AM Agenda – child care

Monday, 26 April 2021

LAURA JAYES, PRESENTER:  Let’s go live now to Shadow Early Childhood Minister, Amanda Rishworth, thanks so much for your time. Labor also has a policy that you’ve laid out here as well, it sounds like these business group proposals is almost very similar to Labor’s. How did they compare?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Absolutely, very similar. The first important point is the cap on the Child Care Subsidy is removed, that’s an important step. Labor is lifting the lowest end of the taper rate to 90 per cent, the Business Council of Australia is suggesting 95 per cent. And then both policies are really suggesting a smoother taper rate. The Business Council of Australia finishes at around $430,000, around that mark. Labor’s finishes around $530,000 combined income. So they’re quite similar, the objects of the two proposals are the same, that is to remove some of the barriers that exist for women to work the fourth or fifth day in the week. And as the Business Council is outlining, it is critical for economic growth to unleash this really important workforce, our women’s workforce, and to do that we need to support them when it comes to child care.

JAYES: Yeah, indeed, look this is starting to sound very complicated, this system when it comes to subsidies and different rates and how it tapers. Is there a way that can be simplified?

RISHWORTH: Absolutely. Our short term plan is this smoother taper rate. But ultimately, we’d like to get to a 90 per cent subsidy for all families. We think this should be started to be seen as an essential service. I mean, when you have the means testing and all these other bits and pieces, we’re really talking about a welfare measure, you know Family Tax Benefit. It’s not the same, this is a critical lever to get our economy going after COVID. And so we need to start seeing this as an essential service. And a 90 per cent subsidy for all families would get rid of a whole lot of paperwork, a whole lot of difficulty that families have been navigating with Centrelink. So we think there is a pathway to that. And if we’re elected, we would look at implementing that within our first term.

JAYES: Labor has really shifted gears here into used to be somewhat thinking it was a welfare measure, but now it seems that it’s fully a productivity measure in your views and the views of your party. Where was this shift? Why did you change thinking because you know, once upon a time, some of your party used to argue that a subsidy shouldn’t be given to quote unquote “a rich woman”?

RISHWORTH: I think, over time, we’ve seen the system change. The payments used to just go straight to families, now they go to the early learning centres and parents pay the gap fee. That’s very similar to a Medicare style system where the doctor gets the payment from the government, and families and people pay the gap fee. So I think it has been an evolution over time. But I think more and more the economics coming in and the modelling has started to show that if we do want to boost women’s workforce participation, then we really need to take this issue seriously, because we’re missing out on so many more talents. I think in addition, we can view this as an equity measure. This is about women in particular not falling behind in that race to be able to use their skills, to use their talents, to get the promotion, and of course, accumulate super for their retirements. So this is a really important economic empowering measure for women.

JAYES: Indeed, Amanda Rishworth. Thanks for your time.


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