Shorten's $46 million cash splash for swim safety
THERE was no better place for Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten to announce major funding for swim safety than on the shores of Kings Beach.
After mingling with Caloundra Nippers from the Metropolitan Caloundra Surf Life Saving Club on Sunday, Mr Shorten reinforced his commitment to water safety by announcing a $46 million plan to save young lives where every primary school student will have access to swimming lessons.
Regardless of whether they attend a public, catholic or independent school, live in a region or in a city, children would be able to access lessons, and even catch-up classes for kids needing more support.
Mr Shorten was joined by Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, Matt Thistlethwaite and Candidate for Fisher Daniel Parsell for the announcement, with his family close by.
Mr Shorten's wife, Chloe Shorten reminisced on her days as a nipper on the same beach where she learned water safety, no different to many other Sunshine Coast residents.
"We need to be better and smarter at teaching kids how to swim," he said.
"It's a significant amount of money... but it's an investment into the future."
Despite splashing out $51 million in funding promises on his weekend trip at the Sunshine Coast, Mr Shorten insisted it was not an election tactic.
He announced $5 million funding for the international internet submarine fibre cable link on Friday.
"This is my sixth January as opposition leader," he said.
"Rushing out campaign promises insults the intelligence of the Australian people who really just want some stability."
Will more swimming lessons help reduce Queensland's tragic drowning numbers?
This poll ended on 21 February 2019.
It wouldn't hurt.
I think so.
Maybe, but people just need to be more responsible.
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
The Swim Smart program would aim to ensure every child could swim 50m, tread water and know how to respond if they fell into water unexpectedly.
The announcement follows News Corp's successful Save Our Schoolkids campaign, which highlighted the shocking decline in school children's swimming capability.
While the Palaszczuk Government last year announced it would fund lessons for all state primary students to receive lessons in swimming and survival skills Mr Shorten said the rest was "hit and miss".
One third of Queensland's 15 suspected drownings have happened in Sunshine Coast waters this season, from July 1 to yesterday, December 30.
Surf Life Saving Queensland reported a 30 per cent increase in rescues across the state this season; 1222 between July 1 to December 30, compared to 914 during the same period last year.
Five people have now died in suspected drownings on Coast beaches since October. Three were at Noosa beaches, including two deaths only days apart.
"Aussies love swimming, but too many young people are growing up without learning sufficient water safety skills to keep them safe," Mr Shorten said.
"This is unfair and unsafe. We don't want children to miss out."
Mr Shorten said that if he elected, Labor would start the program from 2020 and ensure access to lessons would not depend on where someone lived, what school they attended or if their parents could afford private lessons.
Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, Matt Thistlewaite said the funding would be divvied up between states and territories.
Mr Thistlewaite said the $46 million was based on $55 per student, which was roughly half the cost of what it would take to reach Year 4 levels under National Swimming and Water Guidelines.
"Enjoying the water is part of our culture and it's not good enough that people are missing out," he said.
The federal funds would also assist with transport costs to get to pools.
Mr Shorten plans to travel to Maryborough and Bundaberg next, before heading to Central Queensland.