Sky News First Edition – Budget 2022; Childcare

Monday, 28 March 2022

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me live now is Amanda Rishworth, the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education. Amanda, before we get to childcare, just a couple of announcements today, the home buyers scheme, you got fuel excise, it’s likely to be cut. We did hear from Jim Chalmers a little bit earlier. But more broadly speaking, what do you make of those changes? Do you support them?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well, we’ll have to have a proper look at the details of each of those. But of course, people are struggling with the cost of petrol at the moment. There’s no doubt about it. And so any relief, of course, is an important thing. But what I’d like to see out of this budget is some long-term thinking. I mean, the cost of living hasn’t just been an issue recently, with the spike of fuel prices. It’s been an ongoing issue that many families have faced, whether that’s energy, whether that’s child care, there’s been a lot of cost-of-living pressures that people have felt for some time. So, what we need from this budget is not just a short term, let’s get us through the next election kind of budget, which is innately timed, but really a long-term plan of how we support the Australian people and as we recover from this pandemic, help with the cost of living, but importantly, get their wages moving again.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, and the fuel excise the cut there will be six months, it’s only going to save people about $10 for a full tank that’s for 50 liters. And that’s going to take money away from roads and infrastructure, could that be better off spent elsewhere? Because that just seems more symbolic than anything else, even though it’s of marginal help.

RISHWORTH: I’ll have to see the details. We haven’t seen all the details from the government. But what we actually need to see, in this budget is a plan for the future. I mean, this government has been sorely lacking. The last budget was spraying money around to hopefully get through an election with all these discretionary funds that Ministers had to give out their pet projects. I think the government thought they would be in an election before now. They’re now holding on desperate to try and see if they can buy the voters with this next budget. And what I call on the Government is we need to see a long-term plan. How you deal with some of these really big issues in our economy and how you actually grow productivity. We need to grow our economy coming out of COVID, part of that story is growing productivity. And we haven’t really heard a lot from the government talking about that, in recent days. The drops have been about this budget, which we obviously haven’t had some of them confirmed, have all been about kind of getting themselves to the other side of the election.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, government analysis has revealed a 90% childcare subsidy would rack up about $213 billion in childcare spending over the next decade. That’s $63 billion more than current government policies. Is that an expense worth taking?

RISHWORTH: Well, let’s be clear that policy is something that we have said is an aspiration, we want to get to. Let’s be really clear about what Labor’s child care policy is. Our policy in the short term is to give cost of living relief, and get the economy moving through productivity gains, by lifting the subsidy across the board, what you’re talking about is a universal 90% child care subsidy, which we said, in addition to our short term, immediate help for the cost of child care, we would also look at how we move to a 90% subsidy getting by the Productivity Commission to have a good look at that. So, the parameters can’t be measured. Because of course, in addition to that we’re tasking the ACCC to look at price regulation, and how we control some of the costs of childcare. So that figure that the government put out there was really just a scare campaign, we are going to do the careful long-term work. But there is no doubt…

STEFANOVIC: But you have an interest in going there long term?

RISHWORTH: And I would argue that long term and short term, a good spend of government money is on early education and care. Because you get a boost to productivity, you actually get a boost to the labor force participation, you actually grow the economy. So not only does investing in early education and care, give cost of living relief to those families, whether they be in after school hours care, or actually in the childcare system, because our policy applies to both of those, but it actually grows the economy.

STEFANOVIC: Oh no, I believe childcare to be an essential service and we’ve spoken about this in the past, but that is a huge cost. Do you have any doubt that you’d be able to get that back? To be able to make that back? If we’re talking long term here.

RISHWORTH: We’ve said, like I said, there’s a lot of work to be done, I’m not going to try and design this from opposition. What I have put forward already is a cheaper child care plan that we’ve committed to that’s been properly costed within its parameters to lift the subsidy rate for families, across the board. And that is really important. We’re absolutely doing that. But in addition to that, we are looking at an aspiration. But there’s a lot of modeling, a lot of work to be done. But as I said to you before, that every dollar invested in early education and care, you get a $2 return. That is a better rate of return than most infrastructure projects that are out there. So, we’ve got to look at this seriously. We take this policy very seriously. There is a lot of work to be done on that second long-term idea, but the first and foremost we will be lifting the subsidy for families and helping with the cost of living.

STEFANOVIC: So just a final one here, people who and you’ve got combined salaries here over 500,000, if they’re thinking that there might well be free child care coming for them, that’s going to be a way off?

RISHWORTH: Look, what we’ve said is we’re lifting the subsidy for everyone on a combined family income of $530,000 for children. In the long term, we will be working at a 90% Universal but the parameters around that we do need the productivity commission to work on that. But we are very committed in the short term and also for a plan for cheaper child.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Amanda Rishworth thanks for your time. As always, we’ll talk to you soon.

ENDS

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