Press Conference
January 30 2016

SIMON BIRMINGHAM:          Today we have released data that confirms the enormous benefits that will flow to working Australian families from the Turnbull Government’s new child care reforms. Almost one million Australian families will be better off as a result of the new child care structure that we are seeking to legislate and have implemented from 2017. 

We can be confident that middle-income families in particular will be huge beneficiaries from a new system that will see the average middle-income family around $1,500 a year better off. That’s one million families better off; $1,500 a year for middle-income families. And the way we’re doing this is by restructuring child care so that we provide the greatest hours of support in child care to the families who work the longest hours, and the greatest subsidy and financial support to the families who earn the least. And this is the fairest way we can restructure the child care system. My call to the Labor Party, to Independents and the Greens, is to get on board and support these reforms to child care: to support the savings that are necessary for us to invest more than $3 billion extra in our child care system, to back the hard-working families of Australia who know that it’s hard to access child care, that it’s too expensive, and that our reforms will make it easier for hard-working families to access the child care they need, and easier for low income families to pay their child care bills.

QUESTION:    What will be lost if they don’t get on board?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM:          Well if they don’t get on board, we will be stuck with a system that has seen high price rises in child care, and families complaining about accessibility. So it’s critical that we do see the support to be able to get this child care package through the Parliament this year, so that we’re in a position to be able to deliver support to hard-working Australian families and ensure that those who work the hardest get the greatest hours of child care support, and those who earn the least get the greatest financial assistance for their child care.

QUESTION:    Some of your colleagues have said that they’ll vote against same sex marriage even if a plebiscite supports it. Do you think they should be doing that?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM:          Well I think that all Australians would expect that if there is a vote on gay marriage that that vote determines the outcome in relation to the subject of gay marriage, and that’s certainly the attitude that I’ll be taking.

QUESTION:    Just back on the child care for a moment; are there any concerns that by this activity test that perhaps it discourages people that might have been getting back into the workforce just for a few hours from actually doing so?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM:          This is a very light touch activity test that we’re applying in the child care reforms. You need only work around four hours a week to be able to access substantial childcare support. What we’re demonstrating is that we want to back Australian families who are working, looking for work, studying, or volunteering. So all of those different categories of individuals, if it takes time and commitment, where you need to access childcare to work, study, look for work, or volunteer, you’ll get the support you need to have your child in child care. We’ll make sure that it’s a flexible system as well, so that people working casual hours are able to estimate and average their hours over a period of several months. So this is a very fair and flexible system, but it’s a system designed to give the greatest support to those families who need it the most.

QUESTION:    There will be some families that will be worse off. What would you say to them?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM:          People need only volunteer, study, train, look for work, or access work for four hours a week to be able to ensure that they get generous support for child care arrangements. What we’re doing is making sure that hardworking Australian families who struggle to access child care and struggle to pay their bills aren’t subsidising those families who aren’t working, have somebody at home who would be able to look after their children. I think most Australians think that’s incredibly fear, and I would hope that the Labor Party aren’t silly enough to want to see more tax payer dollars spent on giving child care services to people who aren’t in the workforce training or studying.

QUESTION:    The Labor Party has also released a state by state break down of the $450 million funding boost towards schools. Do you trust those figures?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM:          Well, it’s not just me and the Turnbull Government who doubt Labor’s figures, but you’ve heard the South Australian Labor Premier say that Bill Shorten has no coherent plan to deliver on his school funding promises. This is a Labor Party that is repeating the same mistakes of the past, where they promise enormous spending with no idea of how it can be used most effectively and no idea of how they will pay for it. It is irresponsible in the extreme when we know that we already have structural budget problems, left there thanks to the big spending Gillard and Rudd Governments, and Bill Shorten looks like he’s going down exactly the same path. 

QUESTION:    When will we see the Coalition’s figures? 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM:          Well, the Coalition is committed to working with state and territory governments and the non-government sector in relation to school funding beyond 2018. But what we’re already doing is delivering record amounts to school, promising that we will increase school funding year on year. But in relation to the details what we want to do is sit down with the school sectors and make sure that we deliver funding that is focused in the areas that can improve student outcomes. It’s the student outcomes that matter most, not how much money you put in. 

QUESTION:    Just on the plebiscite again, if some of your colleagues could potentially be voting against it, isn’t that just a huge waste of money to be having a plebiscite? 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM:          Well, what’s important is that we do ensure that the outcome of the plebiscite determines the result in relation to gay marriage. And that is exactly why I expect will happen. 

QUESTION:    But do you believe it would be a waste of money if we’re going to be spending millions of dollars on this, and then people can just vote against it. 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM:          I think if we can guarantee that the outcome of the plebiscite will determine the result on gay marriage then everybody should have confidence that this is the simplest and fairest way to let Australian people have their say and that the voice of the Australian people will determine the outcome. 

QUESTION:    Do you think that if there was a vote in parliament today it would be passed, for same sex marriage? 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM:          Well, I’m not a political commentator, and I’m not going to guess what everybody else would do, but my own position has been clear for around six years now, in support of marriage equality. And that position has not changed, it has my strong support. But I think it’s important that if the Australian people want to have a say, they get to have their say, and that their say is the final say. 


QUESTION:    So do you think those members who would vote against it should just fall back into line then? They shouldn’t be saying those things in public? 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM:          I’m extremely confident that if we have a plebiscite it will be the final say on the matter and it will determine the outcome for all Australians. Thanks everybody, cheers.