Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten. David Nielsen

Shorten finds $40.9m for national swim policy

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

Issues raised

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 $40.9million 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.

Kids love the water

"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 states and territories.

National approach to water safety

"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.

Byron Bay High School teachers' aid David Krippner hoped to see more investment in education.

"I'm studying to be a teacher," he said.

"One of my kids was ready to drop out and then we had Gonski funding.

"He's just changed completely. He's coming first in his classes."

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