Topics: Early Learning Languages Australia program; AEMO’s report on the energy market; New child care package; Company tax cuts
Rema Takchi: Rhodes Central Preschool Kindergarten is very delighted to have our special guests here, and it’s been a delight to have everyone visit our centre and see the lovely and talented children have been doing here. The ELLA program has been a huge success for us, and we’re especially excited to have the Korean language coming up in the near future. So thank you so much. Thank you.
Craig Laundy: Thanks. Look, Rema, thank you very much for having us here today at this amazing centre and Minister Birmingham, always great to have you in the electorate of Reid, and for this announcement in this part of Sydney we get it because we’ve got kids coming – we’ve seen it today – coming into this childcare centre with two languages already predominately under their belt. It shows the propensity of young minds to grasp languages and grow with it, and I think this is an amazing announcement which will build on strong, multi-cultural platform that we have already in this part of Sydney and empower those children well into the future to outward face the rest of the world and attack it with vigour. So mate, well done and great to have you here.
Simon Birmingham: Well thanks, thanks very much Craig and thanks Rema so much for having us here and inviting us to invade this centre and to have the opportunity to engage with some of your wonderful preschoolers and to see the way in which they, here in the electorate of Reid, are developing language skills that are going to be so powerful throughout their lives.
Language is life changing, and learning another language is one of those skills that is best achieved in the early years and really does then create new opportunities throughout a child’s development and life. That’s why I'm thrilled to be here launching the next stage of the Turnbull Government’s expansion of the Early Learning Languages Australia program; ELLA as it’s known. For a number of years now, we’ve been making ELLA available to preschools across Australia, allowing young children to learn up to nine different languages that is enabling them to develop cognitive skills, developmental skills, as well as hopefully love of language learning. But now we’re expanding that program, doubling its access to 5000 preschools across Australia, adding another four languages so there are 13 languages available in total, as well as ensuring that schools, primary schools, 300 primary schools, will be able to offer ELLA as well into the future.
This is a life changing program because in the early years of life, it gives children the opportunity to be exposed to languages that they may not otherwise have the chance to learn. And through that exposure to those languages, the children are able to develop their thinking skills, their cognitive skills, their brain development as well as, we hope, develop a love of language that stays with them into school, beyond school, in terms of what they learn and what they study right through their lives. Today’s expansion will include the addition to the ELLA program of German, of Turkish, of Vietnamese, and of Korean. Of Korean, Vietnamese, German and Turkish. Additions to the existing suite of nine different languages, which ensures that all elements of the Australian curriculum are covered in terms of the early learning languages that are available.
Today is also a chance thought to remind families of the fact that there’s a little over two weeks to go for the Turnbull Government’s reforms to Australia’s early childhood system and child care subsidies taking effect. We’re delivering reforms that will make around 1 million Australian families better off by putting more support behind more Australian families and the child care subsidy they receive. It will make child care more affordable, it will ensure child care is not just a drain on the family budget, and these reforms will empower Australians to be able to work the hours and days that suit them best. These are critical reforms, they’re coming into effect on 2 July. We’re thrilled that now well over 800,000 Australian families have made the switch, but we do urge every family to make sure they're ready by 2 July by visiting education.gov.au/childcare to provide the details that are necessary. And I do want to give great thanks to the many centres across Australia who have been helping families to make the switch to ensure that everybody gets every cent they deserve to help their families with their child care fees.
Question: I’ve got this one for Mr Laundy on energy. We’ve heard some pretty scathing things from AEMO when it comes to how much trust people have in the energy market. What are you hearing from small businesses about this?
Craig Laundy: Exactly the same. So I’ve recently been, since Budget, through be it regional Queensland, regional WA, regional South Australia as well as the capital cities around the country and talking to small and family businesses around Australia or in Reid. They are saying day in day out, power prices is the number one issue and they are scathing of reported gaming of the system by what we have in Australia. So, today’s report doesn’t surprise me at all. I note that Minister Frydenberg has got the ACCC looking into it and a report due back eminently. But also, this is exactly why we need certainty and policy certainty in this space, and the National Energy Guarantee is that. It will promote stability and policy certainty, and hopefully off the back of that, investment into the sector which will lower prices over time.
Question: You say it’s the number one issue, is this going to be on the agenda at the Liberal’s federal conference, and what other issues will also be on the agenda?
Craig Laundy: Look, it’s up to the membership what’s raised from the floor on the day. I imagine that we’ll be talking about power amongst other things. But as I say, I’ve recently been in Cairns. You now have the absurd situation where electricity bills are outstripping the cost of rent. And you’re seeing that particularly in regional centres where rents are obviously lower than the CBD. But this is why Minister Frydenberg is pushing so hard to get this policy through Federal Parliament, so he can have some certainty and investment in the sector moving forward.
Question: Well, what do you have to say to Labor, because it’s been Labor governments up until now that, at a state and territory level, that have opposed?
Craig Laundy: Look, the number one is that you’ve got the absurd situation or announcement this morning that AGL are considering importing liquefied gas to a port off Victoria, and yet the Victorian Government has a moratorium on all forms of gas exploration, even conventional. What Minister Frydenberg has been saying loud and clear to his state counterparts is: the way the market works, we need gas in the system. It was meant to be a thing that we switch to for a lower emission transition and future, but you’ve got state and territory governments locking up even traditional exploration forms. And that’s just clearly not acceptable. And that’s what Minister Frydenberg’s been saying, and I completely agree with him.
Question: Minister Birmingham, how many people have signed up now to the Government’s new child care package?
Simon Birmingham: Well, there are well over 800,000 families who have signed on. We’re seeing thousands signing each and every day, and progress is going exceptionally well. And we’re confident that the transition will be a smooth transition, but of course for those who have not made the switch yet, we urge them to do so before 2 July.
Question: What measures are in place for centres like these where a lot of the parents presumably have English as a second language?
Simon Birmingham: The communications campaign we’ve been running has been extensive, and has been multilingual. So, we’ve been advertising across different areas of the country in different languages to make sure that people understand the need to make the switch. Fact sheets and information are available in different languages as well, and we are really pleased with that sense and the cooperation that centres like this have provided by ensuring that information is getting directly into hands of Australian families.
Question: What’s your response to this SAS letter, this threatening letter, that was sent to an SAS soldier? Do you think there’s a cultural issue here?
Simon Birmingham: Look, the only thing I’d say in that regard is that all Australians ought to have the greatest of respect for our defence forces who serve our nation, and equally we know so much that our defence forces work so hard to ensure that they maintain and continue to earn the respect of our nation.
Question: Minister, two weeks of Parliament before the mid-winter break. The company tax cuts it doesn’t look like they’re going to get passed because of the numbers in the Senate. Is defeat on company tax cuts a foregone conclusion?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the Government will keep working hard to ensure that company tax reforms are supported. We’re not going to relent in terms of our efforts to give Australia a competitive tax regime for the future. And the real pressure ought to not just sit on the crossbench, but ought to sit with Bill Shorten. Because Bill Shorten’s policy is one of creating a situation where it’s more competitive for people to invest and create jobs in the United State or in France, compared with Australia. The Turnbull Government wants Australia to be competitive, to be a place that attracts investment, and from attracting investment, ensures that we have continued record jobs growth, the likes of which we’ve managed to achieve since our election. And of course that requires competitive tax breaks, and we hope and trust that the Senate will support that. We will ensure we continue to work hard towards that aim. But frankly, Bill Shorten ought to go back to what his opinion was before he became populist Bill Shorten, when he used to actually stand for competitive tax rates, now he just argues against them.