Monday, 03 May 2021
LEON DELANEY, HOST: Joining me now Shadow Minister for Early childhood Education and Development, Amanda Rishworth. Good afternoon.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Good afternoon, great to be with you.
DELANEY: Thanks very much for joining us. Who exactly is going to miss out and why?
RISHWORTH: Unfortunately, what the government has said is that they are going to increase subsidies, so you pay less out of pocket costs, only when you have two or more children in child care at any one time. So unfortunately, that means that if you have one child in child care and you’re finding affordability an issue, you won’t get any extra support. And if you have two children in child care, then one goes off to school, then the extra support will disappear. So unfortunately, it is not helping the majority of families in child care. Labor last year said we had a different approach, we had a different policy. And that policy was to support 97 per cent of families with an improved cost, to help them with the cost of child care.
DELANEY: Obviously, there are those who are saying it should be free across the board just as it was during the COVID emergency. Is that a worthwhile goal?
RISHWORTH: Having a more universal system is definitely a worthwhile goal. While Labor’s proposed more investment in the short term, we’ve also said we want to get to a 90 per cent subsidy universal for all families. I think we do need to go towards seeing this as an essential service, and not as a kind of welfare measure with a means test, work test and now depending on when your child comes as a family, and whether they’re both in child care. Looking at the subsidies is getting very, very complex. And so a simple essential service model I think is something we need to look towards. That is certainly Labor’s long term vision.
DELANEY: It’s also been reported that amongst the government’s changes revealed today are measures that will actually more likely benefit people who are already well off, rather than struggling families. Is that right?
RISHWORTH: Part of the government’s proposals is taking the cap off, which would help higher income families. But in addition, really it seems that the people that would benefit the most is people that have two children on a higher income level. They’re the people that seem in this proposal to benefit the most, so people on $200,000, $300,000 with two children in care at the same time are the people that will most benefit. Whereas under Labor’s policy, we do raise the subsidy level for the low income earners at the beginning of our policy.
DELANEY: I have the suspicion that this new policy is the current government’s way of encouraging families to have more children. In the same vein that Peter Costello once told the people of Australia to have one for mum, one for dad and one for the country.
RISHWORTH: It does seem to about encouraging population. But the trouble is, what we need is also the policy to encourage productivity, as well as workforce participation. And that’s where the government’s missed the mark on this. Because if you’re struggling with the cost of child care and only have one child in child care at any one time, you don’t get any extra support under this policy. So it kind of missed the mark and I think unfortunately, it misses the opportunity for the long term reform of this area. I sort of feel that probably they’ve been told they’ve got a problem with women voters, and they’re trying to put a bandaid on that. That seems to me what the government’s doing here, because they’ve spent a long time when Labor released their policy in October last year, telling us that there was absolutely no problem.
DELANEY: Amanda, thanks very much for chatting today.