Wednesday, 11 August 2021
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Labor is calling on the government to provide financial assistance to greater Sydney’s early learning sector, after finding many child care services are ineligible for support payments. Joining me live now as the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, Amanda Rishworth. Amanda, thanks for your time as always this morning. So just bring us up to speed, because there has just been some government help that had been provided, child care services to waive gap fees for parents to keep kids at home. How far short does that come in your opinion?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Unfortunately, while the government took a move to allow centres to waive gap fees, they haven’t provided a top up of any extra support. For children staying home, centres are not able to get their normal fees. So these early learning centres are required to stay open, and it’s important they stay open for essential workers, but we don’t want families taking kids that can work from home in. So we’ve got this really difficult position. And because unlike pubs and clubs and other things that had to shut immediately at the lockdown point and the reference period for when you can get extra government support, many early learning centres have not been qualified for. So as this lockdown has dragged on, what early learning centres have done is slowly lost revenue, and are now facing the real prospect of potentially having to stand down educators. And that will be very, very difficult for those educators, it’ll be very difficult for those centres to keep operating for those essential workers. And so what I’ve been calling on is for the government not to reinvent the wheel, but to implement the early learning package that they put in in Victoria. They should just take the same package and put it into New South Wales.
STEFANOVIC: So these issues that you’re talking about, they only relate to Sydney at the moment?
RISHWORTH: Look at the moment Sydney and greater New South Wales, places where there is a long extended lockdown, in which we have families not sending their children. Overtime, early learning centres are just not able to get the income and the revenue as a result.
STEFANOVIC: And that’s not likely to end anytime soon is it?
RISHWORTH: No, that’s the challenge. And for many of these centres, it’s been death by a thousand cuts in a lot of ways. Because every week more and more children are not attending, they’re un-enrolling, as this lockdown seems to be going on and on. So that is why urgent support is needed. We know that early learning centres often find it hard to get good, qualified educators, so if they’re having to stand them down or indeed terminate their employment, not only is that obviously a problem for those individuals, but it’s going to be a long term problem for the sector to get up and running again. We need them to be up and running once the lockdown ends, so that families and workers can get back to work.
STEFANOVIC: So what does that mean when they eventually get up and running again? Do they jack up the prices?
RISHWORTH: That could well be a solution, that they jack up prices to recoup their revenue. Others may simply close the doors, and that will be a particular issue in areas where there’s shortages of places. There’s a whole range of consequences. And it means that even if the sector gets back on its feet, it’s going to take time. And I think when we’re looking at an economic recovery, we just don’t have that time. People are going to need to go back to work when the lockdown ends, and they’re going to need child care.
STEFANOVIC: Just briefly Amanda, should Labor be embracing a more ambitious target for 2030 and 2035 when it comes to climate?
RISHWORTH: At the moment we have endorsed net zero by 2050, and we’ve been very clear that we will have a roadmap to get there. I think that’s what’s missing with the government. In terms of our starting point though, we don’t know where the government is going to start. They have no target for net zero by 2050. We can’t see a plan, they’ve had so many different energy plans. So we will outline our plan to get to net zero by 2050 before the election. But we need to know how to do it, and the government’s talking about technological breakthroughs, when there is technology out there that could solve this problem now. What it needs is government will, a framework to invest, and companies need to know what the playing field looks like. And at this point, they have no idea the direction of the government.
STEFANOVIC: What about when it comes to 2030 or 2035 for you, should you be embracing something more ambitious?
RISHWORTH: We will be outlining our roadmap to get to net zero by 2050. You have to be able to achieve it, and we’ve been very clear we’ll do that, with the way we’re going to do it. Everyone will know that before the next election. But really it is a sharp contrast for the government that has no plan. We don’t even know what they’re planning for 2050, they won’t even explain to us the end goal. I think really they’re crossing their fingers and toes, and talking about some technology breakthrough in the future. Well, that’s not an answer, that is just not an answer. We need a plan and we need it now.
STEFANOVIC: Amanda Rishworth, we’ll leave it there. We’ll talk to you soon.