Doorstop – soaring child care fees, bushfire tourism package

Sunday, 19 January 2020

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: The latest data coming out from the Department of Education shows that child care fees have risen 35 per cent since the Liberal Party came to office. Just over the last year from September to September, child care fees have increased by 5 per cent. At the same time, CPI was running at 1.7 per cent. This means that families are facing greater and greater cost burdens when it comes to child care. Now this is a Government that said its new system would put downward pressure on child care fees. In reality, child care fees are going up and its families who are having to pay. Families are footing the cost of greater and greater out of pocket expenses as a result. It is time the Government acknowledges their child are system has failed, that it is not providing fee relief for families, instead it is just creating a greater burden. It is time the Minister fixed this system because families are struggling under the increasing cost of child care.

REPORTER: How do the out of pocket expenses impact Sydney families?

RISHWORTH: For many Sydney families they are seeing thousands and thousands of dollars in extra costs as a result of these increases. At the same time, relief from the Government is just not keeping pace. In some areas child care centres are charging well above what the Government stipulates, but there’s no mechanism to enforce those centres to actually offer child care at reasonable rates. So families are really suffering, particularly in certain areas around Sydney where child care fees are just going up and Government relief is not keeping pace.

REPORTER: What more should be done federally to alleviate pressure for working mums and dads? What would Labor do?

RISHWORTH: We’d like to firstly see the Government actually enact what they promised to do. They promised to put downward pressure on fees, they promised they would name and shame centres that put up fees by an exorbitant amount. They’ve done nothing. They’ve done nothing to explore price control when it comes to supporting families. Their system which was meant to be downward pressure on fees – they said it would, they said we’d see lower fees – it just hasn’t happened. So it’s time the Government got serious and actually dealt with this issue, because cost of living for families is a big issue and we want to see action from the Government, not just more spin.

REPORTER: On bushfire relief, the Federal Government has announced a $76 million tourism package as part of the bushfire recovery efforts. Some of the money will be used to bring celebrities and social media influencers here, what do you think of that?

RISHWORTH: Well firstly it is an important time for many tourist operators in fire affected areas. Summer is obviously their high peak season and a time when they need people to keep coming. We know many areas in Australia that were affected by fire are safe to travel to, and we’d encourage people to do just that. If you want to help a fire affected area then please consider helping those communities when it’s safe to do so by actually travelling there. Anything that promotes the fact that Australia is safe and open for business, and that we do want to encourage tourists, is a good thing. Of course with any plan the proof will be in the results. We want to see more tourists here, it is urgent that we encourage people to come and holiday in Australia. Of course here in South Australia we’ve got the fabulous Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island. There are many areas that are safe to travel and you won’t be disappointed if you come and enjoy the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island. So anything that can urgently encourage people to come here is a good thing, but of course the results are what we want to see.

REPORTER: So you think using that money to bring celebrities and social media influencers here is an appropriate use of money?

RISHWORTH: I think anything that gets the message out urgently that Australia is open for business, that we want to see people come here and that it’s safe to do so, is important. We’ll be carefully looking at the results of this package, we want to see it actually work. But open to all ideas to ensure this message urgently gets out there.

REPORTER: Do you think this package is enough to actually save the tourism industry?

RISHWORTH: The results and the data coming out are quite scary, including the cancellations of bookings in these towns affected by bushfires. So it is an urgent issue to get tourism back up and running, and of course there are many places that were affected by bushfires but are now open for business and you can enjoy them, and they’re lovely places to enjoy. Whether it’s the coast, whether it’s Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island, whether it’s the wine in the Adelaide Hills, there are many areas that are open for business. So you can kill two birds with one stone, you can support a fire affected community but also enjoy yourself and have a wonderful tourist experience. So anything that gets that message out urgently – but it is urgent, the statistics are very concerning and the message needs to get out as soon as possible.

REPORTER: You mentioned the number of cancellations we’ve seen, the tourism industry has really suffered across Australia as a result of these bushfires. Is $76 million going to be enough, do you think there will need to be another injection of cash?

RISHWORTH: I think we’ve got to see the results, of course as mentioned it is a devastating time for many operators. So let’s see how the results go, let’s see how this money is spent and make sure it is well spent, let’s continue to promote the message that Australia is safe and open for business. There are many beautiful places that you can go and visit and I’d encourage people to do so.

REPORTER: The Prime Minister had a holiday in Hawaii but is now encouraging Australians to holiday in Australia. What sort of message do you think that sends?

RISHWORTH: People will make up their own minds about the Prime Minister, our criticism has been of his response and his slow response to the bushfire crisis. But I think we need to be united and work together with our fire affected communities. They need people to turn up, to spend their money and buy some wine, and it’s a great drop from the Adelaide Hills as well as Kangaroo Island, eat some of our food, visit a fire affected area – you definitely won’t regret it.

REPORTER: You mentioned the slow response, do you think this tourism announcement will help Scott Morrison’s popularity to bounce back?

RISHWORTH: Our country’s response, the Government’s response to the bushfires shouldn’t be based on what will help the Prime Minister to become more popular, it should be based on need and what communities are asking for. And communities are out there, particularly in fire affected areas and in tourist areas, very clearly saying we want you to keep coming and we want you to support us. So I think any package the Government puts forward shouldn’t be about their popularity with the Australian people, it should be about helping affected communities to get back on their feet as quickly as possible.

REPORTER: From what you’ve seen do you think the money is being allocated in the best possible way?

RISHWORTH: The proof will be in the results. The Government should not get set in its ways and say this is all the money that should be spent. They need to be continually monitoring and making sure this is having an impact on the ground. They need to make sure they’re listening to small businesses, tourist operators and communities, and adjust their response. The announcement today is a step in the right direction and we want to make sure it delivers on the ground, and we’ll be watching very closely.

REPORTER: Do you have any other suggestions on how Government funding should be spent to boost tourism?

RISHWORTH: Making sure that the message is out there as quickly as possible to encourage Australian tourists, as well as international tourists, to keep coming to Australia is critically important. Anything that does that is a good thing, but we’ve got to make sure it works and be continually monitoring it and making adjustments as needed. I think responding to this quickly and effectively is critically important, and if more money is needed then putting more money on the table. That’s the key, listening to those tourist operators, finding out what they need and responding to that is the first task of Government.

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