Monday, 03 May 2021
TOM CONNELL, HOST: Let’s go live now to Amanda Rishworth, the Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education, thanks very much for your time. Some similarities about these plans, the big one for a lot of people will be that cap being removed. Labor says they’ll do it, the government says it will do it as well. Do you welcome that?
AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Certainly it’s a no brainer to get rid of the cap. What I think is interesting is that the Liberal Party and the Morrison Government has decided not to do that immediately. They say that they understand the impact that it would have. But this is an election promise from both the Coalition and from the Labor Party, because both parties are suggesting they would start it after the next election.
CONNELL: Right. So that again still brings the two promises in line. I mean, if the only biggest criticism is you wish it started a bit earlier, it seems like you’re giving that a pretty big tick?
RISHWORTH: Well, on that element we agree. But on the fundamental bit about affordability and increasing the subsidies, our plan is quite different. We aren’t going to put extra complexity in the system and say only when you’ve got a second child – now I must clarify that is a second child in child care. If you have two children in child care, and one of those children goes off to school, you will then be hit with the old system that we’re currently under and the fees that come along with that. So it is for a very limited time that the Coalition will provide extra support, where Labor will support every child with an improvement in the subsidy arrangements for 97 per cent of families.
CONNELL: It might be for quite a while, I mean people generally have kids relatively close together. And then there’s even the prospect of three. Under that scenario, we’d have the Coalition a slightly better off the families. So the families with that real juggle on their hands there could be an advantage there.
RISHWORTH: If we look at families that need support, it is not just parents that have one child in child care. When the first child goes off to school, they need support. We know that for this to be an economic boost, affordability needs to be improved across the board. That’s where the big economic boost comes. And so I think the Coalition has missed the mark on this. I think they’ve not been able to commit to long term reform like Labor has. In addition to our plan, we’ve also talked about the ACCC looking at price regulation, and also getting the Productivity Commission to move towards looking at a 90 per cent universal subsidy. So we’ve got both a short term and long term plan when it comes to our policy. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen is the Liberal Party kind of squib really doing some long term reform, and really look at a band aid solution here.
CONNELL: Well, I mean, bandaid doesn’t seem all that generous. The big issue of inflation being the killer with that cap removal is essentially gone. So you know, it’s not just something that’s necessarily short term. But I want to go to the biggest point of difference between your two policies, Labor will help out families earning more than $354,000. It’s not usual fertile territory for Labor is it?
RISHWORTH: We see this not as a welfare measure, that’s the key here. We don’t see this as something akin to welfare, this is all about productivity and early education being a central service. Now, I must say, Tom, I do have to acknowledge that we are improving the affordability at all income levels under Labor’s proposals. So we have more families in every income level that will benefit, Labor’s policy will help around a million families. That is four times the amount of families that the Coalition will help in every income level. But we need to get away from this debate about early education and subsidy all about welfare. We do not mean test, work test and now the “position of the child test” for Medicare. That’s not what we do. When you turn up to the hospital, you don’t get asked which order in the family you come in. You don’t get asked what your means testing is and how sick you are, you don’t get assessed on that and that determines what gap fee you pay for. We need to move away from seeing early education as a means tested welfare measure. It’s not, it’s productivity. The Coalition has grudgingly after criticising our policy for the better part of a year, grudgingly recognised the economic benefit, but they haven’t gone to the most productive model which they could have done.
CONNELL: Without using that term welfare measure, what Labor has sought to frame previous budgets through is the prism of fairness. So what about that fairness question? If there’s a family earning a total of $100,000 with three kids in child care, versus a family on 400,000 with one kid, that family of three is going to be better off under the Coalition versus Labor. What’s your response to that, that Labor’s priority in terms of well being goes to the higher income earner?
RISHWORTH: Well what I would say is that every child deserves an increase in subsidy. And the length of time that you will get that support under Labor is the whole time that every child is in child care. If one of those children in that family goes off to school, the benefit disappears, having three children are in child care for that whole period of time. So you get longer support under Labor, number one –
CONNELL: For a lot of parents the biggest stress is when you get two or three at the same time. And that’s why the support ramps up. That’s the biggest stress to the budget.
RISHWORTH: I actually reject that. For low income earners, often just finding the money for one child to be put in child care is a disincentive to go to work. I’ve already had people tell me that they say no to shifts with only one child in child care. So this is an affordability question. This is a question about the disincentive that happens, and there disincentives whether you have one, two, or three children. And what Labor’s saying is we want to remove that disincentive. Now, not to mention the complexity of this, because you only get the benefit under the Coalition while your second or third child is in child care, then the rate of subsidy will change quite quickly. We know parents are already struggling with trying to estimate how much work they’re going to do, what their income’s going to be to get the benefit. Now they are going to have to estimate whether their child’s going to school and what that means for them.
CONNELL: That’s pretty easy to estimate when your kid’s going to school.
RISHWORTH: But you’ve got to then adjust your whole budget to work out what that increase in cost is going to be. So this is an incredibly complex system that really squibsqibed, I think, the real opportunity to boost productivity and workforce participation.
CONNELL: Amanda Rishworth, thanks for your time.