SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Labor had a monumental failure in both child care policy and Budget policy from Bill Shorten and the Labor Party. They’ve spent $3 billion without having the faintest clue where that money is coming from. Mr Shorten was asked no fewer than seven times at his press conference releasing this policy about how he would pay for the $3 billion of additional spending without the savings measures the Turnbull Government has proposed. Not once could Mr Shorten say how he was going to fund his latest $3 billion of latest spending that comes on top of tens and tens of billions of dollars of additional spending. We as a Turnbull Government have outlined comprehensive reforms to Australia’s child care system that fix the inflationary problems in the system to make sure we keep prices down for Australian families. We’ve redesigned the child care system so that we deliver the greatest support to those families working the longest hours and earning the least amount of money and amazingly, Mr Shorten wants to junk those reforms we’ve proposed in favour of a short-term, unfunded band-aid.
Our reforms will put in place caps in terms of the level of fees that are subsidised by taxpayers so that child care providers can no longer profiteer at the expense of Australian families and taxpayers. They’ll ensure that assistance is targeted to those families working the longest hours to make it easier for families to access child care and that the greatest level of financial subsidy, up to 85 per cent, is provided to those families earning the least amount of money. Yet what Mr Shorten has proposed today is to junk reform to the system in favour of short-term band-aids that just put more money into the existing models which Labor did before when they were last in office and when they did that previously fees spiked by more than 12 per cent. A 12 per cent fee hike which ensured that the extra money that was there to support families actually went into the pockets of child care providers. We stand committed to child care reforms that help hard-working Australian families, knowing that people are doing it tough, and give them the support for their child care bills, not support just for child care providers.
We want to make sure our system is implemented, and we have a fully-funded, costed reform proposal on the table unlike this thought bubble from Mr Shorten which simply costs $3 billion to the Budget bottom line without any idea of how it will be paid for, and no genuine support to keep costs down for families.
JOURNALIST: But Labor says its plan will be in place by January, yours won’t be for another two years so surely that’s a better deal for families?
BIRMINGHAM: This is a short-term band-aid. We are proposing long-term changes to fix the child care system. Now, sadly, the Senate has stood in the way of getting the types of reforms in place and the savings to pay for them that we want to see there. We will work as soon as this election’s over to get the Senate to pass savings and to ensure reforms are in place as quickly as possible to deliver help to hard-working families but we will make sure it is paid for. Unlike Mr Shorten and the Labor Party, we will not just recklessly spend money with no idea where it’s coming from. We will make sure our child care reforms are funded, paid for and effectively deliver support to those who need it most.
One of the remarkable things about the reforms Mr Shorten is junking today, is he’s junking the activity test we propose as part of our reforms. That means that Mr Shorten is proposing to pay more taxpayer dollars to support child care for families who aren’t working, studying or volunteering. We want to ensure assistance is targeted to those in the workforce, or studying or volunteering, those doing their thing to help their families, to help society and make a contribution. That’s essential to ensure our child care system is fair, it’s essential you target support to those people so they can more easily find a place and you target the financial assistance so they can more easily make ends meet in their budget bills.
JOURNALIST: Is there no chance of you bringing those reforms forward then? Do you see it as, you know, that you can’t move them forward at all?
BIRMINGHAM: We will make sure that reforms are paid for and we will make it an absolute priority to find the savings, get them legislated and get the reforms implemented as quickly as possible. Mr Turnbull has said that already, that if we can do things faster and find the savings to do so, then that’s exactly what we’ll do because we know that Australian families are doing it tough. Labor’s short-term band-aid is only to lift the cap on the Child Care Rebate to $10,000. But what happens in a year or two’s time when people hit up against that cap again? We propose to abolish it for families earning less than $185,000 but unlike Labor our model won’t be inflationary because we’ll be capping the assistance that goes into the child care providers’ pocket. So, our model ensures unlimited assistance to low and middle-income families but capped in terms of the fees that will be charged to the taxpayer by child care providers.
JOURNALIST: But, how can you be sure that a new Senate will pass the savings that you need?
BIRMINGHAM: Well we are confident that we can manage to work with a reformed Senate and get the savings measures in place to get a new child care model in place. But we won’t recklessly spend money that we cannot identify savings for. Mr Shorten was asked seven or eight times to say how he would pay for the additional $3 billion in spending, and he had not the faintest idea. We know how we’ll pay for it, we’ll fund it, we’ll legislate it, and we’ll deliver relief to Australian families.
JOURNALIST: But Bill Shorten said that he would fund it by not going ahead with a lot of the company tax cuts, isn’t that a reasonable response?
BIRMINGHAM: You can only spend one dollar once, Mr Shorten and Labor seem to forget that. You actually have to find new savings for these measures because Mr Shorten’s already spent all the money from all of his other so-called savings measures on other things. He’s been spending, of course, billions of dollars every single day of this campaign and beforehand. We’ve got around $160 billion of promises from the Labor Party, far more than their extra tax measures account for so there’s already a big black hole in Labor’s costings, this can only add to it.