6PR Morning Program with Gareth Parker
… Appreciate that you’ve got a lot on your plate at the moment in terms of your own portfolio area. The government is proposing to make some big changes to child care, paid parental leave and the family tax benefit system.
Now, they’re pretty complicated changes but they are quite far reaching and they do affect a lot of people. We wanted to have you on the show today to just talk about what they are, what the Government is trying to achieve and how it’s actually going to affect people.
Let me try and de-complicate it as much as possible.
With paid parental leave, what we say as a Government is the policy should be an increase in the number of weeks that you get courtesy of the taxpayer for paid parental leave from 18 to 20 weeks. That would mean that 96,000 mums would get an extra two weeks at home after birth, and up to an extra $1300.
That is able to be paid for by virtue of the fact that there would also be a rule that says that inside that 20 weeks, if you get 12 weeks from your employer, you would only get access to eight weeks, of a possible 20, from the taxpayer. So everyone would have a guaranteed minimum of 20, but what it means is that the lowest income families who enter the paid parental leave system are going to get a very big uplift.
To get this through the Parliament you’re going to have to get the backing of the crossbenchers. It looks as though Labor will not back the move, they are claiming that low income earners will still be worse off under your changes.
With respect to PPL, it’s just absolutely wrong.
So the 96,000 mums who would get an extra two weeks, up to $1300. They are the lowest income people in the system. So the median income, for instance, for a mother whose benefit is about $43,000 a year. This is actually designed to ensure that those people who are the lowest income families in the paid parental leave system get more time with baby after birth, and more money to help with the finances of the after birth.
The other thing you mentioned is child care. We have a reform package to make child are more affordable, more accessible, more flexible – that will benefit one million Australians – and it is being paid for by reducing the end of year supplements in the family tax benefit.
But the point here is that there are about 1.5 million families in the family tax benefit system, and there are a huge number with children who are of child care age or afterschool care age. And what we absolutely know is that there is hundreds of thousands of mums and families out there who want to work, and re-engage with the workforce after time off from having a baby, or want to work more but are stopped from doing that because child care expenses got out of control under the previous government.
It’s not just about making changes for parents. It’s also about saving the budget money.
How much money is the government going to save from these changes?
There’s an overall range of savings measures that are around about $5.5-6 billion. The expenditure in child care is over $2 billion – so there are savings measures, there’s 16 measures overall in this budget, and its being described as an Omnibus Bill, so there’s a whole range of different measures.
But it’s very important to note that in these key areas of family assistance and paid parental leave, in child care, where we make a savings we’re re-investing them in the system through child care so that we end this terrible inflationary, complicated, hard-to-access system that we have in child care at the moment, which is stopping Australian families from being able to have adequate, fair, reasonable, accessible, affordable child care and get back into the workplace and get into the workplace and having dual incomes in families is how families get ahead.
I mentioned at the top of this interview that the changes are complicated.
I want to read you a text message that we got from a listener – from Mel – and I think that this is the sort of thing that people want to be reassured of on an individual basis, I’ll just read this to you Minister:
“Hi Gareth, could you please ask Christian Porter what date Paid Parental Leave changes will start? I’m pregnant and I’ve planned my leave from work around the current benefits and the uncertainty is stressful.”
That’s from Mel.
Mel will be fine.
Should the legislation to change PPL, and benefit 96,000 mums, pass – then the date it will come into effect is nine months after royal assent. And that period is obvious it gives people plenty of planning time.
So if you’re expecting a baby at the moment then you’re fine.
So from the date that the Governor signs the legislation, it’s nine months after that date, to allow the existing rules to apply to anyone who might be, or could fall pregnant?
They will be under the present system. But of course, depending on how much Mel earns and what Paid Parental Leave she might have privately from her employer, she might have been a beneficiary of this scheme.
But at the moment the current rules will apply to Mel?
Thanks for clearing that up.
Now it’s been – this is the first week back in Canberra this year. I think it’s fair to say it’s been a little untidy from the Government.
We saw the week begin with Cory Bernadi splitting away from the Liberal Party. Yesterday the Prime Minister, your leader, he took the gloves off and we saw a very different Malcolm Turnbull to what we’ve seen in the recent past.
Let’s just have a listen to this audio in case people haven’t heard it
Well, we have just heard from that great sycophant of billionaires, the Leader of the Opposition. All the lectures, trying to run a politics of envy, when he was a regular dinner guest at Raheen, always there with Dick Pratt, sucking up to Dick Pratt. Did he knock back the Cristal? I don’t think so.
There was never a union leader in Melbourne, that tucked his knees under more billionaire’s tables, than the Leader of the Opposition.
He lapped it up! Oh yes, he lapped it up.
He lapped it up said the Prime Minister.
That was the Prime Minister talking about the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten.
Christian Porter, who was this speech aimed at? Was it aimed at voters, or was it aimed at discontented conservatives on his backbench?
I think it was aimed at the truth.
I must say, I’ve been in and out of courts and parliaments for over 20 years now, and I have never seen a better off-the-cuff speech of its type than that – I was..
Was it off-the-cuff?
Oh yeah, it was off-the-cuff.
It wasn’t prepared? Didn’t workshop the lines?
It was from the heart.
I think the purpose of the speech for the Prime Minister was that, he takes the view and its one that I share and I think Australians will come to share it, that Shorten’s a chameleon.
He says what he needs to say to people, and its different things to different people, at different times at different places. And that speech was about peeling away that mask and letting people see who’s really there. And I think it is powerful.
Let me ask you about Cory Bernadi and the conservatives in the Liberal Party.
Clearly people in the Liberal Party, for the most part are pretty upset with Cory Bernadi for walking away and forming this Australian Conservatives group.
You and I have spoken about this generally in the past, and you have said that you would count yourself as one of the more conservative members of the Liberal Party.
My question is, what is Cory Bernadi upset about? The issue of gay marriage is on the backburner, tough action on climate change is on the backburner, all these sort of totemic issues for conservatives – the
Liberal Party seems to be tilting in the conservatives favour. So what’s Cory Bernadi so upset about?
Well obviously that is something you would have to address to Cory.
Because I am one of the conservatives in the party that he left, I watched his explanations very carefully. I didn’t find them very satisfactory, I have to say. I like Cory. In a sense I feel quite sorry that he has made this decision. Because I think it would be a very isolating decision.
If the point that you’re raising is, what was the rationale for it, I am still trying to grasp what that is.
Can you guarantee that none of your colleagues will defect to his new movement?
I think that is a mere to fanciful suggestion.
So you think everyone will stick fat with the Liberal Party?
There was an issue that I started the program with today, and it relates to ship building in South Australia and electricity reliability in that state. I’d describe South Australia as a rust-bucket state, I can’t believe that Christopher Pyne has been so successful in diverting such a large amount of the Federal Government’s ship building capacity to his home state, and so how stunning it is that we read on the front page of
The Australian newspaper today that the Defence department has been forced to spend $20 million to make sure that the lights are kept on.
Are you satisfied that you and your West Australian Liberal colleagues did everything that you possibly could to get that ship building work done in WA, where at least we can keep the lights on?
If you elect a Labor government in WA, than I’d be a little bit circumspect about whether or not you reckon the lights are going to stay on, first. And I’ve been reading what they’ve been saying about their renewable energy target – I’ve got to say in the context of the state election, Labor coming in, state Labor in WA and saying that they are going to have a 50% renewable target…
I just need to stop you there and say that Labor sent a statement to me this morning they wouldn’t put Bill Johnston up to be interviews, but they said in a statement this morning that they haven’t set the renewable energy target yet, and they would do that after the election.
I read his October speech, so people better get ready for their 50 per cent renewable target if you get a Labor government in WA and that will be a disaster for Australian business, for WA business, for WA households.
It will have the only inevitable consequence of ratcheting up household electricity prices and making business very difficult to conduct in WA.
Gareth you’re probably too young to remember, you were probably in high school, but I remember in 2004 when I was a young prosecutor…
I’ll pull you up Mr Porter, it was one of my first days at work at The West Australian as a cadet reporter. I covered that story.
It was my first front page by-line…
I remember being at level 32 as a young prosecutor in a building when the lights went off for three days, and the elevators wouldn’t work and the air conditioner went out – last time we had a Labor government.
I’ve got to say that a 50 per cent renewable energy target from state Labor is a political millstone that will sit round their neck during this campaign. I’m astonished that they would even contemplate going there – it would be an utter disaster.
The second part of your question; there is a big ship building program, particularly around the submarine build in South Australia, equally a very large share of those contracts are coming to WA and Austral down there in Coburn Sound, that was the product of a lot of hard work by people in Federal Parliament, it’s going to produce a lot of jobs and a lot of business for WA, but of course we cannot let happen what happened in South Australia, where large businesses don’t have continuity of supply of electricity and that is the inevitable result of racing towards arbitrary targets on renewables.
I mean Gareth as I understand the situation, of course form being in state government, we had five per cent renewable in 2007, that increased 10 per cent, with some very significant effort over ten years – in setting a renewable target of 20, 30 or 50 per cent costs the economy of WA billions of dollars. There’s absolutely no plan as to how you’re going to get there – I mean it really is quite extraordinary. Why on earth would they do that during an election campaign?
Speaking of the election campaign, from your distance, how do you think it’s going for the Government that you were once a part of?
It’s always difficult, that third term, there’s no question about it. I think it’s actually going fairly well.
I think this renewable energy target issue will become a big campaign issue for Colin Barnett and I think that he will crucify Labor over it.
We’ll see how it goes. I do stress again, Labor say they have not set that 50 per cent target. So they’re obviously casting doubt on your thought in The Australian this morning. I’m sure we will hear much more about that as the day unfolds.
Christian Porter, the Social Services Minister, thanks for your time on the program today. Talk to you again in two weeks