Friday, 03 April 2020
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: The Prime Minister has announced free child care for Australia’s essential workers during the global pandemic, $1.6 billion will be spent over the next six months. Joining me now is the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education Amanda Rishworth, Amanda good morning to you. Thanks so much for joining us, first of all what’s your reaction to the rescue package if we can put it that way for the child care industry?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: It’s certainly welcomed, the child care sector was in free fall over the last few weeks with plummeting enrolments, and as a result many had shut their doors or were looking to. This package didn’t come soon enough, so it’s welcome news. We’ve still got to work through the details, there’s still a lot of questions including who’s entitled to it and some of the other details. But certainly it was desperately needed so essential workers firstly could continue getting early education and care, but importantly so the sector is viable for after this crisis.
STEFANOVIC: When you say you have questions over who’s entitled, what do you mean by that? Isn’t it just a free for all for all parents?
RISHWORTH: I’m not sure because centres are only getting 50 per cent of their income from the Government, along with potentially the Jobkeeper payment. So it’s unclear whether new people can enrol, workers can up their hours, and how indeed the Government is going to determine whether people are working or not. So there’s a lot of confusion out there. In addition there are concerns that some of our not for profits, charities and indeed local councils that provide child care not for profit may not be entitled to the Jobkeeper payment, which still puts their viability under threat.
STEFANOVIC: What about parents? I mean this will be a huge weight off their shoulders.
RISHWORTH: It will be a huge weight off their shoulders if they are able to access it, absolutely. I certainly have been calling on the Government for many weeks now to waive gap payments. The question will be who can access it, how can they access it, and what number of hours can they receive. Those questions were not clear yesterday and I’ll be seeking an urgent briefing on that. But like I said we’ve got to ensure the viability of the sector, and it seems somewhat perverse that large not for profits and local councils who have been providing child care not for profit, may not be able to access the combination of support that is vital for viability.
STEFANOVIC: What about staff? It’s not going to save every job but it will save a lot. Do you have an estimate at all from what you’ve been able to read or you’ve been able to gather when it comes to the level of staff members in the industry who will now be able to save their jobs at least for a little while?
RISHWORTH: That’s unclear. Of course with 50 per cent of the income centres were getting on the 2nd of March going directly to centres, in addition to Jobkeeper, it does go a way towards supporting staff. We know a lot of casuals have already been let go, so the question will be whether or not those casuals can be re-engaged. But the question will be how many centres can access Jobkeeper? My feeling is the Prime Minister was very clear that he believed it was a combination of Jobkeeper and this direct payment that would make this sector viable, so it would stand to make sense that every child care centre should be able to access Jobkeeper.
STEFANOVIC: Amanda Rishworth we’re out of time, but appreciate your time this morning thanks for joining us.