Doorstop interview – Early Childhood Educators Day, JobKeeper and educators

Wednesday, 02 September 2020

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Today is Early Educators Day, an opportunity to celebrate early educators right around the country. However, what the Government has done to early educators is prematurely, six weeks ago, ripped them off JobKeeper. The only workers in the country to have JobKeeper ripped away. Now the Prime Minister gave them a “jobs guarantee” – well that jobs guarantee has fallen through. We’re hearing of hundreds of educators who are being stood down, losing hours and income in Victoria. Now the Government washed their hands and said “job done, the pandemic was over”, and then Victoria hit and they were not prepared.

We have the national accounts coming out, we will see a very dire situation for our economy. This is the worst time to be ripping JobKeeper away from large, female dominated industries like early educators. Early educators have been there through this pandemic, caring for children every single day. And we know that this pandemic is not over, we know that there still could certainly be situations where we have lockdowns and people put out of work. But of course the Government had no plan for that in Victoria, they’d already said the job was done, and now we have hundreds of educators without work, having their hours cut.

If this is the guarantee that the Prime Minister gives, well heaven forbid for the rest of the country, because his guarantee on anything to do with jobs is not worth the paper it’s written on. He has betrayed early educators, and if he doesn’t get a jobs plan, he’s going to betray all workers in this country.

JOURNALIST: These changes to JobKeeper kicking early educators off, did that have to be legislated or was that the Government’s decision alone?

RISHWORTH: That was one hundred per cent the Government’s decision alone to take early educators off JobKeeper. And it was their responsibility, because they thought the job was done. The Minister himself said occupancy is up to 75 per cent now in early learning centres, the package has done its job, and then Victoria hit. And through stubbornness or just neglect, they failed to act properly to restore JobKeeper. As a result we are seeing educators – I’ve had stories of women who have been employed for 18, 20 years, stood down during this pandemic in Victoria.

So it was poorly planned by the Government, poorly executed. And of course what we’re asking of the Government is if they truly respected early educators, which they often say they do, then they would restore JobKeeper and ensure those women have pay coming in.

JOURNALIST: Economic figures are out today which will show sort of the trough of the crisis, Australia is hopefully going to come back. Would you think those early educators are going to be the ones left behind in the recovery?

RISHWORTH: Look at the moment there are many that are struggling to buy food. They are choosing to have to now line up at Centrelink, after they cared for children during the first wave of the pandemic. When everyone else was told to stay home, they went out and cared for children in an environment where you cannot socially distance, and then the Government ripped JobKeeper off them. So I am very concerned for them right now, and as we recover I am very concerned that it’s going to be harder for them to get a job. So they will be left behind, but I am worried about many, many workers that could be left behind as a result of this Government’s lack of a plan for jobs.

JOURNALIST: Last night Tony Abbott said lockdowns have been a dictatorship in this COVID-19, do you agree with Mr Abbott?

RISHWORTH: Mr Abbott loves a headline doesn’t he, he loves a headline because he has relevance deprivation disorder I think. This is a Prime Minister who got kicked out by his own party, and now is showing a lack of sensitivity and lack of understanding about why it is important to control the health crisis. If you don’t control the health crisis then you have people die, and you also cannot get the economy back on track. So look I’m sure Mr Abbott when he’s feeling irrelevant does like to weigh in on some of these issues, but quite frankly I think he’s out of touch and most people would be shrugging their shoulders and suggesting he goes back to wherever he is in the UK.

JOURNALIST: And just finally China has said if Australia doesn’t resolve its trade dispute with Beijing, we could end up being the white trash of Asia, similar to the Singapore PM’s comments many years ago. That’s not really a way to treat an equal trading partner is it?

RISHWORTH: It’s obviously a difficult time in the Australia-China relationship. What Australia has got to do and what the Government has got to do is make sure that we are engaging with China, but also asserting our national interest, our national interest is incredibly important. But I think the key here is that disengagement from China won’t work, so we’ve got to continue to engage, the Government should continue to engage with China, but always be standing up for our national interest.


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