Minister Rishworth Press Conference, Adelaide


Topics: Labor’s tax cuts, Cost of living relief, Universities Accord, Sexual assault on campus, Support for Ukraine, NRL in the US, Anthony Pratt

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Behind me are shoppers walking into Foodland and those workers that are working in Foodland will get a tax cut from the Government on the first of July. Those shopping in Foodland that are also working – every single worker – will get a tax cut from the first of July. And in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, not only will every single worker get a tax cut but 90 per cent of them will also get a bigger tax cut than otherwise planned. This tax policy that the Labor Party has put forward and being debated in the parliament is about providing real cost of living relief to people who need it. And of course, what we know is that people are doing it tough and the Government has taken significant action when it comes to cost of living. Whether that that is the largest increase in 30 years for rental assistance. Whether that's the increase in income support payments, our cheaper medicines, our energy bill relief. This is all cost of living relief happening for Australians. But not only are we providing cost of living relief, but we're seeing the benefits of our policy. Not only are people getting to keep more of what they earn, but we want them to earn more. And we've actually see for the third quarter real wages grow, this is a very important part of our Government's policy to support increasing wages. And the other figure that's been very reassuring, that's recently come out is the lowest gender pay gap that our country has seen. The gender pay gap is now down to 12 per cent. Down 2.1 per cent. That is a significant reduction in the difference in earnings between women and men. This is a really important achievement, but it hasn't come by accident. Our Government has been focused on ensuring, for example, aged care workers – particularly female dominated industries – such as aged care, have got the pay increase they deserve. We’ve of course made changes to bargaining to help particularly feminised industries get their wages moving again. So the Government is firmly focused on, through our tax cuts, through our wages policies, ensuring that people are earning more and keeping more of what they earn. Now I would note that Peter Dutton has opposed most of the measures that we have put in place, whether that be about cost of living relief or getting wages moving again. There is a clear contrast between our Government who wants you to earn more and keep more of what you earn, whereas Peter Dutton wants you to work longer for less. That is the difference between the two sides of politics.

JOURNALIST: On the cost of living issue, what about students for example, who do placements internships, they don't get paid. Understand the Universities Accord report is being released tomorrow. Is it time that the taxpayers started arranging for the people who are essentially doing work, that they should get paid for that? I think we're talking particularly about roles like nurses and teachers.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I'll make a couple of comments. The first is that when it comes to income support payments, the Government lifted the base rate in September last year. Students on Austudy or Youth Allowance were recipients of that increase as well. So it was job seekers and others, but it included those on Austudy. So there was action by the Government to support students then. When it comes to placements, student placements, that's obviously an issue that is being explored in the Universities Accord. The Universities Accord has been a really important piece of work, commissioned by the Education Minister, and it has put forward a whole range of solutions. Of course student placements, making sure that we can encourage people to do things like nursing and teaching, all those skills are areas that we really need in our society and in our community and ensuring that they are not deterred by things like having to do placements is something I know that the Minister for Education is looking at carefully. Obviously the recommendations such as specific payments for placements will be explored by the Minister for Education as we release the Universities Accord, but our Government is firmly focused on looking at how we can support students and that was demonstrated with the lift to the base rate of their income support last year.

JOURNALIST: There are a lot of internships – it would be a fairly expensive measure though?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Obviously all the details of paying for placements is something that would need to be worked through. As I said, the Accord is a very large vision for Australia's higher education sector. Really focused on how we get more students from low-income backgrounds to get into university. But also focused on things like – and we've already seen the Minister for Education take action in announcing yesterday a student ombudsman to actually look at ensuring that students are have the right to go somewhere to get some advice, to get support, whether that be disagreements with their university or otherwise. So the Accord is a big piece of work but when it comes to student placements that’s one of the areas that has been explored and our focus is in making sure that teachers, nurses, those critical areas of skill shortage that we encourage people to study those courses.

JOURNALIST: If you’re interested in supporting students, would you be up for supporting a lowering of the Centrelink age of independence from 22 to 18?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There's a range of different payments available for students. They include both Youth Allowance and Austudy and Abstudy. Of course, the settings in those payments have been in place for some time. We are currently not considering changing the age of independence. But of course, recommendations from the Accord will be looked at very carefully. And we will work through those different recommendations.

JOURNALIST: Should the paid work experience and placements go further than just the teachers and nurses? What about other industries like childcare and certain science jobs?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I'm not making any commitments here. That will be something that the Education Minister will work through in terms of the recommendations from the Accord. What I'm really saying is we are looking at all ways to encourage more workers in the care industry. And I would point out when it comes to early childhood educators and other areas that require a TAFE qualification, we've actually provided fee-free TAFE for thousands and thousands of students so that they can get a career in an area of skill shortages. So our Government is not just looking at our university sector. We are looking at our TAFE sector, and we've already put money down on the table when it comes to fee-free TAFE to remove that barrier of fees when it comes to important skill areas.

JOURNALIST: How is a watchdog going to curb sexual assaults on campuses?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly, I would say that I was very, very heartened that the Education Minister took gender-based violence on university campuses seriously. We know that for example, we've seen a significant number of reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault at our universities. And so I am very grateful as the Minister responsible for women's safety to see the Education Minister put together an action plan to tackle gender-based violence on university campuses. And one of the key recommendations was to have a university student ombudsman to really look at the interests of students. Now it won't be confined to sexual harassment and sexual assault, but it provides an avenue if students are not getting the systemic change, or the answers or the response they would like to see, a place for them to go. A place – independent of their institution – for them to go and to examine their situation, but also examine trends that are happening across our higher education institutions. So an ombudsman is a very important independent part of the process. Obviously, it will tackle a number of different issues that students are requiring an independent voice on, or independent recourse. And so this is a very positive announcement made by our Education Minister yesterday.

JOURNALIST: Is the Federal Government looking at what more support that you provide to Ukraine as the war continues?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Today marks the two-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, illegally by Russia. We as Australians have stood steadfast with the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government. Our commitment has been significant. We have committed over $950 million to support Ukraine. And just last week, the Prime Minister announced an extra $50 million will be provided to the International Fund for Ukraine. This is an international fund where we have made an additional contribution to support Ukraine’s efforts in the defence of their country. So we have continually looked at what we can do to support Ukraine. I note the Foreign Minister has also announced today further sanctions against individuals and entities in Russia and further abroad, particularly those that have been behaving badly in terms of removing children from Ukrainian territory. So we will continue to look at what we can do to ensure that we are responding. But we have made a significant contribution – one of the largest non-NATO contributors to this effort – and we still remain steadfast in our support for Ukraine.

JOURNALIST: Will the Australian Government consider providing Abrams tanks to Ukraine?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: As I've said, we've already provided significant support. Out of that over $950 million, $780 million has been towards Ukraine’s military effort. As I said, last week the Prime Minister committed an extra $50 million to the International Fund for Ukraine which is about supporting their military efforts. We will continue to look at what we can do to support Ukraine but we have been a significant supporter of Ukraine and continue to stand by them.

JOURNALIST: Did the Prime Minister help ensure that Broncos player Reece Walsh and Roosters player Brandon Smith got their US visas approved?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I'm not able to add any more information to that. What I would say is that it is a good thing that we have NRL demonstration games – despite being an AFL supporter myself. It is a good thing that Australian sports people are putting demonstration games on in the United States of America. I think this is a good thing to showcase our athletic talent and making sure that some of our favourite sporting games are on show. But I'm not able to comment any further on that.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it's appropriate that Anthony Albanese attends a lavish party hosted by Anthony Pratt with Katy Perry as the guest? And who else from the Government is attending apart from the Prime Minister?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: The Prime Minister has been very clear that, despite accusations by the opposition about the Labor Party engaging in class warfare, the Prime Minister has been always someone that will speak to everyday Australians, will speak to business, will consult right across the board. His mantra from day one is to not divide people in Australia but actually bring people together to support aspiration, to support everyday Australians. Our action, for example, on cost of living and supporting middle Australia is on show through our tax cuts. So the Prime Minister will continue to engage with people right across Australia from different walks of life and that's a good thing. And I support him in that. Thank you.