Sky News First Edition – child care

Monday, 14 March 2022

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me live is Amanda Rishworth, she is the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education. Amanda thanks for your time this morning. So I noticed those comments from the government over the weekend, critical of your policy saying it creates a greater burden on the budget while benefiting wealthy families. Which is true, but are they missing the point?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: They are absolutely missing the point, and good to be with you Pete. The government has missed the boat when it comes to proper child care reform. Not only do we know that families are absolutely struggling under the cost of child care, but we also know through lots of economic analysis that it’s a handbrake on the economy. So Labor has announced a plan that has both a cost of living relief for families by lifting the subsidy for many families, but we’ve also flagged an ambition to go to a 90 per cent universal subsidy. And that’s what the Coalition are criticising, but this is a desperate scare campaign. We’ve said that we are going to do it in a responsible manner, we’re going to get the Productivity Commission to work through the parameters. And also of course look at price capping, because we know prices are out of control for so many families. So this is a desperate scare campaign from the government because they’re under pressure when it comes to the cost of child care, and really it’s only Labor that’s outlined a short term relief for family as well as a long term plan. I think they’re just playing catch up, and instead of perhaps just borrowing some of our ideas, they’ve just decided to tear it down.

STEFANOVIC: The question marks comes though – some of the bigger question marks come from applying it to wealthy families though, those earning over $500,000 grand a year, even those earning over one million a year in terms of a combined family salary. Why extend it? Why the need to do that? Because it’s going to come at a great expense.

RISHWORTH: What we need to do is move towards a more universal system. That’s what we’re flagging, we don’t have all the parameters. But what is the Coalition suggesting? We start means-testing the NDIS? We start means-testing Medicare? If you go to a public school you get means-tested? When you turn up at a hospital you start getting means-tested for that? What we have in Australian society is some essential services that are not only good for the individual, but good for everyone, and that’s how we need to start seeing child care. It’s not only good for those families using it, it’s good for the economy. And what the Coalition actually fails to recognise is the people who will benefit the most out of this, because at the moment they’re finding it just too cost prohibitive to even access child care, is low to middle income families. They’re the ones who can’t even afford to pay those out of pocket costs, so guess what? The second income earner just doesn’t even go to work. So those families will significantly benefit, but it’s good for the whole economy. And that is what the Liberal Party is missing when it comes to this. We know that investment in child care for every $1 you invest, you get a $2 return in terms of economic growth. If we are serious about building back better after this pandemic, then this has surely got to be an area we look at. But of course the Liberal Party are just playing scare campaigns. They’ve gotten to the real desperate stage I think where they don’t want to talk about their own plans, they just want to talk about Labor’s plans.

STEFANOVIC: When it comes to child care – and I can certainly vouch for the expense of childcare at the moment, I’ve got two involved – but it shouldn’t be about welfare should it? But it shouldn’t be about welfare should it? I should be about education that they’re just not going to get at home or with a nanny.

RISHWORTH: Absolutely it’s about education. And when we talk about education, a lot of people misinterpret that to be the ABCs, and of course that’s part of it. But it’s learning to negotiate, it’s learning to connect with others and build relationships, which is so important in the early years. I don’t understand why people think learning starts at five years of age. We’re learning every day. So it’s about accessing that early learning, and it’s also about accessing workforce participation. We’ve got to get out of the mindset, as you mentioned, that this is welfare

STEFANOVIC: Would your changes also apply to nannies? Because for so many shift workers, they don’t work nine to five jobs, they wouldn’t have access or wouldn’t be able to use daycare facilities. So they need to use nannies otherwise they can’t work. So will there be some kind of subsidies that could apply there?

RISHWORTH: That’s not our plan at the moment. Of course, as I said, in terms of our universal access, we are getting the Productivity Commission to work through that. But that is not in our plan at the moment. What we want to ensure is that people get access to early education and care, and one of the areas that we need to look at carefully is family daycare. That is an option that families can use if they’re working shift work, but it’s not always working for families. So you know, that’s certainly an area that currently gets subsidies, and we need to look at how that best works for those doing shift work. But we want to make sure that both the educational and the workforce benefits are unleashed. That’s why we’re going to get the Productivity Commission to have a proper look at our universal system. But we’re not going to wait for that to give immediate relief to families. So we all also have, of course, our policy to lift the rate of subsidy for all families up to $530,000. And I’m not going to make any apologies about ensuring that more families get extra support, especially when we look at the cost of living pressures, and the fact we want to boost women’s workforce participation.

STEFANOVIC: Amanda Rishworth thanks for your time, talk to you soon.

ENDS

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