Interview on Channel 9 Today with Karl Stefanovic  
Crackdown on dodgy family day care centres; Personal income tax cuts; Mobile phones in schools


07:10 AM


Karl Stefanovic:           Well, do you trust your day care centre? More than 150 family day care centres have been slapped with suspensions or shut down, during a six-month blitz by government regulators. Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham joins us now. Simon, good morning to you.


Simon Birmingham:     G’day Karl.


Karl Stefanovic:           What type of offences and the worst states?


Simon Birmingham:     Well, indeed reprehensible behaviour that we’ve seen in many cases, where we have different instances of child care providers claiming subsidies for children who didn’t exist, weren’t there, were overseas; types of behaviour of course that is just unacceptable, and everybody rightly expects that their child care services will be honest, reputable individuals to care for their children, but also to be reputable when it comes to handling the taxpayer subsidies that underpin our child care system, which are only about to get more generous from 2 July when we give better targeted, more support, greater support to more families. And if I can, I’d urge any family who hasn’t yet joined the 900,000-plus who have switched over to the new system to make sure they register before 2 July.


Karl Stefanovic:           Yeah, they’ve got to do that. It is less than a fortnight until the Government’s new child care reforms kick in as you rightly point out. Can you guarantee no dodgy operator will be receiving taxpayer money under your new scheme? Can you guarantee that?


Simon Birmingham:     Well, you can’t ever make blanket guarantees. I can guarantee, though, that we have taken every possible step over a number of years now to strengthen regulation, to increase compliance checks. Under the previous government, there were a few hundred compliance checks per annum. We‘ve now lifted to more than 4,000 per annum. We’re ensuring we push out of the system those who’ve been doing the wrong thing; hence this surge ahead of the new system coming in and getting rid of 150 providers which we estimate will save the taxpayer around $1 billion. We’ve also…


Karl Stefanovic:           So if people think they’ve got a problem, what should they do?


Simon Birmingham:     So the new system is also going to have a better data matching process, better capacity for us to act faster if anybody is doing the wrong thing. And if they are doing the wrong thing, then they should certainly get in touch with us at the Education Department. Education.gov.au is where they can go to follow the links to register for the new child care system, but they’ll also find contact details if they think their child care provider has been doing the wrong thing.


Karl Stefanovic:           Gee, it’s been busy behind you over the last 24 hours. Pauline Hanson; she’s roaring back into the spotlight, isn’t she, and is backing the Government’s tax changes. Are you a chance now on her reversing her vote on company tax reforms as well?


Simon Birmingham:     Well, we hope that today the Australian Senate will back what is a better tax system for the future; giving tax relief to hardworking Australians, fixing the issue of bracket creep so that people don’t get pushed into higher income tax brackets into the future in terms of a better, fairer structure. Company tax is important to us as well. We’ll turn to that issue hopefully next week in terms of providing Australia with the most competitive tax rates possible to attract investment and support more jobs.


Karl Stefanovic:           Simon, Simon, Simon. Simon, Simon, Simon.


Simon Birmingham:     Karl, Karl, Karl.


Karl Stefanovic:           Do you think she’s going to change her mind on company tax reforms as well?


Simon Birmingham:     I’m ever hopeful.


Karl Stefanovic:           That’s a straight answer.


Simon Birmingham:     We’ll work hard to make sure that we will, as a government, keep trying to convince every crossbench senator. But you know what should happen? Bill Shorten should change his mind, because the most articulate arguments in favour of a competitive company tax rate were made years ago by Bill Shorten when he used to stand for jobs and economic growth…


Karl Stefanovic:           He’s not, he’s not going to change, it’s all about the warfare. Finally, let’s talk about this…


Simon Birmingham:     It’s all about the class warfare, you’re right.


Karl Stefanovic:           … if we can: smartphones at schools. It’s a big debate raging with our viewers this morning, and so many have sent their opinion in on whether or not smartphones should be banned at schools. What are your thoughts on that?


Simon Birmingham:     Well, I spoke about this a few months ago. And my view is that there is no place in the classroom for personal mobile phones, that technology has a role to play in the classroom and of course we need to facilitate that, but personal mobile phones are obviously a potential distraction in terms of access to social media sites, as well as potentially a source of bullying activities. So I really welcome the leadership the New South Wales Government is showing by looking at whether in schools they can put better policies in place.


Karl Stefanovic:           Good on you, Simon. Thanks for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.


Simon Birmingham:     Cheers, Karl.