Doorstop interview with Anthony Albanese and Michelle Rowland – Labor’s Working Family Child Care Boost

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

MAYOR TONY BLEASDALE, BLACKTOWN CITY MAYOR: Well, welcome everybody. It’s my great pleasure as the Mayor of Blacktown City to welcome the Leader of the Federal Opposition, Anthony Albanese, today. We are absolutely delighted with his announcements in regard to childcare. As you know, Blacktown City, a city of 400,000 people, and of course, many, many mums who are struggling in regard to childcare. The announcement by Anthony Albanese is absolutely welcomed within Blacktown City by myself, my fellow councillors, and of course it will resolve and assist the important part of childcare for mums and dads throughout Australia. So, it gives me great pleasure also, of course, today to welcome Anthony and also, of course, Amanda Rishworth MP, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Shadow Minister for Youth. Ms Rishworth is, of course, from Adelaide, a great place as you and I know. Michelle Rowland MP, Member for Greenway and Shadow Minister for Communications, welcome, Michelle. And, of course representing Blacktown City Council, Robert Sullivan, who, of course, is looking after 26 of our childcare centres. So, having said that, I need to say no more. And welcome Anthony Albanese, the Federal Opposition Leader, to expand on what the announcement is all about. Thank you. Anthony? Michelle, I am sorry.

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS & MEMBER FOR GREENWAY: Thanks, Mr Mayor. And it’s great to have Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, here, and also my dear colleague, Amanda Rishworth. And I want to thank Kids’ Early Learning here in Lalor Park for having us this morning. We’ve had a great time with them. And I think it also reinforces the fact that quality childcare is being provided in our communities. But we need to make sure that it’s accessible to as many people as possible. And that’s why this announcement is so important. We’ve all met that local resident who says they work three days a week, doesn’t work four or five days, because if they work any more than three, they’ll end up losing money. That kind of scenario happens far too often. And invariably, it happens to the mum. So, this is a critical economic measure. This is about ensuring that more women can stay in the workforce, that they can be assured that they won’t be losing money, and in fact that they can aspire to go further in their careers when they want to. So, this is all about facilitating choice. This is about equity. And above all, this is about an important economic initiative for our nation. I welcome it. And I particularly thank Anthony, as I know Amanda does as well, who has been working on this policy so diligently. Anthony needed very little convincing of the importance of this, not only for women, but for our entire economy. So, thank you very much, Amanda. I’ll hand over to you, Anthony.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Tony, for the welcome back to Blacktown City. I’m a regular visitor here with Michelle. And also, of course, with Ed Husic, who also represents this community, which is the largest local government area in suburban Sydney and an area of huge growth, as well. And, of course, my colleague, Amanda Rishworth, who’s doing such a fantastic job in early childhood education. The fact is that last Tuesday night was a missed opportunity. What we were left with was $100 billion of new spending, a trillion dollars of debt, and no reform whatsoever. Nothing to show for it at the end, except for all of that debt. On Thursday night, we took the opportunity to advance a significant economic reform in the Labor tradition, making a difference to people’s lives, growing the economy, making sure, as well, that we identify where that growth can be. There are three Ps to economic growth. You can have population, participation or productivity improvements. This proposal does all three. It increases women’s participation. Takes away the disincentive that is there for women to work a fourth or a fifth day. That will be a huge driver of productivity. It also, of course, will mean that people will have more economic security when they choose when to have their first child in a family or the second or the third. The fact is that we need to identify where future growth will be. And we need to make sure arising out of this economic crisis, that we have something to show for it. That we don’t seek to just return to what was there, we seek to grow the economy and to improve Australia. This will make a difference to kids. The kids who are learning here today are part of every child who needs the best opportunity in life. Children grow their brain capacity to 90 per cent in their first five years of life. That’s why early childhood education is so important. But this is also good for families, in terms of making sure that there’s not that disincentive to work, making sure that women can continue to contribute in terms of their careers. And also, it’s good for the national economy, making a big difference. We know from figures released just yesterday that childcare costs in the last year under this Government had been double the inflation rate. Double. And we know that there’s been an increase under this Government of something in the order of 36 per cent in childcare costs since 2013. This is a Government that is presiding over a system that isn’t fair, that has disincentives to work in it, and needs to be fixed. If this Government won’t fix it, a Labor Government that I lead will. And we will introduce these changes from 1 July 2022, abolishing the cap on childcare subsidy, making sure that the subsidies increased to 90 per cent and then tapering off. And in our first term, have the Productivity Commission examine these changes with a view to moving towards a universal subsidy and looking at the economics of that. That’s what real reform looks like. It’s Labor Governments that do real reform. Whether it’s paid parental leave, the National Broadband Network, whether it is Medicare, whether it’s compulsory superannuation. All of these changes, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, all of these changes are what Labor does. Making Australian society better and stronger and fairer. That’s what we’re determined to do. This reform proposal is in that tradition.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well, thank you. It’s really, really wonderful to be here at Kids’ Early Learning. And I would just like to thank all the educators that showed us today just how great early learning can be. And we got to sing along and see them doing some science experiments. That’s what high-quality early learning looks like. And, of course, we don’t need to be reminded that not only do we need high-quality early learning, but it needs to be affordable. And yesterday, the information released by the Government itself showed that childcare fees are growing, and they’re growing at a rate much higher than CPI. Not only nationally do we see the childcare fees growing double that of CPI. But here in Blacktown, we see it even growing larger than the national average. Indeed, childcare figures here in Blacktown grew 5.7 per cent. That means that over time, parents are paying greater and greater out-of-pocket costs. And it is a disincentive for many of the second income earners, particularly women, to go back to work. So, we don’t need any more reminders that this is an area that needs to be reformed. And what Anthony has done is laid out a bold platform of reform to make early education and care, childcare, more accessible, more affordable to 97 per cent of families. This is an economic growth measure that analysis has suggested will grow our economy a significant amount. Estimates between 4 billion to 11 billion have been suggested as a result of this type of policy. So, this is a really exciting measure. This is about real reform. It’s about coming out of this recession better than we were before. And this is what Labor is all about.

ALBANESE: Thanks, Amanda. Happy to take questions. We’ve had some difficult ones from the one to five-year olds in there. So, we’ll see how it goes.

JOURNALIST: Opposition Leader, on tax cuts. Would you rather scrap or scale back stage three tax cuts?

ALBANESE: Well, that is a question for Josh Frydenberg. It was Josh Frydenberg that raised on Sunday himself that the reason why stage three of the tax cuts weren’t brought forward was he wanted to get bang for his buck. Josh Frydenberg has questioned the Government’s own policy by saying it doesn’t provide bang for the buck. We argued in favour of the bring forward of stage two of the tax cuts. We will make our policy positions clear well prior to the election. But what we did say last year, when the Government was proposing tax changes for 2024/25, we said that was a triumph of hope over experience to know what the economy would look like in 2024. And haven’t we been proven correct?

JOURNALIST: So, you indicated on Q&A that you gave an indication that you would repeal them?

ALBANESE: No, I didn’t. No, I didn’t.

JOURNALIST: So, are you saying you would prefer to scale it back?

ALBANESE: No, I’m not. No, I’m not. I’m saying, and what I said on Q&A, and what I’ve said consistently, is we’ll make a decision closer to 2024/25. That’s what I’m saying. That’s what I said. And I’ve been consistent about that, since last year. I don’t believe that what you do is, five years in advance, think that you know what the economy will look like. But then again, this is a Government that last year not only put these changes through, they, at the time, were saying the Budget was ‘Back in black’, you might recall. And then produced, that very same year, the largest deficit in Australian history, only topped by this year’s deficit, which is the largest deficit in Australian history. And next year’s deficit is actually the third largest deficit in Australian political history. The year after that is the fourth largest deficit in Australian political history. So, when you’re running these huge deficits, what you need is an economic policy for the times. What this Government has done is essentially just hope that the market will sort itself out, that everything will sort itself out. They don’t have to look at areas in which you can grow the economy. They’ve thrown $100 billion of new spending in the Budget last Tuesday, and they have nothing to show for it.

JOURNALIST: If you were in Government, in terms of the decision you would make in this financial circumstance we are in, would you be talking about scaling it back?

ALBANESE: I’m not in Government. I hope to be in Government. And we’ll put forward proposals well before the next election of precisely what we will do in terms of our economic policy. But what we’re doing here today is talking about an economic strategy. One for growth. One that helps women’s workforce participation. One that boosts productivity. One that produces a positive return. All of the analysis of Grattan Institute, KPMG, others who have a look at childcare, come back with a figure, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less, but a figure of around about $2 return for every dollar that’s invested. That’s why this is good policy.

JOURNALIST: Can you describe what scaling back stage three tax cuts might look like for you?

ALBANESE: We will make policy very clear before the election. It’s up to Josh Frydenberg to explain why it is that his policy says that it won’t deliver bang for the buck. It is up to Josh Frydenberg to explain why that’s the case. And I note the Prime Minister has made some comments about top end. He’s the one criticising this childcare policy for helping people across the board. We make no apologies for that. Real economic reform is about measures such as this. Their big criticism of this, I thought two days ago, was that it helped middle-class people. Well, the fact is, of course, you get 14 times the support if you’re on $80,000 compared to if you have a family income of half a million dollars. And the Government has ignored that. But it seems to me that they’re very confused at the moment. This is a week after their Budget and they’re talking about Labor’s policy and Labor’s frame. And that’s because they haven’t got much to talk about themselves.

JOURNALIST: So, in terms of that comparison of high-end versus middle-class, what salary would Labor consider high-income?


JOURNALIST: And so, in terms of a figure for families who are trying to understand?

ALBANESE: I don’t argue, it’s Josh Frydenberg who argued, on Sunday, Josh Frydenberg said that you don’t get bang for the buck from his stage three tax cuts. It’s up to him to explain what he meant by that. I think I know what he meant, which is the lower the income, every economist will tell you, the more likely you are to spend it. That’s just a fact. It’s one that Josh Frydenberg acknowledged. But specifically, as to what he meant by that, it is really up to him to explain.

JOURNALIST: Do you have a figure for what you consider high-income?

ALBANESE: It’s a question for Josh Frydenberg. I just said, mine.

JOURNALIST: Anglicare says that there should be more jobs created in the public sector to help provide employment opportunities. Do you think that idea has merit?

ALBANESE: Well, I think that the public sector has a role in creating jobs in the private sector. That’s why we proposed the support that we did for social housing, to provide jobs for tradies fixing up assets, which are public assets. So, that would have a benefit in terms of employment. It would have a benefit in terms of making the quality of life for people who are living in public community housing that much better. And the proposals that we had are the ones that we put forward. A Future Made in Australia is about making sure that we make trains and build things here. It’s about having lower energy costs. It’s about having an Australian Centre for Disease Control. It’s about making sure that one in ten on any publicly funded infrastructure project is an apprentice or a trainee. It is a comprehensive plan to make our economy more resilient. On top of that, the other centrepiece of our Budget is this childcare policy, which is about assisting people throughout the economy. And that’s our focus.

JOURNALIST: And since your Budget in Reply speech, do you think you are winning the trust of the Australian people?

ALBANESE: Well, I’m out there arguing the case for economic reform in the Labor tradition. One that understands that we want to grow the economy, not as the end in itself, but so that we can assist people, so people can have a higher standard of living, so that we can lift up opportunity and create opportunity for people in communities like here in Blacktown. The Government’s approach seems to be that they’ll just put money out and hope that it works. They don’t have a clear strategy whatsoever. And I’ve spoken to small businesses since they made their announcement last Tuesday. They are hoping to survive this pandemic, as opposed to put on more staff at the moment, or as opposed to looking at increasing their investment in upgrades to their business. They’re hoping to get through this crisis, many of those small businesses. I’m concerned that this Government doesn’t really have a plan for the economy. They didn’t have one last year, which is why it was struggling. Wages were stagnant, productivity going backwards, consumer demand going backwards, business investment falling. That’s why the Reserve Bank kept intervening to lower interest rates. I’m concerned that this Government doesn’t have a plan. All they have a plan for us to criticise Labor. And one week after their Budget, once again, they’re talking about us, rather than talking about themselves, because they really don’t have anything of substance in last Tuesday’s Budget. It’s beyond belief that you can produce $100 billion of new spending and produce a trillion-dollar debt and have nothing to show for it.

JOURNALIST: Could I just clarify with a yes or a no if an income of $180,000 is considered high-income?

ALBANESE: Well, quite clearly, in terms of if it’s a family income, many people on that amount will be struggling with a mortgage, with the bills they have to pay. The fact is that I defined myself as being high-income. It’s up to Josh Frydenberg to talk about why it is that he walked away, in the leaks that came out before the Budget, having leaked out that they were going to bring forward all the tax cuts, stage two and stage three, the Government changed its mind. And Josh Frydenberg has said that he changed his mind because they wouldn’t get bang for the buck from those changes.

JOURNALIST: And so, in terms of a family?

ALBANESE: I’m about opportunity. I’m about opportunity. I’m here with a policy that’s been criticised for helping people on $180,000. I make no apologies for the fact that we’re doing that with this proposal. Thanks very much.


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