Release type: Transcript


Doorstop interview Canberra


Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham
Minister for Education and Training
The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP
Assistant Minister for Social Services

SUBJECTS: Child care reform; reducing cost of living pressures; NSW bushfires; WA State Election; energy security; SA blackouts.



This is a vitally important reform and as Julia has pointed out this makes child care more affordable and more available. It ensures that those families who work the most hours get the most hours of care. It ensures that the largest amount of subsidy goes to families on the lowest incomes. It is a very fair reform and it makes child care much more affordable and available. It removes the $7,500 cap for families with incomes of under $185,000 and for those over that level, it is a cap of $10,000.

This is a vitally important reform and it is a policy that the Labor Party and the crossbenchers should support. We are urging them to do so.

The Labor Party, I have to say by contrast, has no child care policy at all. The current system is not working for the reasons Julia described. It is not satisfactory. Labor has no solution.

We have presented a solution and here you have one of the largest child care organisations in the country throwing its support behind it because they know that this will meet the needs of their parents.

Before I ask Birmo, Senator Birmingham I should say, the Minister for Education, and Senator Seselja to say a few words, I want to say something about the fires in New South Wales.

Once again, we pay tribute to the heroism and professionalism of the firefighters - volunteer firefighters and professional firefighters - in New South Wales. Once again, they have shown the absolute best of us. They have shown the absolute essence of the Australian spirit. Selfless volunteers getting out there, taking on these most catastrophic fires.

We have had in New South Wales the worst fire conditions on record and we have heard that and yet, the fires have been contained or there is about 24 that are still uncontained that they are battling. There has been enormous loss of property and of livestock. Our sympathies are with the property owners and farmers that have suffered loss and we have had two firefighters who have been injured in this fire. We wish them a very speedy recovery. But it could have been a lot worse. It could have been much worse and were it not for those great Australian firefighters, it could have been a truly disastrous weekend in New South Wales with those record temperatures.


Thanks PM. Julia, thank you very much for having us here today at one of your many high quality early education and care centres across the country, where you provide outstanding early education and child care to thousands of Australian children every single day. Thank you and the team at Goodstart for welcoming us.

These are incredibly important reforms because they make a real practical difference to Australian families, to the hardest working Australian families.

Our modelling shows that even when you take into account the reforms to family tax benefit, a single mum, earning around $50,000 a year with a child in long day care for three days a week, will be about $2,500 a year better off thanks to our reforms. A hard working family of two people going out to work earning around $80,000 a year, with two children three days a week in long day care would be around $3,000 a year better off.

These are tangible real differences helping the hardest working but lowest earning Australian families. That is why we are determined to ensure that the child care package will pass the Senate and that we get these reforms implemented for those families.

Overall, around one million Australian families will be better off. 90,000 people who currently hit the cap that Julia spoke about will see that cap eliminated for good. Importantly, that will liberate them to have more choice about the hours they work, the days they work giving those families the maximum capacity to make a real difference in terms of how they juggle their cost of living issues and of course contribute as best they can for their family circumstances. Thank you.


Thanks Zed. You’re our local Senator and host in many ways.


Just briefly, it is great to be here in Isaacs in beautiful Canberra on a wonderful day. Thank you to Goodstart for welcoming us and to the wonderful staff who we got to meet.

As a father of five children and with one in child care at the moment, I understand the importance of this policy and I certainly can say that what I have been hearing from the community here in Canberra and from my colleagues, what they have been hearing beyond is a great response from parents because they understand the importance of reform in this area. They understand the importance of proper support for parents needing to access child care. It is a great policy. It has been very well received. I will hand back to the Prime Minister.


Thanks Zed, thanks Birmo. So we have time for a few questions.


20 years ago, John Howard said he instructed that the One Nation Party be preferenced last. Was he right or do you support what is happening with Liberal preferences today in Western Australia?


Preferences are a matter for the party organisation. In a state election, it is a matter for the organization in Western Australia.


Do you have an opinion?


It is a matter for the Western Australian division. They have got to make their judgement based on their assessment of their electoral priorities. Their objective, you have got to remember is to persuade people to vote Liberal and to return the Barnett Government, and my suggestion is that West Australians vote Liberal for the return of Colin Barnett's very capable Government.


You said before the Federal election that there was no place for One Nation in Australian politics?


The fact is One Nation is represented, has been elected to the Federal Parliament and, I have to say, we work very closely with the One Nation Senators. We work respectfully and constructively with them as we do with all of the crossbenchers in the Senate.


Arthur Sinodinos said over the weekend that One Nation is more sophisticated as a party than it was 20 years ago. Can you point to a particular policy?


One Nation has got three Senate seats at the moment after the recount in Western Australia, it is likely then to have four once again. It is a substantial cross bench party in the Senate and it is taking a policy position on a wide range of issues. It is not a single issue party. It is not a single personality party. We deal with it constructively and respectfully because we respect the fact that each of those One Nation Senators has been democratically elected. The Australian people chose to put them in the Senate and we deal with them.


Fairfax is reporting today that via an FOI that you and your ministers were told after the South Australia’s blackout, the wind wasn't to blame?


This is a classic case of misrepresentation by the Labor Party and by the left generally. Let me be very clear, of course windmills did not cause a blackout, the blackout, as I have said many times, was caused by a storm breaching transmission lines. That is perfectly obvious. That is the only point that was made. However, the introduction of a massive amount of wind energy, so variable renewable energy made the South Australia grid very vulnerable - very, very vulnerable indeed to breaches in transmission lines and the overloading or pressure on the interconnector with Victoria which, as you know, is bringing in coal-fired power from the La Trobe Valley.

The point about renewables is this - we support and continue with the Renewable Energy Target – number one. Renewables have a very big place in Australia's energy mix and it will get bigger. The cost of renewables is coming down. I have no problem with renewables at all. In fact, I welcome the advances in renewable technology. Who wouldn't? Our energy policy is technology agnostic. We believe in all of the above, all of the technologies.

But variable renewables like wind and solar have one specific characteristic that others do not and that is that the wind doesn't blow all the time, the sun doesn't shine all the time. So you have to have either storage or backup power to keep the lights on and to ensure that energy is secure and affordable and of course, you meet your targets.

What Labor has done, and this is why I have said again and again this is not an issue about renewables good or bad, or coal good or bad for that matter, it is about competence.

Labor has been complacent, lazy, incompetent and negligent in allowing this drive towards more renewables without putting in place the storage.

I have set out a road map to secure our energy future which includes all technologies. I have got ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation cracking to start identifying and supporting storage projects.

We have got so little energy storage in Australia. There is only three significant pumped hydro storage facilities in Australia and yet we are introducing all of this renewable energy. What do you need if you have got a variable source of energy? You need storage.

Have you heard the Labor Party talking about that? Have they done anything to advance it?

Well, my Government is. We see this as a test of competence. What we are doing is setting out the road map for energy that is affordable, reliable and we meet our obligations to cut emissions.


Industry and community groups have said that the continued finger pointing and partisan politicking on energy policy will leave the system in crisis and force electricity bills up into the future. How does stunts like Scott Morrison bringing a lump of coal into Parliament help give industry any certainty?


Let me be clear - if you look at the figures in the papers today, the average household energy bill in Australia has more than doubled since 2006. We have seen massive increases in energy costs, way above the rate of inflation. It is putting real pressure on Australian families. Australian families that are struggling to meet the cost of child care, struggling to pay their mortgage, struggling to pay school fees, struggling to fill the car up. It is a massive continuing pressure on households’ energy costs. This has been the consequence of a complacent, negligent approach to energy policy by state Labor governments.

I would add to that that what we need to do is ensure that we have a rational road map to securing our energy future. I laid that out at the Press Club and we are getting on with the job. We have to take the left ideology out of this and focus on outcomes. And the outcomes have got to be - I will close with this - we have to have affordable electricity. Households and businesses have got to be able to afford it. Secondly, it has got to be reliable. When you flick the switch, the lights have got to go on, the air-conditioning has got to go on, the plant has got to keep operating. Thirdly, we should meet our international emissions reduction targets.

What you have seen today is state Coalition oppositions taking the lead and saying we are going to abandon these absurd state renewable targets and simply focus on the federal one which is going to be challenging enough to meet. Why put more pressure on grids that have already been disrupted? We need an orderly progress to ensure that we have reliable, affordable energy and we meet our targets.

On that note, I will leave you to go back to Parliament. Thank you.