Press conference, Adelaide
Topics: Child care availability; Labor’s inability to read Budget projections; Australia’s embassy in Israel; Electricity market in SA; Injuries on Manus Island
Simon Birmingham: What we have seen today from Kate Ellis and the Labor Party is another case of all scare but no solution when it comes to child care issues facing Australia. In this case, Kate Ellis has been caught out misunderstanding and misreading what’s in the budget papers. The budget papers, the Mid-Year Economic Update released just before Christmas, indicate that we expect to fund an additional 300,000 Australian children in the child care system over the next three years. These are places that we budget, that will be created, that will exist, and that will be there with additional support under our child care reforms for Australian children and their families. The only threat that exists to those places and to better targeted support for hard-working Australian families is the failure of the Labor Party to support the savings measures necessary to pass our child care reforms through the Australian Parliament.
We have a comprehensive reform proposal, a reform proposal that will provide more support to the hardest working Australian families, better targeted assistance, will remove the current mid-year cliff that many families fall off in relation to their child care support, ensuring they get year-round assistance for their child care bills, and will put pressure on price growth, to keep a lid on that type of growth because of the type of fee constraint mechanisms we have in our comprehensive child care reform package. So we have a comprehensive proposal. The Labor Party went to the last election, less than a year ago, simply proposing to increase elements of the current broken child care rebate arrangements. That’s not good enough. We need the comprehensive changes the Turnbull Government is proposing, and if the Labor Party is seriously concerned about helping Australian families access affordable child care then they would support our solutions in the Parliament as soon as possible.
Question: Will 1600 new day care centres be needed to accommodate these children by 2020?
Simon Birmingham: We’ve seen over the last two years growth in the number of places in the child care system of 150,000 places under the Coalition Government. So we can be confident that there is already strong growth, and what we expect is that with the better child care subsidy arrangements we’re proposing under our reforms in place, that there will be even stronger growth in child care places. That means new child care centres, new facilities will be built, new facilities will be established, new places will be available, as long as the Turnbull Government’s reforms pass through the Parliament, as long as Labor gets out of the way, lets us put our child care reforms in place. That will give the certainty to the child care sector to invest, to create new places, and to ease the affordability and constraints that any Australian families are facing.
Question: You’re saying that her figures are incorrect. Well, one of the figures that she’s provided is that 1600 new long day care centres will be needed by 2020. Is that an incorrect figure? Do you dispute that, or is that accurate?
Simon Birmingham: I’m saying that Kate Ellis and the Labor Party are misinterpreting the figures in the budget papers.
Question: So is that figure incorrect?
Simon Birmingham: It’s absolutely correct that around 300,000 additional places are budgeted and forecast to be created, and that means new centres. Now, how many new centres will depend on how big those centres are, and a range of other factors that go into that. So I’m not going to predict how many new centres that will be, but we can be absolutely confident, based on the fact that there have been many new centres in the last two years – 150,000 additional places created – that if we can get our child care reforms through the Parliament and provide the stability, the certainty and the additional support to hard-working Australian families, then we can be confident there will be new centres built in the future to fill those 300,000 spots we are budgeting for and we expect that there will be places for.
Question: How many centres do you think are needed to keep up with demand?
Simon Birmingham: Well we’re budgeting for around 300,000 additional places, and that will mean there are many new centres that are established for those places. And I am absolutely confident that, with 150,000 places created in the last two years, we will see continued strong growth in relation to the availability of child care. But more importantly, our reforms will give certainty to invest, and give more support to the hardest working Australians. We’re proposing to better target child care subsidies under a single new child care subsidy arrangement that will ensure Australians in the future – the lowest-earning, hardest working families – receive the most support under our reforms.
Question: What’s been your personal experience with child care availability and the difficulty with getting children into child care?
Simon Birmingham: I have two children under six, and certainly when we first went to get child care we lived across the road from a child care centre, and we couldn’t get into that child care centre. We had to go to the adjoining suburb, but we found a place, and of course many people shop around to find a place that suits them.
In the end, what we are trying to do is create the best possible environment to support Australian families. That means hundreds of millions, billions of dollars of additional support and investment going into our child care system over the next few years, axing the broken child care benefit and child care rebate models for a new single child care subsidy that is better targeted towards the most hard-working Australians, who are working the longest hours, earning the least, will receive 85 per cent of their child care rebate paid to them in future, compared with around 76 per cent at present. So we see more support for the hardest working Australians under our reforms; I just urge the Labor Party to support those reforms, to get them through the Parliament.
Question: Can I just jump to another topic quickly; should Australia start limiting its aid to Palestine? Obviously the comments by the former Prime Minister this morning.
Simon Birmingham: Well the Australian Government has zero tolerance for any rorting or misappropriation or misuse of our aid dollars, and our aid to Palestine is already under review following the suspension of certain aid activities in relation to World Vision earlier this year. And we will make sure that the highest standards are held to the use of Australian aid, as the Australian people would expect.
Question: Do you think it’s appropriate for a backbencher to be making comments about Australia’s foreign aid program?
Simon Birmingham: Well, it’s the Coalition parties; the backbench are absolutely free and entitled to express their views, their opinions. But of course, the Government has already been taking action in this regard.
Question: Tony Abbott has also asked for the conservatives to unite. Are you concerned about what might happen to the Liberal vote in South Australia if Cory Bernardi breaks away?
Simon Birmingham: I have absolutely every confidence the Liberal Party will provide a strong alternative in South Australia at the next state election to the Weatherill Government, which of course can’t keep the lights on, can’t keep our children safe, can’t create jobs to sustain our economy here. There is a strong alternative in the Marshall Government, with a plan laid out to 2036, and a Marshall Government can deliver the type of growth opportunities that South Australia needs.
Question: On the power front, what would you like to see South Australia do? What sort of steps would you recommend of them?
Simon Birmingham: Well clearly the biggest issue that we face are issues of affordability and reliability, and Steven Marshall has been right in putting a focus around generation, and base load generation in South Australia as a focus for how it is we can provide greater certainty, particularly to those who might be considering where to invest their money in Australia. And if we want them to invest in South Australia then we want to have more affordable, more reliable energy, and that starts with how it’s generated.
Question: Just quickly to Manus Island, two men have allegedly been injured by police on Manus Island. At what point does Australia need to start investigating these matters ourselves?
Simon Birmingham: Well let’s get the facts on this one first. Those facts will no doubt become available from the PNG police over the coming days, and of course we’ll have a look at those facts from there.
Question: And there are reports though that they’re receiving medical attention. Should they be?
Simon Birmingham: Well that of course depends very much on all of the circumstances. So let’s get those facts on the table first. But in no way should these isolated incidents be used as some way to suggest that our border protection policies should in any way be unwound or rolled back. Because we actually have an incredibly successful regime of stopping illegal arrives to Australia, which of course has meant that we have no children in detention anymore, which has got us to circumstance where we can focus on resettling the remaining individuals in Nauru or in Manus, and making sure that in the future ideally we have no arrivals, and therefore nobody in detention – a far cry from the situation the Coalition Government inherited.