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Shadow Minister says there is significant difference between men's and women's concerns over sale of Telstra.

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PETER THOMPSON: At the weekend, Labor’s modern-day male icons were out in force to sell the Opposition’s arts policy with Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating flanking Kim Beazley at the Seymour Centre in Sydney.  Yes, with the Federal Government on the verge of releasing its tax package, Labor is wheeling out its female icons as well.  Their role, it seems, is to do a job on the GST and Telstra.  In fact, in a satellite link-up today, women and community groups across Australia have been invited to meet at pubs and clubs to chat with Hazel Hawke, Jennie George, Cheryl Kernot and Jenny Macklin.  But why target women voters now for an assault on Telstra and the GST?  Jenny Macklin is the Shadow Minister for Women’s Affairs and Social Security, and she joins us now to talk to Fran.


FRAN KELLY: Jenny Macklin, why are Telstra and a GST particularly themes for a women’s event, a women’s political event?


JENNY MACKLIN:  They’re very important issues for women, Fran.  In some of the research we’ve done, it shows that there’s a significant difference in the concerns that men and women have about the sale of Telstra.  Although both are very opposed to the sale, in fact more women are concerned that Telstra stay in public hands, and I think that’s for a number of reasons:  one is that they’re saying to us they actually want Australia to keep what it owns, they don’t want our biggest corporation sold off.  I think that’s largely because they don’t want to see the dividends disappear.  They know that that money comes in to the Government’s budget and is used for the things that they think are so important, like hospitals and schools.


FRAN KELLY: And women are showing a different reasoning here than men, you’re saying?


JENNY MACKLIN: It’s a stronger commitment to keeping Telstra in public hands, not that men aren’t, but it’s a stronger message, that’s exactly right.


FRAN KELLY: What about the GST, which is another issue for this link-up today?  We don’t even know what the GST will be set at yet or what it will be levied on.  Aren’t you doing this too early and doesn’t it suggest that this is really simply a political exercise more than any kind of community exchange of ideas and information?


JENNY MACKLIN: Well, if you have to keep waiting and waiting to hear what the Government’s going to say, eventually you have to start talking from the information that has so far been made available.  And as you were saying earlier, it looks like the GST is going to be about 10 per cent and on most things, and the things that we’re concerned about are what we would consider to be the essentials of life, and certainly the things that most women would consider to be the essentials of life - of course, food, as you mentioned - but it’s more than just food.  One of the big concerns is for parents, but particularly mothers of young children.  All the things that babies need are currently exempt from tax, from any sales tax, and of course they’ve been exempt from sales tax in the past by all governments because they’ve been known to be essential items, basic things that all babies need.


FRAN KELLY: Sure, but the report in the Australian today also suggests that health, education and child care will be exempted from a GST.  Surely they’re some of the essentials that women with children in particular are worried about.  I mean, doesn’t that take a lot of the sting out of your opposition to it, especially yours because it’s essentially your portfolio exempted really, isn’t it?


JENNY MACKLIN: What Labor’s concerned about is that low- and middle-income families are not worse off, and from our understanding of what the GST is going to cover - that is, food and other basic essentials of life.  As I say, there’s certainly the things that young mothers need - take just the things that anyone would think about with a new baby - whether it’s nappies or baby clothes, baby milk, all those things won’t be….


FRAN KELLY: Sure, though exempting health and child care are pretty big signals to young mothers, too, aren’t they?


JENNY MACKLIN: That’s true, but they’re not the things that they’re going to be buying every day of the week and I think that’s the critical thing that parents know is going to add to their bills at the supermarket every single day that they have to go.  I think if you compare that to what Labor has in mind, as far as tax is concerned, it’s a very different message.  We’re not going to be putting a tax on the essentials of life.  What we’re planing to do is in fact give low- and middle-income families a tax cut so that particularly those families can keep more of what they earn.  It’s going to be particularly important for the second income earner to get rid of these poverty traps so that for … and it’s generally going to be a woman who’s the second income earner, she’s going to be able to keep more of what she earns so it’s going to be worth her while working.


FRAN KELLY: Jenny Macklin, thanks for your time.


JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you, Fran.


PETER THOMPSON: Jenny Macklin is the Shadow Minister for Women’s Affairs and Social Security.