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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Brisbane: 22 January 2013: The Coalition's plan for more affordable and flexible childcare; Labor's anti-discrimination bill; industrial relations; Labor's Defence cuts; climate change; Newstart allowance

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22 January 2013



Subjects: The Coalition's plan for more affordable and flexible childcare; Labor's anti-discrimination bill; industrial relations; Labor's Defence cuts; climate change; Newstart allowance



Look, it’s terrific to be here at the Brisbane childcare centre. I want to thank Chris Buck and his staff and team and parents and kids for making Teresa Gambaro and myself so welcome. Teresa is the hardworking local member and obviously centres like this are very, very important to her and very important to all the parents who are working in and around the CBD of Brisbane.

It’s really critical at this time of the year that we focus on the real needs of Australian families and Australian families need a childcare system which better caters for the realities of the modern Australian family and the modern Australian workforce.

Now, it’s great that a centre like this is expanding. It’s great that a centre like this has the capacity to operate longer hours if necessary. But we really do need a far more flexible and responsive childcare system and that’s why one of the first acts of an incoming Coalition government will be a full Productivity Commission inquiry to try and ensure that we do have a 21st Century childcare system which accepts that the modern workplace is 24/7, not just nine to five and caters for the real needs of Australian families.

We need to look at how childcare is funded. We need to look at the quantum of childcare funding. We need to look at the trade-offs for better childcare. We need to look at the economic benefits of better childcare systems. We certainly need to look at in-home care, including the possibility of more support for nannies and other in-home carers.

This is all part of the Coalition’s positive plans to give a better deal to the families of Australia. Another important part of our plans to get a better deal for the families of Australia is to have a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme. Now I know I've been criticised for this, including by some people who are on the conservative side of politics, but I think it’s really important that we finally move into the 21st Century where paid parental leave is concerned, paid parental leave should be a workplace entitlement, not a welfare entitlement. That’s why the government scheme is a Mickey Mouse one. That’s why only the Coalition can


give the families, the parents and the women of Australia the fair dinkum childcare system and the fair dinkum paid parental leave system that they deserve.

So, I’m very proud of our positions on these very important issues. This is a critical year. At some point in this year, there’ll be an election and the election will determine whether we really do move towards a better childcare system and a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme. Now I know these are very important to Teresa and I’m going to ask her to say a few words.


Thank you Tony. Look it’s great to be here at Brisbane City Childcare Centre. Tony, I just want to thank you, because I know you’ve had many trips to Queensland and particularly to Brisbane. So it’s great to have you here again. I want to acknowledge Chris Buck and all of his team here, for what is an incredibly impressive childcare centre right here in Spring Hill.

One of the things that families speak to me about constantly is the rising cost of childcare and the cost impost that it’s putting on the cost of living pressures for them. We have the new rules that have been imposed on the childcare sector that are leading to an increase in childcare costs and all they’re doing is putting more pressure on childcare centres and increasing the burden of regulation.

Families always talk to me as well in the inner-city about the lack of childcare places and they want much more flexibility and I know that our paid parental scheme will provide that flexibility and will provide childcare where it is needed and when it is needed. I’m very disappointed that the Gillard Government and families with children with disabilities have told me that the inclusive support subsidy has been withdrawn and cut in Queensland. Every child deserves access to childcare and children with disabilities and special needs will now be placed in a very difficult position.

Tony, I want to thank you very much for coming to Brisbane. I know that you’re very passionate about childcare issues. Every child deserves a positive start to their life and I know that many of the policies that you’ve advocated will help just that and Australian families deserve affordable childcare.

Thank you very much.


Thanks Teresa. Ok, do we have any questions?


Mr Abbott, Tony Windsor was on ABC AM this morning expressing his concerns about the anti-discrimination bills and saying he shared some of the similar concerns as former Justice Spigelman. Are they both on the right track and is this a problem for the Government with one of the key independents expressing reservations?


Well, I’m pleased that Tony Windsor has got on board with the Coalition. We’ve been expressing deep concerns about this ever since the Government first made these announcements. We do not need any additional restrictions on free speech in this country. I want to make that absolutely crystal clear. Not for nothing are we called the Liberal Party. We are called the Liberal Party because in our DNA is support for free speech and what we’ve seen from this government is a hectoring, bullying attempt to intimidate opponents, particularly the News Ltd group and the last thing we need is anything that shuts down legitimate debate in this country.



Mr Abbott, Rio Tinto have resumed negotiations with the AWU in Tasmania after almost 20 years of hostilities. How would you rate that development on I.R?


Well, the important thing is to ensure that nothing happens to make industries like the aluminium industry less competitive. We know that the Government has already put a massive impost on the aluminium industry because of the carbon tax. We know that on the Government’s own modelling aluminium production in Australia will drop by some 60 per cent - let me repeat that: 60 per cent - because of the carbon tax and I think one of the things that the AWU could usefully do for its workers as well as negotiate with Rio Tinto is to talk to the Government about the importance of getting rid of things like the carbon tax and the mining tax which are damaging the industries where so many AWU members work.


But with respect, do you welcome the fact that the unions and a major mining giant are more conciliatory with each other these days? Is that a good development?


Well, I think it’s very important that workers and businesses are in partnership. You cannot run a good business without a strong and productive workforce. You cannot have contented and prosperous workers without strong businesses and the important thing is for workers and managers to be working towards the common goal of more efficient, more competitive, more productive and more profitable businesses.


In Victoria Ted Baillieu’s under pressure from some of his own MPs. What kind of support are you giving to the Victorian premier?


Look, I try to support the Coalition team wherever I am and the Coalition team isn’t just the team in Canberra, it’s the team in all of the state and territory parliaments as well. Now, I think Ted Baillieu is doing a terrific job. I think Campbell Newman is doing a fine job under difficult circumstances. Campbell Newman has had to deal with a really terrible fiscal legacy from many, many years of incompetent and nepotistic Labor government here in Queensland. There were 60,000 more public servants when Campbell Newman took office than there were at the beginning of the Labor Party’s most recent incumbency. Obviously if Queensland is going to regain its triple A rating, tough decisions have got to be made. I know a lot of people have hurt but in the end governments at both a state and federal level are elected to do what’s necessary to keep our country and our state strong.


Mr Abbott, the Prime Minister’s going to be making a speech tomorrow on national security. Would you restore Australia’s defence budget if you won the election and do you think the Gillard Government’s cuts have damaged national security?


I think it’s pretty hard for the Government to be credible about national security when it’s reduced defence spending as a percentage of GDP to the lowest level since 1938. Now, the world is not so safe a place that


we can afford to be asleep at the wheel when it comes to defence. Now, the Coalition’s objective is to try to restore three per cent a year real growth in defence spending. Our aspiration is to spend two per cent of GDP on defence. The three per cent a year real increase was certainly what the Howard Government put in place over the last seven or eight years of its term. That’s what we need to get back to. Obviously we need a strong economy and a strong fiscal position to bring that about.


President Obama has just mentioned in his inauguration speech that the world’s not doing enough on climate change. Is it time Australia signed up to achieve more?


Well the interesting thing is that President Obama’s administration has three times in the last few months explicitly ruled out a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme. Now, all of us are concerned about climate change, all of us want to do the right thing by our planet. We all want to give the planet the benefit of the doubt but we’ve got to have smart policies, not dumb policies to do that and it is a very dumb policy to damage the Australian economy without helping the environment and that’s the problem with Labor’s carbon tax. It damages our economy. It doesn’t actually reduce Australia’s domestic emissions. Even on the Government’s own figures despite a carbon tax of $37 a tonne by 2020, Australia’s domestic emissions go up by eight per cent, not down by five per cent.


Mr Abbott, Campbell Newman was asked about whether he thought some of this wild weather we’ve been having over the last few weeks was related to climate change, he said he wasn’t 100 per cent sure, because there had been hot days in the last 70 or so years. Do you agree with him?


Look, I certainly accept that climate change is real, that mankind is making a contribution, it’s important to take strong and effective action to deal with it. Now, I will leave the scientists to argue about the particular impact of climate change but Campbell is absolutely right. We have had floods before, we have had droughts before, we have had cyclones before, we have had fires before, we have had very hot days before, we have had very cold days before - weather is inherently variable and almost, well indeed, from the beginning of records being kept in this country we have had very severe heatwaves and from very early on in the time of European settlement we have had devastating bushfires.


Mr Abbott, there’s the reports that because of the Newstart Allowance changes for single mothers some of them are turning to prostitution to actually pay their bills. How disturbed are you by those kind of reports?


These are fairly lurid reports and I certainly would hope that there is nothing in them. I can understand the concerns that people have here particularly given the Government’s winding back of employment services because it is very important if we are going to expect more people to move into the workplace, into the workforce that we have the right services to help that adjustment. On the fundamental principle, I want to make this very clear, the best form of welfare is work and if we want to most help the families of this country we should encourage more families where at least one parent is working. So, on the basic principle of encouraging people back into the workforce - well I support that.



So should it be tax deductible, childcare?


The Productivity Commission inquiry, that we will begin very swiftly should there be a change of government later this year, will look at all of these funding issues. Now, one of the reasons why I am so keen to see the Productivity Commission looking at this is because the Productivity Commission is better placed then almost any other body to consider what the economic benefits of an improved child care system might be now it’s my instinct that if we’ve got better childcare we’ll have a larger workforce and if we have a larger workforce we’ll have a more productive economy, we’ll have higher tax revenues and that’s something that I want the Productivity Commission to look at and obviously how it’s funded, the quantum of funding, how the funding is best directed are all things that the Productivity Commission will be looking at.