Interview on FIVEaa Breakfast with Mike Smithson and Tom Rehn
Topics: New child care package; Newspoll; Liberal SA Senate pre-selection
Mike Smithson: And today a very important day in our calendar; we see child care subsidies coming into effect, and those of you who haven’t signed up to it, well, you better get cracking because today is where you can start cashing in. We’ve got the Federal Education Minister Senator Simon Birmingham on the line. Good morning Senator. First of all…
Simon Birmingham: Good morning Mike.
Mike Smithson: You had a good weekend?
Simon Birmingham: The Crows won, so I had a great weekend.
Mike Smithson: I knew you’d say that. I didn’t see you there, and sometimes I do, but I knew you’d be happy about that.
Simon Birmingham: I was sitting on the couch with my kids. Amelia, who’s five, fell asleep at half time but she woke up Sunday morning and said: did the Crows win? And she was quite surprised when I said: yes, they did.
Mike Smithson: Well, a lot of us were. Hey now, Senator, remind us what families need to do and how much they can expect to save? Because that’s the incentive with this program.
Simon Birmingham: Absolutely, Mike. So this is the biggest improvement to the child care subsidies in around 40 years. The Turnbull Government backing it within an additional $2.5 billion and we’d estimate around one million Australian families will be better off to the tune on average of about $1300 per child per annum. So that’s a big lift in terms of support for tough family budgets, additional support in terms of meeting the cost of child care. Families need to do just two simple things in terms of updating details on their MyGov account; that is firstly to tell us what their estimated level of activity is – that is how many hours of working, studying, volunteering, et cetera on average they expect to do each week over the next year – and what their estimated income is for the next year. And already, more than one million Australian families have provided those details to ensure a smooth switchover to the new child care subsidy.
Mike Smithson: But Simon, would you say the take-up rate’s been slow – 85 per cent of eligible families, is there something being lost here in the Government selling this message?
Simon Birmingham: No, we’ve seen a really strong surge over recent weeks. I know there was some commentary a few weeks ago back when we only had about 750,000 families registered. But we’ve now got to the point where more than one million families have done so; as we expected, many choosing to make the switch in the days leading up to the new system. And that’s because, of course, families wanted to make sure they got their details as accurate as possible in terms of predicting their income, their activities for the next financial year to ensure they get every cent that they’re entitled to in support for their child care bills which in this support and through this support we expect will allow many of them to be able to pick up an extra shift, work an extra day, because no longer will child care costs be such an impediment to them doing so.
Mike Smithson: Okay. And to cash in on this, visit education.gov.au/childcare. Now while we’ve got you here, very quickly, how do you see Bill Shorten travelling at the moment?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I think people are seeing through Bill Shorten. They know that his entire strategy is to reach deep into the pockets of working Australians and collect more tax. That whether you are an income earner, he wants you to pay more tax. If you’re a small or medium family business, he wants you to pay more tax. If you’re a retiree, he wants you to pay more tax. And I think people are seeing that Bill Shorten’s high taxing, high spending policies are no alternative to what the Turnbull Government has managed to do, which is bring the Budget back to balance a year earlier than expected, get us into a position where we can start providing tax relief to Australians, yet still be able to invest in the services Australians value, such as this increased child care support or more funding for our schools or hospitals.
Mike Smithson: And while we’ve got you too, Simon, that was the free kick question, by the way. This is the non-free kick question. Why have the Liberals pushed Lucy Gichuhi to number four on the Senate ticket?
Simon Birmingham: Look, Mike, it’s a democracy in the Liberal Party, as you know, where grass roots members turn up and vote at these events. They hear speeches and take questions and answers from the candidates, they all present their case, and ultimately Lucy, though I think she spoke quite well on Saturday, wasn’t quite able to get the support to be higher than the fourth spot on the ticket…
Mike Smithson: So quite simply, you don’t want her?
Simon Birmingham: Well, as I say, it’s…
Mike Smithson: She’s not going to win it from the fourth, so you don’t- the Liberal Party really doesn’t want her, do they?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the party members come together and choose the order of the Senate ticket. They chose to put Anne Ruston at the top of that ticket, David Fawcett and Alex Antic behind Anne, and Lucy into the fourth spot. We will of course work hard to win as many spots as we can.
Tom Rehn: So you put a guy that’s never been elected ahead of her. You’d have to say it’s been a bit of a PR disaster.
Simon Birmingham: Lucy, of course, was new to the Liberal Party and so we have welcomed her into the party. She is still a…
Mike Smithson: For five minutes.
Simon Birmingham: …[indistinct] valued colleague in Canberra, but this was the first time that she had ever had to front up and ask party members to support her. She was new to the whole process, but she put in a good, solid effort. This may not be the last we’ll ever see or hear of Lucy. We’ve got an election campaign to go through and we hope that we can win as many spots as possible.
Mike Smithson: Do you think $200,000 is a lot of money or not a lot of money to [indistinct]?
Simon Birmingham: I think it is a very generous income for the serious job that we’re all tasked to doing.
Mike Smithson: Okay. Thanks, Simon Birmingham. Sorry about all those around the world questions, but Lucy Gichuhi got herself into a bit of strife, saying that $200,000 was not a lot of money to earn in Australia, and next thing you know, she’s bumped to fourth on the Senate ticket; an unwinnable position. So there you go. That’s how it plays out.
Tom Rehn: Thank you for your time this morning, Senator Simon Birmingham, the Education Minister.