SUNDAY, 5 APRIL 2015
SUBJECT/S: Child care; Immunisation for children; GST; Abbott Government cuts to the age pension; Protests; Labor policy
DEBORAH KNIGHT: Now the Government wants to tackle the child care crisis by making it easier for foreign nannies to work here in Australia. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is in Melbourne this morning and joins us now. Happy Easter to you Mr Shorten.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Happy Easter Deb.
KNIGHT: Now accessing affordable child care is of course a major issue for all Australian families. Do you think this idea of bringing in foreign nannies is a good move?
SHORTEN: Well, I think the big challenges in child care aren't going to be solved by bringing in nannies from overseas. What I think the Government needs to do, and they’ve promised us they’ll do it, is reveal how they're going to look after the whole problem. Now my spokespeople, Kate Ellis and Jenny Macklin, have been meeting with the Government to see if we can't get a bit of bipartisanship on child care. I think the foreign nanny issue is not the big issue in this and I think if people think that we're going to have all the children in Australia and their child care solved by bringing in a whole lot of overseas nannies, I don't think - that's not the long-term solution. Let's get the basics and the fundamentals right.
KNIGHT: Bit if it's something that families want and if it's something that could ease the problems that many are facing, surely it's worth looking at?
SHORTEN: Well, what I understand is, you know - I’ve had children myself and they’ve been in child care - is what I think families want is quality, they want affordability and they want accessibility. So, I get that - a story about foreign nannies may sound interesting, but I don't think it goes to the fundamental challenges of child care in Australia. I think what we need to do is make sure it's properly funded, that people can afford to pay it, that the fees aren't getting out of control and of course it's good quality for our kids.
KNIGHT: Another big issue for parents is that of vaccinations and we're seeing babies dying from preventable conditions like whooping cough, absolutely heartbreaking. This Galaxy Poll out today found that Australians want the Government to take a tougher stance on childhood jabs. Would you support that?
SHORTEN: Yes, we would. Again, I just refer to my own experience as a parent, the idea that your child’s going to a child care centre and that some other parent doesn't feel they like the science of immunisation and therefore they come along and your child or anyone else's child could catch something because some other parent has an opinion, that isn't really good enough is it. So, we believe that, unless you're someone with a really deep held religious view there really is no, there should be no exceptions and you should be getting your children immunised.
KNIGHT: So it should be compulsory?
SHORTEN: Well I think that we could tie it to child care benefits or family benefits. I don't know if you would make it a crime, I wouldn't go that far but what I would say is really there is no scientific case against immunising your child and again, I just think of all the parents who do the right thing, get their children immunised and someone comes along and has an some opinion and they don't want their child immunised and all of a sudden, you know, you’ve got problems and that isn't right is it.
KNIGHT: Yeah, the power’s definitely in the numbers in that regard. Now Mr Shorten, violence erupted on our streets yesterday as rival protest groups clashed over Islamic protests. There was a lot of anger. Are you concerned that this type of protest could potentially boil over into something worse?
SHORTEN: I think like many Australians we saw the images last night on television and we're left scratching our heads. You know, it’s one thing to have freedom of speech, but it's another thing when it turns into violence. There's no place for violence in any protests or any, you know, expressions of freedom of speech. You know, you see rival groups saying that they’ve got a right to speak. People have a right to state their view at a rally, but once it goes to violence no-one has a right to violence and protesting should never be violent.
KNIGHT: And there is a lot of fear around surrounding terrorist groups twisting the teachings of Islam. Do you think that Muslim leaders need to do more to try to stop these terror attacks and to shutdown radical preachers?
SHORTEN: I don't see the Muslim community as just being homogenous, you know, or all identical I think and I know absolutely the vast majority, the vast, vast majority of Muslim Australians are like all other Australians they deplore the violence. This idea somehow that there's a big conspiracy amongst Australia's minority to, minority Muslims to bring in Sharia law is just completely exaggerated.
That doesn't mean that there aren't a few people with absolutely shocking views, but I think it is really wrong to tar everyone in a minority with the same views. It wasn't, you know, 50, 60 years ago people said that the Irish Catholics or the Catholics were trying to take over the joint and that wasn't true either. So, I think what we’ve got to be careful of is just saying and putting all people in a minority group and saying they're all the same and they're signing up to bad ideas. That just isn't true.
KNIGHT: Now, tax reform has been top of the political agenda this week, the tax discussion paper of course released by the Treasurer on Monday, among it calling for a rise in the GST. It should be at least reformed, shouldn't it?
SHORTEN: I’m not convinced, in fact I'm not convinced at all and don’t believe that increasing the GST is the answer to Australia's problems. The truth of the matter is that the less well off in our society spend all of their income - they don't get very much income - they spend it all on goods and services and so what would happen is if you increase the GST the less well off would be disproportionately hit. Labor has said that we will talk to the Government about matters, including some of their tax concessions which multimillionaires might be getting on their superannuation. I think that's fertile. I think there's a big opportunity for us together, Liberal and Labor, to work together to stop multinational companies, some multinational companies, from shifting assets and minimising their tax in Australia. I think we should start with making sure that everyone pays their fair share, rather than just getting ordinary battlers and people to have to pay more tax. That seems to be an unimaginative way to run Australia. Let's go after the people that should be paying their fair share and are not now, rather than targeting the less well off and the battlers and ordinary people.
KNIGHT: Now you promised to voters during your first quarter as Opposition Leader that it will be a year of ideas. Now you have released a few policies in the past few months but a big criticism of you personally and your party is that voters really don't know what you stand for. How do you overcome that?
SHORTEN: Well, interviews like today are a great opportunity. I’ve explained that we think that immunisations - parents should be immunising their kids. We've explained even today in this interview the challenge for child care is to make sure that it's properly funded and we've indicated that we're sitting down with the Government to work on it. Other things which we stand for that's fundamental, we want to make sure that we have an economy which working for all people, not just for some.
We want to make sure our young people are properly trained at TAFE. We want to make sure that our universities don't change $100,000 degrees. Our challenge is jobs, you know, and how we make sure that every Australian child can get a job and be properly trained for the future. So I look forward to this year debating issues and on tax reform we’ve made clear that what we think needs to be done is that some of the larger multinationals who aren't paying their fair share, pay their fair share.
KNIGHT: Do you think you need a new approach though because we’re seeing the Prime Minister, he’s turned things around for his own party, the leadership rumbles have settled and he's turning things around in the opinion polls.
SHORTEN: Well the people I talk to out and about don't think that the Government’s doing a great job I have to say. They're concerned that unemployment’s up. They're concerned that this is a government who broke their promises on pensions. They're concerned that they’re cutting back funding to hospitals and schools. So I understand in fact that people want to see different debates and ideas because they're very dissatisfied with the direction of this government.
The Government’s got a Budget it's going to bring down in a month's time. I hope that one thing they could do, maybe as an Easter present but certainly before the next Budget, is drop their cuts to the pension. I think that would make millions of older Australians feel just a little less anxious about what's going on.
KNIGHT: Alright, I hope that the Easter bunny is kind to you and your family and thank you so much for joining us this morning.
SHORTEN: Lovely to see you, thank you.
LEADER’S OFFICE MEDIA UNIT: 02 6277 4053
Weekend Today - Child care; Immunisation for children
05 April 2015