Subjects: Child care reforms, GST, Newspoll, Karel Dubsky.
SENATOR THE HON. MARISE PAYNE, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good morning ladies and gentlemen and it’s fabulous to be here at Mud Puddles in Emu Plains with Kirsty and Mark Jackson. Thank you both very much for having us here this morning. With the Wombats, the Possums, the Emus and the Bilbies inside and countless other famous Australian babies. Here in Lindsay and in this part of Western Sydney, the child care changes that we’re here to talk about today are going to benefit over 8,400 families. It’s a really significant and important day for families here in this part of Western Sydney, because so many families rely on the support of businesses like Mud Puddles to look after their precious ones. Mud Puddles is a great example of a small family business that is working very hard to support the workers in our community, the families in our community, here in Western Sydney. I’m very pleased to be joined here at Mud Puddles by the Prime Minister and the Minister Simon Birmingham, to talk about the child care changes today. I look forward to hearing from both of them. Thank you very much.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks Marise and Birmo, thank you very much Kirsty and Mark. Thank you very much and what wonderful kids. Look, this is a great day for Australian families. This is the first working day of the new financial year and our new child care benefit arrangements come into place. One million families are going to benefit. Overall, families will benefit by about $1,300 a year per child. It is a much fairer child care subsidy system and it is one that is targeted to benefit those on lower incomes and middle incomes and those that are participating. So the more active you are, the more benefit you will get. It is going to bring over 200,000 Australian parents will work more. It’ll encourage them to more engaged with the workforce. It is an outstanding reform. It of course involves the investment of another $2.5 billion over the forward estimates. So, it's a very substantial increase in benefit for child care. But there are so many other great reforms starting today. ‘No Jab, No Pay’ our new arrangements there begin today. That's vitally important in keeping kids healthy. And of course, right across Australia over 10 million Australian taxpayers will benefit from our personal income tax reform. Over four million will get the full $530 tax offset in this current financial year. Here in Western Sydney, those numbers are around 500,000 benefitting overall and over 200,000 will get the full $530 back. Now, Marise of course talked about family businesses. Mark and Kirsty’s business is just one of thousands that benefit from our lower company tax. Of course from this financial year on, from 1 July on, we bring into that lower company tax net, businesses with turnovers of $25 to $50 million. Now collectively, all of these businesses employ just under five million Australians. That's more than half of the private sector workforce. So, that's a massive part of our economy. They are investing. They are growing. They invest their retained earnings. So, if they can keep more of their earnings after tax, they’ve got more to invest. That's what's driving the stronger economy that we have. That's why we have record jobs growth last year, highest jobs growth in our country's history. It's why we are able to bring the budget back into balance a year earlier. It’s why we're able to spend $2.5 billion more on the child care benefit. It's why we're able to make the huge investment in our naval capabilities that you would have seen last week with the announcement of the $35 billion program to build our Future Frigates. All of this depends on a strong economy. The greatest threat to that strong economy is Bill Shorten. He wants to have everybody pay higher taxes; individuals, investors, he wants to go after the savings of retirees. No-one will be left out of his increased tax hike. He wants every single business in Australia to pay higher tax. Every single one, from the smallest to the largest. What that is, is a threat to our strong economy. The stronger our economy is, the greater government revenues are, the more we can deliver on essential services like child care, like schools, like health, like infrastructure and of course, we can bring the budget back into balance a year earlier, ensuring that government lives within its means. So that the little Wombats, possums, bilbies and emus we saw earlier will not, when they grow up, have to pay huge amounts of tax to pay off the debt that their parents and grandparents ran up. This is a responsible economic plan that is securing Australia's future and it is delivering more growth; 3.1 per cent, envy of the OECD. Record jobs growth and of course, the revenues that enable us to fund essential services like child care. So I'll now ask Birmo, the Education Minister, to say some more about the child care benefit.
SENATOR THE HON. SIMON BIRMINGHAM, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Thanks very much PM and Marise. The biggest improvements to Australia's child care subsidy system in 40 years, are going to make a huge difference to help families with cost of living pressures and make it possible for people to work an extra shift or an extra day and know that it will be worthwhile doing so, that child care costs won't simply gobble up all of their extra hard work for those earnings. These are fundamentally fair reforms that are going to benefit nearly one million Australian families to the tune - as the PM said - on average of about $1,300 per child, per annum, on average. That's a huge saving for household budgets because we know that too many families have been doing it too tough, for too long in terms of meeting their child care bills, especially the 100,000 families who used to run out of child care rebate partway through the financial year. Our reforms ensure that for families earning less than $187,000 a year, they will no longer hit up against that child care rebate cap. The new child care subsidy will give them the support to work as many days, as many hours, as suits their family circumstances. To know that child care support will always be there for them. Our reforms are estimated to help around 230,000 Australian families to increase their workforce participation. Of course they're going to help families to be able to access quality, early childhood education and care services, the likes of which Kirsty and Mark provide here. As so many other operators and providers across the country do with high-quality care for young Australians right around the country, giving them a flying start at their education, as well as their parents the opportunity to be able to work the hours and days that suits their family circumstances. This stands in stark contrast. The Turnbull Government has delivered, thanks to a stronger economy, an extra $2.5 billion of investment into the child care subsidy framework and made the decisions to target, to support families working the longest hours, with the greatest hours of subsidised care, earning the least amount with the greatest rate of child care subsidy. Yet in contrast, Bill Shorten and the Labor Party, have no child care policy, have no alternative except to tax those families and those businesses more. Ripping more out of their pockets, rather than giving them the additional support that our reforms are going to do. This is a great start of a wonderful new system that will help hundreds of thousands of Australian families make the household budgets easier, make going to work easier, ensure that life is that little bit easier for so many families.
PRIME MINISTER: Very good, well said. Do we have some questions?
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, how much will child care centres have to hike their fees before they will be named and shame by the government?
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: It's important to note, we have built into these reforms the expectation that there will be usual annual start of the financial year fee increases. So, that's budgeted to ensure that families still get real and significant benefits. We’ve also acted on the Productivity Commission recommendation to put an efficient benchmark price in, as part of the new child care subsidy ensuring that as the Productivity Commission recommended, there should be a lid on future fee increases. But we will be monitoring the system closely. We will make sure that families get the benefit of these reforms and if there are providers who do the wrong thing, then we will, of course act to make sure that they are identified and they are held to account for doing so.
JOURNALIST: So is just naming and shaming enough? Don’t these providers need a bit more of an incentive or a punishment to not hike the fees so much?
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: We have already taken the big policy change here of putting in place the benchmark pricing system which will provide clear signals in terms of what is appropriate pricing. Centres like this one that charge below the benchmark price are clearly doing the right thing as the vast majority do across the country. On estimations, 85 per cent of centres charge below that benchmark price and we'll be watching very closely to make sure that remains the case.
JOURNALIST: The Courier-Mail is reporting that no state will be left worse off during a transition to a new GST system. Is that correct?
PRIME MINISTER: I won't comment on the story, but we'll have more to say about that this week. But yes, the aim is to have, our commitment is to have, a GST system that is fair. That it passes the pub test in Burnie and Bunbury, in Bundaberg and Bathurst – everywhere – and Bendigo, right across the country.
JOURNALIST: If no state is left worse off, is that a political agenda by you?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, the goal as I said, is to ensure that all states are treated fairly and that no state is worse off. We will have more to say about it during the week.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, were you happy with the latest Newspoll results?
PRIME MINISTER: I'm not a commentator on polls, I leave that to experts like yourselves. But I have to say that Bill Shorten's performance last week demonstrated, his back flip - or perhaps his belly-flop - on company taxes, demonstrates that the description of him as “unbelievaBill,” is very well-deserved. How could any Australian business or any Australian taxpayer have any confidence that anything he says could be believed? He gave one statement on company tax at the beginning of the week and then did a sort of partial reversal of it later in the week. I know his new ALP President, Wayne Swan, was on television over the weekend, saying that he wanted to go back to the old, to the position that had been earlier in the week. Look, the one thing you can be very clear about the Labor Party is you cannot trust them with money, especially your money, taxpayers' money. They are determined to levy higher taxes on every part of the economy, whether it is family-owned businesses, small family businesses like this one, or whether it is larger companies or whether it is even the savings of retirees, which is probably the most shameful of all of their cash grabs. Bill Shorten – “unbelievaBill” – with his belly-flop on company tax, has once again demonstrated he cannot be trusted with the public finances of Australia.
JOURNALIST: So all of that is fair dinkum in the Newspoll result, Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: That’s I’m sure, a matter for you to judge. Again, I don't comment on polls. I see a lot of them, but I’d be spending all my time talking about them if I did.
JOURNALIST: Would you maybe call an early election?
PRIME MINISTER: The election will be next year.
JOURNALIST: Minister Payne, a question for you, if I may. Does Lt. Col. Karel Dubsky will he be compensated in the wake of being cleared over the Jedi Council scandal?
MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Chris, there's been a mediation between the Australian Defence organisation and Mr Dubsky. I think it is an enormous relief, in fact I'm sure it's an enormous relief to Mr Dubsky and his family, that this matter, this chapter, has come to an end.
The terms of the mediation are confidential, but I can assure you that when his issue was taken up with me last year - and I met with Mr Dubsky myself - that I ensured it was brought to some finality for him and his family.
JOURNALIST: Doesn't he deserve an apology?
MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Chris, you will have seen the public statement on the Defence record which indicates the position of Army. I know there's been extensive negotiations and discussions between the organisation and Mr Dubsky. I think, as he has said, both publicly and privately, it's now time to move on.
JOURNALIST: That's not an apology, is it?
MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Mr Dubsky has agreed to the mediation. The mediation is finalised and I think we have the best outcome in this context for him and his family.
JOURNALIST: How comfortable does it sit with you, in terms of David Morrison being declared Australian of the Year in the way that he was, in the wake of this?
MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Well, I'm not commenting on David Morrison or anyone else's appointment as Australian of the Year. But what I will say is when I met with Mr Dubsky probably at least 18 months ago now, and the details of the situation were brought to my attention, I asked the Defence organisation to work with him and his legal representatives to come to a solution, a resolution of his issues. We’ve been able to do that and I'm very glad that chapter is able to be closed for him and his family.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, everyone.