Wednesday, 10 June 2020
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Families across Australia are digesting what the Government’s child care changes mean for them and they are not happy. I’ve been contacted by many women in particular who are very concerned about what the snap back to the old system means. One mother sent me an email saying she is relying on Jobkeeper for income, but the Prime Minister now expects her to pay fees for child care at rates before the pandemic. It is just not good enough that this Government is tone deaf to the plights of families right around this country. No economist in Australia is trying to pretend that our economy is back to normal. It won’t be back to normal in a month, and in fact it won’t be back to normal by the end of the year. But this Government wants to snap back to the high fee child care system.
Equally we are hearing from educators and centres right around the country about the uncertainty that ripping Jobkeeper away from early educators has had. The uncertainty that early educators have as a result of this Government’s broken promise. Let’s not forget the Prime Minister promised only four days ago that the Jobkeeper program will go until September, and now he has broken that promise. What that means for families and educators right around the country is significant uncertainty. Early childhood educators were there through the pandemic, and they’ve been cut from the program. Who is next from this Prime Minister’s broken promise to rip away Jobkeeper?
People should be very concerned that this Prime Minister has started leaving people behind. He has started leaving behind families, and started leaving behind early educators. The question from the Australian people is who is next? Who next will this Prime Minister leave behind? Who next will this Prime Minister abandon? Who next will this Prime Minister put high cost of living pressures on? There is real concern out there and people in Australia should be worried.
RISHWORTH: The Government has said nothing, what they’ve said is we want to snap back to the old system. Now of course there were many options on the table of what the Government could have done and they chose to ignore all of them. Instead what they did was rip Jobkeeper away from educators and put high fees onto families. This is not a Government that is working on behalf of families, it is a Government that is creating high cost of living pressures and many families simply can’t afford it.
JOURNALIST: One of the things that the Opposition Leader outlined yesterday was that as a result of a snap back to how it was previously, many of the child care centres would be closing. Do you have any estimates on how many you think that would be?
RISHWORTH: At the moment we know from anecdotal evidence that demand will decrease as a result of snapping back to the old system. Families simply can’t afford fees and some estimates have been that 25 – 35 per cent of families could well drop hours or leave care altogether. This puts the sector under severe pressure and potential viability issues. What is disturbing is the Government themselves have done no modelling, no estimation to actually determine whether or not ripping Jobkeeper away will actually hurt the viability of the sector, and could high fees actually lead to families dropping out. This is our great concern and has led to severe uncertainty in the sector. It’s not good enough when families are still having to defer their mortgage payments, rely on Jobkeeper as their source of income, that this Government thinks it’s okay to put high child care fees back onto families.
JOURNALIST: Given we have some of the highest child care costs in the world, would Labor suggest a way of lowering it?
RISHWORTH: Our policy will be announced for the next election. What I can say to you is Labor has always had a good track record of ensuring that there’s three pillars to our child care system – affordability, accessibility and high quality – and I will be working with the sector in consultation about how we can deliver a policy at the next election. But I want to focus on the Government, the Government was getting advice from a range of different groups about other options on the table, other ways that they could actually deliver affordable child care to families in this really difficult economic time and they chose to ignore it. They chose to snap back to the old system, that’s not a lot of creative thinking.