Interview on Channel 9 Today with Lisa Wilkinson
Topics: Thousands of families hitting the child care rebate cap; Making child care more affordable, accessible and flexible; Fixing Australia’s debt and deficit
16 February 2017
Lisa Wilkinson: Well, according to new figures out today, thousands of Australian families are struggling to meet the rising cost of child care. More than 100,000 households are expected to reach the annual limit for child care rebates by June. That's a big increase from last year. Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham is in Canberra and he joins us now. Good morning minister.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning Lisa.
Lisa Wilkinson: Now it's only February and already there are thousands of family who are hitting that cap. The rebate assistance just doesn't seem to be going very far. What’s your plan to change that?
Simon Birmingham: This is a broken system and so the Turnbull Government wants to abolish the $7500 cap for families earning less than $185,000 a year. So that really is to help all low and middle income families so they no longer face a financial cliff during the year and they no longer face that challenge of deciding that it's just not worth going to work for that extra day or those extra few hours.
Lisa Wilkinson: Will there be support for stay-at-home parents or is this going to push people back into the workforce even if they would rather stay at home with their children?
Simon Birmingham: Well we have got some safety nets built in to our child care reforms to make sure that children in low income families where there might be a stay-at-home parent or no parent working can access two sessions of child care per week. But we also want to make sure that people have more choice out of these reforms and our estimates are that around 230,000 families will choose to work or work more as a result of them not facing this financial child care cliff.
Lisa Wilkinson: Under your proposed plan, families earning more than $340,000 will still get 20 per cent of their child care costs subsidised. And yet this is going to be paid for by cuts to welfare for needy Australians. Is that really fair?
Simon Birmingham: Well this is actually a cut for those high earning families who currently get 50 per cent subsidy and that will be reduced to 20 per cent which is less than what is recommended. So we're really trying to redistribute some of the child care support away from higher earning families or people who aren’t in the workforce participating back into supporting those who are the hardest working, lowest earning families. And take, for example, a family earning $80,000, both parents at work, two kids in child care, three days a week. They will be around $3000 better off under our reforms net of the family tax benefit changes. So even if they lose a little bit in family tax benefit they'll get a lot more back to help them with their childcare costs.
Lisa Wilkinson: Yesterday the government was talking about raising taxes to pay for the NDIS. Now we're talking about how we don't have enough money for child care support. Is all of this that's been going on this week just scaremongering to put pressure on the Opposition and the crossbench to pass your omnibus bill?
Simon Birmingham: Well we absolutely want to see savings passed because we need to fix a broken child care system. We are determined to deliver the National Disability Insurance Scheme and we want to do all of these things without putting a greater debt burden on our children or without having to increase taxes on people. And so to do those things we have to find savings and we have to work on the priorities of Government. And for the Turnbull Government, the priorities are seeing the NDIS delivered and fixing our child care system and that means redistributing some government spending into these priorities.
Lisa Wilkinson: Alright Simon Birmingham we have run out of time. We'll have to leave it there. Thanks for your time this morning.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks Lisa.