Doorstop interview at Goodstart Early Learning Narangba
Topics: New child care package; National Energy Guarantee
Trevor Ruthenberg: Yeah so, Big Trev Ruthenberg, LNP candidate for Longman. We’re at Newstart today at Narangba. There’s about 7000 families who will benefit as a consequence of the new childcare package.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks Trevor, and it’s great to be here in Longman highlighting the fact that so many families – more than 7000 are going to benefit in this local community. Around 200,000 across Queensland to the tune of about $1400 per child, per annum on average – a really significant saving to household budgets, to the cost of childcare and helping people work that extra shift, that extra day without childcare costs being such an impediment.
Journalist: This is already being rolled out but now there’s reports that childcare centres have increased prices and there’s some speculation that’s not just a coincidence that it’s happened around this time. Did you expect prices to rise at childcare centres at this sort of speed?
Simon Birmingham: Childcare centres increase their fees around the new financial year each and every year. We always budgeted for an increase in the benchmark price against which the subsidy is paid to make sure that families get the true benefit of that increased subsidy, increased support for so many families. So, we will keep a close eye on making sure that increases are within the normal range and we’ll call out anybody who does the wrong thing, but this is a model that’s designed to keep the lid on future fee increases, give more support to more Australian families and ultimately it’s putting cash back in the pockets of those families to help them with cost of living pressures.
Journalist: What do you class as a reasonable rise?
Simon Birmingham: Well look, reasonable increases are those that are broadly in line with inflation and wages growth type figures, and that’s what we’ll be looking closely at.
Journalist: Do you have a percentage on what could be classed as reasonable?
Simon Birmingham: Each year we’ll have a look at what wages and inflation growth looks like.
Journalist: Would you say 5.5 per cent or 4 per cent would be reasonable?
Simon Birmingham: Well as I say, each year we’ll have a look at what wages growth and inflation figures look like.
Journalist: How will you make sure that these price rises aren’t taking advantage of this new subsidy? How do you keep an eye on that?
Simon Birmingham: Well, centres like this one and around 85 per cent of centres across Australia are changing at or below the benchmark price that we’ve put in place, so we know from the modelling we’ve done that we have a benchmark price that is well and truly accessible and that means that families on low incomes are getting 85 cents in the dollar back for every dollar they pay in terms of their childcare costs. It’s a generous scheme, but it’s well structured to keep a lid on future fee increases while keeping families the support they need and deserve.
Journalist: In terms of looking into each institution, though, have you got systems in place to look at those institutions closely to make sure that their price rises aren’t taking advantage of the subsidy?
Simon Birmingham: We monitor price rises as we have done for many years. We know that when the Labor Party tried to implement a child care reform they ended up with 16 per cent fee increases as a result of doing it the bad way. That’s why we went through a Productivity Commission inquiry to make sure we put in place not just greater support for families and a new childcare subsidy system, but also a benchmark pricing regime as recommended by the Productivity Commission to keep a lid on future fee increases.
Journalist: How do you investigate those, though? Like, what do you have? What systems are in place? Do you have spot checks? Or do you have …
Simon Birmingham: There are reporting requirements on childcare providers.
Journalist: Even for the small ones as well?
Simon Birmingham: There are reporting requirements on all childcare providers.
Journalist: And how do you make sure that none slip through the cracks?
Simon Birmingham: Well, that’s why we have reporting requirements and why we have processes in place to make sure that the information that is required to be given is given.
Journalist: How’s the rollout going since it started?
Simon Birmingham: We’re really thrilled that more than one million Australian families have provided the details to ensure that they will get every cent of care and support and every hour of subsidised childcare that they are entitled to. It’s been a good, positive transition to date and we’re very grateful to the families and to the childcare services who’ve made sure this has been such a smooth transition thus far.
Journalist: There are some reports going around that to actually get your subsidy, to get signed up to the new subsidy, Centrelink is saying that the policies are changing every day to those customers. Do you disagree with that?
Simon Birmingham: The policy has been set in place since legislation was passed more than a year ago …
Journalist: Sorry, the procedures are changing every day in terms of how you sign up and what’s required of people. There’s a bit of confusion out there. Have you heard about that?
Simon Birmingham: Look, the process is a simple one in terms of people providing information about their hours of work or activity and their estimated family income for the new financial year. It’s a very simple piece of information on two fronts that needs to be provided and more than one million Australian families have successfully provided that information to date.
Journalist: How many in Queensland, do you know? Do you have an update on that?
Simon Birmingham: Around 200,000 Queensland families have provided the information. That’s 95 per cent of families who have accessed the childcare system at some point in time since the first of April. For many of those who haven’t provided their details, they may well no longer need childcare support.
Journalist: Should Australia withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord?
Simon Birmingham: No. Australia – as we always do – will meet our obligations and we will do so in a way as the Turnbull Government has proposed: by not picking any winners, by not subsidising renewable energy, not subsidising any form of energy, having a technology neutral approach through the National Energy Guarantee that gets the lowest possible prices, an estimated $300 lower price per household than would otherwise be the case.
Journalist: Is it harmful that Tony Abbott should suggest this?
Simon Birmingham: Members of Parliament are free to make suggestions. The Turnbull Government’s policy is clear and it’s about implementing the National Energy Guarantee with lower prices for households, meeting our commitments without picking any technology winners but ensuring we get the lowest possible prices we can.
Trevor Ruthenberg: Thanks.
Simon Birmingham: Thank you.
Journalist: Thank you.