Transcript by The Hon Scott Morrison MP

Press conference, Brisbane

Location: Brisbane


TERESA GAMBARO: I’d like to welcome Minister Scott Morrison to the wonderful electorate of Brisbane. We are at the Lyndhurst Child Care Centre which is a terrific child care centre here in the suburb of Clayfield, where the programmes that the children have here are absolutely inspiring; they grow their own vegetables, they do cooking classes, they also undertake French studies as well, it’s a very diverse centre. I just want to thank Minister Morrison for the Families Package in the Budget. It’s a terrific package it means a great deal to the families in my electorate who will have flexibility and greater affordability and it will also encourage greater productivity in enabling those families who want to return to work to do it in the most efficient way. So I thank you very much for visiting the electorate and over to you.

MINISTER MORRISON: Thanks very much Teresa. It’s wonderful to be here with you. There is no stronger advocate for greater support for child care than Teresa. She has been at the forefront of the policy debate in this area for a very long time. She knows the area from personal experience as well as from policy experience as a member, as a former Minister in other areas and so its tremendous to have her working with us as we’ve pulled this package together – the Jobs for Families package. As I have been going around the country and seeing the response from families, from centres, it has been very very positive. People understand now that there has been a big change over the last 10 or 20 years. Child care is not a welfare payment. It is a payment which supports families to be in work, to stay in work, get in work because that’s the choices that they increasingly have to make. With rising cost of living families who want to work more, families who need to work more need access to more affordable, flexible and accessible child care and that’s what the Jobs for Families package does. The Job for Families package delivers higher subsidies for those on low to middle incomes and it also provides greater support for those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable. Whether it is in an inner city area or the most remote parts of the country the Child Care Safety Net package is one that delivers for those families. But in centres such as this it also through the Inclusion Support Programme, which is part of the safety net, it helps children with disabilities be able to attend mainstream facilities alongside other kids. I have seen that in my own electorate and in other parts of the country where that can be mainstream it’s great for the young people, it’s great for their education and it’s great for mums and dads who are in that situation who have it hard enough and they deserve the same choices that all families deserve.

This is a Budget that supports people who want to earn more through their own efforts than they receive in benefits. This Budget is doing that in so many areas, whether its supporting small business or its supporting families who are choosing to want to work more through the Jobs for Families Package or its doing it for young people – for young people who want to get job ready, for young people who don’t want to have a life on welfare but want to be in a job, want to get in a job. The initiatives through the Jobs Package more broadly are supporting the choices of those young people. So it’s been a pleasure to be out and about talking about the benefits of this Budget, which are being well received, which are boosting consumer confidence in this country which is another thing which is needed to support small business. As someone who has run a small business that became a big business as – at the same time Teresa you know all about that. So thank you for your input on all of those issues. Any questions?

QUESTION: Minister Morrison do you think the deal between Thailand and Malaysia and Indonesia on Rohingya, do you think that implies there will be increased pressure on Australia to accept some of these people?

MINISTER MORRISON: Why don’t, as normal, why don’t we cover the issues relating to Jobs for Families first and the packages relating to child care and those things then I am happy to address some of those issues later.

QUESTION: Minister, are you concerned that a third of children using child care – subsidised child care at the moment have parents who aren’t working?

MINISTER MORRISON: The Jobs for Families package does put in place a new activity test. The activity test which requires people to be either engaged in work, looking for work as part of a formal process, or studying or learning – getting themselves ready to be in a job or in a formal volunteering role. That is a hurdle that has to be cleared for people to get access to the childcare subsidy arrangements. Now for those families earning less than $65,000 a year we will continue a safety net level of access to early childhood education. That is for 12 hours a week; that represents two six hour sessions that can be provided by those centres which is the same as is provided in our schools for young children. That support continues but it is important that we understand what the real purpose of the Commonwealth Government providing so much support in this sector is about – that is really to support those families who want to work more and need to be in work more and that’s what our subsidies are designed to do. We think that will be the outcome.

QUESTION: Minister Sharman Stone says that the Government needs to go back to the drawing board on PPL. Is there room for a more generous scheme?

MINISTER MORRISON: The PPL is an issue that was discussed broadly over the last two elections. The Government formed the view and listened to families and they said “we want you to invest in child care.” That’s where we want the more generous investment to be and that’s what we have done through the Jobs for Families package. We have listened to families and we have put the investment into child care to help support the choices of families who need to be in work. That’s increasingly the case for families all around the country. The other thing we have done with PPL is to say that it needs to be a fair scheme. It needs to be a scheme which doesn’t allow double payments for the same time spent at home with children. That’s what we have done with the integrity measures that we have introduced for the Paid Parental Leave scheme in the Budget. I mean in this centre the staff doesn’t get two lots of Paid Parental Leave they just get one. I think it’s a very fair thing to say that we run a system which does support people to take those 18 weeks and the research shows, the evaluation reports commissioned by the previous Government into their own scheme, showed that it’s those who are getting the scheme for the first time who are spending longer at home with their children in those 18 weeks. Not those who were getting it before, not those who are getting it twice but those who are getting it for the first time, those who are working for small businesses, those who are running small businesses; that’s what the evaluation of the PPL scheme showed from Labor’s own evaluation. So we think what we are putting forward is a fair enough thing and it’s a fair enough thing to ensure the people get that Paid Parental Leave for 18 weeks but the opportunity to draw down two payments for some and not for others, we just don’t think is a fair thing.

QUESTION: Minister that scheme, which had bipartisan support when it was set up, was always designed to encourage women to stay at home as long as they possibly could with their baby because it was better for the babies and for the mothers. Can’t you redesign so the scheme so that if people get the two payments they just have to tack it on time wise rather than getting a double payment? They have to….

MINISTER MORRISON: You’re right to point out that the purpose of the scheme was so that people would stay home longer with their children, up to 26 weeks or there abouts. The evaluation of the scheme that Labor and the Unions put in showed that’s not being achieved. That the scheme as Labor and the Unions designed it is not leading to parents, who were getting two payments, staying longer at home with their children you have to ask the question really what the point of allowing two payments for and a cost to taxpayers of $1 billion over the Budget and forward estimates is really achieving. So we have put forward this savings measure, not surprisingly Labor opposes every saving they just want to put new taxes on everybody and increase taxes. They are not interested in savings they are only interested in putting more taxes on people who get up and work every day, go to work – get up early and they just want to tax them more whether it’s in their retirement or whether it’s in the course of their working life.

QUESTION: Minister Professor Allan Fels and some of the States have criticised the Federal Government for its plan to strip welfare payments from forensic mental health patients. Will you back down on that or change that?

MINISTER MORRISON: What we are doing is providing an equity in the justice system about how these matters are dealt with. What we are talking about is a very small band of people who have been charged with the most violent of crimes and are being retained in State based facilities, State funded facilities and they are not considered to be in a position where they can be safely released into the community. What we are doing is ensuring that their payments are treated the same as others who are prevented from being released into the community for similar types of reasons. We think this is a sensible measure. They continue to receive support from State Governments being in those State based facilities. So the idea that the Commonwealth would effectively subsidise the States in those sorts of situations is not something we propose to continue and I think there is a bit of that in the argument going from the States. We are talking about people who have been charged with heinous crimes in many cases and not continuing benefits for people in those situations because they are actually living in facilities where they are being cared for and where they are not allowed to leave because they are considered a danger to the community.

QUESTION: Minister just on superannuation, should the party room have been consulted before the Prime Minister ruled out any changes to superannuation?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well we are a party that believes that people should have incentives to invest in superannuation. I think the reactions to the comments that have been made over some time now about this issue I think have been very positive from my colleagues and Teresa may wish to make a comment on this. We believe that when someone saves for their retirement not taxing them is not a welfare payment which is what Labor believes. Labor believes that if they don’t tax you more than they are giving you a welfare payment. Now I think that is a slap in the face to people who work hard every day for their retirement. Somehow Chris Bowen thinks not taxing them more is some sort of concession. He made reference to figures yesterday talking about tax expenditures and he was saying how these were baloney. Well those tax expenditures he’s is referring to, these concessions which he thinks are some sort of welfare payment, included the concessional tax treatment of employer funded contributions to people’s superannuation. He’s calling that a welfare payment and equating it with a welfare payment. Now I think this is a very clear distinction between the Coalition and the Labor Party. They think not taxing people more is welfare. We don’t agree. Teresa?

GAMBARO: I have come from an electorate where I have a number of small – probably the largest percentage of small business operators and people from all salary and income levels and the feedback I get from my constituents is that people have worked really hard, they have generally had to pay high tax scales. They are saving to put money away for their retirement. That’s millions of dollars – billions of dollars that the tax system – that the welfare system doesn’t have to provide for. They are doing the right thing. They shouldn’t be penalised. They are working hard, they are providing for their retirement, they are making sure that they are self-sufficient and I don’t think we should tax people who do the right thing by….

QUESTION: Minister, really my question was really more on consultation though. The Prime Minister has a bit of a record of captain’s calls, should he have consulted with the party room?

MINISTER MORRISON: I think the Prime Minister is absolutely in step, not just with the Party Room on this issue but I think Australians more generally. I think Australians more generally do really support the idea that if you work hard, if you run a business, if you work hard in a business, if you are an employee who puts it in everyday and you provide for your own retirement then why should the Government come and slug you for that? Then why should the Government treat your superannuation as some sort of welfare payment? You paid for it, you earned it, you worked for it, it’s not a welfare payment; it’s what you worked for your entire life. It’s not unlike your family home, where you work hard to own a home. What do they want to tax that to because that’s some sort of welfare payment that people have somehow been allowed to keep because they paid for it? I think there is a real corollary there.

GAMBARO: This is people’s money we are talking about and I reiterate what you have just said. It is their money, they have saved for it.

QUESTION: Can we talk about….

MINISTER MORRISON: Sure if there are no other questions on – yeah sure.

QUESTION: Ok, so this deal between Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia on Rohingya, do you think that implies there will be increased pressure on Australia to accept some of these people?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well Australia has always been a generous receiver of refugees out of Myanmar particularly the Christian minorities, on [inaudible] and others. I think that will continue, we continue it presently, when I was Immigration Minister we were taking thousands in that area. Teresa has visited the Thai Burmese camps, border camps and seen those places first hand. The Coalition has a very proud record of supporting refugees from Myanmar/Burma. I have visited Rakhine state when I was Minister in February of last year I think I am probably one of the few politicians in this country to have done that. I visited the displaced persons camps where the Rohingyan are living. I also visited many of the displaced persons camps where the Burmese were living as well. It is the second poorest state in the country. We had high level discussions with the Ministers there both in Myanmar and in Australia when they visited here. There are some serious economic and more broader issues in Myanmar which is for the Myanmar government to address. There have been a lot of big steps forward in Myanmar, I think we would all recognise that but there is still a long way to go.

The work that is being done by Malaysia and Indonesia in being sympathetic to the cause of Rohingyan, particularly in Malaysia there is some 40,000 or there about Rohingya who are living in Malaysia and they have had the support in various forms from the Malaysian government but really this is an issue that ASEAN and particularly Myanmar need to drive the solutions for. The Australian Government as the Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration said we can provide support for that and we can work with them on that but the idea of Australia dictating to ASEAN and to Myanmar itself as to how this issue is to be managed I don’t think would be helpful. I don’t think the way the Greens have engaged with this issue in particular has shown a great understanding of the complexities of these issues. It is more about trying to just beat up on the Abbott Government than frankly address the realities and complexities of what is a very difficult situation. I know it is a difficult situation because I have walked the ground there, I have spoken to Rohingyan refugees in their camps, I have spoken to those in other camps as well. So I think we just need to keep working on the issue and the initiatives taken by Malaysia and Indonesia working together particularly as they are Islamic countries, remember the Rohingyan are of the Islamic faith. They are best placed to take people in those countries where they choose to. Remember there is a million plus Rohingyan in Myanmar. No country is going to be resettling one million Rohingyan. To suggest again that somehow resettlement is the answer to this issue completely fails to understand the scale and complexity of this issue.

QUESTION: So should Australia accept more?

MINISTER MORRISON: We are taking people out of Malaysia and out of Thailand and that is freeing up the opportunity for both of those countries in particular to make decisions that they wish to make. The Christian minority refugees who have been taken out of Burma to Australia I would argue have been the most successful resettled refugees in the country. They have had extraordinary success in Australia and we should continue to press on with that programme and that does free up the opportunity for other countries in the region to address the more immediate issues facing the Rohingyan.

QUESTION: At next week’s regional meeting what will the government [inaudible].

MINISTER MORRISON: I will leave that to the Minister for Immigration. The People Smuggling Ambassador will be up there attending that meeting; he was appointed in the last few weeks of my time as Immigration Minister and he is very acquainted with these issues and understands them very well and I think he will make a very positive contribution as part of those discussions.

QUESTION: Minister, Peter Costello famously told Australians to have one baby for mum, one for dad, and one for the country. Is your message don’t have children if you can’t raise them without taxpayer support? Is that the message the governments…

MINISTER MORRISON: No and I know why you would suggest that I think it is frankly an absurd suggestion. Kids are great for the country, of course they are and that is why we are investing so much in child care. So families who currently find it difficult to be in work and have children we are alleviating that issue for over a million families. We are providing the support that families have asked the government for to invest more in child care to give the choices they want for their families. Forty-seven per cent of families said to us as we worked through this process that they want to go back to work but they can’t because childcare is too expensive, it is unaffordable. So we are giving them that choice back, we are giving them the choice to have families and to have work. That is what we need in our modern society.

QUESTION: Are you absolutely confident that the Prime Minister is not going to change his position on PPL again?

MINISTER MORRISON: We have got the proposal before the Budget and that is the Budget measure that will be negotiated through the Senate.