Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Doorstop – Paid Parental Leave, DisabilityCare – Canberra

E & OE – Proof only
Subject: Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave policy; DisabilityCare Australia

JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks for joining us this morning. Tony Abbott has indicated that he is committed to delivering his so-called signature policy, his rolled-gold paid parental leave scheme that favours wealthy women over the needs of ordinary working women.

Today we’ve also seen that there are Liberal colleagues who don’t support this paid parental leave scheme. These colleagues have said it’s too costly and that it’s unfair, and at the same time that Tony Abbott is saying that he’s committed to his rolled-gold paid parental leave scheme that favours the wealthy, he’s also determined to cut the Schoolkids Bonus that would hurt more than a million Australian families, low and middle income Australian families who have children at school.

QUESTION: Don’t you think it’s a bit unfair for you to categorise women who might earn over $100,000 as not ordinary? Aren’t they ordinary working women who are just successful?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, in fact, under Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme you can earn anything. You can earn $200,000, $300,000, and get paid $75,000 out of taxpayer money to have a baby. Seventy five thousand dollars to very wealthy women compared to the needs of ordinary working families who are going to lose the Schoolkids Bonus. So wealthy families would get $75,000 of taxpayers’ money, ordinary low and middle income families with children at school would lose money because Tony Abbott wants to abolish the Schoolkids Bonus.

QUESTION: Are you playing the class warfare argument?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’m just pointing out the facts, which families will benefit from Tony Abbott’s rolled-gold paid parental leave scheme. Those at the top will get $75,000 to have a baby, whereas low and middle income families will lose the Schoolkids Bonus if Tony Abbott is elected.

QUESTION: But isn’t it true that this particular scheme Mr Abbott is proposing would actually increase productivity as well? Wouldn’t it, sort of, pay off in the end?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, Labor has, of course, introduced Australia’s first paid parental leave scheme, and this has benefited around 270,000 Australian women. We do support paid parental leave, but we want it to be fair and we want it to be affordable.

QUESTION: [Inaudible]

JENNY MACKLIN: And there are people at the top who are going to get extraordinary benefits, while at the same time Tony Abbott wants to slash the Schoolkids Bonus, $400 for every primary school child, $820 for every secondary school child. Tony Abbott wants to take that off low and middle income families while paying wealthy women $75,000 to have a baby.

QUESTION: Isn’t it fairer, though, for women to get their own wage when they’re off on maternity leave rather than just the minimum wage which might not cover everything they need?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we wanted, as a Labor Government, to introduce an affordable paid parental leave scheme, one that would benefit those, particularly, those women who had never had access to paid parental leave. That’s exactly what we’ve done.

We’ve seen 270,000 Australian women and their families benefit from our paid parental leave scheme. It’s affordable, it’s fair. Tony Abbott wants to introduce a rolled-gold scheme that will see very wealthy women get $75,000 to have a baby, while at the same time slashing the money going to low and middle income families when he abolishes the Schoolkids Bonus.

QUESTION: Has Labor done any studies about the productivity benefits of its scheme, and how does that compare with the Coalition’s proposal?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, in fact, the Productivity Commission did a lot of work for the Labor Government. When we first came into government we asked the Productivity Commission to investigate the best way to deliver a paid parental leave scheme for Australia. They recommended the scheme that we have now put in place, so the Productivity Commission recommended the affordable, fair scheme that the Labor Government has introduced, and of course it has productivity benefits. I refer you to their report.

QUESTION: Would it offer better productivity benefits than the Coalition’s proposal?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think if you go and have a look at the Productivity Commission report you’ll see that they recommended the fair and affordable scheme that Labor has implemented.

QUESTION: Just on the NDIS. Do you hope WA will sign up? Are you confident they will sign up? [inaudible] centralised eastern state-centric bureaucracy, making it difficult for people to get, sort of, local care and have their needs addressed?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, we certainly do want to see Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory join in the National Disability Insurance Scheme, DisabilityCare Australia. It is a great reform for our country. Of course we want it to be a national scheme for every single Australian, because we know any one of us could be affected and need the support of DisabilityCare Australia at any time.

It’s never been our intention to have a centralised approach. In fact, in the delivery of the launch sites we’ll have offices in Geelong, in Newcastle, in Launceston and Hobart and Devonport. We do understand how important it is for people with disability to have services in the communities where they live. But we want a national scheme, we want all Australians to be covered, and we certainly look forward to continuing discussions with the three remaining jurisdictions.

QUESTION: There’s rumblings today that the Queensland Premier has verbally agreed to the offer on the table. How far away is a deal to being inked?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I certainly hope we will get agreement with the Queensland Government. I’ve seen positive comments from the Queensland Premier. The people who really need this most, of course, are people with disability in Queensland and their families and carers. We’ll continue those discussions with Queensland.

QUESTION: Will Queensland have a launch or will they just go for the full scheme?

JENNY MACKLIN: We’re continuing to have those discussions with Queensland.

QUESTION: There’s an Indigenous forum here today…

JENNY MACKLIN: …yes, that’s right.

QUESTION: I was just wondering what are they saying to you?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’m about to meet with a group of Indigenous representatives to talk with them about the National Disability Insurance Scheme and how it will make sure that people with disability who are Indigenous also get good services. As you would be aware, we are rolling out the National Disability Insurance Scheme, DisabilityCare Australia, in four different parts of Australia, starting on 1 July. So in each of those areas, in the Hunter, in Geelong, in South Australia, in Tasmania, we’re already talking with Aboriginal groups to make sure that they know about the services, that we’re well informed about their needs, and today’s discussions will take that further.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about reports that the NDI… sorry, I should say the MRRT has only raked in, well, will only rake in [inaudible] million in this financial year?

JENNY MACKLIN: I think I’ll leave that to the Treasurer.

QUESTION: With the NDIS, in terms of the services, I mean, can you give assurances that decisions about, you know, if someone gets a wheelchair it’s not going to be made by pen pushers in Canberra and they’ll also be made in, sort of, local cities and things like that? Is that how it’s going to work?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, as I’ve just indicated, we’ll have offices in regional locations. There’ll be one in Newcastle, one in Geelong, Launceston, Hobart and Devonport, starting from 1 July. We do understand how important it is that we have local area coordinators, people on the ground where people with disability live, to make sure we respond positively to their needs.

QUESTION: When will the pokies trial start?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s a matter that we’re still discussing with the ACT.

QUESTION: With paid parental leave, you’ve got comments from Eva Cox about the fairness of Mr Abbott’s scheme. She’s quite in favour of that for workers like nurses who aren’t on high incomes but on medium incomes. What do you say to her?

JENNY MACKLIN: And of course it is the case that in many circumstances for people like nurses, they’re employed under awards where they’re able to get employer benefits as well as the Labor Government’s paid parental leave scheme. It has been very pleasing to me to see that in addition to our national paid parental leave scheme, employers are maintaining their existing paid parental leave schemes, and that’s been a good result for working women. Thank you.