Thursday, 26 September 2019
SUBJECTS: Climate change, child care fees
TOM CONNELL: Joining me now for more on this and a few other topics, Labor MP Amanda Rishworth from our Adelaide studio, thanks very much for your time. We’ve got this IPCC report of course Amanda Rishworth, I don’t think many people would have been surprised. We knew this ahead of the 2019 election the way we were tracking and voters still endorsed the Coalition. Is this really a first order issue for enough voters do you think?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: As I go around and speak with people, they are very concerned about the future and are concerned about climate change, and I think this report really focuses the mind. I live in an electorate where we’ve got 31 kilometres of beach, many people live alongside the beach and are concerned about rising sea levels, king tides and other things that are going to become more frequent as a result of climate change. So I think there is a lot of concern and I think it is incumbent on the Government to be leaders and they haven’t been leaders. There’s been too many climate deniers in their own ranks and we’ve seen a lack of action. Well sometimes you have to be bold and brave, and it’s time the Government stopped being controlled by the climate deniers in their own party and actually took this issue seriously.
CONNELL: Why do you think the concern isn’t necessarily translating to votes though, because we were told before the last election this is looming as a climate election. The Coalition pulled back its pledge before that election as well and Labor was talking about it, but it didn’t seem to help you enough at the ballot box. Why do you think that is?
RISHWORTH: There’s a lot of issues that get covered during an election period and there’s a lot of things to focus voters’ minds. What matters is what you do not just during election time, but in the period between elections. And it is very clear when speaking with voters, but also when we look at the science coming in and knowing what we’ve got to do, it’s very clear what action we’ve got to take for the long term. It’s time the Government acts. I think you’re absolutely right the Government has been downplaying this issue, they haven’t wanted to talk about it, they criticise people who do want to talk about it and play down their concerns. That is not good enough, we need leadership from this Government when it comes to climate action and we need it to be in the long-term interests of Australia.
CONNELL: You spoke about being bold in a previous answer. Should Labor be bold and take a similar stance to climate change as you did at the last election, even if you don’t necessarily think it’s a vote winner, even if it’s a vote loser?
RISHWORTH: Well Tom our election policies will be rolled out in three years’ time, we are a long way from an election. But Labor has been calling out the Government on this, we’re not trying to hide from the facts and pretend climate change isn’t happening. We’ve been calling it –
CONNELL: I know you’re not going to announce policy today but this is a live debate right now within Labor, so the question is for you then directly Amanda Rishworth, do you think Labor should stick by its principles on climate change or tend towards taking whatever lesson there was out of the 2019 election?
RISHWORTH: When it comes to climate change Labor has been vocal and calling on the Government for action. When legislation comes to the Parliament we look at it through a lens of believing in climate change. I can say I know my caucus – and indeed myself – actually believes in climate change and that is opposed to many on the Government’s back benches who somehow are ignoring the science and thinking it’s some sort of ideological debate. It’s not. I learnt about climate change in science at school and that was some time ago, so the science is in, it’s time to take action. Labor will continue to call out the Government because we can’t wait another three years for climate action, we need action now and it’s time this Government took action.
CONNELL: Can I take that to mean though you would prefer Labor stick by a very ambitious policy and not walk back from this after the 2019 result?
RISHWORTH: We don’t know where we’re going to be in –
CONNELL: You must have an opinion though, this is a live debate.
RISHWORTH: I think I’ve expressed an opinion, and I think all Labor members and indeed our Shadow Minister and our leader Anthony Albanese have been calling out the Government. The Prime Minister failed to turn up to a UN Climate Change summit in New York when he was in New York. We’ve been very clear that that’s just not good enough.
CONNELL: Well he did speak about climate in the end, you can disagree with what he spoke about he but did go to the UN and address it.
RISHWORTH: He said we’re doing everything we need to do and there’s nothing to see here. I mean he didn’t properly engage when it came to addressing the General Assembly and he didn’t turn up to the Climate Change summit. That I think demonstrates that this Government isn’t taking it seriously, and the Opposition will call out the Government about climate change and their minimisation of the impact of it. We’ve been really clear, the consequences will be significant and we’ll continue to argue for meaningful action when it comes to climate change.
CONNELL: We’ll see where the debate goes within Labor on that. Onto your portfolio, child care figures have been released today by the Government. So $9.55 an hour, steady for about six months now, does the Government deserve some credit? They did put money in, it appears to be getting some results.
RISHWORTH: The figures the Government has released are six months old, so there has been evidence come out since from the ABS and other evidence gathering bodies that child care fees have risen. But of course if you look at the figures the Government has put out today, in particular Long Day Care – the type of centre-based care that most families use – has actually increased. And while the headline figure is all different types of child care including after school hours care and Family Day Care all put in together, the centre-based child care that we most regularly refer to and which most families use has actually gone up. While this Government has been in power we have seen a 30 per cent increase in child care fees. When you talk to families it’s very clear many of them do not feel the Government subsidy is keeping up with the increase in child care costs, and in particular centre-based costs.
CONNELL: We had a particular quarter where child care fees went down, which it hadn’t for a long time.
RISHWORTH: That was a blip and what we’ve seen now a year or more into the new system is the subsidy or support the Government is giving is not keeping up with the increase in child care fees. And therefore a lot of families are now increasingly and will so into the future will become more and more out of pocket. That’s not real reform and that’s not real action.
CONNELL: Labor’s policy on this going forward, is this another one up on the blocks? Do you imagine if you try to improve the situation it’s going to be a case of finding more cash again, trumping the Government?
RISHWORTH: Once again I’m not announcing Labor’s early education policy here three months – three years sorry, I wish it was three months – three years out from an election. What I will do is work with the sector. My commitment has always been, as I did in the last term, to work with the sector, talk with families, find out what’s really impacting them and work to address in particular affordability, accessibility and quality. They are my goal posts that I want to work towards.
CONNELL: Just finally and I think we have a picture of this, you’re recently a mother for the second time. A picture of you here with your husband Tim and your new baby Oscar, four year old Percy as well. This young, growing family must be keeping you busy.
RISHWORTH: It’s definitely keeping me busy, my four and a half year old particularly has some good reality checks for me on a regular basis. But it’s been really wonderful, Oscar is growing very, very fast, we’re having to move up the size of clothing very quickly. It’s been a really wonderful time and I thank everyone for their well wishes.
CONNELL: Have you had time to reflect at all, because we have had MPs bow out when young families get to reach certain ages and sometimes school ages as well. How’s that balance going for you and conversations you might have with your husband, can you envisage being able to do the whole juggling act for many years to come?
RISHWORTH: Every family is different and managing your responsibilities is always difficult, but Tim and I have had conversations about how we manage our family responsibilities. I envisage remaining in politics and fighting for a better country for my kids and all the children of Australia for a long time to come, if the electorate of course will keep having me.
CONNELL: Good disclaimer, Amanda Rishworth appreciate your time thank you.
RISHWORTH: Thank you.