6 June 2016




LEIGH SALES: And with me now in our Parliament House studios are the two campaign spokespeople, Liberal Senator Mathias Cormann and Labor Senator Penny Wong. Thank you very much to both of you for being with us.


MATHIAS CORMANN: Good evening.

SALES:  Let’s start with Bill Shorten’s remarks that men rely on women to handle childcare. The Coalition says those remarks are prehistoric. Labor says that he’s pointing out the fact that men don’t carry an equal load at home or with childcare, even when both partners work. Let me have you start by both answering this question: what policies does your party have to redress that imbalance; to encourage men to pick up more of the home and childcare load. Senator Cormann.

CORMANN: Obviously our policies, including in particular our families package are designed to help families deal with the work/family balance. If you look at the proposals that we’ve put forward as part of our $3 billion funded childcare package, it is designed to help hard working families, in particular low and middle income families, to get better, simpler, more flexible and affordable access to childcare.

SALES: And is there anything specifically in there that aims to take the load off women and encourage men to pick up more of the load?

CORMANN: Well, it is obviously very much a matter for families around Australia to organise. But what we would say, families around Australia in 2016 very much manage these matters in partnership, not along the lines as Mr Shorten appeared to suggest, leaving all of the logistics to one side of the partnership.

SALES: Senator Wong, what policies specifically does Labor have that attempt to redress the imbalance whereby women do more of the load when it comes to housework and childcare?

WONG: Well, first, the childcare package that Bill has announced, that was announced yesterday and today, which is recognising the difficulty many parents have in accessing a place, and also people who are hitting the cap and so find it financially difficult to return to work. A lot of women are affected by that, and I think this policy is absolutely directed at enabling families to have more choice.

I would also put on the table the paid parental leave scheme, which we legislated in government, was all about making sure that parents, mothers could have time with their babies. We also legislated, as you might recall, for dad and partner pay, which obviously was important. And of course to have a fair industrial relations system, so that you do address the fact that women are paid less. We know that we don’t have pay equity in this country. We might have legally got equal pay, but if you want to actually readdress some of the imbalance, you have to address things like the gender pay gap and you have to address pay equity.

SALES: Senator Cormann, would you describe yourself as a feminist as the Prime Minister does?

CORMANN: I describe myself very much as pro equal opportunity for women. I mean I’ve got two-

SALES: -That is a feminist, I think?

CORMANN: Well, if that’s what you want to describe it. I’ve got two beautiful little girls who I want to have the best opportunity to have a happy and successful life, a career life generally. As I would like to see all girls growing up in around Australia to have the best opportunity to have successful and happy lives and obviously the policies of our Government are designed to help contribute to that.

SALES: Don’t you like the word ‘feminist’ though?

CORMANN: I leave it to others to use labels. I’m not very good at describing myself but I’m very much pro equal opportunity for women.

SALES: Senator Wong, I presume you consider yourself a feminist, so I’m going to move on to a different question for you, which is about costings.

WONG: Don’t I get to answer that question?

SALES: I don’t think you need to. Let me ask about Labor’s costings. You keep saying that your policies are costed and that the details will be released later. If you know that they’re costed, you must have already done the sums and so therefore why don’t you treat voters with respect and put out those figures to give people maximum time to mull over them?

WONG: We have put a lot of figures out, with respect, and we’ve done it for the reasons you outlined which is to make sure we are upfront with the Australian people. We put negative gearing, capital gains tax changes out, that have been the subject of a scare campaign from the Government-

CORMANN: -Not enough.

WONG: Not enough, there you go. Not enough of a scare campaign. That would be right.

CORMANN: It doesn’t pay for your spending promises.

WONG: Well, let me finish. We have put savings proposals on the table. What I have said today, what Chris Bowen has said, what Bill has said, is two things: one is we will save more than we spend over the decade. Second, you will anticipate-

CORMANN: -So not over the forwards.

SALES: Senator Wong.

WONG: Thank you. You can anticipate more savings announcements from us in this election campaign, just as we were prepared to put savings announcements on the table ahead of the election campaign. And I would put this back to Senator Cormann, who wants to interrupt me, let’s see how you are funding a number of the things you have announced in this campaign. You are delaying the backpacker tax, you are going to change your superannuation policy, Malcolm Turnbull said today he’d bring forward your childcare policy, that’s a $1.3 billion hit approximately, if you bring it forward by one year. How are you going to pay for that?

SALES: Let’s ask Senator Cormann to respond to that.

CORMANN: I give you this commitment, the Coalition will pay for all of our spending commitments in this campaign, as we have in the budget, by savings in other parts of the budget. We will be able to show-

SALES: -Her question was how.

CORMANN: We have of course released in the budget how we’ll pay for all of our spending commitments, including and in particular our childcare package which is not funded under Labor.

WONG: But he’s just changed it.

CORMANN: What Penny Wong just said-

WONG: -But he’s just changed it.

CORMANN: What Penny Wong just said by using a commitment that they would pay for their promises over the 10 years, that is code for saying that the deficit will be worse under Labor over the four years of the budget forward estimates. That is what she’s saying, that Labor cannot pay for their spending promises over the four year forward estimates period, reduce the period that the Charter of Budget Honesty actually prescribes.

SALES: Let’s get Senator Wong to respond to that.

WONG: Yes, sure. First, Mathias didn’t answer the question. The Prime Minister today flagged-

CORMANN: -We pay for all of our promises.

SALES: Senator Wong.

WONG: Mathias didn’t answer the question. The Prime Minister today said he’d bring forward his childcare package, it’s about a $1.3 billion hit. Mathias didn’t answer the question about how that would be paid for.

SALES: Now you are not answering a question about the 10 year-

WONG: And on a 10 year plan, we have been clear that we want to look to structural improvements over the 10 years. The Government themselves are the ones that put forward a 10 year plan as the centrepiece of their budget. They can’t come now and complain that the Labor Party is looking at a range of savings measures which are improvements over the longer term. The criticism of the negative gearing-

CORMANN: The deficits will be worse under Labor over four years.

SALES: What I would like to do very briefly, Penny Wong finish.

WONG: The criticism that the Government made of the negative gearing saving is that it didn’t save enough in the forward estimates, but saved more over the longer term. Well, we have deliberately structured some of these savings to reflect that priority.

SALES: Let me move on before we run out of time, I want to ask you both about something that Antony Green referred to in that package. He was talking about the Newspoll, there’s been a surge for independents, up to around 15 per cent. He said he doesn’t think it’s credible. What did you think of his analysis, Senator Cormann?

CORMANN: Obviously the election result is ultimately a matter for the Australian people. What our message to the Australian people is, if you want a stable government, if you want a stable government implementing a plan for jobs and growth, support your Liberal National Party candidates in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

SALES: Do you think there is substantial support out there though for the minor parties and the independents?

CORMANN: Well, that is ultimately a matter for the Australian people, what I would say is a vote for Labor, the Greens, independents, is a vote for higher taxes and chaos and dysfunction, and certainly would not be good for jobs and growth.

SALES: Senator Wong, do you believe that the primary vote for independents and minor parties could be up around the 15 per cent mark?

WONG: Look, it’s always hard to judge. I think Antony made some good points there. I think they key point is this though: ultimately, particularly as the campaign goes on, elections are about issues. And what I would say is if you care about Medicare, if you care about schools, if you care about jobs, if you care about climate change, then you should make your vote count, you should vote Labor.

SALES: Penny Wong, Mathias Cormann, thank you very much for joining us this evening.

WONG: Good to speak with you.

CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.