KIERAN GILBERT: Minister, thanks for your time. The details – well obviously you’re going to question how they’re going to fund it, but the policies from Labor on child care, as you’d know, you’re the Minister for this area, they’re going to be popular, aren’t they?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well good morning Kieran. I don’t think that when people take a long, hard look at them they will be because what the Labor Party announced yesterday is to do essentially exactly the opposite of what the Productivity Commission recommended and that is to put in place a measure that will basically see the extra money gobbled up by child care providers, rather than helping the hip pockets of Australian families. So this is bad policy, not just because it’s a $3 billion unfunded promise, but also it’s bad policy because it’s a band-aid measure that won’t actually help Australian families and that junks what has been a very extensive process of developing wholesale reform for our child care system which the Turnbull Government has and will implement, which will keep a lid on fee growth, target help to those families who need it most and really ensure that we reform the system to best help families in the future rather than simply throw money at it as Labor has under the existing broken model and just have that chewed up through excess fees.
GILBERT: But you say that, in terms of not going to the hip pocket of families, but how do you say that when Labor say that they will increase, per week, rebates for children – $79 a week extra in subsidies potentially for each child, per week?
BIRMINGHAM: Because the last time the Labor Party did this, which they did when they were in government, we saw a 12 per cent spike in child care fees. So child care providers just saw the Labor Party coming, jacked up their prices, put it in their pocket, leaving Australian families no better off. So this is, of course, a repeat of old Labor policy – same old Labor, not only is it not funded but it is, of course, just a re-hash of a policy that failed when they were last in office and simply saw Australian families facing increased prices. It’s actually the worst of all situations because it puts families on the hook eventually for higher prices, and taxpayers on the hook for higher subsidies. Ours is wholesale reform, changing the child care system into one single payment that is means-tested that ensures for low-income families 85 per cent of their child care fees are covered by the Government but it puts in place a fee cap on what can be paid to the child care providers so it does deliver there for families that certainty, that confidence that we won’t see year upon year upon year of astronomical fee growth, that we actually deliver a system that helps them have confidence and targets the support best.
Labor’s policy position does nothing in terms of the fact millionaires can receive a $10,000 payment, does nothing in terms of the fact that people who aren’t working or studying or volunteering can receive child care support. We are re-focusing it so that it makes it easiest for those people to get a place in the child care system and refocusing it so those earning the least amount of money are actually those able to get the…[indistinct]
GILBERT: [Interrupting]…it is coming in cheaper than what the Coalition is committing though, because Labor is saying its policy is a billion dollars extra, yours, much more than that for 17/18 and I think beyond that, $1.1 billion your initiative, so it’s costing more, isn’t it?
BIRMINGHAM: Well, ours is about $1.1 billion a year, Labor has said they are doing this within the same budget envelope as the Government so I’ve not heard Labor claim this is a cheaper model from them, and if it is, then they need to outline exactly who loses under their proposal, who it is that will worse off than under the Coalition because we know that we are targeting the greatest hours of child care assistance to those families working the longest hours and the greatest level of financial support to those families earning the least amount of money. So ours is an incredibly fair system, Labor’s is not. Labor’s is a system that basically sprays money everywhere without targeting it and as the evidence shows, will just see, and history demonstrates, will just see fees going up rather than actually helping the costs of families and we want to see hard-working families get the greatest assistance possible. That’s why we’ve structured the reforms we have in the way we have to give more hours of assistance to those working the longest hours and the greatest level of financial subsidy to those earning the least amount of money.
GILBERT: What about the initiative to improve the availability of child care in areas where waiting lists are too long and also, out-of-school hours care, obviously another important issue for those trying to go back to work, would you welcome those particular initiatives? Because obviously – surely there’s bipartisan support in boosting availability?
BIRMINGHAM: Well we do want to make sure that we can get good access and places available for families, I know how frustrating it is for families, I’ve been there myself when you can’t get into the child care service that you want to get into. But the way we’re going about doing it is again, targeting support so that you get the greatest level of support if you are working, studying, volunteering. We’re not going to be paying lengthy hours of child care support for people who aren’t in the workforce or studying or volunteering for stay-at-home families. So we are actually trying to recalibrate the system to be, of course, responsible with taxpayers’ money. This is a $3 billion plus commitment, Mr Shorten was asked seven or eight times how it would be paid for and he had not the faintest idea…
BIRMINGHAM: [Continuing]…it’s just another Labor promise going on the spend-o-meter and of course, what we are actually trying to do is use that money to target it on those working the hardest and earning the least and that is the fairest way and also the best way to ensure that they are the people who can secure a place in child care.
GILBERT: And Minister can I ask you about the Newspoll today? A record high in an election campaign, 15 per cent for micro parties and independents including Nick Xenophon, of course in your home state. Is this a show of no confidence, a vote of no confidence basically of the two major parties that we’re seeing in the Newspoll?
BIRMINGHAM: Kieran I’ve been saying for a long time that every Australian election is hard-fought and this one would be no different. There is also there a clear warning to Australians that if they do want stable government, if they do want certainty going forward, they should not risk votes to minor parties, Greens or otherwise, because that’s how we do end up with another Labor/Greens coalition government which would be the worst of all outcomes for Australians. We are focused on ensuring we get a strong mandate for the Turnbull Government to deliver our comprehensive economic plan for jobs and growth, to encourage innovation which Malcolm Turnbull is out there talking about with female entrepreneurs and innovators today, to ensure that we deliver enterprise tax reforms that encourage jobs growth right across the economy, to invest in our defence and advanced manufacturing sectors, this is a good plan but we do need a strong endorsement for it.
GILBERT: Minister, we’re out of time, we’ll talk to you soon.
BIRMINGHAM: Thanks Kieran, a pleasure.