Interview on ABC Radio Brisbane with Rebecca Levingston and Craig Zonca
Topics: Childcare; Government leadership




Rebecca Levingston:   If you have children in childcare and you get a government rebate, there are some big changes on the way that you need to know about. From 2 July, more than a million families that receive the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate will see those payments replaced with a single means-tested subsidy called the Child Care Subsidy. So, what does that mean for you and your kids?


Well, Simon Birmingham is the Minister for Education and Training. Minister, good morning. Why the need for the change?


Simon Birmingham:     Good morning, guys. Well, this is a critical change because it will give more support to those families who are working the longest hours, but earning the least, and so we’ve really reformed the childcare regime to better target subsidies. And of course, Australia, around one million Australian families, will benefit from these changes. Across Queensland, that’s about 200,000 families and for some of them with a couple of kids in childcare for three or four days a week, they’ll find that they are some thousands of dollars a year better off.


Rebecca Levingston:   Two-parent families will have to meet an activity test to continue to get the subsidy. What is that?


Simon Birmingham:     It’s a very light-touch activity test, but families do have to demonstrate that they are working, studying or volunteering for around four hours per week. So, that’s very light touch and can be met in a range of ways, including volunteering at your local school or childcare centre itself. But we really want to make sure that subsidies are targeted to those who need them most and to help people work the hours that suit their families, work the days that suit their families and give maximum support to those who need it most.


Craig Zonca:                How many families are likely to be left with lower subsidies or no longer be eligible at all?


Simon Birmingham:     Yes, some families who don’t meet even that four-hour activity test might find that they have less access, or high-income families earning above around $350,000 might find that they have no support in the future in terms of their Child Care Subsidy. This is all about retargeting towards families who are earning 80, 90, $120,000 per annum, to make sure that they get the maximum support to be able to work extra hours. The $7,500 Child Care Rebate cap that has been such a constraint for so many families will be axed under this new program for everybody earning less than around $180,000. So, that really does provide extra support for people to work extra hours, and on our projections around 230,000 Australian families will chose to work more hours and participate more in the workforce as a result of these changes.


Rebecca Levingston:   People will have to go online to make the switchover, Minister. It’s not automatic. Will there be any kind of contact from Centrelink, or is this all got to be proactive on behalf of the families?       


Simon Birmingham:     Every Australian family who currently receives the Child Care Benefit or the Child Care Rebate will receive a letter to encourage them, outline to them, exactly the steps they need to take. We are absolutely urging people to make the start now. Visit education.gov.au. Follow the links through the childcare pages and update your information in terms of hours that you work, income that your family earns, to make sure you’re getting the maximum support available to your family.


Craig Zonca:                And Simon Birmingham, as a federal minister, what do you make of comments from Barnaby Joyce that the Prime Minister should consider relinquishing the Liberal leadership if he doesn’t lift the Coalition’s poll numbers by Christmas?


Simon Birmingham:     Look, I think the Prime Minister’s going to stay very focused on (a): doing the job at hand in terms of delivering major infrastructure projects in Queensland; delivering more support in childcare for hardworking families, and then (b): next year, when we get closer to the election, it becomes a choice that people will have to think long and hard about between high jobs growth versus Bill Shorten’s big taxing agenda.


Craig Zonca:                Simon, thanks- pardon me, Simon Birmingham, thank you very much.


Simon Birmingham:     Thank you, cheers.


Craig Zonca:                The Minister for Education and Training. I thought a fly just caught me in my throat there, Bec.