Launch of GenerationOne bus, Paid Parental Leave – Doorstop, Canberra
The Hon Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
The Hon Wayne Swan MP, Treasurer
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SUBJECTS: Launch of GenerationOne bus; Barnaby Joyce; May Budget; Malcolm Turnbull; health and hospital reform; Minco meeting of Treasurers tomorrow; release of tax review; Tony Abbott outdoor activities before policy; Australia- China economic relationship; Joe Hockey asking two questions in Parliament in six months; paid parental leave
TREASURER: First of all could I acknowledge the traditional owners. Can I say what a great pleasure it is for Jenny and I to be here to launch the bus this morning.
GenerationOne is a once in a lifetime opportunity to support indigenous Australia to do something about indigenous disadvantage. It’s a sad fact that unemployment rates in indigenous communities are four times the rate in other communities. So this is a real opportunity to support Australians and make a difference.
Doing something about intergenerational poverty is something that we must all be involved in. That’s why I’m so pleased to see so many in the business community putting their weight and effort behind this project. But not just that. I think the aim of this bus is to move from community to community, to raise awareness, to put forward the opportunities that are there if we all work together to support employment, to support business, to support indigenous Australians who have been disadvantaged for far too long.
Can I just congratulate all of those that have been involved with this project. It’s very important, the bus has got a long way to go, does it not Jack? It’s got a long way to go right around the country to many communities, raising awareness about the importance of jobs to assist those who want to assist themselves. This is a tremendous opportunity for Australia and congratulations to all of those involved. Over to Jenny.
MACKLIN: Thanks very much. Thanks Wayne and thanks Jack, great to see you again. If I can also pay my respects to the traditional owners and elders both past and present. This is a really, really exciting idea and one that is going to really gather pace as this bus goes around Australia. What it’s saying to each and every Australian is we can all make a difference. We can all do our bit to close the gap, to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. To close the gap, if you’re a maternal and child health nurse you can work with parents to make sure that little children have got a better chance in life. If you’re a prep teacher you can do everything to encourage a little Aboriginal kid in your class to do well and get ahead in school. If you want to be a mentor, Jack’s going to be there for you to really help direct you to support an Aboriginal young person to get a job, to do well at their studies.
What this is all about is recognising that each and every one of us can make a difference. Each and every one of us can contribute to closing the gap. I’ve seen with my own eyes the difference it makes in the Alice Springs town camps where men and women are starting to work, starting to show their kids that they can be proud, they can be proud of mum and dad going off to work every day to a job. And that’s exactly what we want to do here with this GenerationOne bus is to say to all those kids, that you can be proud, you can be working, you can get ahead and we want to be there with you. So I think it’s time for us all to get aboard the GenerationOne bus, support the efforts that so many people have already put into it, and close this gap.
JOURNALIST: Treasurer, can I ask whether you think Tony Abbott should use his reshuffle to move Barnaby Joyce out of Finance?
TREASURER: Well, Barnaby Joyce has been dragging the economic reputation of this country through the mud on a daily basis. He’s clearly a risk to economic confidence and to our international standing. I think it’s a must that Tony Abbott removes Barnaby Joyce straight away.
JOURNALIST: Mr Swan the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just handed down what appears to be a no-frills budget short on pre-election giveaways. What can you tell us about the shape of the Australian Budget? Will it be one of fiscal discipline, or will it have some pre-election giveaways?
TREASURER: Well, the Budget that will be brought down in early May will be a responsible Budget, it will be based on fiscal discipline but it will also attend to future challenges such as reform of the health system, so vital to the future of our economy but so vital to the individual in Australia who wants quality health care for themselves and for their kids.
JOURNALIST: Mr Swan would you welcome the return of Malcolm Turnbull to the Opposition’s front bench?
TREASURER: Look, that is entirely a matter for Mr Abbott. But what I do know is that Barnaby Joyce is a risk to confidence in our economy. His ranting and raving daily is a risk to confidence in this economy. It’s not just the odd slip of the tongue – that’s not the problem with Barnaby Joyce – he is a risk because he is making statements that are untrue and which damage our international standing.
JOURNALIST: Treasurer, do you think though that you calling on him to be moved out of finance might actually force Tony Abbott to keep him there?
TREASURER: It’s entirely a matter for Tony Abbott.
JOURNALIST: You’re meeting with State Treasurers tomorrow partly on health care. What are the major problems you’ve got to sort out with them on health care?
TREASURER: Well, we’re going to sit down and have a constructive discussion about all of the issues in the Prime Minister’s plan. The Prime Minister has a plan when it comes to the future of the health care system in this country. And at the core of the challenge that lies before us is that if we don’t take action now health costs in this country will consume the totality of state budgets sometime after 2035. So there is a very big financial challenge, but there’s also great challenges when it comes to delivery. We’re going to talk about all of those issues that go to the core of the Prime Minister’s plan.
JOURNALIST: Treasurer, will you be sharing with the State Treasurers the recommendations of the Henry Review on Federal/State relations because they are saying they need access to that to know what Commonwealth thinking is on that before signing up on it?
TREASURER: I’ve made this very clear – we will be releasing the Henry Review, the review of the independent tax committee chaired by Dr Henry, before the Budget. But in no way will our deliberations be impeded by the fact that it will not be released by tomorrow. It will be released before the Budget in plenty of time for a full discussion about all of the important issues.. I’ve made that clear repeatedly.
JOURNALIST: Can you give a commitment to release it before April’s COAG?
TREASURER: I’ve made a commitment to release it prior to the Budget.
JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott is competing in a triathlon on the weekend. It seems there is some concern among his Liberal colleagues that he’s spending too much time in the budgie smugglers and the lycra and he should be spending more time in suits and actually working on policy. What’s your response?
TREASURER: Well, I think he should be spending a lot more time working on policy. Politics is a busy life and Jenny and I know only too well how difficult in can be in Opposition because essentially when you are in Opposition you’ve got to work from dawn to dusk. I frankly can’t understand how he finds the time to engage in all of those pursuits. I personally would love to go surfing more often, but I can’t because I’ve got a very important job to do. And when I was Opposition Treasury Spokesman I couldn’t find the time to do the things that I wanted to do because these are big jobs and they require a big commitment in terms of time.
JOURNALIST: Treasurer you were in Perth yesterday. The Western Australian Government has a big concern about losing 30 per cent of GST revenues, is that non-negotiable?
TREASURER: Well, those matters were all discussed in a constructive way with the Prime Minister, and the Premier and the State Treasurer yesterday. I don’t intend to comment on them any further. It was a very constructive meeting yesterday, I expect the meeting will be constructive tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: Is this an area where there could be some movement from the Federal Government?
TREASURER: I’m not going to speculate about the nature of the discussions. The Prime Minister has put forward a very constructive plan, a plan that needs to be funded on a sustainable basis for the future; a plan which is quite generous to the states recognising the challenges that arise for their budgets into the future from escalating health costs.
JOURNALIST:So you’re not ruling out a shift (inaudible) …
TREASURER: I’m not ruling anything in, and I’m not ruling anything out.
JOURNALIST: Treasurer the gas deal that was announced yesterday with China from your home state, does this show that business is going ahead with China despite the Stern Hu trial and some of the difficulties we’ve had –
TREASURER: Well, business has been going ahead with China at a pretty fast pace for the whole time we’ve been in Government. There have been issues that arise from time to time – important issues – important issues about the national interest test in foreign investment, and, of course, the issue of Stern Hu. But the fact is that the economic relationship between Australia and China has been growing right through that period.
JOURNALIST: Is it back on track?
TREASURER: I don’t believe it was ever off track.
JOURNALIST: Do you see any regulatory hurdles to this new gas contract? Is this something that would have to come through FIRB?
TREASURER: Well, one of the things I don’t do in my role is to speculate about matters on which I may have to take a very important legal decision later on. So I never speculate about those sorts of regulatory matters.
JOURNALIST: Treasurer, Joe Hockey has issued an invite for you and he to have a debate. Are you happy to take up that challenge from Mr Hockey?
TREASURER: Can I just make this point. I’ve been sitting in the Parliament for the last six months or more and in that time Joe Hockey only summoned up the energy to ask two questions – two questions in six months. We’ve seen no economic policy from Mr Hockey or indeed any economic policy from Mr Abbott. I’ll debate Mr Hockey in the normal way – and in the normal way that I was debating his predecessor – which is in an election debate during the election period. When Mr Hockey gets some policy maybe there might be something more to talk about.
JOURNALIST: Treasurer just on paid parental leave. (Inaudible) to examine the legislation the Government has put forward based on its proposal in the Budget last year. Can the Budget afford to make any further extension of what Labor has already pledged to working families?
TREASURER: I might throw to Jenny in a minute, but I will just make a couple of points, and I don’t think this is sufficiently appreciated. Last year we put forward a paid parental leave scheme in one of the most difficult Budgets that has ever been presented in this country – in very, very difficult circumstances.
We did a couple of things in last years Budget. First of all, we increased the base rate of pension – a historic decision – and the second historic decision taken in last years Budget was to make room for a paid parental leave scheme. We believe the decision we took in both those areas was fiscally responsible and, indeed as we showed in the Budget papers, it was fundable over the long-term. We are really proud of being able to do that in those circumstances because it demonstrated the commitment of our Party to paid parental leave.
I don’t believe that Mr Hockey, or Mr Abbott, or Mr Joyce have a handle at all on the costings of their scheme. I think they have little, very little understanding of what is involved with their proposal. It is yet another example of them running around with ill-thought out proposals which are essentially not properly costed, and in many cases unfunded. So I think they have probably got a lot more work to do. But from what I’ve seen of what they’ve got it’s not fiscally sustainable for this nation. But I might just throw to Jenny.
JOURNALIST: As superannuation to your scheme would only cost the Budget an extra $12 million dollars a year to give all those women access to superannuation whilst they are on parental leave. Why isn’t that affordable?
TREASURER: Well, because we brought down a Budget that was sustainable. Last year we put forward a paid parental leave scheme that is sustainable and fundable in the long-term, and we’re not proposing any further changes. Our scheme drew very heavily on recommendations of the Productivity Commission, unlike the scheme which has been put forward by Mr Hockey and Mr Abbott. It’s very clear that their scheme is not financially sustainable over time, but I will just throw to Jenny because she is pretty committed to this issue.
MACKLIN: Thanks very much. As you know, the Productivity Commission conducted a very extensive inquiry into Paid Parental Leave. They recommended that we introduce a scheme, 18 weeks paid at the Federal minimum wage. And it is the case that the Government made a very significant decision in last year’s Budget to deliver this scheme. It is at a cost over five years of more than $700 million. Our scheme is fully costed, fully funded, and will be introduced from the 1st January next year.
We know how important it is to deliver paid parental leave to Australian families. They have been waiting decades for paid parental leave. But what they want is a scheme that they can believe in, a scheme that will be delivered. What they don’t believe is Tony Abbott coming up with a pipe dream, a pipe dream funded by a great big new tax that’s going to raise around $3 billion, he says, from businesses in this country.
Australian families don’t believe Tony Abbott on paid parental leave because they know it was Tony Abbott who said, ‘not over his dead body’. So this Government believes in paid parental leave, we know how important it is for families. That’s why it’s funded in our Budget and we want to get on with delivering it.