ABC Radio Perth – consequences of Government’s child care changes

Monday, 04 May 2020

NADIA MITSOPOULOS, PRESENTER: We organised for Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan to talk with you about this, he had confirmed over the weekend that he would be available this morning. He then pulled out this morning, and I wonder if that had anything to do with an interview he did on Insiders yesterday on ABC TV where he launched a pretty stinging attack on the Victorian Premier about the Premier’s decision to keep schools closed over there. His comments he had to withdraw later and he admitted he overstepped the mark, so we wonder if that’s why he wasn’t available this morning. Instead let’s go to Amanda Rishworth, she is the Federal Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development. Good morning to you, thanks for your time.

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

MITSOPOULOS: What needs to change here?

RISHWORTH: What needs to change is that the Government announced free child care, and that made a really good headline and a lot of families thought jeez that’s great I’ll now get free child care, but what the Government needs to now do is actually fund free child care. For those that are in child care and have a place, they are getting free child care and that’s great. But as many of your listeners and the previous caller identified, if you’re trying to get back into child care there is not enough places, or as centres are trying to crunch the numbers some children are being unenrolled. So what the Government really needs to do is they’ve announced free child care, they said it was available to anyone who needed it but that the centres had to decide that. They’ve put centres in a really difficult position, so what they actually need to do is fund this properly.

MITSOPOULOS: So should a co-payment be allowed then?

RISHWORTH: That’s obviously something we’ve got to work through. One of two things has to happen, whether it’s a co-payment or whether it’s the Government properly funding it. Ultimately the Minister and the Prime Minister got up and said we’re going to make this free during the COVID time for any worker. But that just isn’t the reality on the ground, and they’ve just left it to the centres to muddle through and work out who they can accept, who they have to reject. So ultimately what I’d like to see is the Government stump up more funding and actually fund this free child care properly. So that is to fund each child that does need child care.

RUSSELL WOOLF, PRESENTER: Parents are happy to make this co-payment though, do you think that is a viable solution in lieu of trying to get more Government money?

RISHWORTH: Ultimately the Government is actually spending less on early education than they would’ve alternatively if it was business as normal. So the amount they’re spending on the CCS is actually less than they’d normally spend, so they have capacity to do that. The Government is saying they will go back to the old system, but my big concern around that and around how quickly they do that is that as people start getting jobs, the worst outcome would be saying no to a job because you can’t get child care. Nothing to do with COVID-19, but you can’t take the job because you can’t find child care. So there needs to be a solution really quickly, the Government made this big announcement about free child care, it is incumbent on them to fund it properly.

MITSOPOULOS: I guess there isn’t a bottomless pit of money though that’s the problem.

RISHWORTH: There isn’t a bottomless pit, and probably they should’ve crunched their numbers before announcing this. But as I said overall in terms of the CCS payment they’re actually making less money available to child care centres through this system than they otherwise would have had the COVID-19 pandemic not hit our country. So there is more capacity to fund these centres. The other issue of course is there is a top up fund that centres are meant to be able to access if they couldn’t make things work, but we’ve only heard centres that have been rejected from that not actually gotten funding from that.

MITSOPOULOS: That’s interesting, if there’s anyone listening from a centre that’s tried to get that top up payment, have you been successful? Look I appreciate your time Amanda Rishworth, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development.

ENDS

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