Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Obstructionist Senate, Cabinet – Joint press conference

Joint press conference

  • The Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Minister for Health and Ageing
  • The Hon Penny Wong MP, Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water
  • The Hon Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
  • The Hon Lindsay Tanner MP, Minister for Finance and Deregulation

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

LEON BYNER: So let’s talk to the Government’s Families Minister Federal Member of Parliament, Jenny Macklin. Jenny thanks for joining us today.

JENNY MACKLIN: Good to be with you Leon.

LEON BYNER: Do you like in principle what Tony Abbott has done?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we’ve done an enormous amount of work Leon. As you might be aware we had the Productivity Commission do a very big inquiry that did look at a range of options about how to develop a new paid parental leave scheme and they talked to employers and unions and families most importantly, and they proposed that we introduce an 18 week scheme and fund it at the Federal Minimum Wage and that the Government pay for that. So that is exactly what we are doing.

We have decided to implement the recommendations as I’ve just set out from the Productivity Commission. They did look at other options, including the one that in part Mr Abbott seems to be talking about, and instead of coming down on the sort of scheme he’s proposing they did propose the 18 weeks at the Federal Minimum Wage with the Government paying that amount to the parent.

LEON BYNER: Well, it’s the taxpayer paying it, isn’t it?

JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.

LEON BYNER: Okay. Now, but the ugly thing that I think about Mr Abbott’s proposal, he wants to go to the bigger companies that have got a certain amount of turnover and hit them with a levy.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well it’s hard to know isn’t it Leon, because only a month ago Mr Abbott said he wouldn’t be introducing any new taxes and yet here we are just a month later and he’s saying he’s going to introduce a tax that’s going to raise $2.7 billion which is a pretty hefty tax on business at a time when they’re just getting out of the financial crisis. So I think, and then there’s all the issues you raised that Lindsay’s [Tanner] been talking abut.

LEON BYNER: Okay, now what’s this ball park going to cost the taxpayer? This eighteen weeks?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, if you look at the annual amount, it’s around $260 million and then over five years the cost of our scheme is $731 million. So that’s already been properly costed, it’s in the Budget, so we’ve accounted for it. That’s the trouble with Mr Abbott’s scheme and because he changes his mind every five minutes you really can’t get a handle on what he’s talking about or where the money’s coming from.

LEON BYNER: Okay, well Jenny that amount of money, over $200 million a year, that’s got to come from the Federal Budget which we know is going to be really tight, so…

JENNY MACKLIN: But this is the point I’m making Leon is that this is already accounted for in the Federal Budget. We got it into the Federal Budget last year so we’re not trying, we don’t have to find it again.

LEON BYNER: But you see the Budget is going to have to be tight anyway, so is it not the case that you’re going to have to find savings elsewhere to be able to pay that, because you’re not going to get an increased tax return?

JENNY MACKLIN: We already made savings in last year’s Budget, made a number of savings to make sure that we could take account of this commitment that we’ve made and I guess that’s exactly why I’m critical of Mr Abbott’s proposal. He does seem to change it all the time and this latest idea, you’d have to say is just an idea at this point, I can’t see him following through.

LEON BYNER: Well whatever he does or doesn’t do, your scheme is going to mean that people are going to be covered. Now who will be covered in this scheme and when will it start?

JENNY MACKLIN: It’s due to start on 1 January next year, and this is a really important point, there will be families thinking about having a baby in the next little while and they of course will want to know when is this Government’s scheme going to start? And of course we need to get the legislation through the Parliament. So I’d really say to Mr Abbott, if he has changed his mind and does now support paid parental leave, he really should support our legislation to give families certainty as they start to get pregnant in the next month or so.

LEON BYNER: Jenny is it not the case though, that taxes are going to have to go up? Because we’ve got a problem already where we have huge bills to pay and afford for those people. We have a country that’s getting very grey and we know we need more taxpayers, and that’s one of the reasons why Premiers and Governments of all persuasions are looking to increase the population because you need more workers to pay taxes so people can afford to retire. And of course you don’t get necessarily a great retirement with pensions we all know that. So isn’t it inevitable that taxes are going to go up to pay for these things?

JENNY MACKLIN: No I don’t think so, and that’s why I’m really emphasising that this is already funded and taken account of in the Federal Budget.

LEON BYNER: Yes it is, yes but you’ve got the Henry Review which ultimately is going to be discussed, and Treasury are going to need more money because we’ve got a big debt we have to pay.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, that’s why we’re going to be very careful in our spending priorities and we’re giving that a lot of thought in this Budget. But this is a commitment we made in last year’s Budget. It’s already fully funded, fully costed, and that’s why we’ve taken what I think is a very careful approach to this policy, taken the advice of the Productivity Commission. Not dreamt the policy up on the run, which is exactly what Mr Abbott has done.

LEON BYNER: Well, Jenny thank you for joining us today, that’s the Families and Communities Minister Jenny Macklin.