Release type: Transcript

Date:

Transcript: Interview — ABC News Afternoon Briefing with Greg Jennett

Ministers:

The Hon Stuart Robert MP
Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business
Acting Minister for Education and Youth

Topics: Higher childcare subsidy; Queensland and NSW floods; East Coast Submarine Base

E&OE

 

GREG JENNETT:

Stuart Robert, thanks so much for coming on. Now, extra childcare subsidy for families with multiple children of preschool age comes online today. What do you say- to put it into some perspective, what do you say its value is for a family with let's say two children under the age of five, earning household income $100,000, $120,000?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, if you look at the average, and the average parent, or the average family income in the current childcare system is exactly about $120,000. So the average saving to the average parent with second or third child is in the order of $2200 a year, which is a substantial saving and a substantial productivity measure to allow another parent to get back into the workforce.

GREG JENNETT:

And when will they notice this saving in out-of-pocket expenses actually flow through?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well it starts today. So it was a Budget announcement from last year. We brought it forward. We always said we’d bring it forward as quickly as we could, as quickly as the systems design would allow it. So from today, parents don't need to do anything. The system will automate and organise. Of course, parents predict what their gross family income will be and they inform Services Australia about that. So those savings will start to flow from today.

GREG JENNETT:

Okay. So if you bring it forward four months, presumably that puts you in a position at the next Budget to do even more in this area – by this area, I mean cost of living pressures on families, particularly as they apply to childcare. Is that something that's in the pipeline?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well let's not speak about the Budget, which we'll see in three weeks’ time. The Treasurer never thank Cabinet colleagues for forward leaning in that space. The key thing here-

GREG JENNETT:

[Interrupts] But you’d accept, wouldn’t you, that household pressures, cost of living is acute right now with escalating costs and supply chain shortages? This is a political as well as economic imperative I’d have thought.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well it’s one of the reasons why, at Budget last year, we moved heaven and earth, in a technical sense quite literally, to get these childcare changes in as quickly as possible. It's a $2 billion investment, it's designed to start right now, it's designed for parents not to have to do anything, and it's designed not just to meet cost of living pressures on that second and third child, but to give flexibility. And we're already seeing the Commonwealth Government’s changes to the childcare subsidy we bought in a number of years ago starting to have an impact. The workforce participation rate of women now at 62.1 per cent; the highest we've seen. Unemployment rate dropping to 4 per cent for women, which is superb. It's giving choice, which is what we really want our childcare system to do.

GREG JENNETT:

And are you able, through modelling or any other projections, say what this brings forward by four months of the additional subsidy today will do to women's participation or, if you like, even the unemployment rate?

MINISTER ROBERT:

There’s a number of studies, notably out of ANU, that have done some good work here. It's always challenging when you’re looking at modelling because the baseline of ‘what if we didn't have any childcare support’ doesn't really exist. The advice from Treasury is we'll start to see a $1.5 billion increase to GDP, which is a direct output of giving choice and control for families for that second partner to re-enter the workforce.

GREG JENNETT:

All right. Now, there’s another problem confronting thousands of families in your state of Queensland, the south-east corner, and northern New South Wales. That's the dislocation of everything that went with the floods. What is being done and what more can be done from a federal level to alleviate some of that, what we hope, is short-term suffering, which is very acute, last week and this?

MINISTER ROBERT:

If you think through this in phases, the first phase is the Australian Government Disaster Relief Payment of $1,000 and $400 per child and, of course, Disaster Recovery Allowance payment, which is JobSeeker for 13 weeks. Those go in straight away and already has done so, over $193 million has flowed to needy Australians.

The second phase has already been announced in concert with the states of Queensland and New South Wales, their governments. It's called Category D funding, which will see funding of – together, between both of them a $1 billion which will see grants of $50,000 to small businesses, $1 million to councils, $75,000 through to primary producers, $20,000 to community groups to assist them, and, of course, the Prime Minister has made the point that this is a down payment. There will be further support coming-

GREG JENNETT:

[Interrupts] Would you acknowledge just through your own experience as a local MP, that there is that feeling among affected residents that they're hearing the numbers but they're not actually feeling the support so far?

MINISTER ROBERT:

Well, $193 million has already been paid. The states and territories are responsible for the Category D funding in New South Wales. It will be open from 10 or 11 March.

I was the first Minister into Lismore on Friday and I spent the day with the mayor and the local MP and we met business owners, met the major producers and employers, caught up with the vice-chancellor of the university, and the scene there is truly horrific.

So it is not lost on the Government at all, hence further support will start to move and will start to move quickly. But the immediate support for families right now, the immediate support for the clean-up - over 5,000 ADF troops as part of flood assistance starting to move, that's already there. The subsequent phase is what will be coming next.

GREG JENNETT:

And just as someone familiar with the ADF, it does look and sound like we're going to have a khaki flavoured election. The Prime Minister gave a major speech on this this week. Do you pledge that the Government will at all steps - before caretaker and after - consult appropriately with Labor on any significant decisions? There's a bit of scuttlebutt of around when submarine decisions might be made pre or post the election. But do you, as a Government, pledge that Labor won't be left feeling frozen out? That seems to be a complaint coming from Brendan O'Connor, their defence frontbencher?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The caretaker provisions are well understood and well known, as are the Budget provisions. Indeed many of these were put in place in 1996 when Howard won, because of what the last Labor years had done. So we're well acquainted with them. They'll be well honoured. They're well understood in terms of the Westminster system. The Prime Minister has made the point that he expected decisions on submarines to be post-election, regardless, but I think we all understand...

GREG JENNETT:

[Interrupts] Not quite what Peter Dutton said, though, is it?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The Prime Minister has made the point that he expected the decision on submarines to be made post-election. And the caretaker provisions of keeping everyone informed are well-known and well-understood. And it will be well followed through.

GREG JENNETT:     

And do you want that East Coast submarine port in Brisbane?

MINISTER ROBERT:

The Prime Minister, again, made the point in the Lowy speech, he expected a range of work to be engaging now, for decisions to be occurring in 2023. In the same way that Prime Minister Hawke in 1987 went to a two-ocean naval strategy. Now is the geostrategic time to go to that second ocean base for our submarine fleet. The National Security Committee of Cabinet has worked through a range of options and narrowed it down to three. The Department of Defence will now start to negotiate and engage and talk with the states of New South Wales and Queensland, as we’ll sensibly move towards a 2023 decision on where that base will actually be located.

GREG JENNETT:

Alright. Well, let's see where those deliberations take us. But Stuart Robert, for your thoughts this afternoon, thanks for joining us.

MINISTER ROBERT:

Great to talk to you.

 

[ENDS]