Interview on Channel 7 Sunrise with Natalie Barr
Topics: Crackdown on dodgy family day care centres; Mobile phones in schools
Natalie Barr: Welcome back. Almost 20 per cent of family day care providers are ripping off the system, according to the Federal Government. A six-month investigation has led to 151 services having their child care subsidies either suspended or cancelled. Education Minister Simon Birmingham joins me now from Canberra. Morning to you. What are the breaches that have been identified?
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Natalie. The breaches are usually in relation to financial matters. That’s of course appalling for the taxpayer. We see instances where people have been claiming funds for children who sometimes don’t exist, for sometimes for children who just aren’t there in the care at that particular point in time, or occasions where people have been overseas at the time that services have been claiming for the care of those children. So a number of different issues like this, which we have really clamped down on, as you rightly say, taken action against around 150 services. We have a number of prosecutions underway as well as a result of this. Ultimately, we estimate this is saving taxpayers around $1 billion and cleaning up the system ahead of our new childcare subsidy model on 2 July.
Natalie Barr: So if there are more than 150 centres not getting these subsidies, what does that mean for the families who use them?
Simon Birmingham: Look, in many cases, as we were just discussing, these have been subsidies claimed for children who didn’t exist or who weren’t there in care. So there’s still a lot of other child care places out there. The sector tells me there are a lot of surplus child care places out there, but I know that many families also tell me they struggle find a place at the time and day they want. That’s why we’re putting in place a fairer, better child care subsidy system, to give certainty for investment in the child care sector, to create places where they are needed. But most importantly, to support families to ensure they get the greatest number of subsidised hours if they are a long working family, who work lots of hours, and that they get the greatest level of subsidy, the rate of subsidy, if they’re a low-income family.
Natalie Barr: Okay. On another one this morning, Minister, many schools have rules regarding mobile phone use, and New South Wales launching an Australian-first review into whether there should be a total ban inside the school gate of mobile phones. It’s obviously prompted by cyberbullying concerns. Would you support these findings?
Simon Birmingham: I really welcome this review and this leadership by the New South Wales Government. A few months ago, I said that my view is there is no place for personal mobile phones in the classroom. The course, there is a place for technology in terms of different devices that can be used to help children learn and engage, but not personal phones, not things that allow people to access their Facebook or other social media devices in the middle of learning. So I think this is a very positive step by the New South Wales Government.
Natalie Barr: Okay, Minister, thanks for your time this morning.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks Natalie.