Minister for Education Dan Tehan interview with David Bevan, ABC Radio Adelaide Mornings
SUBJECTS: Child care, Job-ready Graduates package
David Bevan: Dan Tehan, Education Minister, will you match what Amanda Rishworth is offering?
Dan Tehan: Well, the problem with what Labor is offering is that they’re baking in $6.2 billion of extra expenditure, and have shown no sign or way of how they’re going to pay for it. You have to understand that we have a current system, which was introduced two years ago, which is about providing support for those who earn the least to get the highest level of subsidy. And, what that has done is it’s led to record workforce participation. And, in particular, when it comes to women, we’ve seen women’s participation in the workforce increase from 58.7 per cent in 2013 to 61.5 per cent in January. So, we have a policy which is affordable and which we, obviously, continues to grow over the forward estimates, that is increasing workforce participation, and increasing workforce participation for women. And, we want to make sure that everything that we’re doing, as we come out of this recession, is targeted, proportionate and affordable for the nation.
Bevan: You say Labor hasn’t shown how it would pay for this, but you could pretty much say that about the entire Budget that was handed down this week. And, people accept that you’re going into debt to try and get the economy back on, into growth. And, Amanda Rishworth is saying, well, here’s another measure that would actually help households do that very thing. Well, and you say, well, where’s the money coming from? You can say that about your entire Budget.
Tehan: Well, our Budget though – when you have a look at it, analyse it – doesn’t bake in extra expenditure over time, which is going to make it impossible for us to get the Budget back into surplus. What we have is targeted measures, especially over the next two years, to grow jobs in the economy, to grow the economic benefits in the economy, so we see more employment, and then, over time, we’ll be able to get the Budget back into balance. The last time Labor were in power during the GFC they put in place all these measures which basically just baked in extra expenditure and took us seven years to get the Budget back into balance. What we want to do is grow the economy, and do it in a way that we know we’re going to be able to afford over the longer term.
Bevan: Do you think a household, with a combined income of more than half a million dollars, should be getting any subsidies for child care?
Tehan: Well, under our system, obviously, once you start to earn above $353,000 you don’t earn a subsidy, and that was, that’s the policy that’s currently been put in place. Now, one of the things that Labor is proposing is quite regressive, in that what we’ll start to see is larger proportions of support going to those who might be earning over half a million dollars. So, look, we’re going to be looking very closely at what Labor’s policy would do, and be analysing it. We’ll be having more to say on that. But, from what we could understand from what the Leader of the Opposition was saying last night, was a) He’s indicated no way they’re going to pay for the extra $6.2 billion, and b) It does seem to be regressive in nature.
Bevan: So, you’re happy to give a household with a combined income of more than $350,000 child care support?
Tehan: No, we provide it up to $353,000 …
Bevan: … Yeah. So, you could be earning $350,000 under your scheme – that is, your household – and you get something from the Dan Tehan Government? I mean, $350,000 combined income for a household. Why should they get any money for child care?
Tehan: Well, they, obviously, the way our system works is that the majority of the support that we provide is to those who have earned up to $69,000. They get a rebate of 85 per cent. And, then, if you’re earning between $343,000 and $353,000 that is, you get up to 20 per cent. So, basically, our system, the support decreases the more that you earn. And, the majority of our assistance goes to those who are earning up to $69,390. And, that’s the way the Productivity Commission, when they did their analysis, recommended that the Government should provide support to the child care sector.
Bevan: Yeah. See, I appreciate that Labor’s scheme is even more generous, and they trumpet that as it’s great advantage. But, there might be some of our listeners – judging from the text line – who think that $350,000 combined income is still too much to be getting any support for child care. I mean, frankly, on half a million you could buy yourself a nanny. So, I don’t know why, but $350,000 still seems like a lot of money, too?
Tehan: Well, what we’re doing is providing the greatest subsidy to those who earn the least, 85 per cent, and that decreases the more that you earn. And, obviously, once you hit $353,000, then you cease to get any assistance. So, that’s why it’s going to be very interesting to do the analysis of the Labor Party policy, and particular, the regressive, well, what seems like to be a very regressive nature, in that it’s going to turn on the head what we’ve been doing, which is obviously providing support to those who earn the least, the most. So, it’ll be very interesting to look at a very detailed analysis of their system.
Bevan: Okay. That’s Dan Tehan. He’s the Federal Education Minister. We began this conversation by talking to Amanda Rishworth, who’s the Shadow Early Childhood Education Minister. We’re talking about child care. Kim’s called from Hallett Cove. Hello, Kim.
Caller Kim: How you going?
Bevan: Good. What are you thinking?
Caller Kim: If anything, this pandemic has taught us that needing [audio skip] surplus, it’s just an unnecessary fantasy. If they should just toss the surplus away and go so far into debt because that’s what the economy needs, the economy needs it. And, it’s just a fantasy to say, we need to get back to balance and get back to surplus. Seems we don’t just from what’s been said so far.
Bevan: Kim, thank you for your call. Let’s go from Hallett Cove to Encounter Bay. Hello, Helen.
Caller Helen: Good morning.
Bevan: What’s your thoughts?
Caller Helen: I actually think that perhaps they should be just subsidising child care enough that at least one parent could stay home, not necessarily another. At least to bring your children up with your values, not the child care workers values. And, it doesn’t cost as much to have someone at home as it does for them to be going out to work. So, it would help in all directions.
Bevan: Helen, thank you for your call. Lots of people sending us texts in on this. We don’t get an opportunity to read them all out, but we do read them and they help to inform us what you’re thinking. Before you leave us Dan Tehan, Education Minister, after ten o’clock we’re going to play a little bit of that speech that Jacqui Lambie gave yesterday regarding higher education changes. Now, those changes that you’ve been pushing through the universities will make some courses much more expensive, it’ll make other courses much cheaper, and you’re saying, look, there’s an agenda behind that, because we want to attract certain people into certain, more people into certain courses where there’s a need. Now, Rebekha Sharkie and Stirling Griff, they bought what you’re selling, and they passed it through the Senate. But, we’ll hear from Jacqui Lambie, and she gave an impassioned speech which is getting a lot of airplay. And, I think I’m paraphrasing her, Dan Tehan, by saying she thinks this is a recipe for inequality. You know what Jacqui Lambie was saying. How do you respond to her?
Tehan: Well, what I would, how I would respond to Jacqui Lambie is by saying it’s the complete opposite. In this country, what we have seen in regional and rural areas is their access to higher education, as a proportion, has diminished over time. And, what we’re seeing is a real divide growing in this country between those who can access higher education and those who can’t. And, if you look in Tasmania, in particular, the level of attainment, the level of being able to access higher education there, has been at a lot lower rates than what it has been in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane. And, what these changes are all about is lifting the participation from regional and rural areas, so that they can get access to higher education, as well. And, it is why the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania supported our changes, because they want to see, or he wants to see, greater access from those who come from our regions to higher education, because you earn more and it’s better for our nation. We do not want to see a divide growing in this country between those who are born in capital cities, who can access higher education, and those in the regions who aren’t. And, all these changes are designed about fixing that inequality, and making it fairer for everyone across our nation to be able to access higher education. And, for all those South Australian Senators who supported the legislation through the Senate yesterday, I say a very big thank you, because you have helped this nation, into the future, make sure that there is fair access to higher education for everyone.
Bevan: Dan Tehan, thank you for your time.
Tehan: Thank you.