SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government’s Cuts to TAFE Funding; Taxpayer Funded Advertising Campaign; Tony Abbott’s Unfair Budget; Childcare Cuts; Foreign Aid; Australia Post; Manus Island.
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Great to be here talking to the frontline of Australia’s TAFE system, people who every day make sure that kids and adults get the best chance to acquire vocational education so they can help contribute to their own families and to Australia. I’m here today with Sharon Bird, our shadow spokesperson on vocational education. This is a rotten budget for TAFE students everywhere in Australia. We see the prospect of increase debts and of programs being cut and futures being made more bleak by this Government. This is part of the bigger story of the Abbott Government Budget. What they are doing is they have a rotten budget full of election promises which are broken, based upon lies before the last election and today we hear that now the Abbott Government is advertising its rotten budget to pensioners. It is bad enough that Australia’s 2.4 million pensioners are going to have their pensions cut but it rubs salt in the wound for this Government to spend some of the money they’re taking from pensioners to try and advertise or sell this rotten, unfair budget.
Tony Abbott should not be writing to the pensioners of Australia about the Budget, Tony Abbott should be re-writing his Budget on behalf of the pensioners of the Australia. Tony Abbott can’t sell this Budget to his colleagues and he’s certainly not going to be able to sell this Budget to the Australian people. No government taxpayer-funded, letter writing campaign, there are not enough taxpayer funded letter writing campaigns in all of Australia which will make this rotten budget anything other than what it is, a disgrace which is sinking fast. I might ask my colleague Sharon Bird to just say a few words in particular about the dreadful TAFE cuts.
SHARON BIRD, SHADOW MINISTER FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION: Thanks Bill, look it's National TAFE Day and it's an important occasion to remember and to celebrate the contribution that our TAFEs have made across the country to trade training and to second-chance education, for thousands and thousands of people in this nation. An important task in building the future of safe jobs, good jobs and reliable jobs for the long term and contributing to the well-being of the nation. That's absolutely been decimated in this Federal Budget. Over $2 billion has been cut from trades training programs across the country. In particular, as we're talking about young people today, over a billion dollars cut to apprenticeships programs to give them access, to give mentoring and to provide the tools they need to do that task. So I'm really pleased that we've been able to join with the TAFE function today to celebrate but more importantly to commit to remain champions of the public TAFE system.
SHORTEN: Thanks Sharon, are there any questions?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, we're hearing from the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that there will be a radical restructure to foreign aid, getting more value for money, performance benchmarks, a focus on gender equality. What are your thoughts on this?
SHORTEN: It sounds like, when I hear the Government say there's a radical restructure, my stunt alarm goes off. This is a government addicted to stunts. There's been a $7.6 billion cut to aid, that's the bottom line. This is not a government who are interested in the topic of aid in our region, this is just another excuse and another whitewash of more cuts which we weren't told about before the last election.
JOURNALIST: What do you think though of the idea of benchmarks for aid funding?
SHORTEN: Again, this is a government who uses a set of motherhood principles. They say we believe in benchmarks. People believe in benchmarks. The real issue is: is this a cut to our aid program? Were Australians told this before the last election? This is another Government attempt to distract from the Budget. The aid program, like every other aspect of the Budget, we weren't told about before the election. This is a government who lie about the Budget when they get up in the morning, they lie about it in Parliament, and they continue lying about it at dinner time. It's a rotten Budget for all Australians.
JOURNALIST: This morning, the childcare measures are back in the house, can you just explain, is Labor going to combine with the Greens and oppose the changes to freeze the threshold for benefits?
SHORTEN: There are two sets of childcare payment and support in Australia. Childcare is fundamentally important to the productivity of Australian families and there is no task more important than ensuring the emotional well-being of our kids when parents have got to go to work. Before the election, this Government said there'd be no cuts to childcare. That’s what the Government said. Now they're proposing to freeze the thresholds. What we will see is families on incomes as low as $42,000 a year losing significant amounts of child care support. This Government loves to cut and loves to tax. They're putting up the petrol tax of the families who go to work. They're cutting the family payments of the families that go to work. Now they've moved their beady eyes onto cutting the childcare benefits of families who go to work. This is a Government who doesn't get how ordinary Australians structure their lives. Kids are entitled to good-quality childcare. Families are trying to make ends meet. The Government should take its hands off damaging the childcare opportunities and support for ordinary families.
JOURNALIST: Can you just clarify, will Labor support or oppose – are you going to combine with the Greens would you like to see these two bills separated and you’d support one and block the other, or what's Labor's stance?
SHORTEN: We have always been open to looking at means testing at the upper end. Of course this is a Government that appears incapable of ever negotiating, it’s their way or the highway. Our test is, does this affect ordinary families The prospects are that we will be opposing this change. Clearly before the election the Government didn't talk about tackling childcare or cutting childcare benefits. Now they are.
JOURNALIST: Have you sought any meetings with the Government on these Bills?
SHORTEN: They’re their Bills, they can afford to have a chat, can't they? This is a Government who will spend millions of dollars mailing out to pensioners trying to make a nonsense about the cuts they're doing. This is a Government who's so arrogant they can't sit down and engage.
JOURNALIST: What could you think about reducing the number of times post is delivered a week?
SHORTEN: Australia Post isn't just about profits, it's about services. There are many communities in Australia who depend upon the hard work and the benefit Australia Post delivers them. Labor is very concerned that this is a Government seeking to hack into basic services which Australians across this continent, especially Australians in regional Australia, have come to depend on.
JOURNALIST: The High Court is hearing a legal challenge as we speak against Manus Island. Under your Government, the former Government, Labor changed the Migration Act in 2010. Are you confident that everything was done correctly then?
SHORTEN: We'll have to what the High Court says. But I can’t help but reflect, this is 1,000 days since the Liberals combined with the Greens to defeat the Malaysia Regional Processing Settlement. It's 1,000 days today. There is some irony in the High Court making a decision about some of the aspects of Manus Island today. I just wish that the current Government, then the Opposition, hadn't been so negative to combine with the Greens to defeat Malaysia, the Malaysian Regional Solution. Thanks guys.