Monday, 07 December 2020
ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Good morning. My name is Alicia Payne and I am the Member for Canberra. And it is my great pleasure this morning to welcome our Leader, Anthony Albanese, and the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood, Amanda Rishworth, to the electorate to talk about Labor’s plans for a more affordable childcare. I also want to thank the team here at Narrabundah Cottage for hosting us this morning. And we have been having some great conversations with parents and the children here about early childhood education.
So, today we are launching our Childcare Calculator, an online calculator where families can go on and estimate just how much better off they would be under Labor’s policy. And 97 per cent of Australian families would be better under Labor’s policy and no family will be worse off. Affordable early childhood education and care is vital to helping our economy recover after the pandemic. We are now in a recession. We can’t afford the handbrake that unaffordable childcare is on parents getting back to work. Now, why an online calculator is so important is that it enables families to crunch those numbers as these conversations are happening around the kitchen table around Australia when parents are deciding whether or not if they can afford to go back to work. And let’s be honest, it’s usually the mother who is deciding if she afford to go back to work. So, Labor wants to get behind Australian families and really support them to take that unaffordable childcare problem out of that equation so that people can return to work if they want to. And this will also address gender equality in the workplace by taking that out of that discussion, which is so important. Here in the electorate of Canberra, we have the highest average hourly fees for childcare in the country. And I know that many of my constituents are very excited about this policy that we’ve been talking about this morning. So, I’m very pleased to hand over to Anthony to talk further about it. Thanks.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Thanks very much, Alicia. And Alicia, of course, has a direct interest in this policy, but so does the nation. Because this will benefit children. It will benefit families. But it will also benefit our economy. This goes to all of the three Ps in which you get economic growth. Participation by assisting women’s participation in the workforce. Productivity by building careers and boosting productivity for the private and public sectors. But also, population, because one of the things that we know, and talking to parents again this morning here, is that they calculate the difference that it makes between working a fourth or fifth day a week, going back to work, they also calculate when they are going to have their first child ,which we know is now later in life than it was some decades ago, or whether they can afford to have a second, third or for the children. The fact is that parents are really conscious about this. And they talk about it with us. It’s a conversation starter. And yet, the Government isn’t listening at all. The Government says that everything’s all okay and that we don’t need extra childcare support. Well, Labor’s calculator, www.childcarecalculator.com.au, is a really practical initiative in which families will be able to log in and see what the estimate is of the benefit to them, making a difference to their lives. That’s what Labor wants to be about, making a difference to people’s lives in a positive way, particularly helping working families and therefore helping to boost economic productivity. This is a great economic reform. It’s not about welfare. It’s about making a difference to families but making a difference to our economy. And as well, lastly, making a difference to children. Speaking to Amanda at this centre, about the work that that she and the other educators do here in order to expand the horizon and the way that young people grow, we know that 90 per cent of human brain development is in the first five years of life. We should be providing support for that. Good for children, good for families, good for our economy.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well, it’s been wonderful to visit Narrabundah Children’s Cottage. And I think we saw what early education is all about here, seeing the children learning, thriving, socialising and really getting the best start to life. Of course, Labor has a plan to make this opportunity more affordable to 97 per cent of families. Now, what our plan does involves smoothing the taper rate and ensuring that we get rid of the annual cap. Of course, that might not mean a lot to people that don’t live and breathe childcare, but it means a lot to families. Families know that there are barriers in the current system that creates a workforce disincentive rate. That is a disincentive rate for the second income earner to go back to work. And what Labor’s new Childcare Calculator will do, it will demonstrate directly to families how much they are saving, how much they are able to remove that disincentive, how much they will be able to work more, and ensure that their children have more care and education as a result. This is critically important to families right around this country. When I talk to families, they are struggling with the out-of-pocket costs that come as a result of childcare. And the Government has been completely blind to this. A lot of commentators have called this the Government’s blind spot. And there’s no wonder because, of course, Scott Morrison himself designed the system. But Labor is not getting stuck in the past. We want to look forward. We want to look forward with the cost benefit for families. This is a really important policy. A policy that we need to get out there and sell now. And this is what the Childcare Calculator is all about, showing that families understand what the benefit is to them.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much. All four of us are happy to answer questions. Difficult ones will go to Alana.
JOURNALIST: Just on the Childcare Calculator itself, I noticed it stops at $999,999 as an estimated family income. What does a family of a million dollars save under Labor’s policy?
ALBANESE: Well, they won’t benefit. The savings for Labor’s existing proposal cuts out at $530,000. And that is a figure that increases the rebate up to 90 per cent and then it tapers off in a straight line. As it is now, it’s incredibly complex, the way that the system is designed between the way that the tax system interacts with the childcare subsidy system. And so, we have tried to simplify that. We’ll have in our first term a Productivity Commission review into the system that will look at whether we move towards a universal 90 per cent subsidy system across the board. Just as Medicare is universal healthcare, we have universal superannuation, we have universal access to our public schools. When a child turns five, a young person gets to go to school and guess what? Families immediately notice the benefit to them. The big thing that I get is that families say, ‘When little Mary or little Johnny got to go to primary school, all of a sudden it was such a relief that we could earn more money’. Why is it that’s the case that families are under that pressure, while a child is under five years of age? What this plan is about is assisting families, 97 per cent will benefit from this plan and people will be able to calculate exactly what the benefit to them will be. It is an estimate, obviously, but they’ll be able to calculate that, which will make it very clear for families what’s in it for them and what difference it would make for the decisions that they make of whether a woman, usually a woman, mum will go back to work on a fourth or fifth day.
JOURNALIST: Just on the industrial relations reforms that are going to be put to the Parliament this week, one of the proposals that the Government’s putting forward is that employers will have to offer somebody a permanent job if they have been there for 12 months. Do you welcome that?
ALBANESE: Well, we haven’t seen the legislation as yet. And it won’t be determined this week. It’ll just be introduced. But we’ve been saying for some time that insecure work is a major problem. And we support the principle of same pay and conditions for the same work. It’s a pity that the Government’s challenging some of the decisions or supporting challenges in the court that undermine that principle and those working conditions that were found, for example, in the Skene case in Queensland. And that is being challenged through the back door through another case. The fact is, it’s not just casualisation. It’s also use of labour hire and contracting out to undermine working conditions. What we need to do is to make sure that we address the big challenge that the Reserve Bank identified well before the pandemic, the wage stagnation that’s occurring. So, we will assess any legislation on the basis of fairness, on the basis of whether it improves the industrial conditions for working people. But this Government has sat on this for eight years as we’ve seen an increasing casualisation of the workforce, as we’ve seen more and more contracting out, and as we’ve seen an increased use of labour hire in order to undermine wages and conditions. That’s having an impact on workers’ pay packets, but it’s also having a negative impact on our economy.
JOURNALIST: Sections of the CFMEU have described this as moving towards the Work Choices 2.0. Given some of their concerns around industrial relations, do you share that view?
ALBANESE: Look, we’ll have a look at any legislation. But Labor stands up for working people. We want to make sure that wages and conditions are improved, that workers have a stake in our economy. And during the pandemic, we’ve seen that it’s those workers in the most marginalised employment situations, the most insecure, who were the first to be laid off. And the other thing that we’ve learned during this pandemic is exactly what an essential worker is. Essential workers are people who work at this centre. They are also people who work in aged care, people who work cleaning our buildings and our public facilities. They are people who keep this country going each and every day. And I would hope that coming out of the pandemic, one of the things we do is respect working people, particularly those who are underpaid, those who are in difficult circumstances, but who keep us going and who’ve kept us safe during this pandemic
JOURNALIST: Do you think this is respecting Australian workers?
ALBANESE: We’ll have a look at the detail. But we are concerned about some of the reporting. But we’ll examine the legislation. And, of course, it will go to a Senate Committee immediately. And that will provide an opportunity for unions and for individual workers and indeed employers who want to do the right thing, overwhelmingly, to make submissions about that.
JOURNALIST: You said you were concerned, what are you concerned about?
ALBANESE: Well, we’re concerned about this Government and its general approach. The fact that it’s a Government that has intervened in the industrial relations system consistently, not in the interests of improving wages and conditions, but undermining them.
ALBANESE: She was cheering us on. That’s a positive sound.
JOURNALIST: If anybody can guess what the Senate is possibly going to do, it may well pass the Foreign Relations bill today. Would you support the Victorian Government no longer being in agreement?
ALBANESE: Look, the government needs to give consideration to those issues. They will have the power once this legislation is carried. But Labor has made it very clear that we haven’t signed on to the Belt and Road initiative thing and we wouldn’t. Thanks.