AM Agenda – early educators and JobKeeper

Monday, 03 August 2020

ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: We’re joined by Liberal MP Julian Simmonds and Labor’s Shadow Early Childhood Education Minister Amanda Rishworth. Thank you both for your time.

Julian Simmonds we’ll start with you first, all the way up in sunny Queensland you’re the envy of many at the moment. Do you think that this is the right approach in Victoria? They’re splitting up these announcements over two days, a lot of people have spent the last 24 hours wondering if they will have a job by the end of the day.

 JULIAN SIMMONDS, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: Well certainly I think businesses need certainty as soon as possible. But we are all willing Victoria on, every single one of us in every single State. We want Victorians to get through this health crisis, so we can get our entire nation back up and running and the economy back up and running, and get people back into jobs. And while Victorians are doing that, the Federal Government will be offering them every assistance we possibly can – ADF personnel, JobKeeper payments, JobSeeker payments, cash flow assistance for businesses, whatever is required to assist them. And the rest of Australia we’ll be working on getting the back to work, back into jobs and to get out economy firing again.

NIELSEN: Amanda Rishworth this has been a particular focus of yours as Shadow Early Childhood Education Minister. You want to see greater support for the child care sector, it’s already been shut down in Victoria in the CBD and the centre of Melbourne, you can’t take your children to child care anymore. Would you like to see more targeted support for that industry again?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well what happened was the Government ripped away JobKeeper from early educators from 20 July, they said the job was done. So I would like to see some targeted support to make sure those early educators get the security other workers have in this country in the form of JobKeeper. We know many children who went to child care during the first lockdown will not be able to go this time around, so what we need from the Government is swift action. They can’t wait like they did last time weeks and weeks for targeted action.

The Government needs to admit they made a mistake, they called it too early to rip JobKeeper away from early educators, and re-instate that support for those workers, and to ensure the viability of the sector so that there is child care available in Melbourne and Victoria once this latest lockdown is able to be lifted.

NIELSEN: Julian Simmonds do you think that’s fair that the Government pulled support too soon?

SIMMONDS: I don’t think it’s fair Annelise and frankly at a time of such great uncertainty for Victorians and when we’re still trying to get our heads around what this lockdown means for them, Amanda’s political point scoring is a pretty cheap shot I think. The only thing that’s happened as part of this child care package is we had the child care sector come to us as a Federal –

NIELSEN: Seems like we’ve lost Julian Simmonds’ connection there, so this is going to be I think a chat with just me and Amanda Rishworth maybe. Amanda are you still there?

RISHWORTH: I am.

NIELSEN: Okay you’re going to get a pretty clear run until we get Julian Simmonds back. Just on his point there’s still ongoing JobKeeper support for those who’ve lost their jobs in this time. Is this not something where the child care sector just needs to take the hit like every other industry in Australia?

RISHWORTH: Well no other industry in Australia has had JobKeeper stopped. For early educators that was stopped on 20 July, for every other worker in Australia they are getting JobKeeper until September and then will be able to re-assess and continue that. What the Government was saying is that the job was done, JobKeeper had done its job and I had made the point on a regular basis that the pandemic was not over and it was just too soon.

It’s not political point scoring as Julian tried to point out, I’m standing up for educators and families who need their voices heard. It’s not the Opposition’s job to just pat the Government on the back and say everything is fine when it’s not. There are deep concerns about the viability of the child care sector and I’m urging the Government to act now, not wait weeks like they did in the first round.

NIELSEN: It’s not necessarily fair to say every other worker has access to JobKeeper, you do still have a pretty strict requirement of a downturn in revenue for any company before they can access JobKeeper. Plenty of Australians have had to go onto JobSeeker during this time. So why should child care educators get special treatment?

RISHWORTH: Well even if they can prove that they have had a downturn, they can’t access JobKeeper. They are the only category of worker where if the centre can show the downturn, they still can’t access JobKeeper. I think when we look at the scenario in Melbourne, it’s very fragile and we are going to have many children not allowed to go to child care. In fact the orders, and we will learn a bit more today, will be unless you’re an essential worker or a vulnerable child, you cannot turn up to child care. So there will be a lot of children for the first time removed from child care and kinder, which is going to put a big strain on the viability particularly of small centres and stand alone centres. So they need some certainty from the Government right now about what their plan is to support them.

NIELSEN: The other discussion today is the border battle, we’ve seen WA looking pretty vindicated, you can see Mark McGowan with the Federal Government withdrawing its support for Clive Palmer’s High Court case. But that doesn’t mean he won’t necessarily be successful, and if it is unconstitutional why should States be allowed to do it?

RISHWORTH: Firstly I think the Prime Minister has done the right thing to pull out of this, but the question is why did he get involved in the first place? Why did he team up with Clive Palmer to try and argue a case against the medical advice and against the WA Premier? It seems whether it was the Queensland Premier, where Julian was very happy to argue very strongly against the borders being shut, or the Western Australia Premier, we’ve got Federal Members pitching against these Premiers. They seem very happy to pick a fight with Labor Premiers and to play politics with this.

I think Mark McGowan should be able to do what he needs to do, to follow the health advice. And the Prime Minister really needs to explain that only a few days ago he was cheering this case on, putting Commonwealth resources into this case to try and go against the Western Australia Premier, and has now pulled out. We’ll see what the Court decides, I don’t want to pre-empt any Court decision, but it seems ludicrous that the Commonwealth was jumping onto this and deciding to play political games fighting the Western Australia Premier.

NIELSEN: I think we have Julian Simmonds back online, I’m sure there’s many people across the country sympathetic to connection issues these days. Julian Simmonds you with us?

SIMMONDS: I am with you Annelise, thanks for bearing with me. Hopefully I’ll last a little bit longer this time.

NIELSEN: It’s COVID life isn’t it. Julian Simmonds we’re just talking about the WA border battle, Amanda Rishworth saying the Government shouldn’t be wasting federal resources on supporting this kind of case. Do you think that the Federal Government should have stayed out of it?

SIMMONDS: I think the point we’re trying to make, and we are still happy to make this point outside of the Court process, is opening borders is so important to get Australians back to work, to getting out economy firing again and keeping people in jobs. That’s our number one focus, so all we want to see, while we respect and accept it is a State Premier’s right to close their borders, we really want to see them do it through a process of consultation, consultation with the National Cabinet. That is why Scott Morrison put it in place, so that we can have those discussions and the Federal Government can help them manage keeping people in jobs and the economic crisis Australia is facing as well.

NIELSEN: And just to finish off we’ve had an op ed piece penned by Christopher Pyne about the AFL grand final, saying this is the time we should be looking at moving it away from Melbourne. I can’t think of a worse way to kick Victorians in the pants while they’re down, to take the footy grand final away from them. Now Amanda Rishworth do you think it should be taken off Victoria?

RISHWORTH: Look I’m not a medical expert and I’m not going to profess any advice, but the point I would make is the Adelaide Oval is a beautiful oval, and I would love to see two South Australian teams playing the grand final. But that is unlikely to happen based on the current results, the Crows aren’t doing so well.

NIELSEN: I’m not footy fanatic, I know it’s not massive up in Queensland, but Julian Simmonds do you think now is not the right time to be having this conversation with Victoria?

SIMMONDS: It’s pretty massive Annelise, our Lions are a pretty big chance to be in the finals against Port Adelaide actually, so if those are the two teams that end up being in there Amanda maybe we should take on a bit of a wager. I saw this column from Christopher Pyne, and I was going to say first of all if you haven’t yet got his book, a bit of a shameless plug go and read it, I read it I thought it was fantastic, go and buy it.

I don’t think it is a kick in the pants for Victoria, I think the fact that from a mental health perspective we want sport to continue, from an economic perspective national sport is such a big driver. And while we are willing and wishing Victorians on as they get through the health crisis as part of the lockdown, I think we want life to continue and the economy to open up in as much of the rest of the country as we can. And if that means playing national sporting events in Queensland then I’m very much in favour of that.

NIELSEN: I hope no Victorians are hurt too much by this, they’ve got enough on their plate I think leave the grand final with them. But again I’m no sports fanatic. We’re going to have to leave it there, Amanda Rishworth and Julian Simmonds thank you both for your time.

ENDS

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