Doorstop interview, Acacia child care centre
Topics: Transitioning to the new child care package; Barnaby Joyce

Simon Birmingham: It’s great to be here with the Minister for Human Services Michael Keenan talking about the Turnbull Government’s complete overhaul of Australia’s child care system. Firstly, I want to thank the nearly 700,000 Australian families who have updated their details to get and receive the new child care subsidy on July 2 this year. I want to also thank the thousands of child care and early learning centres across Australia who’ve been helping families make the switch and who’ve gone to the effort of providing laptops or iPads in their services to help and encourage more families to do so.

Today, we’re putting the call out that there is one month to go, one month to make sure people take advantage of what is the biggest overhaul to child care support in Australia in the last 40 years. Now, we saw for the last decade, the Labor Party, in government and opposition, complaining about the child care system but never offering an alternative. The Turnbull Government is delivering a new child care subsidy that ensures the greatest support goes to the families working the longest hours, and those who are earning the least amount. It’s an investment of an extra $2.5 billion into our child care system, and is going to leave many Australian families hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year better off over the course of the year.

This is a recognition that, for many hardworking families, child care is a cost to their bottom line of their household budget that they need more support with, and we are delivering more support to more Australian families to meet their child care bills. It’s a critical change, but to make sure people get the benefit of that change, they need to register, they need to take the steps of ensuring that they have their up to date details online so they can get every single cent that is due to them.

We want to ensure Australian families get help with a fairer tax system, with support through more jobs, and with better support for the child care system. It will benefit around 1 million Australian families, and we estimate around 230,000 people will increase their workforce participation as a result of these changes, really demonstrating that what we are doing, by increasing support, abolishing the $7500 child care rebate cap, is all about empowering people to choose to work the hours they want, the days they want, without child care costs being an impediment in the choices their families make.

To speak about some of the details of the switchover, I’ll hand over to Michael.

Michael Keenan: Well, thanks Simon. It’s good to be here at the Attorney-Generals’ child care centre and to have a chance to read to some of the kids and remind all Australian families that they do need to take some action to make sure that they can access all the benefits that Simon was just outlining, with the extra $1.5 billion investment that we’re making in the child care system that will mean over 1 million Australian families are better off.

It’s a very simple process to update your details with us. You can do it through myGov, or alternatively, you can do it through the Centrelink app. It takes less than 10 minutes. You’re required to answer four simple questions that relate to your working patterns, and some of the other details about the child care assistance that you require. It’s not an onerous thing to do. You have until the 2nd of July to do it, and we’re here today to remind Australian families that they’ve got this time to make sure that they can transition to access the new benefits of our child care system.

Question: Minister, are you disappointed at the uptake?

Simon Birmingham: No, look, I’m very pleased and grateful that 700,000 families have already made the switch, and that’s still with a month to go. Our message is, to the remaining families, to make the switch as well. Update your details so that you can get every cent you’re entitled to. We know that many families are time-poor, but this is about giving them the support they need and deserve to pay their child care bills, and it’s worth the 10 minutes or so it might take to update your details, because ultimately you’ll be hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars a year better off.

Question: What happens if a family misses that deadline? Do they miss out for good?

Simon Birmingham: Look, there are transition arrangements in place, but to ensure that everybody gets the support they deserve and need, we urge people to get the job done by 2 July.

Question: So if families do miss out on that deadline and they miss out on those benefits- why have you made it that way, that families will have to miss out?

Simon Birmingham: To provide extra support, we’ve had to make sure not only do we invest an extra $2.5 billion, but we target it better towards families who are working the longest number of hours or who are on low or middle incomes. And so to be able to then target that support and ensure those families, in those circumstances, get every cent they’re entitled to, we just need people to provide some basic details about their estimated hours of work, their estimated family income. It is a very straightforward process. I did it around a month ago, sitting on the couch one Saturday night, with the iPad in my lap, completed it, filled it out in 10 minutes. It really is quite a straightforward exercise. I urge people just to get on, get the job done so they get the support they deserve.

Question: Can you talk us through those transition arrangements though?

Simon Birmingham: Look, we’ve put in place arrangements to ensure that families who don’t act before 2 July can have payments paid back over a period of time there afterwards. But we really do urge people to make sure there’s no disruption to payments to their child care services, their early learning centres, and indeed, to themselves as families, that they do act before 2 July.

Question: Okay. May I switch quickly to Barnaby Joyce? The 11 weeks paid leave – is that fair on the Australian public?

Simon Birmingham: Look, those really are matters for Mr Joyce to answer. I’m not sure of the precise details of the leave he’s taking, in terms of leave from the Parliament versus what he may or not be doing in his electorate.

Question: You must have an opinion on that, though. Do you think that his media appearances recently have been politically damaging, for example, to the Coalition?

Simon Birmingham: Look, Mr Joyce, I think, has made some mistakes. I’m sure he’d acknowledge that, but ultimately, how Barnaby manages his family circumstances are a matter for Barnaby, and I’d really leave him to speak about those.

Question: It does have to be causing headaches for the Government though.

Simon Birmingham: Well, we’re here talking about how we help all Australian families, not just one family. We want to make sure the focus is on giving assistance to hardworking Australian families, and that’s why we’re investing an extra $2.5 billion in our child care system. Just today, we also have the Attorney-General Christian Porter out there speaking about our reforms to family law and the way in which family law is applied in Australia. The Turnbull Government is focused on making life easier for Australian families, giving them the extra support they need for their child care bills, and we will continue that singular focus on helping families and those who need it most.

Question: What do you have to say to families that are going to be worse off under the Coalition’s new child care policy?

Simon Birmingham: Look, our activity test is a light touch activity test. People need only work, study or volunteer for around four hours per week to be able to get onto the first run of the child care subsidy. There’s a strong safety net that’s in place, and we’re targeting support to ensure that we can abolish the $7500 child care rebate cap for all families earning less than around $186,000 per annum. This is a generous investment, well targeted, though, to ensure that we boost workforce participation and we help Australian families to be empowered to work the hours they want, the days they want, to suit their family circumstances. Thanks everybody.