ABC Afternoon Briefing – IBAC, child care

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Amanda Rishworth is the Shadow Minister for Youth and Early Childhood Education. She joins me this afternoon, welcome.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Great to be with you.

KARVELAS: Let’s start on IBAC. Should your federal colleague Anthony Byrne step down, given his admitted to branch stacking?

RISHWORTH: Look, anyone that has seen the reports around IBAC would be very concerned. Certainly as a member of the Labor Party, I’m concerned about some of the revelations. But in terms of IBAC, it’s got to take its course. It is a quasi-judicial process. And so in terms of specific sanctions or outcomes, I don’t want to prejudge that process. But it is something that I am deeply concerned about across political parties, that their processes are not corrupted in any way. And so I am pleased that IBAC is doing its job, I’m pleased that these issues are being aired, and I will be looking at the conclusion and their findings, importantly, very closely.

KARVELAS: Moving to your shadow portfolio, the Federal Government will bring forward child care subsidies from July to March, saving families with at least two children an average of $2,000 a year. Is that the sort of financial support families need right now?

RISHWORTH: Well, firstly, families need support right now. They needed support in the last budget when this was announced. So I’m not sure why the government wants a pat on the back for saying they’ll get relief in March, which is still a long way away. But the truth of the matter is, most families will not receive any sort of that amount of money that you’ve identified. In fact, only a quarter of families in the system will get any support from the Liberal Party. So it is concerning that many families will miss out on any support from this package that the government’s talking about. Compare that to Labor’s package which we’ve announced. We’ve said we will introduce support for 97 per cent of families using the system. So while for those families that get some extra support, it will be absolutely welcome, the choice at the next election will be whether a small minority of families get support for a short period of time, or all families or most families in the system getting extra support under Labor.

KARVELAS: Can you think post pandemic that this system needs another look at or another review, given it’s really being tested by this pandemic? We’ve seen child care largely remain open, but it has actually exposed some of the issues in our child care system. The pandemic has disproportionately affected women, women’s workforce participation has been affected dramatically really as a result of the pandemic. Do you think it merits another look?

RISHWORTH: I do think we need to look at how we reform this system. I think you’re absolutely right, COVID has shown some of the weaknesses in the child care system and the early education system. Some of these educators kept turning up to work where many, many others didn’t have to, and put themselves at risk. And there were a lot of concerns, and there wasn’t the type of attention and support really required to support some of those workers. There are a lot of families very confused around why they had to pay fees during lockdown scenarios where they couldn’t access child care. And of course, operators were finding it very hard. I think as we go into the new normal, we will need to look carefully to make sure this system is fit for purpose. One of the first things Labor’s said we want to look at is universal access, a universal subsidy of 90 per cent for all families. Get away some of the red tape around means testing, but also looking at price regulation as well. There’s a number of things we need to look at in this system, as well as where the government money is going. So I think there’s a lot of things that have been exposed in this pandemic that need a careful look at, and Labor has committed to doing that if we’re successful at the next election.

KARVELAS: You’re also the Shadow Minister for Youth, and we spoke to Anne Hollonds, who is the Children’s Commissioner, a little earlier. We talked about the policies that have been designed, and she said during the pandemic she believed that children had been forgotten, or they had not been at the centre of the thinking about the pandemic response. Which is I thought a really strong comment from her about the way that we design policy in this country. Do you see it that way too?

RISHWORTH: I actually do Patricia. I think both children and young people haven’t really had a voice in this pandemic. In fact, most of the time, we’ve been talking about vaccinating people over the age of 16. And not really talking necessarily about the risks. Now, that’s not to say, we haven’t now started a vaccination programme for 12 to 15 year olds. But if we look at who have probably taken the biggest brunt, it is actually young people and children. They are vastly unprotected when it comes to the re-openings. But in addition, they are also people that have had their education affected, their sort of life milestones affected in this. And so I certainly do think as we get into the recovery, there needs to be a more of a focus on young people and children. What have been the deficits, or what have they missed out on in this, and how do we actually support them moving forward? Because their lives have probably been disrupted – I don’t want to say the most, because everyone’s life has been disrupted – but when you’ve had a short time on this planet, missing out on so many things, having education disrupted, all those really important milestones affected, jobs, economics, education, all those sorts of things, I do think that we need careful attention on them moving forward.

KARVELAS: Amanda Rishworth, thanks for joining us.

ENDS

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