Source: Australian Labor Party (ALP)
SUNDAY, 20 JANUARY 2019
SUBJECT/S: Swim Smart – Labor’s plan to keep our kids safe in the water; Jobs Not Cuts bus tour; Kelly O’Dwyer; female representation in the Parliament; Barnaby Joyce; chaos and division in the Coalition
DANIEL PARSELL, LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FISHER: Good morning everyone. My name is Daniel Parsell – I am the local member – local candidate for Fisher, rather, and I am here with the Leader of the Labor Party, Bill Shorten, Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek and the member for Kingsford-Smith, Matt Thistlethwaite. This is a great opportunity for them to be here. They’re here to support Queensland on their Bill bus tour and we thank them all for coming along. And I am here with Bill to announce a new policy – so I’ll hand over to Bill.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks, Daniel. Hello, everyone. We will keep this fairly brief because of course, you’d probably rather than be in water than just standing in front of it talking politics.
But I am really pleased today with Tanya Plibersek and Matt Thistlethwaite to be announcing that if Labor is elected, we are going to invest $46 million dollars in the next three years to make sure that Australian children get a better chance to learn to swim and water safety.
Chloe grew up on this coast on her the holidays. She learned to do her nippers and her training here, and she’s no different to millions of other Australians. We love the beach, but gee it’s important that we make sure that our kids learn to swim.
It’s a real tragedy that even this year alone in the summer, 65 people have drowned. Not just at the beaches, but on the rivers and in the dams. We need to be better and smarter at teaching people to swim.
Anyone who’s got a friend who’s an adult who never learned to swim when they were a kid knows that they’ve missed out and those adults don’t feel as confident around the water.
As a parent, I want all my children to learn to swim and I’ve helped teach them to swim. I want to make sure that every Australian child at least has that opportunity. So we want to work with the states, we want to work with the surf lifesaving clubs to make sure that Aussie kids learn to swim, to make sure that they learn about water safety. We think this is a great investment in our kids. $46 million – it’s a significant amount of money but it’s not too much. We think that if Aussie kids can learn to swim in bigger numbers, then we think that’s an investment in the future. It’s an investment not only in their social confidence but indeed in their safety. So we’re very positive about this announcement today.
Happy to take any questions people might have.
SHORTEN: Well, first of all you’re quite right – Queensland and Annastacia Palaszczuk has done a good job in terms of rolling out a learn to swim campaign, and I acknowledge the work of the Courier Mail in campaigning on this. But it is too hit and miss in Australia. One in five Australian kids are finishing school with no knowledge of how to swim and that’s not good enough. We want to work with state governments, we want to work with Catholic and independent schools, and we want to work with the surf lifesaving movement.
But Matt Thistlethwaite and Tanya have done a fair bit of work on this policy, so why don’t I get them to perhaps expand why we think this is filling a gap, making sure that Australian kids learn to swim. Matt?
MATT THISTLETHWAITE, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY: Thanks, Bill.
Firstly, I’d like to thank all of the stakeholders who helped us put this policy together. We’ve got representatives from Queensland Surf Lifesaving here today. We met in every state and territory across the country over the last 12 months, holding roundtables on this very important issue. And those stakeholders – including AUSTSWIM, including Royal Lifesaving, including Surf Lifesaving Australia – told us that the great lack in Australia at the moment is that we don’t have a national approach to teaching swimming and water safety. And many kids are falling through the gaps.
In fact, the swimming and water safety education that a child gets these days is unfortunately dependent on two things: where they live and their parents’ income. And in a nation like Australia, where being at the beach enjoying the water, is part of our culture and our national identity, it’s simply not good enough that some children are missing out. And this announcement that we’re making today of $46 million over the forward estimates will ensure that we can work with the state and territory governments to plug those gaps.
And I do want to congratulate the Palaszczuk Government because historically in Queensland they haven’t had aN across the board approach to swimming and water safety, but this government is now investing an additional $4 million in schools across the state to roll out a program, and our money will help supplement and boost that program to make sure that we get more kids into swimming and water safety, and they develop that very important and vital life skill.
JOURNALIST: How will that $46 million be divided up between the states?
THISTLETHWAITE: So the policy is based on costings that have been looked at by the Parliamentary Budget Office, the $46 million. It’s based on a program of $55 per-student, which is roughly half the cost of what it takes to get a child through to a year four level of proficiency under the national swimming and water safety guidelines. And that policy will ensure that it’s a matter of the Commonwealth partnering with the states to ensure that more kids get access to that vitally important training program, which is the competency benchmark that’s been put forward by the national swimming and water safety council.
SHORTEN: Not at all. But if you want to talk about swimming, there’s few places I can think better in Australia than coming to the Sunshine Coast.
Now, we’re doing our bus tour – our Jobs Not Cuts bus tour of Queensland. We’ve started in Logan – in Beenleigh, and I’ve been to Chermside, to the hospital there, and North Lakes shopping centre. During the weekend, I was very fortunate to be on the Sunshine Coast. My wife, Chloe, as I said, grew up on the Sunshine Coast in her holidays learning to swim. I have to say the water temperature in Queensland, it’s unarguable. It’s about seven degrees warmer than Bass Strait, where I was – down the Great Ocean Road where my little daughter did Nippers this summer. It’s quite unusual for a Victorian to see people not all in wetsuits at the beach. So Queensland’s a special place. But this program is something for all of Australia.
Really, I think we can over complicate politics in Australia. I think you’d be hard put to find a single parent in Australia who doesn’t think that making sure that kids getting swimming lessons isn’t a good idea. You know, we’re trying to do it in the most cost effective way, but I want Aussie kids to learn how to swim. A lot of good people are doing a lot of work. I want to acknowledge Laurie Lawrence’s influence in terms of educating us about the importance of swimming lessons, Surf Lifesaving. But I think the Government nationally needs to step up.
[Helicopter flies over]
SHORTEN: I heard the propeller, not much of what you said, sorry.
SHORTEN: Well this is my 6th January as Opposition Leader. My united team’s been working on policies. I think the old way of doing politics, where you rush out some expenditure promises just at the last minute in the official five weeks of an election campaign, I think that insults the intelligence of Australians. Wherever I travelled this summer, and the same has been even as late as this morning on the beaches here, people come up to me and they say, listen, we don’t have to agree with everything that you say, but will you be stable? People are over this instability in politics where politicians fight amongst themselves and don’t talk about the people.
Now, jobs are important. Education, health care is important. Getting the banks to face a royal commission is important. But swimming lessons is just another piece of example of the work we’re doing. So a good opposition puts out ideas all the time, so that’s what we’re doing today, because I think the Australian people should examine not just what we say about our opponents but what we want to do for the country.
If what we do today can save the life of any Australian child or Australian adult, then this is a very good investment.
JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on Kelly O’Dwyer’s resignation?
SHORTEN: First of all, I’m a dad. I know what it’s like to be away from my three kids. Matt, as a father of four, Tanya’s raised three kids along with her husband through 18 years of politics, so I understand the strains. But I also get that our Defence Force personnel are away at long periods of time from their families. In fact, millions of Australians, working families, have strains. So I respect her decision.
I’m going to ask Tanya to supplement the answer to your question. But losing a cabinet minister, no matter what the reason, I think it’s very legitimate in this case, just heightens again, I think, the instability. And I wonder if there’s going to be more people from the current government, for whatever good reason, just saying they’ve had enough and pulling the ripcord and getting off the government aeroplane. But I might get Tanya to talk about the policy issues.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thanks very much, Bill.
I think you make a really important point when you say that millions of Australians are facing juggling the balance between work and family. There are people in all sorts of jobs and Bill’s mentioned our defence personnel.
You know, I go down to Garden Island when we’re welcoming our Navy personnel back. They’ve often been on three or four or six month trips around the Gulf area perhaps, and they’re coming home to tiny children, and dads coming home to their tiny children, waiting for them there on the wharf at Garden Island. It’s tough to be away from your kids. We experience it as parliamentarians, but many professions experience this. And so the first thing I guess I’d say is of course I understand Kelly’s decision.
As Bill said, I’ve raised three children. My oldest is about to turn 18. All of them were born after I was elected to Parliament. I know that it is heartbreaking to miss out on some of those milestones. But we do it because we have a commitment to the country, to making this country a better country for our kids. We are always torn between those two things, of wanting to be there every minute for our children, and wanting to give them a better world, a better country to grow up in. So it is a struggle and I respect the decision that Kelly’s made.
What I would say is that the parliamentary environment has changed a lot in the time that I’ve been there. You know, we’ve got people like Bill, who’ve got a young family, like Matt who’s got four beautiful children, who really want to be there for their kids as well. And having almost 50 per cent women in the Labor Caucus has made a huge difference to. Having active and engaged fathers and having more women has meant that we do try and respect people’s desire to balance their work and family commitments but it’s still hard as a parliamentarian. I remember Michelle Rowland in the last federal election – or the 2013 federal election campaign – doing railway stations every morning, kissing her six month old baby goodbye at 4.00am and walking out the door to do railway stations every morning. It’s a tough life, and we do it because we want to leave a better country for our kids.
I think one of the differences that the Liberal Party could make to make it easier to retain people like Kelly O’Dwyer in the frontbench is increase the number of women in their parliamentary party, because when you get a critical mass, it does change the culture.
We started, in 1994, the Liberals and Labor started at around about 14 per cent female representation in both of our parties. The difference since then is we set targets to increase our female representation and we’re at almost 50 per cent now, and the Liberals are stuck at about one in five of their parliamentary representatives being female. If you don’t set targets, if you don’t make it a priority, then nothing changes.
And I don’t think it’s fair to put all the pressure on people like Kelly O’Dwyer to fix the problem. I’d like to see what Scott Morrison proposes to do to increase female representation in the Liberal Party.
JOURNALIST: Just while you’re there and on female representation, what do you think the biggest barriers are to women entering and staying in politics?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think the biggest barrier is the willingness of a political organisation that they’re part of to make room for them.
I mean we had to have a fight in the Labor Party in 1994 to set our 30 per cent target for winnable seats. It was a fight, nobody gave us that target – the women and supportive men in the Labor Party fought for it and won it. And we achieved it. We achieved it ahead of schedule. We increased the target to 40 per cent. We’ve increased it to 50 per cent, and we’ll get there six years ahead of schedule because our organisation, the Australian Labor Party, has made that a priority.
I think the biggest barrier to women going into politics is the culture of the party that they’ve joined.
SHORTEN: Well I just don’t want to talk about politicians. I want to talk about parents, working parents right across Australia in a whole lot of occupations – the media right through to factories, right through to office work, right through the health and education systems. What will lessen the strain on families and women participating meaningfully at work, is pay women the same as men, provide well-funded childcare and also, change the culture.
Tanya’s right. The Labor Party – and we make no apology for it – we’ve decided that we want to be a party who’s about 50-50 men and women in Parliament. We think we should reflect the Australian population.
But it’s not just about politicians. We’re proposing to fund universal pre-school for all three and four year-olds. That’s going to save families thousands of dollars. Very hard for a woman to return to work – say the father’s already at work and the woman’s returning to work – if you’re spending all the money you earn to return to work on childcare so you can go to work. It’s a vicious cycle. So we want to fund childcare. It’s a disaster in Australia that the cost of childcare under the Liberal Government’s gone up 20 per cent. So do I think it’s good if they replace Kelly O’Dwyer with another woman? Yes. But they sort of don’t get that’s the symptom, not the problem.
The real problem for millions of Australian families, millions of Australian women is they’re not paid the same as the blokes, childcare is ridiculously expensive and growing out of control. It’s not just about one politician in the leafy suburbs of the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. It’s about how do we make sure that women and men get a fair go. It’s childcare, it’s pay, it’s the cost of living, and that’s how I think we can help all women participate more fairly.
But it’s also the culture. It’s making sure that when you create workplaces that you have women role models. That’s why I am so lucky to have both Tanya Plibersek and Penny Wong in the leadership of the Labor Party. Queensland Labor’s led by Annastacia Palaszczuk. I think that also sends a very healthy message to young girls: get involved.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the news Barnaby Joyce is having another baby with Vicki Campion?
SHORTEN: I congratulate Barnaby and his family. That’s entirely a personal matter for them. I congratulate them. Whenever a child is to be born, it’s good news.
SHORTEN: Listen, I wish them well. I’m not going to comment on that, and if anyone’s out there complaining about Barnaby Joyce, it just sounds like more instability in the Coalition. I don’t make any judgement about their personal circumstances. I don’t think a lot of Australians do.
But what we see, it doesn’t matter where it is in the current government, they just don’t like each other. They really need some time in opposition so they can get over themselves and get back to worrying about the Australian people. I mean, this week we had the former Minister for Pacific Islands, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells criticising her boss, the Liberal Prime Minister. We see this sort of backbiting about Barnaby Joyce. We see more and more Liberals, for whatever reason, jumping ship.
This is a government who really, in my opinion, needs to hear the message of the electorate: time for stability. If you can’t work amongst yourselves, how on earth can you govern the nation?
JOURNALIST: Do you think we will see Julie Bishop leave any time soon?
SHORTEN: Well Julie Bishop’s a capable woman and I’m sure there’s a lot she can do in the private sector. The fact that no West Australian Liberal MP voted for their most popular West Australian Liberal MP speaks volumes of the backbiting and the division. You know, it’s up to her, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she’s got better things to do with her time than deal with a whole lot of people who don’t appreciate her. Well, I for one am not going to blame her, but that’s up to her.
SHORTEN: Ms O’Dwyer has made it clear she’s got her personal reasons for leaving and we respect that. We’ve had a good discussion at this press conference about the structural barriers, so I’m not going to try and extrapolate from her circumstances.
The big point about her going is that she is the only Liberal woman, just about, in the Victorian Liberal Party in the House of Reps. They lost Julia Banks – a very capable woman who’s now an independent. When Kelly O’Dwyer goes, it’s quite likely they’re just going to be blokes in the Liberal Party from Victoria. If you like, it’s not her going which is the issue – that’s her business. It’s the fact that once she goes, what other women are they going to put on the frontbench?
Is that good? We’ve covered everything? Thanks everybody, cheers.