Doorstop interview, Adelaide
The Turnbull Government’s child care reforms; Parliamentary travel entitlements; Political candidate selection processes

Simon Birmingham: One of the top priorities of the Turnbull Government in 2017 is to secure the passage of our child care reforms, because our reforms will ensure that the hardest working Australian families will get the greatest support. That those who earn the least will get more support in accessing Australian childcare. And our reforms will put in place for the first time ever a mechanism that will put downward pressure on price increases in the childcare sector. We know that many Australian families struggle when it comes to childcare prices, that is why we want to fix the broken childcare model that is in place by getting rid of the Child Care Rebate and the Child Care Benefit and replacing them with a new Child Care Subsidy. A new arrangement ensures in future, subsidies are better targeted to support hard-working Australian families, those earning the least and working the longest hours. Our reforms will increase investment in child care support for Australian families, which is why they have to be paid for. And if Bill Shorten and the Labor Party are seriously and genuinely concerned about the plight of Australian families, then they would stop blocking the savings necessary to pass our child care reforms and get on board and enable us to make them one of the first pieces of legislation passed in 2017. These are comprehensive reforms, they do away with all of the old system of child care support and put in place a new framework. Better targeted, better support for more hard working Australian families. That’s what we want to see implemented and that is what we can best do to stem the growth in childcare prices and to better support those Australians who most need it. 

Reporter: What can you do in the short-term to keep costs down now?  

Simon Birmingham: We’ve already had great success in terms of reducing the rate of price growth. We saw during the Rudd-Gillard years, price spikes of up to 14 per cent over a 12 month period. Under the Coalition, that’s been brought down to around six per cent on average. So we actually have much lower growth in relation to child care costs, but to achieve the real changes we need, we need to get our child care reforms through to Parliament, which is why Bill Shorten should stop obstructing and start supporting the Turnbull Government’s child care reforms. 

Reporter: Penny Wong said this was going to make some families worse off with rising fees. What would you say to that?

Simon Birmingham:  Well this is exactly why we want to overhaul the child care system and why Penny Wong, Bill Shorten and the Labor Party should all support the reforms the Turnbull Government has in the Parliament and the savings required to pay for them. We actually have answers and solutions to better help Australian families before the Parliament and the only road block is Bill Shorten and the Labor Party.  

Reporter: So would you say that fees won’t be increasing for people under these reforms?
Simon Birmingham: Well there will always be a level of fee growth that aligns with inflation, but what we are putting in place is a benchmark price, a rate cap that will ensure in future parents are better able to know what a reasonable price is, better able to hold their child care centres accountable for that rate, and getting better support that aligns with the cost of their child care and ensures that the vast majority – all low and middle income families – never again get a cap in terms of support they receive over a 12 month period that causes of great pain when they fall off that cliff at the end of the financial year. 

Reporter: Senator, should Sussan Ley provide more details about the people that she met on the Gold Coast, or about her trip to the Gold Coast?

Simon Birmingham: Well, Sussan and her office have provided plenty of information answering questions about the work she overtook in relation to all of her different work as a Parliamentarian and a Minister. It’s important to realise that Sussan is the Minister for Health, the Minister for Ageing, the Minister for Sport and represents an electorate the size of New Zealand. She spent around 250 days on the road last year, and of course, that means a lot of travel to a lot of different destinations, and I know she is deeply committed to doing effective work in all of those locations across cities and regional Australia across the different portfolios she has responsibility for. 
Reporter: Are you confident that all of her travels to the Gold Coast were all for work purposes? 

Simon Birmingham: Well Sussan and her office have detailed that they are all within entitlement, and the purpose of all those travel-related activities being for the undertaking of ministerial duties.  

Reporter: Is it a bad look that she won’t provide further detail to these constituents that she reportedly met?

Simon Birmingham: Well, all of us meet with different individuals as part of our work as Ministers and Parliamentarians and many of those individuals don’t want those details about who they are to be made public. Because of course they, particularly patients discussing healthcare concerns or aged care concerns naturally have their own privacy interests that need to be taken into account. But Sussan has detailed the nature of her trip and the reason it was undertaken and the fact that it was within the entitlements and the rules as they stood at the time. 

Reporter: So are you confident she hasn’t broken the ministerial code? 

Simon Birmingham: Sussan has outlined very clearly that they are within entitlements of those rules and all of the answers demonstrate that is the case. 

Reporter: Well should she release her diary? 

Simon Birmingham: I think what we’ve already seen is a detailed series of answers that demonstrate exactly the nature of the work and the ministerial work was undertaken by a minister who spent 250 days on the road last year as a Minister for Health, Minister for Aged Care, Minister for Sport, representing a vast rural and regional electorate. This is clearly a demonstration of someone who is seriously committed to doing her work, her hard work across seven days of the week representing her electorate and the very significant portfolios that she has. 

Reporter: Can I ask you, on another topic, what do you make of the One Nation candidate in Queensland being dumped over her homophobic comments? Do you think there needs to be better screening processes?

Simon Birmingham: Well it’s up to each political party to justify how they choose their candidates but certainly the Liberal Party puts our candidates through a rigorous screening process and I in no way accept anyone that undertakes or engages in homophobic vilification…

Reporter: Sorry, can I get you to do that bit again? In no way…

Simon Birmingham: And I in no way accept anybody who undertakes or engages in homophobic activities or vilification, that of course is completely unacceptable. One Nation has removed that person as a candidate, then that was probably the right thing for them to do. 

Reporter: Do you think it shows that there’s instability in the party? I mean what sort of party is putting forward people like this? 

Simon Birmingham: Well, each political party has to speak for themselves. The Liberal Party puts our candidates through rigorous political processes and I am confident that we of course the party, has demonstrated over a very long period of time stability. Stability as a party, stability operating in coalition with the National Party and Government at a national level and in a number of states. And that of course is something that I trust voters, particularly in Queensland at their next state election, will keep in mind when making the choices they make. That the Coalition parties working together have demonstrated stable Government and that’s important in every state and territory and at the national level. Thanks guys.