Topics: New child care system; Corporate tax cuts; Schools funding; By-elections
Rhianna Hedley: Welcome to Daws Road Early Learning Centre. With the new child care subsidy, everything- all of our families have transitioned over quite well. We’ve only got a couple that had to be fixed. Basically, the transition has been quite smooth. Any sort of transition is going to have its bit of hiccups, but overall it’s been quite smooth.
Nicolle Flint: Well, it’s wonderful to be here with Minister Simon Birmingham this morning and Rhianna, the director of Daws Road Early Learning Centre. We’ve just had a great tour of the centre. Over 6000 families are benefiting from the child care package changes that the Turnbull Government’s introduced and thanks to Rhianna for showing us through and talking to us about the transition to the new system. Minister, would you like to talk to us about how families are benefiting with more flexibility, more hours, under the new system?
Simon Birmingham: Well, thanks Nicole and thanks very much to Rhianna and the team at the Daws Road Early Learning Centre for welcoming us here today, one month on from the commencement of the new Child Care Subsidy arrangements that the Turnbull Government brought in. And we’re out here, listening and engaging with early childhood education providers to make sure we understand how the transitions has gone, how it’s benefiting and impacting families across the community, and ensuring we continue to deliver support so that these reforms give the benefits that we intended to more than one million, or around one million Australian families. These reforms have been about providing more support to more Australian families so that families can choose to work the hours and days that suit them, knowing that child care costs won’t be an impediment, and that their children can access high quality early childhood education.
Ultimately, we’re seeing families better off to the tune of hundreds, even sometimes thousands of dollars a year, as a result of the increased investment. And we’re able to do this because the Turnbull Government has delivered a strong economy, balancing the budget, able to offer more support to families by way of cheaper child care costs, as well as tax relief, while continuing to invest in essential services like our hospitals and our schools. That’s what people expect of a good government, that’s what we’re focused on delivering and we’re out here listening, engaging with the child care services to make sure that this new model is a success in delivering that additional support for working Australian families.
Question: Minister, there have been some issues with the transition to the new subsidy. Some parents out of pocket for a couple of weeks due to software issues. How have you been working to resolve those and are they resolved?
Simon Birmingham: More than one million Australian families have transitioned into the new Child Care Subsidy and it’s a change of gargantuan proportion in terms of transitioning so many families from old systems into a simple new child care subsidy. And overwhelmingly that transition has gone very, very smoothly but there are isolated cases. And the Department of Human Services and Centrelink staff have been working as closely as they can with any impacted families to get those issues resolved as quickly as possible.
Question: So, there are still some unresolved issues?
Simon Birmingham: Our understanding is that there are – if any – very few unresolved issues. But absolutely any family who might still be having hiccups, please make sure you get in touch because what we’ve successfully done is transition more than one million Australian families but if you happen to have had a hiccup along the way, we want to make sure that you get the help to ensure that it’s a smooth process for you from here on in.
Question: Minister, following the by-election on Saturday, obviously there have been reports of some people within the Coalition calling on the Turnbull Government to drop the corporate tax cut policy. Are you one of them, do you think it should be scrapped?
Simon Birmingham: We’re a government that wants to be a low taxing government because we want to create more jobs, opportunities and wealth for Australian families; more opportunities for people to get ahead in life. That’s why we will continue to work hard to ensure we deliver, as we have, on lower taxes in terms of income taxes for Australian families, as well as lower taxes for Australian businesses, small and medium businesses like the one we’re standing in here at Daws Road Early Learning Centre, as well as all Australian employers who ought to be able to offer jobs for their employees, higher wages for their employees on the back of competitive global tax rates.
Question: Can the Government afford to go on and ignore the messages from the by-election losses or can we expect some adjustments?
Simon Birmingham: The Government continues to work to deliver good policy for Australians. And good policy is lower tax for Australian households and businesses.
Question: Do you think that the policy should be changed at all, if it’s not scrapped?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the Government’s going to continue to work to ensure that we keep taxes as low as they possibly can be for Australian households, for Australian businesses because that’s what’s going to help create more jobs and higher wages for Australians.
Question: The Catholic school sector is claiming success against the Government in Longman over the weekend. Is it time to make peace and listen to their complaints on funding?
Simon Birmingham: I’ll let commentators talk about what drove votes in the by-elections. But I would highlight the fact that the Government, last year, initiated a review into some of the concerns that Catholic education had about the way elements of school funding was calculated. That review reported last month, we have committed and we’ll respond to that review in the coming weeks and months.
Question: Will you be offering any new strategies to Cabinet regarding Catholic school funding?
Simon Birmingham: We will respond to the review that we commissioned last year, we received last month, and we’ll respond to that in the coming weeks and months, and we’ll respond in a way, as I’ve indicated, that acts on the recommendations to ensure school funding is fair for every single school sector in Australia.
Question: The Prime Minister met with members of the Catholic education sector a couple of weeks ago, has there been any progress at all following that meeting?
Simon Birmingham: The Prime Minister did indeed meet with a number of archbishops, they discussed the report that the Government has received, we’ve continued with discussions, I have further discussions this week with the National Catholic Education Commission and others, which are about consulting properly in terms of the recommendations received from the National School Resourcing Board. We want to get proper feedback from all affected school sectors before the Government responds, but respond and act we will within the coming weeks and months to that review, just as we promised we would.
Question: Peter Dutton is the most vulnerable senior minister, with his seat next door to Longman. Do you expect him to call for policy adjustments to be looked at by Cabinet?
Simon Birmingham: Well, Dutts is an incredibly hard-working, successful and resilient local MP, as well as a senior member of the government. He continues, I know, to work very hard not only in his portfolio but, of course, across the government to support our agenda of lower taxes, lower taxes that are critical for households as well as businesses to help Australians get ahead.
Question: Do you expect him to call for adjustments, though?
Simon Birmingham: I know that Dutts will continue to work hard as he always does in his electorate, but when it comes to his Cabinet contributions, his, like mine or any other members of the Cabinet, our contributions we’ll make around the Cabinet table, not to the press gallery.
Question: Nicolle, can we ask you as well, do you think there should be any changes to the corporate tax cut policy?
Nicolle Flint: Our tax cut policy is all about letting hard-working Australians, whether they’re individuals or businesses, keep more of their money. We want businesses re-investing in their business, supporting their staff and generating income for the national economy so that we can afford to invest in the best child care, education and health care for all Australians.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks guys.