Thursday, 04 April 2019
SUBJECTS: Income tax cuts, Scott Morrison failing Australian Children, the Liberals unfair child care system
TOM CONNELL: Joining me is my first guest of the day, Shadow Minister, Amanda Rishworth here in the studio. Thanks for your time.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Great to be with you.
CONNELL: We have all been given these, ‘Labor’s tax bill pamphlet’. We have probably got a spare one if you need a copy-
RISHWORTH: I haven’t had a copy but I can imagine what it says.
CONNELL: Well it does mention at the start- I mean this is true, Labor’s $200 billion of higher taxes. I mean this has been a part of your platform for a while, various ways you are raising money to obviously make your own priorities, that is true isn’t it. So it is $200 billion of taxes over ten years that you are putting on the economy.
RISHWORTH: This scare campaign that the Liberal Party is running about tax and Labor is just that- a scare campaign. Of course, what Labor has said is we have different priorities when it comes to tax, tax concessions in particular and when they are talking about things like negative gearing, we have been upfront with the Australian people and say we don’t think that is where the tax concessions should be targeted and in fact what our policy is, is to give low and middle income earners better tax cuts than the government. It is all about priorities about where you want to see tax burden and tax cuts and Labor has been really clear about our priorities, the Liberal Party has also been clear, they want to give it to large companies, multinationals and millionaires.
CONNELL: Well what do you mean by large companies? That policy has gone, you have got the same policy on tax now for companies.
RISHWORTH: Well is it gone? They have been forced to put it back in-
CONNELL: -Josh Frydenberg was asked about this yesterday and gave nothing on it, so-
RISHWORTH: Of course we know they have been forced to because they couldn’t get it through the Senate. Who knows what will happen in the future but the priorities are really clear between Labor and the Liberals; their focus is on giving tax cuts to high income earners and Labor has said we want to prioritise low and middle income earners.
CONNELL: Yeah, so we will see that with Bill Shorten tonight, particularly with those people earning less than $40,000. What about the people earning more than $125,000, should they get tax relief at some stage?
RISHWORTH: At the moment the government is not even providing them tax relief until after two elections time. This government has put these things off into the never-never in terms of their tax relief but our focus has been- and as we said: our priority has been on low and middle income earners and you will hear more about that from Bill Shorten tonight. Our priorities have also been on other important priorities and one of them is in my portfolio of preschools-
CONNELL: I want to get that in a moment but I just want to focus on tax for the time being. Yes, the government has a plan that doesn’t kick for a while, the main benefit for people over $125,000 doesn’t kick in for a while but do you think they do deserve -that cohort relief at some stage or is that just not a priority now or not ever?
RISHWORTH: I just think that this pitch that the Liberal Party has done to those people is a political pitch, not a reality pitch because-
CONNELL: Its legislated.
RISHWORTH: It relies oi two elections time, I mean that is-
CONNELL: But its legislated.
RISHWORTH: A very long time in politics but there is absolutely no guarantee that the Liberal Party will deliver that and quite frankly it is a political document-
CONNELL: Labor has said- okay but it is legislated and Labor has said it will reverse that legislation that implies that you don’t think that by 2024 that cohort should get tax relief. Would it be at a later stage?
RISHWORTH: Our priority, as we have said- and you will hear about Bill’s priorities tonight- is that we think people on low and middle incomes are doing it tough. When you have a look at the comparison and lets be really clear about the comparison: you have got someone on $35,000 from the Coalition getting less than $5 a week tax cut and then someone on $200,000 getting an $11,000 a year tax cut-
CONNELL: And I understand that and this is the argument Labor is putting out there and you are talking about fairness but do you concede as well people on higher brackets will need tax relief, the incentive if you like?
RISHWORTH: At the moment we are looking at where our priorities are, where people are doing it tough and particularly we think for those low and middle income earners, when I am out talking with them they honestly are saying the economy isn’t working for them.
CONNELL: On childcare funding; there is another year of funding for four year olds, this is what has happened in the past and I know you like to highlight it but they have done it, year by year and they have done it again- they’ve funded it. You seem to be sceptical about it, the money is there.
RISHWORTH: It is for one year, 2020.
CONNELL: That is what they have done every time though, year after year.
RISHWORTH: They have done it grudgingly because there has been a campaign against them not funding it. The government, I think has had this on its agenda, not to continue funding. Usually around September, October, November- before the money is set to run out in December they are faced with an overwhelming campaign and they grudgingly rollover for one year. Now, they have said the excuse this time is participation rates. Well, they have been talking about that for three years and my understanding is that they have never really addressed this with states and territories so it is just an excuse.
CONNELL: How would you improve participation rates?
RISHWORTH: We need to have a good working with the state governments about what are the barriers? What are some of the issues? Some of the barriers are in rural and regional areas but not putting money on the table is not the answer.
CONNELL: So the issue is, the government is funding four year old care at the moment, not three year old. You want to fund three year old care even though at the moment you have got one in three children not attending for the full time at the moment and the four year old program the outcomes get a lot worse for- as you said- people in remote areas, Indigenous children as well. Do you need to fix that before throwing more money at three year olds?
RISHWORTH: What we need to do is negotiate with the states and territories about how to deliver and giving one year funding which has no reform in it whatsoever is not how you do that. I was speaking to some operators yesterday and they said the impact on being able to attract high quality staff, being able to sign leases- a whole range of things that affect whether or not they can offer a high quality program is affective when you only have one year of funding. We have said we will put four years of funding on the table for four year olds, we are going to introduce funding for three year olds and we are going to work with the states and territories to actually deliver.
CONNELL: With working with the states and territories, so money for three year olds- I think at the moment you have got states paying about two thirds of the money in total- how many states have actually agreed to come on board for three year old funding? Cause if they don’t come on board it’s not-
RISHWORTH: Well firstly Tom, we are in Opposition, we are not really in a position to sit down and negotiate-
CONNELL: You can have discussions with them.
RISHWORTH: Victoria has already announced that they plan to roll out three year olds universally. Other states have indicated, including the New South Wales Liberal Government has indicated that they are very interested and have already committed to extending three year olds to a number of groups in community kindy.
CONNELL: -That is obviously the battle for you though, right, if you get into power.
RISHWORTH: Absolutely but we will have a convincing case. We have had universal support almost from stakeholders and the evidence is in internationally. There is a compelling case in terms of delivering this. We have also put capital money on the table in addition to our funding-
CONNELL: Yeah which you would need obviously to ramp up the program to offer it to double the number of children.
RISHWORTH: Absolutely, we have thought this through.
CONNELL: What about the issue in terms of being able to fund all of this is one aspect but the other one is, information. Would you make it conditional that states actually have to share the statistics on this which is not really happening at the moment?
RISHWORTH: I think there needs to be a true partnership between the Commonwealth and the states when it comes to early education and I have to say that the Commonwealth recently cut money from the states in terms of the National Quality Framework and the investment going in to ensure there are high quality programs. We have said we will put that money back on the table. The Commonwealth can’t say, ‘look, we are going to start cutting your money, we are not going to give you permanent money but by the way, we want to be partners with you.’ We have said we want to be true partners with the states and territories.
CONNELL: We have heard before: more to say on child care. Are we going to hear that announcement tonight?
RISHWORTH: The government has left us in a complete mess when it comes to early education. Childcare- everyday a new story comes out, there are families dropping out of the system, there are vulnerable children not getting access and indeed parents are just overwhelmed by the complexity and-
CONNELL: There has also been a lot more money tipped in and for the first time in a long time, deflation in terms of child care costs. So that is one aspect, so I am just wondering because you have said, ‘more to say’. Are we going to hear that tonight?
RISHWORTH: We have been dealing with what is a very terrible system at the moment. We have got to work out all of the problems-
CONNELL: So there won’t be an announcement.
RISHWORTH: We are starting to see more and more of the problems when it comes to early education but-
CONNELL: Will that be a Budget in Reply announcement or an election announcement, or is this something you are going to work out if you get into government?
RISHWORTH: I have to say the Liberals have stuffed this up, there have been terrible, terrible outcomes when it comes to early education. There are parents finding themselves with huge debts to the Commonwealth because the Commonwealth has not managed this system well. We have actually found out more recently centres have become debt collectors when it comes to the Commonwealth recovering debt. So we have a big mess to fix up, Tom-
CONNELL: That sounds like something you are going to do if you get into government.
RISHWORTH: I am looking at it very carefully and listening to people but the government have truly messed this up.
CONNELL: Amanda Rishworth, thanks for your time.
RISHWORTH: Thank you.