4CA Breakfast – Labor’s Working Family Child Care Boost

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

MURRAY JONES, HOST: Joining me this morning Amanda Rishworth, Federal Member for Kingston in South Australia, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development and Shadow Minister for Youth as well. But I just want to find out, it’s pretty rare that we get South Australians live on the line, Amanda is a true do South Australians actually have Balfours and Farmers Union for breakfast without fail every day or is that just a myth?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well I think if I had Balfours and Farmers Union every day I’d probably be a lot bigger than I am but Farmers Union is a beautiful iced coffee and on a special occasion I’ll drink it.

JONES: Well I’ve certainly heard that from my South Australian friends, it seems like it’s something you do on a daily basis. Well look welcome to Queensland, it’s a bit of a day it’s a bit grey in this part of the world but I’m sure being in this part of the world would probably be pretty nice for a lot of people that can’t travel at the moment, so thanks for your virtual visit this morning. I do want to talk to you about child care, obviously our investment in child care is something that’s essential for Australia moving forward. With respect to what Labor is putting forward, population participation and productivity, Albo’s calling it the three Ps. I certainly understand the aspect of a participation and certainly productivity in due course, not so sure about increasing the population figures, but we’ll talk about that in due course. Let’s talk a little bit more about exactly what you’re talking about here, it’s grabbing 97 per cent of the families, but I understand that the cost could be up to $30,000 per child per year, that’s a lot of money Amanda.

RISHWORTH: Well look what we’re doing is we’re removing the disincentive for the second wage earner to go to work. At the moment the second wage earner in some circumstances, perhaps say a teacher and a police officer, for the second wage earner there’s actually a disincentive to go to work on the fourth and fifth day, you’re actually paying to go to work. And of course often that second wage earner is a woman, and so for the woman you’ve almost got to pay, when you look at the cost and all the rest, to go to work. That isn’t good, that’s not good for the second wage earner, it’s not good for that family, but it’s actually not good for the employer as well. Because if the employer finds someone really good and they’d like them to work more hours, and the person says “I’d love to work more hours but there’s a financial disincentive” then it’s not going to work. So what our plan is all about is supporting mums and dads, but particularly mums, back to work.

JONES: Let’s talk a bit more about investment in child care and we might come back to some of those specifics as well. Obviously with the COVID-19 recovery the Coalition is focusing a little bit more on I guess large projects and things where there’s that immediate economic turnover. Let’s talk about the benefits of investing in child care.

RISHWORTH: A lot of economists have been saying if you want bang for your buck, that’s return on investment for the dollars you put in, the place you put that is actually child care. Because when you build roads and other infrastructure you get a certain return on investment, but child care, when it comes to participation and productivity, the return on investment is actually much better. A lot of studies have suggested it potentially could grow our economy by seven to eleven billion dollars. There’s not many projects or other investment that you would get that type of return, so it’s why you have a lot of economists and a lot of business people, not just families and mums and dads, calling for this investment. It actually helps us grow the economy, which is good for everyone.

JONES: And so, you know, you can see the benefits there for mum and dad, allowing them to go to work, but I guess you get the flow on effect there’s benefits for the kids getting out there and socialising as well, but also supports our child care industry. If we can just talk a little bit more about the child care industry, one of the concerns is I guess this private and public model that we’ve got. Is it sustainable moving forward as we recover from COVID-19 that capitalism in a lot of cases just is not working for us Amanda?

RISHWORTH: You’re absolutely right that there have been examples where some child care providers have put their fees up much higher than others, some would say price gouging, so there does need to be some work done on that. We are obviously going to lift significantly the amount that families get, but we need to make sure that flows on to families. So what our policy has is to task the ACCC to look at a price regulation model. It’s a very diverse industry – there’s some mums and dads that have started up a business, just one child care centre, there’s early educators that have decided to go out of there on their own, but then there’s some very, very large companies as well. So we need to make sure that there’s some regulation when it comes to price and that’s why we’re going to get the ACCC to have a good look at it.

JONES: And I think that’s certainly moving forward because you often see this money coming out of a government coffers and you’re concern that possibly it’s going into the bottom line of big businesses, are the taxpayers getting their bang for the bucks? That’s certainly an issue of concern. As we wrap up this morning when we when we started this conversation, apart from Balfours and Farmers Union, we talked about population, participation and productivity, they’re the three Ps that Albo’s certainly been focusing on, I do have some concerns about further increasing our population here in Australia. But I guess a way of doing that is actually getting more people into work, and I guess there’s a lot of females that are out there they’re in a situation where they’ve got a lot to offer and I guess a great option for employees as well. I think that’s one of the strengths of what you’re talking about Amanda.

RISHWORTH: Yeah it is, I think it is a very important policy because, universities and government, we put a lot of money into skilling up women and what we want is that their skills are realised and their opportunities are realised, not that there’s a financial disincentive to actually share those skills with the wider community.

JONES: Excellent. it’s going to be interesting to see how things basically form over the next couple of years because there’s a lot of pressures, especially on the federal budget. But great to talk to you this morning Amanda Rishworth.


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