200. So, it will be even harder for you. So, there is a real concern with the Budget that just too many people got left behind on Tuesday night. And that’s not a good thing because that will make the Morrison recession deeper and longer.


PETERSON: Just finally, are you nervous that the Eels will win the Rabbitohs season tomorrow night?


ALBANESE: I’m pretty confident having watched us beat the Knights last week. We will wait and see, of course. South Sydney fans, we have a bit of a joke that when you have a win, you wake up in the morning and you check the papers just to check that you haven’t blown sometime after full-time. We’re always nervous until the full-time whistle. But we’ve hit form at exactly the right time. The super coach, Wayne Bennett, is doing a great job. Cody Walker’s the best player in the comp, I think, at the moment, the form player. And if they play like they have against the Eels last time, we beat them 38-0, against Manly or against Newcastle or against the Roosters, which was a highlight.


PETERSON: Why did I ask?


ALBANESE: 60 points versus the Roosters. For the AFL fans, that is like the Eagles or the Dockers scoring 300. The highest score we’ve done since 1938.


PETERSON: All right. Well, I wish you well on the weekend. And I appreciate your time. Good luck to the Rabbitohs tomorrow night over the Eels.


ALBANESE: Thank you. And thanks for the last question. It, sort of, has picked me up on what has been a very long week.