6PR Morning Program with Gareth Parker
Ok. Thank you for bringing that update to our listeners this morning.
Now, there’s a story on the front page of The Australian newspaper today under the headline ‘Hanson to Reject Omnibus Bill’.
Now this is your baby, so to speak, this is the large piece of legislation that rolls in a bunch of different funding buckets for things like Paid Parental Leave, Childcare, the National Disability Insurance Scheme. But in short, what you’re trying to do is find savings from some programs so that you can fund other programs.
Now we heard when we spoke to you a couple of weeks ago that some of the cross-benchers, like Nick Xenophon, were looking a little unlikely – this report seems to suggest you’re going to have a problem with Senator Hanson as well.
Well Nick Xenophon’s formulation of words was he couldn’t support the Bill in its current form, and since that announcement I’ve had a number of very productive discussions with Nick Xenophon.
I think we will come to a result with Nick. Particularly around this very central issue – everyone wants better, more affordable, more accessible child care.
So you’ve got all these parents out there, my family included, who are up against a cap – who want to engage more with Mum in the workplace, and they’re finding that’s becoming near to impossible to get more work and not lose all that money in child care.
So everyone’s in agreement that that should happen.
We are finding savings inside the Family Tax Benefit System to pay for that. I think that we will get some version of that through this process.
Now, Pauline Hanson and One Nation, as you’ve noted, are not very keen on what we’re proposing around Paid Parental Leave.
We want to increase the amount of Paid Parental Leave from 18 to 20 weeks, and that’s something that One Nation have a difficulty with.
So look this is just part of the…
What Pauline Hanson seems to be suggesting is that women would – and this is the direct quote – “get themselves pregnant and the Government would have the same problems they did with the baby bonus with people just doing it – i.e. getting pregnant – for the money.”
Do you think that people are going to get pregnant so that they can get 20 weeks of Paid Parental Leave?
I probably don’t need to tell you, that’s not an analysis that I agree with, right.
But what we’re trying to do here is work with the crossbench – and there are a variety of views, and this Bill has 16-odd measures in it, and on each measure there’s a variety of views amongst the crossbench.
So what we’re trying to achieve here, first and foremost, is to find a way of paying for much needed child care reform - that all of the crossbench appear to agree should happen - certainly all the mums out there who are trying to work, or trying to work more, they all want it to happen.
So the main game here is coming out with a solution that pays for child care and we’re hoping very much to also generate some savings to help with returning to surplus in that process. But it’s still a very live process.
Would you consider splitting the Bill?
Well we’re going to test everything in the Bill – it’s all going to be tested. So that I think is too early to say, because of the fact that we are still in this process of negotiation. Particularly with the Nick Xenophon Team.
Can I ask you to take half a step back and look at this issue from the helicopter, if you like. Do you believe that it’s legitimate for Senate crossbenchers, many of whom have been elected by a few thousand, or few tens of thousands of votes in their home states, to dictate to the Government, which won a majority in the Lower House, how it runs its budget, or how it doesn’t run its budget?
It’s a bit like that famous saying – if you’re a sailor, don’t complain about getting wet.
That’s the environment that we’re in. Whether it’s fair or unfair – doesn’t really matter all that much.
We’re trying to produce a result for people, and the result we’re trying to produce here is better, more affordable child care – which everyone seems to want. But we are also, absolutely working and living in the real world and we say that has to be paid for.
So we say a good way to pay for that is to close down the end of year Family Tax Benefit supplements.
Now, Nick Xenophon says that there might be better ways to pay for that. He’s suggested two ways – he’s suggested a tax increase and he’s suggested defence spending cuts. Now we do not prefer and do not support either or those particular ways of paying for this.
But at least with Nick Xenophon, acknowledging that things have to be paid for, it does demonstrate that these negotiations are well and truly alive because there is a fundamental understanding from the very important part of the crossbench, in the Nick Xenophon Team, that if they want something very important, which is generational reform which helps mums engage in the workplace, which helps families increase their family wealth, that expenditure has to be paid for somehow and the way that we’ve proposed is through closing down the end of year supplements in Family Tax Benefit.