Opposition leader Bill Shorten with Richmond MP Justine Elliot in Kingscliff on Sunday, May 15, 2016.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten with Richmond MP Justine Elliot in Kingscliff on Sunday, May 15, 2016. Liana Turner

Shorten promises swim safety for all kids in Kingy visit

FAMILIES topped the agenda today as Labor leader Bill Shorten rolled into Kingscliff promising a national swimming safety scheme and new sporting facilities should he take office in July.

It was a colourful morning for Mr Shorten as passers-by raised issues ranging from gay marriage - on which he was confronted by two gay couples - to negative gearing, education, refugee policy, support for the elderly and children with disabilities.

Speaking at Cudgen Headland Surf Life Saving Club on a perfect autumn day, Mr Shorten pledged $40.9 million to set up a national swimming safety fund targeting primary school-aged children.

Mr Shorten said the new policy, formulated in conjunction with the surf lifesaving movement, would offer a uniform swimming safety program to children across the country, irrespective of where they lived.

"The beach and the water are so much a part of Australia's identity, we know across summer from the beaches, to the rivers, to the backyard swimming pools that dot our suburbs, Australian kids love the water," Mr Shorten said.

"But it is really important, not only that they learn how to swim but they are confident around the water.

"Each year we see too many tragedies, especially amongst our young ones - 270 people lost their lives on Australian waterways last year, 35 of them were children.

"We want to make sure that every child, in every state, gets the same opportunity to learn to swim and be confident around water."


Mr Shorten said the policy would put an end to the "patchwork" of programs already in place across the states and territories.

"What we are looking at doing is making sure there is a national approach to water safety, we want to make sure it is the same standard around the nation," he said.

"We'll sit down with the states to work with them to inspire them to do more."

Mrs Elliot, who is facing a tough battle to retain her seat of Richmond for a fifth term after an electoral boundary redistribution, said the issue was vital for the surf-loving region, where two people had lost their lives at nearby Fingal Headland in recent months.

"We know in this area how important it is to us," Mrs Elliot said.

"Keeping our kids safe in the water is an absolute priority around here and indeed right throughout the nation."

Mr Shorten and his entourage later moved to nearby sportfields, where they pledged $1 million to support plans to upgrade Kingscliff Sport and Recreation Complex, home to soccer, hockey and athletics clubs.

"Encouraging greater participation in sport is great not just for fitness and health, but also for strengthening bonds in the local community," Mr Shorten said.

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