Transcript: Doorstop with Tanya Plibersek & Matt Thistlethwaite

4.40pm | May 08, 2019



SUBJECTS: Labor’s $6 million announcement to fund food relief programs; OzHarvest; Labor’s plan for a fair economy; Bill Shorten’s mum; Labor’s fair go for early childhood educators; Coalition’s plan for larger tax loopholes.

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, MEMBER FOR KINGSFORD SMITH: Well, welcome to Kensington everyone. Yesterday I was at the Lexington Place housing estate in Maroubra where we come together on a regular basis down there at that housing estate with Randwick Council and a number of organisations that provide services to people who are struggling in our community and while we were there yesterday, the trusty OzHarvest truck turned up with their weekly delivery of food for people living in that housing estate and around that community that are doing it tough. That's a great representation of the fantastic work that OzHarvest and other emergency relief food organisations do for people who are on - are struggling and are doing it tough at the moment. I want to thank Ronni Kahn from OzHarvest and all of the wonderful volunteers that you see here today providing this very, very important service for people in our community. Unfortunately, as you can see behind us, there's a growing need for these services not only in this area but across Sydney and Australia; and that's why Labor is making this very important announcement today to support the work of organisations like OzHarvest and I'm very pleased that Jenny and Tanya are here to make this announcement in my electorate. I want to thank both of them for their commitment to organisations like OzHarvest and their great work; and I'm now going to hand over to my good friend, Jenny McAllister, to formally make the announcement. 

JENNY MCALLISTER, SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES: Well, there are too many Australians who are doing it tough. The economy is not working for so many people and across the country, the charities that I speak to tell me that they are seeing more and more people, fronting up - people fronting up without enough money to keep food on the table over the course of that week; without enough money to pay the basic bills. It's wonderful to be here with Ronni and to see this amazing operation that OzHarvest has put together here today. This is a service that provides support for so many people. It provides connection through volunteering. It provides employment. It avoids food waste by working with food suppliers, people all through the food distribution chain to make sure that we are not wasting food. But, more than anything, it provides assistance and support to people who are really doing it tough. We want to make sure organisations like OzHarvest are supported; and that's why if Labor is elected, we'll be allocating an additional $6 million to the organisations that do supportive work across the nation. For OzHarvest, that will mean an extra $1 million. We know that year on year, the demand for these kinds of services is increasing - organisations like this need support and we are determined that if elected, we will deliver. 

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Ronni, do you want to say a few words? 

RONNI KAHN, CEO AND FOUNDER OF OZHARVEST: I do. Clearly, what we do needs funding in order to deliver an extraordinary impact. Food waste is one of the three top reasons that will reverse climate change - that is hugely important. Food relief is hugely important to the 4 million people in Australia that, for some reason at some point through the year [inaudible]. I absolutely applaud the $6 million you're giving us, we will need more - I'm just here to tell you that we will always need more but thank you because we need it, every dollar that we raise allows us to deliver at least two meals and our social return on investment is six times that - so that $1 million is worth $6 million to society and to our community. So, thank you for this wonderful announcement.

PLIBERSEK: Well, that was the amazing Ronni Kahn who is the founder of OzHarvest. I was at the launch of OzHarvest many years ago. I remember saying at the launch; "from little things, big things grow." But I never imagined that OzHarvest would become the huge organisation that it is now, contributing so many meals, so much support to needy Australians and providing a volunteering opportunity to so many more. Ronni's talked about the reduction in food waste, of course that's another absolutely vital thing that OzHarvest does and it's a real pleasure and a privilege to be here today to talk not just about the work of OzHarvest, but of FoodBank and SecondBite as well. Jenny McAllister's told you about the extra funding that Labor is committing. These organisations will see a doubling of their funding.

Ronni mentioned those 4 million Australians that sometime last year didn't know where their next meal was coming from. That included 800,000 children. In a country as wealthy as Australia, we should not have kids going to school hungry. We should not have Australians who don't know where their next meal is coming from. We need an economy that works for everyone and that means decent pay and conditions. It means jobs with a living wage, it means doing something about Newstart, and it means supporting organisations like this when all else has failed.

Labor is able to invest in supporting organisations like OzHarvest because we have made tough choices. We have prioritised investments in hospitals, in schools, in TAFE and university, in pensioner dental, in cheaper childcare. We have prioritised these investments and we can afford them because we’re not giving $77 billion dollars of tax cuts to the very highest income earners. Scott Morrison says we can't afford to properly fund childcare; we can't afford pensioner dental. We say that we can afford that.
When Scott Morrison says we can’t afford to properly fund our schools and hospitals, what he is really saying is Australian's don't deserve that.

But he never finds it too hard to find billions of dollars to give away to the top end of town. There's $77 billion dollars that he wants to give to the very highest income earners although he won't say the number. He's in denial about the figure because he doesn't want to say what he will cut to afford that $77 billion dollar tax cut for the top end of town. Scott Morrison and his government are still committed to $80 billion dollars of tax cuts for big business. $17 billion dollars for the big banks. It's not too hard to find the money to protect every tax loophole for the top end - to find bigger tax cuts for millionaires and multi-nationals - apparently that's not too hard but funding our hospitals, our schools, our TAFEs, our universities, pensioner dental, childcare - that is too hard.

Now, what is interesting about all this, of course, is that it's not just the Liberal Party, it's their cheer squad in the Murdoch media empire that are saying that Australia can't afford to properly invest in schools and hospitals but it can afford to protect every tax loophole for high income earners and multinational companies. I wonder if that's got anything to do with the fact that Rupert Murdoch and his companies pay little or no tax in Australia? It could be something to do with the fact that News Limited has paid very little tax in Australia in recent years.

What we saw today is a new low from News Limited media - using someone's dead mother to attack them on the front page of the News Limited newspapers. We said weeks ago in this campaign, I said it myself, that this is one of the dirtiest campaigns that I have seen in my 20 years in Parliament - that there is nothing that the Liberals won't stoop to and now we see that Rupert Murdoch, having given up his Australian citizenship, still wants to have a say in the Australian election, from New York, and he's doing it by using someone's dead mother against them.

Scott Morrison will have the opportunity today, to say in the debate tonight, to Bill Shorten, that he doesn't approve of this new low in journalism in Australia. I wonder whether Scott Morrison tonight will take the opportunity, first of all of saying how he's going to pay for his $77 billion tax handout to very high-income earners and, secondly that he doesn't approve of this new low in Australian journalism. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: With the childcare situation and trying to give childcare teachers and workers a pay rise, have you taken into account the extra state payroll taxes the operators will have to pay?
PLIBERSEK: Here's another example of the government rolling out, well in fact they haven't even rolled out, the government claims they have dodgy numbers about how we can't afford to give childcare workers a pay increase. These workers have highly responsible, difficult work that they train for years to do and they’re earning, in many cases, $22 an hour. Is it really okay that the people who are educating our youngest Australians get paid $22 an hour? It's not okay, it's not okay that these, predominately women, are some of the lowest paid workers in our country - so if it's not okay and they deserve a pay rise how are we going to pay for it? Should parents pay for it? We say no, we say parents are already struggling with the cost of childcare, we've got a plan to reduce the cost of childcare, we're not going to ask parents to pay for the pay rise, what’s the alternative? Government has to step up to the table, being a major funder of early childhood education, we know we need to step up. We're not going to get distracted by one more lot of dodgy numbers that the Liberals roll out to say we can't afford to invest in our children. We can afford to invest in our children. What we can't afford is $77 billion of tax cuts for very high-income earners and $80 billion of tax cuts for multinational companies.
JOURNALIST: What are the ramifications then of your move? Will it mean less places for childcare, less places or less teachers?
PLIBERSEK: We have said all along that we will work with the sector, we will work with childcare operators to roll out these pay increases, of course we'll take into account all of these issues along the way, but let's not get distracted. What is the fundamental question here, are early childhood educators underpaid? There is no one who has dropped their kids off to childcare and seen the work that early educators do who hasn’t said thank god for these people, thank god for these, mostly women, thank god for these women, and has asked themselves could I do this work? I know when I was dropping my kids to childcare I was thinking there is no way I could look after ten toddlers at one time, or 20 in the older rooms, or you know three babies who are all crying at once, there's no way that I could do that. If we say these workers are underpaid for the level, the skill, the complexity, the importance of the work they do then they need a pay rise, they deserve a pay rise.
JOURNALIST: But you didn’t answer my question, did you consider state payroll taxes when you looked at this?
PLIBERSEK: We've considered all of these factors and we will work with the industry in consultation, in cooperation, in collaboration to deliver these pay rises - early childhood educators deserve the pay rises, let's not get distracted by the Liberals saying we can't afford it. We can afford it, we have to afford it, what we can't afford is multinational and millionaire tax loopholes at the top end. Scott Morrison has never met a tax loophole he hasn't been prepared to defend to the death.



Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.