Sky News Newsday – Bushfire Royal Commission; child care fees; climate change

Thursday, 20 February 2020

ASHLEIGH GILLON, HOST: Labor frontbencher Amanda Rishworth, appreciate your time. Firstly on that Bushfire Royal Commission, the terms of reference about to be revealed. Is Labor happy with the direction this is taking? We know there is going to be a big focus, in fact we’ve been told that the core of this Royal Commission will be a focus on hazard reduction.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Of course any investigation into how we can do things better in a bushfire scenario like we’ve had this summer is important. But the Government will miss the point if they don’t put climate change at the front and centre of this. If we’re going to be better prepared for bushfires and bushfire seasons like we’ve had, we need to actually admit that climate change is going to make these seasons more difficult and harder. I haven’t seen the terms of reference, I would be in a better position to comment if I’d seen them. But if the Prime Minister doesn’t make climate change and the affect climate change will have on our bushfire seasons as a key part to look into, then I think he’s missed the point.

GILLON: Well here at Sky News we do understand climate change will play a very important role in terms of the terms of reference and what they will be looking at, so it does sound like that will certainly be incorporated. But let’s turn to your portfolio of early childhood education, we saw some stories earlier this week pointing out that day care fees are now costing parents about the same as private school fees, but of course there’s little choice in the matter for many parents sending their children to day care. Is this just the way things are now, or can you sit there and tell us that under Labor it would be different? That if you were Minister that day care costs would be lower across the country?

RISHWORTH: The report which this information came from was done by the Mitchell Institute, and what they found and what we know is child care fees are increasing under the Liberal Party, up 34 per cent. But what this report also said is out of pocket costs are increasing. Importantly, and this hasn’t really been covered before, it said the Government since 2018 – that’s since the new system has been brought in – has actually made savings. So they’ve actually reduced their investment in the early childhood area and in particular in terms of the child care subsidy. So on the one hand we’ve got parents paying more and more, and on the other hand we’ve got a Government that’s introduced a new system, that has not only failed to put downward pressure on out of pocket costs, but has actually made savings compared to the old system. They’re investing less. So I think this report has been a real indictment on the Government’s handling of support for families in early childhood, and shows why out of pockets costs are increasing so much.

GILLON: And it is such a worrying thing for so many parents right around the country. On another matter, I understand you were at the dinner in Canberra last week with the so-called Otis Group of pro-coal MPs. This week in Queensland Anthony Albanese was asked specifically to express his support for the coal sector and he failed to do so. What would be the electoral implications for your party do you think if Labor is viewed as being hostile to coal?

RISHWORTH: Well firstly Ashleigh your sources are wrong, I wasn’t at the dinner. But in terms of Labor’s approach to climate change and the economy in general, our job is to get on and deal with climate change. At the same time as supporting workers, we support all workers. And of course, what we’ve got to do when it comes to climate change is actually have a credible domestic plan to transition our economy. The Government just doesn’t have this, no matter what they say when it comes to the Paris Agreement they are not going to meet those targets, emissions are not going to reduce under their plan. And so we’ve got a real problem here of a Government that won’t meet its emissions targets that it signed up to. The Government is yet to take real action on climate change, we need a Government that will and in my mind the only Government to do that will be a Labor Government.

GILLON: Well looking at what a Labor Government will do – and I’m glad you corrected me that you weren’t at the dinner, but I’m sure you’ll let me know if I’m wrong this time, I do understand you’re part of this Otis group, the communications and the group has met a number of times now and you’re part of the Whatsapp group and email chains that have been floating around. So as someone who is part of this Otis group, would you like Mr Albanese to be stronger with his backing of the coal export industry and the jobs it creates?

RISHWORTH: I think Anthony Albanese has been very supportive of jobs in Australia, and one of his recent vision statements indicated that there are economic opportunities when it comes to climate change, and he’s been very clear that we need to make sure we’re acting in a way that works with communities around the country. But we can’t pretend – and this is the point he’s made quite strongly – that doing nothing is actually in our economic interest. We’ve seen the impact the most recent bushfire season has had, not only the human cost but on our economy and we’ll continue to see that for months to come. If this becomes more frequent as the scientists predict, then doing nothing is not an option when it comes to our economy.

GILLON: So Amanda is there any plans for another dinner of the Otis group in the next fortnight of sitting or is that something that might lay low for a while?

RISHWORTH: Well I’m not going to a lot of dinners, I’ve got a six month old baby. People go to dinner all the time in Canberra, unfortunately I’m not able to avail myself that often as I’m looking after my baby.

GILLON: Probably very good timing at the moment, Amanda Rishworth appreciate you joining us live there.

ENDS

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