Transcript: Jenny McAllister on Equal Pay for Early Childhood Workers, Cashless Welfare Cards, Adani and the Productivity Commission Report on Banks

12.15pm | February 07, 2018






SUBJECT/S: Equal Pay For Early Childhood Workers, Cashless Welfare Card, Adani, Productivity Commission Report On Banks

MCALLISTER: The Fairwork Commission dismissed the application by early educators. The union for early educators to address their historic under evaluation of their work. To put it in context, our early educators do some of the most important work they look after our kids when we are not able to look after them, they prepare our children for a lifetime of learning and they do all of that in some instances for $21 an hour. That's around half of the average wage.

These women do important work that is undervalued simply because it is women's work and this is one of the key causes of the gender pay gap. Now, unfortunately yesterday's decision indicates that there are serious limitations in our industrial relations system's ability to address the gender pay gap.

It doesn't matter how hard these women work, how hard they work to assemble a case before the commission they have been unable to find a remedy in this forum.

The government has been worse than useless through this process. They have not lifted a finger to assist these women.

They are willing to fight uphill and down dale for a $65 billion dollar pay cut but they will not move one inch to assist women doing important work seeking equal pay for their efforts.

Minister Birmingham in recent days has dismissed calls from the childcare workers to intervene, saying that this is something to be settled by the Commission. Well now we have an answer from the Commission and the answer is you will find no redress here. So the question for the Government is, what are you going to do about the gender pay gap?

Are you going to do anything at all or are you simply going to continue to prosecute your war against working families?

JOURNALIST: How soon would the Senate get to debate the cashless debit card and is it set to fail do you think?

MCALLISTER: Labor's position on this is that some of the Government's key asks cannot be supported by the evidence. In terms of the timing in the Senate, I am uncertain how the program is going to roll out today. That will be a matter for the Government.

JOURNALIST: What are the particular sticking points in terms of that legislation?

MCALLISTER: The cashless welfare card was supposed to be evaluated (inaudible)..... the evaluation so far does not indicate that there are any grounds for extending it to other communities.  We are willing to extend the term of the trial to allow a fuller evaluation to be conducted with more data but we are not willing to see it extended to other communities without the evidence.

JOURNALIST: Just on Adani, when will Labor make a black and white decision as to whether they will support that project or be in a position to do it?

MCALLISTER: Our position on the project has been that it needs to stand on its own two feet. There is worrying new information about that project. The suggestion that samples, environmental samples may have been tampered with is deeply concerning and the government ought to investigate and get to the bottom of it but it is also concerning that the project proponent seem to be unable to concretely demonstrate the benefits that they claim exist in terms of jobs for the North Queensland communities.  All of those things are of concern for Labor.

JOURNALIST: Is Labor in the process of developing a jobs package for Queensland if they do come out in opposition to the project?

MCALLISTER: We are always in the business of looking for opportunities for jobs and we are very conscious that the people of Central and North Queensland are facing very tough times of late. There is no silver bullet and no one project that will fix those projects and we are in constant consultation with local people in that area about solutions for unemployment.

JOURNALIST: What is your take on the Productivity Commission's draft report that the banks are exploiting customers, that the banking levy will be costed and passed on to consumers. What is your response to that?

MCALLISTER: This is a humiliating report for the Government. They have trumpeted the measures that they say they have introduced to bring the banks to heel. What the PC report shows is that these measures have only provided further opportunities for banks to gain more profit at the expense of the consumers. We argued for a long time for a Royal Commission and the Government has finally come around to agree that a Royal Commission should be put in place. They should have come around a lot sooner and stopped mucking around with these measures which have now been shown to be completely (inaudible)

JOURNALIST: So, now this morning we have seen leaked COAG reports detailing government's future hospital payouts, saying that in 2020-2025 they will be capping any increases in federal funding costs that will also add pressure on the States for this, what do you think that means for the hospital system in Australia. What's your take on this?

MCALLISTER: Anyone who has been to an emergency department knows that hospitals are groaning under the strain. The State Premiers are tearing their hair out about how to manage this cessation of Commonwealth funding. These huge cuts that were put through in the early stages of this Liberal Government. The idea that they would persist for another 5 years without providing any injection of funding to proper balance (inaudible) to secure the future of Australian (inaudible) is a joke.

JOURNALIST: Just quickly, would you like to see Senator Jacqui Lambie come back and return to the Senate, or should Steve Martin take her seat?

MCALLISTER: I think that is a matter for the Jacqui Lambie network. I always enjoyed working with Jacqui and I imagine that I will enjoy working with Steve Martin.