Monday, 05 July 2021
LAURA JAYES, HOST: I want to bring in Shadow Minister, Amanda Rishworth. Thanks so much for your time. There’s a situation at the moment we’ve had lockdowns right across the country, restrictions are in place, people are told to stay at home, work from home. There’s all kinds of limits on what you can do with your movement. But child care centres are still charging for child care if your child does or doesn’t go. Can anything be done about that?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well yes this is the really annoying thing, Laura. Child care centres are required by law to charge families gap fees, that’s the extra in addition to their subsidy, even if their child does not attend child care. Now, the Minister, through the legislation, we actually passed some legislation in the Parliament that gave the Minister the right to allow centres to waive those get fees if your child is not attending. So if families are doing the right thing, they’re staying at home, they’re not using child care, the Minister has the power in this lockdown to allow centres to waive those gap fees. He has chosen not to do this. In the lockdown in Victoria last year, the Government did allow centres to waive those gap fees, but every lockdown since that the Minister has chosen not to. So unfortunately, this is actually out of the centres’ control at the moment. They are by law required to collect those gap fees. But the Minister has the power to ensure that the centre still gets the rebate from the government, but those out of pocket costs are not passed on to families, and he can do it with a stroke of a pen.
JAYES: Okay, any indication why this time the gap fees haven’t been waived? Because as you said it did happen in Victoria, but it hasn’t happened this time around.
RISHWORTH: Well, on a number of the more short lockdowns we’ve seen, we have raised it with the Minister. And by the time we’ve got a response it was non committal, and those lockdowns have ended, and so I guess people have moved on. This lockdown in Sydney has been quite a long period of time, and we’re urging the Minister to do this, to sign the document that allows these get fees to be waived. Of course, one of the challenges is that we tried to make an amendment in the Parliament so it would be automatic, as soon as there were stay at home orders, the provision would come in to allow centres not to charge get fees. And that was rejected in the Parliament. So, so far, we haven’t had, I think, a proper excuse from the Government about why this is the case. It doesn’t cost the Government any more, they are still providing the subsidy to centres. All it would do is support those families who are doing the right thing, staying at home, not using child care because they’re able to work from home, trying to balance all those things up. It seems nonsensical to me.
JAYES: Amanda Rishworth, we’ll see where this goes, if anywhere. Thanks so much for your time today. Appreciate it.
RISHWORTH: Thank you.