The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

24 May 2008

Joint Press Conference
with
Laurie Lawrence

Laurie Lawrence Swim School
Underwood, Brisbane

24 May 2008

SUBJECTS: Kids Alive DVD; Cost of Living; Petrol; Pensioners

TREASURER:

It's good to be here with Laurie Lawrence today. He's put his heart and soul into water safety, and you can see that here today with these kids. So, we're really delighted that the Rudd Government has been able to support the new DVD, Kids Alive, so it can go out to all the mums and dads with newborn bubs – something like 260,000 a year.

As Laurie was saying before, water safety's so important, lives are easily lost. And what this program is about is helping parents make their bubs independent and make them safe in the water should an accident happen. It's just terrific to be involved with such an important program that does so much for parents looking after their kids.

JOURNALIST:

How much money are you spending on it?

TREASURER:

It's about $4 million over four years. It's a substantial program but it can save lives. That's what's so important. You can see here the mums and dads and the kids just what impact an accident or a tragedy in these circumstances can have. And we can really make a difference. And that's what Laurie Lawrence has been doing all of his life – he's not just a swimming legend, he's an Olympic legend – but what he's doing here is putting something back into the community, something that's really important, something that saves lives.

JOURNALIST:

Laurie, what will that $4 million mean?

LAWRENCE:

A couple of things. One: it's going to save kids' lives. Two: it's going to educate parents on what to do with their children, educate them on what a good swim school is like, what it should be like, because who's got that baby-squeaking doll? What a good swim school should be like so there's no tears, warm water, clean water, all the things that parents should look for so that we can lift the standard of swimming in this country of baby teaching, that's two. Three: it also allows the Kids Alive Water Safety Program to show, which is a water safety program that gets out and plays free to schools all over Australia.

So, there's going to be at least 25 weeks of touring around Australia of a free water safety show – going to the councils, asking the councils, can you give us your hall free of charge. Now, I'll have these four or five young people on the road playing Lifesaver Lill, Nipper Nellie…

TREASURER:

Nipper Nellie?

LAWRENCE:

Nipper Nellie, mate, and away we go.

JOURNALIST:

Wayne, $4 million doesn't seem a lot but, I mean, if it's going to save one life it's worth it, isn't it?

TREASURER:

Absolutely. It can make a difference, and that's what we're trying to do. Water safety's so important across the board. What Laurie is doing here is a very important program for really young bubs. And you can just see what a difference it makes. I mean, kids can fall over in a bath, you know, and there can be tragic consequences. What Laurie's doing here is really important when it comes to water safety for young bubs.

JOURNALIST:

Laurie, what are the figures?

LAWRENCE:

Well, last year 35 children drowned under five. When I first started this program nationally in 2000, there were 63 kids who drowned. After one year or touring around and just really promoting the Kids Alive message, drowning stats went down to 35, and it's remained at about 35 for the last five or six years. We want to make some sort of difference.

I mean, I was thinking, what can we do? And that's when I approached Wayne in Canberra. He listened carefully, he spoke to his colleagues and he sees the benefit. I think this – and we'll see over the next four years – that drowning stats are going to go down under that 35 where it's sat for a long time. Parents all over Australia are going to become involved in the program. Kids are going to love swimming and the nation is going to be – this is the important thing – it's also the health benefits that happen, it's the physical and psychological and capital that's going to be put into these kids who learn swimming early.

I'm speaking to a university now to do a study on growth and development and how having swimming lessons early is beneficial for them in their long term health, their physical growth, their coordination, their ability to try things more. Because in the swimming pool to be successful, you have to try. It encourages these kids, these little kids, to try so their more adventurous but they're also careful because they respect water. They know the difference between deep and shallow water.

So, all these things are going to be a tremendous benefit to the country, not only in saving lives but in the long term health benefits that are going to come out of this program.

TREASURER:

It's the physical and health benefits that flow through, looking after young kids. It's just so important to the future of the nation that the quality of life of our children enhances the quality of life of the nation in the long term.

JOURNALIST:

When did your kids learn to swim?

TREASURER:

Very early.

JOURNALIST:

This early on?

TREASURER:

Not this early. I watch this and I wish they did. But, I'm a Queenslander, I grew up on the coast. We are a nation that hugs the coast, we grow up swimming, you go to the beach. There's about 1.2 million swimming pools in Australia. Of course, every house has a bathtub. So, water safety is really important.

JOURNALIST:

Laurie, is there another stage to this that you would like to see rolled out?

LAWRENCE:

Look, I'm just so happy to get this program going as it is right now, to be honest with you, and this is going to go a long way to saving kids' lives and the proof's going to be in the pudding, in the eating. In four years' time I want to be standing beside Wayne saying, Wayne, there are zero preschool drownings in Australia, thanks very much, tell Kevin he's heaven. You can use that at the next election.

JOURNALIST:

Just on other issues, Brendan Nelson said yesterday when it comes to the cost of living, you guys have run out of ideas. Have you run out of ideas?

TREASURER:

Not at all. I mean, we understand the cost of living pressures impacting on Australian families. That's why we've put forward the tax cuts, that's why we've put forward the additional childcare assistance. We absolutely understand that families out there and others are feeling cost of living pressures. That's why we were so emphatic about delivering in the Budget the increases we did for families and for seniors. Brendan Nelson's simply got a whole lot of unfunded, uncosted promises.

JOURNALIST:

What else can working families look forward to in the next few months out of the Government?

TREASURER:

Well, I think what they can look forward to is the tax cuts, which will come through on the 1st of July, the additional childcare assistance. We were absolutely resolute in bringing forward those proposals to ease cost of living pressures on families. That's why we've delivered the additional money for seniors - $900 additional – because we do understand that people are under financial pressure. But at the end of the day, you have to be able to fund your promises. You have to be able to make them responsible. The Rudd Government has made its promises and it will deliver its promises responsibly. Mr Nelson has unfunded, uncosted promises.

JOURNALIST:

Was the message for seniors not sold properly in the Budget?

TREASURER:

No, we've delivered $900 additional for seniors in the Budget. We indicated we would do that on Budget night, we've been talking about it constantly since then. They deserve that support and we also indicated on Budget night that we would have a review of the pension, of the rate of pension, but we need to do that responsibly.

JOURNALIST:

But they didn't get the message in the days after the Budget, there was a protest in Melbourne. Could that have been sold a bit better?

TREASURER:

Well, all we can do is to keep faith with the Australian people and with seniors, and we've done that, we've delivered the $500 bonus. We've delivered the increase in the Utilities Allowance. We understand they're under tremendous financial pressure. That's why we delivered on those commitments, but more importantly, delivered on our commitment to put in place the inquiry into the base rate of pensions and retirement incomes more generally.

JOURNALIST:

You've delivered about $8.00 a week for pensioners. That's a big hamburger, perhaps.

TREASURER:

No, we've actually delivered more than that. We've delivered the $500 bonus and the $500 Utility Allowance. That's what we've delivered.

JOURNALIST:

What do you say to predictions that fuel will be at $1.70 in a couple of weeks and $2.00 by next year?

TREASURER:

Well, as we all know, the international price of fuel is volatile and it's going up at the moment. That is due to international factors. What we have to do is what we can do domestically to assist people through cost of living pressures, through our tax cuts, through the additional assistance to seniors.

JOURNALIST:

Can't you look at the excise tax, though?

TREASURER:

Mr Nelson's proposal is completely unfunded, uncosted and undeliverable. We are in a high inflationary environment. That's why the Government has brought down a responsible Budget that makes savings elsewhere in the Budget to make room for the additional commitments that we made to ease cost of living pressures on Australian families.

JOURNALIST:

How much blame could you put at the foot of homeowners for over-committing and perhaps living beyond their means?

TREASURER:

I don't attribute blame to homeowners in this situation at all. In Australia in the last three years there's been eight interest rate rises and they are the product of high inflation, which is a legacy of the previous government. It falls to this Government to deal with those inflationary pressures in a responsible way, and that's what we've been doing.