2CC Stephen Cenatiempo Breakfast Show- 08/03/2022

08 March 2022


SUBJECTS: Political panel with Liberal Senator Zed Seselja; International women’s day; childcare; gender equity; Australian Institute of Sport; AIS Arena; Wordle.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Joining us for our regular local political panel this morning is the Labor Member for Canberra, Alicia Payne. Alicia, good morning and happy International Women's Day.

ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Good morning, Stephen. Thank you. And yes, Happy International Women's Day to all the great Canberra women out there.

CENATIEMPO: And Zed Seselja is with us. He's the Liberal Senator for the ACT. Zed, I won't say Happy International Women's Day to you. But I'm sure that you pass on that sentiment to the women in your life as well.

ZED SESELJA, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR THE ACT: Absolutely. It's always good to celebrate the wonderful women in our lives and right around Canberra and around the world.

CENATIEMPO: Zed, I want to start on this because the government has announced, well, I mean, the announcement was made in the budget. But I think it comes into effect today or yesterday. The added childcare subsidy, which is going to be of benefit 250,000 families across Australia. Does this go far enough?

SESELJA: Well, it's a very significant step that builds on top of, I think, some policies that have seen the average out of pocket costs for childcare coming down to about $4 an hour. And what this policy does, specifically, and it will benefit, we think at least around 6000 families right here in Canberra, is it deals with the real challenges that many families face, particularly when they have more than one child in childcare. And, you know, Stephen, as someone who has a few kids of my own, I understand that once you have more than one child, the cost really do start to add up. And that's true of childcare, as it is in other areas. So the subsidy for subsequent children, beyond one will be increased significantly. And this could save some families up to around $370 a week, but on average, families will save, in those circumstances, will save thousands of dollars a year. And, you know, we know that if you've got a couple of kids in childcare, we know that if you've got two or three kids, the fact that the costs really do add up. And so yes, this is a really important policy. And as I say it builds on a range of policies that have all been targeted at low and middle income earners that have seen the average out of pocket costs come down significantly to $4 an hour. They were nearly around $5 an hour I think when we came to government.

CENATIEMPO: Alicia, you'd be acutely aware of the pressure of childcare on families, particularly those where both parents are working, which these days is almost everybody, because the cost of living is so high.

PAYNE: Yeah, absolutely. Childcare costs are a really serious issue for Canberra families. We've got some of the highest average childcare costs in the country. And under the Coalition Government childcare costs have increased by more than 39%. So yes, I hear from a lot of Canberra families about how hard this is for them. And given that fee increase under the government's watch, it's good to see them doing something. But if we really want to fix childcare costs, we need to elect a Labor government because our policy will actually benefit all families who access childcare, not just while they have two or more children in childcare. So the families that will benefit from the government's policy, it will only be while they have more than one child in childcare. Whereas our policy benefits families for the entire time that they use childcare. And actually four out of five families, or 86%, would be better off under our policy than the governments.

CENATIEMPO: Zed, why is it only for the second child?

SESELJA: Well, this is in addition to the other measures we've taken, Stephen. Alicia refers to their policies, their policies will predominantly see a lot of subsidies going to high income earners, and not in any way means testing that. And we're talking people with five, six, seven, $800,000 in family income. So we think targeting at those who need it, at low and middle income earners, and that's been our policy. So we significantly, so well, before this policy, we significantly increased the rebate. Remember years ago, the rebate used to be like 50% for everyone and didn't matter whether you're a high income earner or low income earner? We pushed that up to around 80% for low and middle income earners. And then it phased out for those who have a greater capacity to pay. So we think that's a much fairer way than Labor's very, very expensive policy, which doesn't target it at all, and in fact, will give some very, very wealthy people a pretty significant subsidy, which we don't think they need. We think it can be better targeted at those who genuinely need it.

CENATIEMPO: Alicia, I want to talk in more general terms about gender equity. And I think sometimes we oversimplify the things in when we talk about gender pay gaps and the like. The reality is, it's illegal to pay people differently for doing the same work. But that doesn't tell the whole story. What other policies do we need to put in place or what policy areas should we be looking at to, I guess, level the playing field a little bit?

PAYNE: That's a really good issue to raise Stephen because that's often the thing people say, it's illegal to pay people for the same differently for the same job. But, of course, we know that it happens. It's happening to both men and women. We see contractors paid less or paid more than permanent staff. We see that across the board. But also, what the gender pay gap is about, is the fact that women aren't progressing as fast in their fields as men, or because their industries are dominated by women. So I'm really proud that Labor has quite a comprehensive plan to increase economic security for women, which includes a policy specifically about closing the gender pay gap. So what that includes is things like requiring all employers with more than 250 employees to report the gender pay gap, increasing the ability of the Fair Work Commission to intervene where industries dominated by women are underpaid. So, for example, early childhood education and care, nursing, aged care. A lot of these female dominated industries that we've seen just how important they are in the pandemic,  they are dominated by women, and underpaid. So it's quite a complex policy so I won't go through every element. But I'm pleased that we're taking that policy to the election, and we also have a range of other policies to increase the economic security of women.

CENATIEMPO: Zed, there's a couple of issues there. I mean, Alicia is right in that some industries that are dominated by female workplace are lower paid. But I mean, I don't know that you can just look at the industry based on and say, 'Well, because there's more women that we need to increase the pay gap'. But then when you talk about employer companies with over 220 employees, there's only one CEO and if that CEO happens to be a man, there's going to be a gender pay gap.

SESELJA: Well, I mean, that's an interesting point, Stephen, but what I think we've seen in the last few years under this government is, I think, through a range of policies that we've seen that that gender pay gap, close. It's a lot less than it was under Labor, and it didn't really move, I think it might have gotten worse under Labor. But it certainly didn't improve in the way it has. And I think female workforce participation, under Labor was stagnant, and it's gone up significantly. So we're seeing women getting more opportunities under our government, we do that through a range of policies. But fundamentally, what I want, what I want for my daughters or for other women in our society, is that they will have opportunities to pursue their dreams, whether it's in their jobs, whether it's their families or in other areas. And that's what it should be about. And you know, we've always taken a slightly different approach to the Labor Party. Labor Party has had a very sort of mandated type approach to these issues. We haven't taken that approach. We've, we haven't, for instance, embraced the idea generally of quotas. But what we have seen is by giving everyone a fair opportunity, you do see those gaps close. You do see greater workforce participation of women. And that's what I want to see. I want to see all women in society have all of the opportunities to thrive in the way that men do.

CENATIEMPO: I want to talk about women's sport for a moment. I guess, sport in general here in the ACT. You UC Capitals, the most successful franchise in Canada's history, are not going to be able to play their finals on a home ground court, because of the lack of action on the AIS Arena. Now, I don't, I'm not, by any stretch of the imagination, taking responsibility away from the ACT government for providing its own facilities. But the AIS is a federal facility Zed. Why haven't you guys fixed the joint?

SESELJA: Well, there has been, you're right, there has been ongoing issues without AIS Arena and the reason that there's going to be issues this season is not because of that. It's actually that the Capitals have moved largely, most of their play has been at the convention centre. The convention centre is not available, unfortunately. So they haven't been playing most of their games there. And then these issues are identified with the AIS Arena, which would take some rectification and is being used for other purposes in the short term. So there's two issues here that I'd like to get on the record. One is that that has been happening, but two, I've certainly been raising it with Richard Colbeck, about what can be done. There does need to be cooperation between who would be the largest user, the ACT government of the AIS Arena, if it was to be used in the future, and the Commonwealth. But it does have to be said, and I made this point yesterday, that Andrew Barr has been in this government for I think 16 years, they've been in government for about 20 years. They've done virtually nothing to improve sporting facilities in the capitol. And so, yes, there should be a conversation about how we work together on this and that's what I'm engaging in with Richard Colbeck. But at a time when Andrew Barr has spent tens-of-millions of dollars subsidizing Sydney teams to play in Canberra. There's been very little done for facilities have for the Capitals, for the Brumbies, for the Raiders. In fact, that hasn't been touched in 20 years of this government. So yeah, I'll take my share of responsibility on behalf of the Commonwealth that we need to work through these issues. There hasn't been a great demand even from things like the Capitals for the AIS Arena in recent years, except I think for sort of the big finals. They've largely moved to the convention centre and unfortunately, in this season, the convention centre has been made unavailable for final time, which is surprising given it was well known that the AIS Arena wouldn't have been available for this final series one way or another.

CENATIEMPO: Alicia, the problem I see here is and I agree with Zeds criticism of the ACT Government, I mean, they've going to stump up their own facilities. But the AIS was once the cradle of elite sport in Australia. I'm going to say for the last two decades, that's been falling away. Subsequent governments, federal governments need to really take sports seriously, again, at the AIS.

PAYNE: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, Zed, I'm pleased to hear him saying he takes responsibility. But they've been in government for nine years, and they have not fixed this problem. The AIS is unsafe. That is why it's been closed. Sorry, the AIS Arena. But the real question is, what is the future of the AIS itself? We don't even know if this government was planning to move it away from Canberra completely. We don't know. And has been our arena, so why would why would the ACT Government have been building another one when we had one there, which was part of the Australian Institute of Sport. And this is something that Federal Labor wants to see a solution to. We've been having conversations with the ACT Government about it, but it's another one where the Liberals are in government, and they've done nothing about it for nine years. And they've not saying what they're going to do about it now. And Canberrans deserve a proper sporting arena to go and, exactly, our fantastic Canberra Capitals deserve somewhere, to have a home court and to play their finals. And we deserve somewhere to go and watch sport and concerts and all sorts of things. So the federal government needs to tell us what they're going to do with it.

CENATIEMPO: But I think the flip side of that is that that, you know, for 20 years has been an ACT Government that hasn't invested in local sport either. But look, I want to bring the tone down a little bit, Canberrans are apparently are the best in the world at Wordle. Have both of you, Zed have you been playing Wordle?

SESELJA: I played it at once. I've got a family of Wordle or nuts, though. So my wife, my kids, her relatives are constantly doing it. In fact, my wife informs me that she does something called Quordle and now Octordle, which is just ridiculous. The number of letters and words and things so she's a very smart lady and she's able to do that. And I know many Canberrans are very smart, which is why we're at the Top of the Pops. So yeah, I played it once. Did it in three, I should say. But hadn't really been drawn in in the same way as other family members.

CENATIEMPO: Alicia, have you been sucked in?

PAYNE: Yeah, I love the Wordle. I tried it over the Christmas holidays, and I've done it nearly every day since then. And every day my Dad and I send each other our result. I don't subject Twitter to it, but we do share it with each other. And it was really proud to see Canberrans leading the world on another thing and just showing just how smart we are.

CENATIEMPO: Alicia. Zed. Thanks for your time this morning.