SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I’m pleased to announce today that the Government’s crackdown on those who are seeking to rort our child care system is paying dividends, that our changes last year to what is known as the child swapping practice where family day care providers swap children with another family day care provider to claim tax payer subsidies is now delivering savings of around $7.8 million per week. This is a significant saving to tax payers, more than the Government had budgeted for, and comes on top of savings from our enhanced compliance mechanisms in child care, which are delivering around $283 million per annum in additional savings. That’s a result of us increasing compliance activity, from less than 500 audits per year under the previous Labor Government to closer to 2000 audits per year under the Coalition. Overall this is an important piece in our jigsaw puzzle of making child care more affordable for Australian families and for the Australian tax payer. Over the next four years we anticipate investing around $40 billion in child care subsidies to support Australian families. This is an increase of around $3.2 billion in funding over the next four years to help make child care more affordable and accessible for those working families who need it most. But that can only be maintained if we have strong compliance measures in place and if people aren’t rorting the system, and today we have clear evidence that by changing the legislation, by making amendments to crackdown on those seeking to abuse our child care subsidies we are saving the tax payer more than $7 million dollars every single week.
QUESTION: Where are those savings being spent?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: As I said, over the next four years we’re going to invest more than $3.2 billion in extra spending so we need every single dollar we can get from the system to funnel and channel back into those who most need child care support. We appreciate that for many Australian families, subsidies for child care are the difference between going to work or not, working more hours or not, so we want to make sure that that funding is available for those families who need it most, and under our new child care subsidy arrangements we will be delivering the greatest number of hours of subsidised care to the families who work the most hours, and the greatest rate of subsidy to those who earn the least. So it’s an incredibly fair reform that we’re embarking upon, but it needs to be underpinned by a system with strong compliance in place, that isn’t rorted by those who are simply out to line their own pockets at the expense of tax payers and those tax payers who need that most.
QUESTION: Does this take the choice away from day care mums? If they were in any other profession they’d be able to pick where they went- their children went.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This is a carefully drafted reform that ensures that where children need it, if they have special needs, or if they are in regional or remote circumstances, there are exemptions for them. But in terms of the children of parents who are there as family day care providers who are supported on the basis that they are offering child care in their own home, it was never intended that they would be subsidised for looking after, in some instances, their own children. What we’re seeing in too many cases of this so-called child swapping, is the swapping exists on paper only and in reality the children are staying at home with mum or dad who are reaping a tax payer subsidy for looking after their own children. Most Australians would think that’s outrageous and inappropriate. That’s why we’ve acted to stamp it out.
QUESTION: You’ve used words like fraud to describe this. Is such strong language accurate
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: What we’ve seen elsewhere is fraudulent activity, so there are a range of measures that we’ve taken over the last 12 months. Enhanced compliance measures where we have seen instances of fraud, where there are police prosecutions underway, and that’s saving an estimated $283 million dollars. The child swapping measures we’ve put in place, which were legal up until the reforms we put in place in October are saving around $7.8 million per week. Over all, it’s a saving to the tax payer of around $700 million per annum from those who are either ripping off the system or taking advantage of it.
QUESTION: And are these women double-dippers, to use Joe Hockey’s term?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: [Laughs] Well, I’m not sure that’s the phrase, but certainly there’s been people who have been taking advantage of the child care system. And we’ve worked to close a loophole, and in closing that loophole we are making our child care system more sustainable for the future.
QUESTION: Just on another matter, is the Government embarrassed by further revelations around Jamie Briggs?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Jamie’s been a friend of mine for nearly 20 years, he’s a valued and trusted friend, but he’s made a mistake, he’s paid a price and I think it’s time that we all moved on.
QUESTION: Was it inappropriate for Jamie Briggs to send that photo of that woman who complained about him to his colleagues when he said he’d keep her identity private?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I see allegations around this, but I’ve not heard any details from Jamie as to what did or did not actually occur. What I think is, the fact that we all need to face up to here, is that Jamie did make a mistake, he’s owned up to the mistake, he’s paid a real price for it, and now is the time to move on.
QUESTION: Did he send the photo to you?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: No.
QUESTION: Should public servants in general be worried about how they might be treated by ministers? The CPSU is up in arms about this.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I think what we’ve seen through this case, is that it is an isolated instance, that extremely thorough processes were followed as a result of the complaint that was made, and strong and decisive action has been taken.
QUESTION: Do you know who leaked the photo to the newspapers?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: No
QUESTION: Do you- what do you think the punishment should be [indistinct]
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I think that is a matter perhaps for others to comment on. I think it’s unfortunate the photo was leaked to the papers, but I think in terms of this issue and this incident, Jamie made a mistake, he owned up to the mistake, he’s paid a high price and it’s time we moved on.
QUESTION: What about with the first class flights, going against the Prime Minister’s policy. Was that a mistake as well?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Those were issues which I gather he dealt with with the previous Prime Minister’s office.
QUESTION: Have you taken any first class flights recently?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: No. Thanks guys. Cheers.
Minister Birmingham’s media contact: Nick Creevey, 0447 644 957
James Murphy 0478 333 974
Department Media: firstname.lastname@example.org