MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Simon Birmingham, good morning.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning Michael, great to be with you.
BRISSENDEN: So both Labor and your plan amount to about $3 billion, you tackle it differently, but if that is the case, isn’t it right to target lower and middle income earners which is what this Labor plan will do?
BIRMINGHAM: Well, Michael, firstly yes you’re right, the costings are about the same, the difference is we’ve identified savings for our plan so ours is fully-funded unlike Labor’s $3 billion of spending where they have ruled out supporting our savings measures. But secondly in terms of targeting, our plan far-better targets low and middle income families than the Labor plan. The Labor plan will increase the rate of Child Care Rebate available to people who are on million dollar incomes whereas ours in fact reduces what’s available to those families. The Labor plan will maintain an increase, the level of subsidy available to people who aren’t in the workforce, studying or volunteering to still put their children into child care whereas we will limit that so that we can actually better target support to those working the longest hours and earning the least amount of money and child care subsidies under a Turnbull Government for families earning around $65,000 will go up to an 85 per cent subsidy so that is covering the vast majority of costs for those families under our proposal which is in stark contrast to Labor which is spraying money everywhere and doing the exact opposite of what the independent Productivity Commission recommended.
BRISSENDEN: This is all very well though but you need to make sure that there are places available, don’t you and Labor does appear to be targeting areas of need and finding more money to make sure there are more places available.
BIRMINGHAM: Well Michael it’s about the way you go about that. Our activity test that we’re putting in place ensures that child care support, and therefore you would expect places that are accessed, is targeted to those people that are working the longest hours or studying or volunteering. So ours is actually about making it easier for people to access places, giving the greatest financial support to those families to be able to deal with the real cost pressures they face where they are low and middle income families. The Productivity Commission said that doing what Labor did would just see, as it did in the past, fee increases and therefore that extra money gobbled up by child care providers. We’re tackling, as the Productivity Commission recommended, the risk of fee increases by putting in place a fee cap
The real concern about Labor’s policy is not just that it’s unfunded $3 billion worth of expenditure, but also that it junks years of hard work in terms of developing a new model for child care that can best support hard working, low income and medium income families and keep a lid on price growth which under Labor spiked at around 12 per cent the last time they did exactly what they’re proposing to do this time.
BRISSENDEN: I think they’re saying – well, they are saying now, there will be a crackdown on unscrupulous fee increases and that they’ll get the ACCC to make sure that this doesn’t happen.
BIRMINGHAM: Well, Michael…
BRISSENDEN: [Continuing]…there are ways to do that.
BIRMINGHAM: Well what they’re proposing is that people will have to publish their fees on a website which sounds remarkably reminiscent of Kevin Rudd’s old FuelWatch scheme where people would put it on a website and Labor hoped that that would keep some sort of restraint on fee growth. We are putting in place a fee cap in relation to the subsidy the taxpayer supports for those places so that there’s a real incentive and measure there to keep a lid on fee growth and I think that is critical for the families I speak to who are tired of seeing when the Government promises extra support, that that just gets gobbled up in increased fees. We want to make sure that extra support we’re providing actually goes into helping families and their cost of living pressures.
BRISSENDEN: The one thing that’s central to your plan is this so-called activity test but doesn’t that disadvantage a number of families, particularly those who can’t find and get the extra hours of work to meet the activity test formula?
BIRMINGHAM: Well we want to make sure that the families who are in the workforce, studying or volunteering are the ones who are getting first priority in terms of government support for child care places, not people who are stay-at-home families. Now, stay-at-home parents do a wonderful job, but when we are talking about taxpayer subsidised child care support, I think the vast majority of taxpayers and hard-working families think it’s reasonable that standing at the front of the queue are those families who are working, studying, volunteering and reliant on that taxpayer support for their child care and reliant upon child care so that they can work or study or volunteer, not to be paying in circumstances as Labor proposes, increasing the subsidy for people who are not in the workforce or studying or volunteering to be dropping their children off at child care.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, Labor’s plan kicks in on January 1, which is 18 months earlier than yours, any chance you’ll be introducing your policy earlier than mid-2018?
BIRMINGHAM: Well, the Prime Minister’s already said that we will try to get our policy in place as fast as we can as long as we can get the savings measures through. The Turnbull Government will always do what we can, as quick as we can, but we will also make sure that it’s paid for and that’s in stark contrast to what Bill Shorten’s done here where once again another $3 billion goes on Labor’s spend-o-meter rather than actually the hard yards of saying, “well if you’re going to invest more in child care for Australian families, as the Turnbull Government wants to do, you also have to find responsible ways to pay for it,” which a Turnbull Government will do. Under Mr Shorten this is just a band-aid solution that’s bad policy and it’s also unfunded.
BRISSENDEN: Child care is one of those issues that comes up every campaign, it does suggest that no one’s really found the formula that meets the demand at the moment, doesn’t it?
BIRMINGHAM: Well Michael I think that’s a fair comment which is why the Turnbull Government proposes wholesale reform to our child care subsidy system. Labor is just putting a band-aid on a broken model, we are actually applying a whole new model that better targets support, that deals with the pressures of fee increases by putting the fee cap in place. These are reforms that actually will deliver a much, much better system in the future and it’s the result of hard policy work under our government compared with a Labor Party that is just trying old formulas that have been proven to fail in the past and have been warned against by the Productivity Commission.
BRISSENDEN: Okay, Simon Birmingham, thanks for joining us.
BIRMINGHAM: Thanks Michael.