Wednesday, 06 October 2021
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me live now is the Shadow Minister of Early Childhood Education, Amanda Rishworth. Amanda, good to see you again. I mean, and this is interesting this report because it’s pre COVID, it goes back to 2015. So you can’t just blame COVID on this.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: I’ve been calling for more transparency around quality, around profits, for some time. So I am, of course, always concerned when I hear about breaches of safety and poor quality in early learning. We need to be driving quality up, we need parents to importantly have that information about their local centre. And that’s why I’ve been calling for some time, for more transparency when it comes to the early learning and care system.
STEFANOVIC: Why not have some kind of reporting system which is similar to superannuation funds now, where you can basically call out the bad child care centres so parents can then judge for themselves whether they want to send their kids there or not?
RISHWORTH: Well at the moment there is a website called child care finder, but it just doesn’t have enough information, which has every single centre on there. But what I want to see on that is what are the profits that each centre is making? What is the quality? What is the real time information on fees? Really, what I want to see is real time information, being able to provide it to parents. Now, the government has the capacity to do that on the child care finder. But instead of putting more information on, they’re actually taking information off that website. So look, I think more transparency is absolutely key. I’d like to see it in much more real time. I think ACECQA – that’s a different website – publishes data from time to time, but I would like to see a much more real-time reporting mechanism when it comes to early learning services, and making sure parents have access to it straight away.
STEFANOVIC: Just on the proposal of a Federal ICAC, the Prime Minister’s new proposed form of Federal ICAC has been blasted, basically, in the first detailed study of it. It’s been called the “nation’s weakest watchdog, which doesn’t even have the power to investigate major scandals”. I suppose the term “toothless tiger” is going to be bandied about here. What’s your thoughts on it?
RISHWORTH: Well, firstly, we’ve been waiting 1,000 days to even see what serious proposal the government’s putting up. They’ve been talking about this for a long time, but I would question their commitment to it. We just haven’t seen the level of effort into drafting legislation. But when it comes to the details, I think my biggest concern sits with the fact that the proposal that the government is putting forward, or says they’re putting forward, will not be independent. It will have to require cases to be referred from the government. Now, I think that’s quite concerning. And I think that’s quite concerning for the general public, because one of the principles that the general public will want out of an Independent Commission Against Corruption is that independence, and that they can initiate inquiries where they’re concerned. So I think that is one example in which the government really hasn’t consulted and thought about this carefully. But like I said, we haven’t seen any detailed legislation or proposal. And the government’s been talking about this for 1,000 days.
STEFANOVIC: One of the big concerns is, though, that the potential of a Federal ICAC can have too much power, that you can lose the presumption of innocence straightaway, you’re kind of found guilty straightaway. I mean, would you have that concern as well?
RISHWORTH: Well, there’s a number of ICACs actually operating across the States and Territories. In fact, that Federal sphere of government is the only one that doesn’t have an independent body. So of course, what you’ve got to do is have a look at how each of those are operating, and make sure that we’ve got a strong, robust, independent commissioner that can do its job. And what Labor has said is we want to look across all of those different systems and put together a very high quality, good fit for the Federal Government, that does have teeth and does restore public confidence. Because that’s the most important. I think a lot of people in the public are very concerned, and they want to know that there is some oversight over government to make sure there isn’t corruption happening. But without that independent body, I think a lot of people are concerned that there isn’t that oversight across the Federal Government.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, Amanda Rishworth, appreciate it. We’ll talk to you soon.