Radio interview – K Rock Fresh Daily with Tom and Loggy

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

TOM: We’ve got a special guest joining us in the studio, Amanda Rishworth MP. She’s the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development. Good morning.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Good morning. Great to be with you.

TOM: Thanks for coming in.

LOGGY: Yes, it feels nice to have people in the studio. But also I mean, we’re talking about talking about Zac Efron’s face and now we’re here talking about real issues.

RISHWORTH: Well, I can’t add anything to the Zac Efron debate, but I can talk about child care.

TOM: Well, so this is a situation a lot of families are facing at the moment. And we talk a lot about, you know, the system being broken in Australia the way that the government runs things, the way we protect women, the way we deal with indigenous youth in custody, that kind of thing. And the child care system is just another system that appears to be broken.

RISHWORTH: Yeah, it is. I mean, we have some really good early learning centres, and really good quality and wonderful staff that work in them. But the issue really comes down to affordability. When parents are looking at putting their child into early learning, the cost is so expensive. And certainly my experience, but I know many, many people around Australia look at the cost and they say well I actually can only afford to pay for child care one or two days a week, even though I’d really like to use it three or four days a week. So it starts to become something that really makes it very difficult for, particularly women, because they are usually the second income earner, but any second income earner to actually go back to work after their maternity leave finishes.

LOGGY: It’s really nice to have women such as yourself with the voice that can be heard and changes that can be made, because this issue has been going on forever. And now I feel like it’s a possibility for real change to come in so that people can work if they want to, not work if they don’t want to, but get help from the government.

RISHWORTH: Absolutely, because it is all about choice. But what I hear from a lot of women is that they don’t feel that choice is there because child care is so expensive. And so that was certainly my experience, I’ve got a 20 month old baby, I was in my mother’s group, listening to all of them talk about just the fact that they aren’t going to go back to work the hours they want to because of that expense. So that really set my mind to how do we design a system that really helps families. And the proposal that Labor is putting forward and I’ve put forward, is really about making it much more affordable. Ultimately, we want to get to a 90 per cent subsidy for all families, because for too long it’s been sort of seen as welfare, like a welfare payment to families. When ultimately this is more like Medicare, this is a service, an essential service. Because it’s not just the families that benefit, we hear from a lot of businesses that say we had this excellent employee, they went on maternity leave, they wanted to come back, but it was just too expensive for them to come back. And that’s a pain for the business, it’s a pain for the families. So I think it’s now time we bite the bullet. And other countries do it as well, we’re one of the most expensive in the OECD when it comes to early learning and care, and certainly the out of pocket expenses, the expenses that are borne by the families, are one of the most expensive. So we can do this and I’m really keen on making sure that we do this, because when you talk to families, it’s a really big issue.

TOM: A lot of people are saying “oh you know, it’s going to cost, how are we going to pay for it?”. But then, you know, you’ve got the Business Council Australia coming out last couple of days, and suggesting that if we raised that threshold for the benefit, that it would actually encourage spending, encourage people to get back into work and then inject an extra $5 billion into the economy. That’s got to be a good thing?

RISHWORTH: Absolutely. I think when you look at the rate of return if you invest in early learning, it’s about for every dollar you put in, you get a $2 return for the economy, which is absolutely amazing. If you think about all the roads that are being built around the country, the return on investment is not as great. So I think we’ve got to get away from looking at this as just a benefit for those families. It is a benefit for the families, but it’s also an economic benefit. And it’s one of the best things that you could do to actually boost the economy. And when we coming out of COVID, the economy it’s going alright but it’s going to be a bit sluggish for a few years to come. What we really need is to utilise all the skills we have. Many women have those skills, they would like to use those skills in the workplace, but simply it doesn’t make financial sense if they go back to work.

LOGGY: And the other thing we were talking about off air as well I think LinkedIn yesterday was saying that they’re actually going to put part of your resume where you can say I was an at-home mum, So that when you’ve got those few years that you’re not in the workforce, it can be like here are the things that I was doing, because so many mums are doing so many roles. Not only taking care of the family, but also helping with sports and helping with other things. And there’s a whole range of skills and everything that they’ve still got, even though it’s not work.

RISHWORTH: I think you should be able to put in executive producer, logistics expert, chef, basically the person that runs the place. You’ve got effectively four employees – the three kids and the partner. I think we definitely need to recognise that a lot more as well and really appreciate it. But ultimately, when it comes down to it, we need to promote choice and particularly for women. Because at this point, that’s culturally what happens in Australia, often women are the second income earners. So we need to ensure that they’ve got real choice about whether they want to go back to work, and for that unpaid work to be recognised.

TOM: So we’ll need to take a break. But what do you guys propose in concrete terms?

RISHWORTH: So what we’re proposing is to lift the maximum subsidy rate to 90 per cent and improve the tapering arrangement so that 97 per cent of families will get more subsidy, but also abolish the cap. At the moment there’s a cap, so once you hit a certain amount of child care subsidy you actually get cut off from it, and so then you’ve got to pay full fees for the rest of the year. That becomes really expensive, so we want to abolish that. But ultimately, we want to get to seeing this much more like an essential service and move to a 90 per cent subsidy for all families, all children and families to get that extra support. It does cost, but as we’ve discussed, I think that the benefits are going to be really significant.

TOM: Make sense to me as someone who’s about to go through it, that’s for sure. Alright. Well, it’s great to have you in here you are in town for a special reason. We’re going to have a chat about that next.

Ad break

LOGGY: Great day for a baby expo in OG.

TOM: It really is, we’re joined by Amanda Rishworth MP, and you’re here with Libby Coker today?

RISHWORTH: I am, I am. So Libby Coker has invited me to come to her baby expo. It’s the inaugural one, so we’re pretty excited about it. You know they say politicians like to kiss babies, we’re bringing them all to one place. But no in all seriousness, it’s a really good initiative to try and get new parents to come along. But importantly, get a lot of the support services there, so that new parents can connect with them. Whether it’s the local kindy, whether it’s other services that are available. Because there is a lot of support out there, but sometimes if you’re a new parent, it just feels like a big blur. And so just helping parents connect with those services is critically important.

TOM: It is really important we found even just knowing stuff like there’s a maternal health care nurse that you can call, that is on call and they’re amazing. But unless someone tells you how do you know.

RISHWORTH: Absolutely. And one of the things – I’ve been holding them in my own electrode as well – is just parents getting together and seeing other parents that are going through the same thing at the same time. Because it does feel really daunting that you think oh is this normal, or why is this happening, and you can talk to experts and that’s really important, and that’s part of the day. But also connecting with other parents that just sort of say I didn’t put my makeup on either, which is always a hard step. Or yes it is normal, there’s nothing actually wrong, because I think that’s what you’re worried about all the time is, is there something wrong? Is this normal? And just to be able to connect with services and support, but importantly other parents to say yeah, this is totally normal.

LOGGY: I think it’s great opportunity today, because a lot of people have moved down to our region in the last six months or so especially with COVID. It’s sort of like, get out of the city, come to the coast, start a new life down here. And they’ve left a lot of people that they could normally get support from. So it’s a really good networking tool today as well. And so how do they go about getting down there? Do you need to register.

RISHWORTH: Yes you do need to register. They can always ring Libby Coker’s office from 9 o’clock if they’d like to come down. We do know that families have already registered as well, so that will be really exciting. But again, if they ring Libby Coker’s office from 9 o’clock if they’re interested in coming down. But I do know that she wants to make this a regular thing as well, so keep an eye out for it because she’s going to be running these on a regular basis. And I think it is, as I said I’ve run one of these for a number of years in my electorate, and it’s been a great connection tool for people to have.

TOM: I read that there will be a presentation to each baby and their parents by yourself and Libby Coker as well. Will that be some sort of like interpretive dance?

RISHWORTH: Well I’ve just had a knee reconstruction so no interpretive dance for me. I think this will be more just hello, lovely to meet you.

TOM: Here’s a showbag.

RISHWORTH: Definitely.

TOM: I’m sure a quick Google will get people the information.

RISHWORTH: Yeah just give Libby’s office a call and I’m sure they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.

TOM: Well, thank you so much for your time and your work as well.

RISHWORTH: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

TOM: And hope you enjoy our region.

ENDS

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