Friday, 09 October 2020
ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Good morning. My name is Alicia Payne and I’m the Member for Canberra. And it’s so wonderful to be here this morning with our Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, and Shadow Minister for Early Childhood, Amanda Rishworth, to discuss this fantastic announcement that Labor has made for early childhood education and care. Last night, Anthony delivered our Budget in Reply speech and outlined a different vision for Australia’s future. One that is inclusive. One that backs Australian workers, renewable energy and Australian jobs. This Government has abandoned so many Australians throughout this pandemic and now in their Budget. They have abandoned Australian women in particular throughout this pandemic and ignored them again in their Budget. How can the economy recover if people can’t access affordable childcare to return to work? They simply can’t. And that’s why this announcement is such an important economic reform. This announcement will mean that 97 per cent of families will have more affordable childcare. And this is fantastic news for Australian families. For our youngest Australians, who will benefit from quality early childhood education and care, for our economy, which will become more productive as more people can return to work. And for Australian women. The only way we will ever address gender inequality in the workplace is when the care of children as well as work responsibilities are shared. And affordable childcare is absolutely key to that. So, I’m really, really happy to be here today and to hand over to Anthony to talk more about this really exciting commitment. Thank you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Alicia. And congratulations, as well, because we were joined by our littlest Labor Party supporter of just, how long?
PAYNE: Three weeks.
ALBANESE: Three weeks old, her new daughter.
Look, last night, Labor put forward a vision for the country. A vision where no one is left behind but no one held back. A vision of economic reform. A vision of creating jobs in the short-term but thinking about how we cannot just return to what was there before, but build a nation that is stronger, that is more inclusive, that is fairer. And that starts with one of the groups, if you can call them that, who were left behind by the Budget on Tuesday night. Happens to make up 51 per cent of the Australian population. And that’s women. Women were just a footnote on Tuesday night. And we know that women have been particularly disproportionately affected by the pandemic. We need to look at how we grow the economy. And there are three Ps that you can do. Population. Participation. Productivity.
What our childcare announcement is about is participation of women in the workforce, and also about boosting productivity. This is good for kids. And I want to thank the YWCA for having us here at this centre today. The fact is that the human brain develops some 90 per cent of its capacity in the first five years of life. We want every kid to have the best start in life. And good quality childcare can do that. But it’s also about participation in the workforce and about making sure that we boost our economy. Last night, I presented a plan which had two centrepieces. One, childcare. Making sure that productivity is enhanced, that women can participate in the workforce. Making sure that the current circumstances whereby women are faced with a choice of if they want to work a fourth or fifth day in a week, they have to give up 80-90 sometimes 100 per cent of their income just to pay for childcare costs. What that does is discriminate. What that does is to reduce the possibility of women’s full participation in the workforce, something that isn’t equitable, something that holds our economy back, something that’s been identified as holding our economy back. The response that we’ve had to last night’s announcement, I must say, is extremely positive, from Australian families and from Australian business. They’ve said this is the sort of productivity enhancing reform that we need as we seek to not just to recover to what was there, but to something better arising out of this crisis.
We also put forward a Future Made in Australia. A comprehensive plan for job creation, for skills development, for advanced manufacturing, to lower energy costs by fixing up the transmission system that’s based upon last century’s technology, a plan to make sure that we maximise benefit for Australian workers and the Australian economy from the spending that government does, whether it be in defence procurement, or whether it be in making rail carriages for trains. We need to make sure, as well, that we prepare for the next pandemic through manufacturing. That’s why we’re supporting an Australian Centre for Disease Control. We need to deal with immediate job creation. That’s why we are supporting the upgrade and maintenance of social housing. We also foreshadowed further action to build new social housing.
The fact is that Tuesday night’s Budget is left with a legacy of a trillion dollars in debt and nothing else. No plan for the economy, no plan for the future, no plan for serious job creation and growth into that future. Labor wants to create wealth. And we’re unashamed about that. We want to create wealth, but we want to see it then shared fairly. And we want it shared amongst men and women. What this announcement on childcare is about is just that. Enhancing the participation in the workforce of women. A good outcome for them, a good outcome for the economy, a good outcome for families, and a good outcome for our kids.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well, it’s wonderful to be here at this early learning centre. And just like so many around the country, I would like to thank not only the early learning sector directors but also the educators, who have worked through this pandemic and made sure that children continue to get the high-quality care that they deserve. Of course, what we know that Labor’s policy will ensure that in the long-term, little children will get the support and care and education they deserve by these incredibly skilled educators. But in addition, what our policy does is really not only allow more children to benefit from early education and care, but it unleashes our female workforce participation. It ensures that the second income earner doesn’t have to turn down hours or turn down days of work because it just costs them too much. This is incredibly good for families. But it’s also incredibly good for the economy. And that is why so many business groups have been calling for this. Because they know if they have a good employee and that employee would like to work more hours, but tells them, ‘I just can’t. I just can’t because it costs me too much’, then that’s not only bad for the family, but it is bad for the business as well.
Economists have been calling for this. Business groups have been calling for these. Families have been calling for this. But the Government has not acted. It has fallen on silent ears. Because, of course, the Government is not listening to the plight of families. It’s not listening to the issues that are affecting everyday business and everyday families. And they are just not acting for any long-term reform. That is what our plan is doing. It is putting in support for families right now. But looking towards the long-term as well. Looking to ensure that we have economic reform that will grow our economy. This is a really, really important piece of public policy. And I’m really proud to stand with our Leader, Anthony Albanese, who has had the vision and foresight to put this on the agenda to ensure that we have a very clear and detailed plan about how we would move forward to make childcare more affordable for families, ensure more children enjoy the benefits of early education, to grow our economy, and help business and our economy recover from this pandemic.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much, Amanda. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Is there a huge waiting list for childcare, in your electorate in Sydney? I am sure that is the case, but you hear stories of women putting their kids on waiting lists as soon as they are born. Are you confident there are enough childcare places and staff for people to actually take advantage of this?
ALBANESE: I’m absolutely confident that what we’re doing in foreshadowing a change to take place from 1 July 2022 is giving full notice about where we want to head at stage one. And then to have a Productivity Commission review in our first term about our vision for universal provision of affordable childcare, which is what Labor has. That is our starting point, where we want to head. This is a first-stage reform. And we’re confident. We’ll have a whole range of policies that will roll out between now and the Federal election. One of the reasons why we’ve rolled this out as part of the Budget Reply in 2020, is we’re saying what we would do in two years’ time.
JOURNALIST: How can you guarantee childcare centres won’t increase fees and prices as a result of this?
ALBANESE: Part of the announcement we had was that the ACCC will be tasked with ensuring that the benefits of this are passed on to families.
JOURNALIST: It is not really guaranteed, though?
ALBANESE: That is a guarantee because the ACCC has the power to do this. We believe in proper regulation. A centre like this operates incredibly well. We’ve spoken to the operators here, the YWCA, they make sure that the early educators here are well-paid, they’re well-trained. The beneficiaries of that are the children who come here. And the beneficiaries of that are something else too. The entire Australian economy. Because what we’re doing is investing in our future.
JOURNALIST: How much of the $6 billion will go to higher incomes earners?
ALBANESE: We’ve put it out a full costing each year. The fact is that we make no apologies for the fact that we don’t regard this as a welfare measure. And people will benefit from this, everyone earning up to $530,000 a year. But overwhelmingly, the majority of the benefit is for low- and middle-income earners. They are the big winners out of this package. They’re the people who are in most need, as well. But we do want to change the discussion about childcare. It’s not a welfare measure. It’s an investment. It’s an investment in our future Australians. It’s an investment in our families. It is an investment in our productivity that will produce a return to government.
JOURNALIST: Labor took to the last election a policy to increase the wages of childcare workers. Is that something that you’d be looking at down the track as part of this? Or is this just purely on the family side of things?
ALBANESE: The announcement is what it is. I’ve said when we have policies, they’re the ones that I announce. And I’ll be announcing a range of policies between now and the election. Last night, we announced a whole range of policies. We put it forward in full view. In this policy, we have attached, and we had it costed by KPMG. Other people have looked at other costings or benefits. Indeed, the KPMG analysis is pretty conservative. Grattan Institute speaks about between $7-10 billion benefit to the national economy of a policy like this. What we know is, in the business community, anyone who’s ever looked at it, says that there is a benefit. The policies are our policies when we announce them. It’s this Government that is still fighting the last campaign. We moved on. We weren’t successful in 2019. We’ll announce fully-costed policies between now and the election. The extraordinary thing is that this Government has a trillion dollars of debt that they’ve produced. Four times the debt that they inherited, and they have no reform agenda.
JOURNALIST: If you win the next election, as you just said, you’ll be inheriting an astronomical amount of debt. Are you confident the country will be able to afford this reform in 2022?
ALBANESE: I’m confident that this country needs to have an agenda to grow the economy. It needs to have a reform agenda, a productivity agenda. I’m confident that we have one. That’s what last night was about. Not just our childcare policy, our energy policy, our manufacturing policy, our policy of support for Australian skills, that one in 10 jobs on Australian-funded infrastructure projects will have to be filled by an apprentice or trainee. That’s an investment in the future. We have a strategy to grow the economy and to grow productivity. What the Government has is a grab bag of announcements that cost a whole lot of money, a whole lot more than we announced last night. And no real plan for reform and structural change in the economy. This is a Government that’s given up on reform, given up on it. And they don’t have a plan for wealth creation. They don’t have a plan for productivity. We want to mobilise women to participate in the economy. Not just because of, you know, the obvious equity concerns that are there. But that’s part of it. Labor believes in fairness. But we also believe in growth. And what this will do is grow the economy.
JOURNALIST: How is it fair then to say that someone on $300,000 would be much better off than someone on less than $100,000?
ALBANESE: Well, they’re not much better off. They’re not much better off. Because the subsidy goes to, in terms of 90 per cent, does taper down, and they’re not better off. But the truth is, that we also believe that we want people, if you’re a family, and you’re a woman who’s married to a man who’s earning $250,000 a year, why should the system say that you shouldn’t be able to participate in the workforce? That’s not fair. What is also the case is that people currently miss out. You don’t have to be wealthy. If you’re a police officer, married to a teacher, then you’re losing money. And you’re discouraged from working full-time. They are the stories that we’re hearing here. And we make no apologies for the fact that this is not a welfare measure.
JOURNALIST: As a matter of principle philosophy, would deficits be higher or lower under Labor compared to the Government? Would the savings for this be found through cutting government spending, through tax increases?
ALBANESE: The Government’s just created a trillion-dollar debt, tens of billion dollars of new money with no offsets. They are the Government. That’s what they’ve created right now. Right now, in terms of the Budget. What I’ll do is release fully-costed policies before the election.
JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee you won’t reverse the tax cuts that will go through the Parliament?
ALBANESE: The stage two tax cuts? We voted for it.
JOURNALIST: Will you ever reverse them?
ALBANESE: Stage two of the income tax cuts we supported to bring it forward. We voted for it. We argued for it last year.
JOURNALIST: Will you cancel stage three?
ALBANESE: Look, we will have all of our policies at the next election. The Government is there right now. The Government is there right now. And before we’re in a position, well before the election campaign, we will have fully-costed policies. You’ll see it all out there. But our agenda on the economy is clear. We want to grow the economy. We want to boost productivity. And we have a reform agenda. The current Government has none.
JOURNALIST: Have you given up on delivering a surplus, ever?
ALBANESE: Well, the Government has given up on delivering a surplus ever. The Government, according to its favourite think tank, the IPA, the one to which so many of them belong, the one that’s funded by some of the mates of the Government, is talking about there being deficits and red ink well into the last half of the century.
JOURNALIST: So, a Labor Government can never deliver a surplus?
ALBANESE: No, we’re not the Government. They’re the Government. And what they’ve done is last year, come along and produce mugs saying that the budget was already ‘back in black’. The fact is that just wasn’t true. They went to an election based upon a lie. And the media should hold them to account for that. The media needs to hold them to account as well for the fiscal position that they announced on Tuesday night.
JOURNALIST: Under this vision, when do you see childcare access being completely universal in the way that public schooling currently is?
ALBANESE: We have said that the Productivity Commission will do a review in our first term. This change would come in from 1 July 2022. During that first term, they’d be able to have a look at how its operating in practice. We’ve also said that the long-term objective is for universal childcare to be available on an affordable basis, so that you have a simplification of the system that will help as well. We’ve been developing this policy for months. I have a degree with many majors in economics. I’ve got to say, trying to navigate out the way that the tax system interacts with the childcare subsidy system, trying to work with the caps and the taper rates that cut in at different levels and changes as they go down, is very complex. I, with an economics degree, and we’ve sat down, we’ve had many discussions about this, it takes a long time to work it out. What hope have families got? One of the things that we need to do is to simplify the system. And to take away disincentives to work. That’s the work that we’ve done. This is a serious reform that we’ve advanced.
JOURNALIST: How long will that take? Five years? 10 years?
ALBANESE: Well, I’ve never said that at all.
JOURNALIST: Well, that is what universal childcare means.
ALBANESE: No, it doesn’t. No, it doesn’t. No, it doesn’t. Have a look at the speech and the policy. It doesn’t mean that.
JOURNALIST: Have you done any analysis on how many women will go back into the workforce?
ALBANESE: Look, were expecting, and that’s one of the reasons why the PC inquiry would look at how that is actually operating in practice. But what we know is that the expectation from every model that’s been done, whether it be Grattan, or KPMG, whether it be the whole range of work that’s been done by business groups, all consider that this will provide a substantial lift in terms of women’s participation in the workforce. And that has two factors. One is, women who are currently working three days a week, working an extra day, working an extra two days. But it also will mean women entering the workforce who aren’t currently operating. This is sending a signal, as well, that we value them. That we understand that this supports the entire economy, not just families.
JOURNALIST: On the train manufacturing announcement last night, how would you get the states to actually, given that they run the passenger train networks, by and large, how would you ensure that actually use Australian-made carriages? Would you tie Federal funding for projects as a condition of that, for instance?
ALBANESE: I’ve chaired an Australian transport subcommittee of COAG. When I did that I did micro-economic reform. We reduced the number of transport regulators from 23 down to three. That produced a benefit for the national economy model of $30 billion over 20 years. That’s productivity reform. One of the things that we’re starting to progress in conjunction with the industry, through the Australasian Rail Association, which is a body made up of operators of the rail sector, but also manufacturers, we were progressing this idea of making sure that there’s a pipeline. Because part of the problem was at one stage, for example, Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales were all in the market for new rail carriages. One of the benefits of such a nationally-coordinated approach would be to smooth out the manufacturing timetable. And if you go and talk to any of the providers, go talk to Downer EDI, they’ll tell you that if such a system was in place, the states would benefit because it would be cheaper, the purchasing. Because you wouldn’t have the competition at the same time. And also, the states, I think, hopefully have begun to realise that every time they go offshore, the trains arrive, but they can’t go on the tracks. Because in Queensland, in Maryborough at the moment, I spoke about last night, they are fixing up a whole range of the internal fit out of the trains because they’re not fit for purpose. We had the trains arrive in New South Wales that couldn’t meet the stations. So, they couldn’t go out to a range of areas. We’ve had trains arrive the wrong size for tunnels. In Sydney, the light rail network that’s being constructed now has two different gauges on it. There’s not much of it. So, you want to go from Dulwich Hill to the footy or cricket at the SCG, you got to go into a few kilometres, change and then go on a new tram to go there because the gauges are different. We can do better than this. The states would be big winners out of this. But more importantly, Australian jobs would be created. There’s a spin-off as well. Gladys Berejiklian said we can’t make trains in Australia. The fact is that the Tangara, which is the basis of the Sydney Metro network, was built in Newcastle. That was a good thing. She just imported ferries that can’t go down the Parramatta River with people on the top deck. It’s quite absurd. If you do it here, you will get a much better outcome. This is common sense reform supported by industry and will be supported by unions. And it’s something that should happen. Thanks very much.
JOURNALIST: Would you increase the GST?
ALBANESE: We have absolutely no plans. I think the Coalition is the Party of the GST, not Labor, you might recall. Thanks very much.