Subjects: Coronavirus and Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package, University research funding
Paul Murray: Alright. Let’s get to Dan Tehan. Dan Tehan is the Education Minister, made this big announcement today about $2 billion worth of help that means child care will remain available to Australians who desperately need it, because they need to go on and work because they’re on the frontlines, because that’s the way they’re going to pay for their families. This is a big announcement, so we asked him about that. And, also some research questions, as well, about those that are trying to fight for money, to come up with the best way of dealing with coronavirus. We spoke just a little earlier in Canberra.
Dan Tehan: What we want to do is make sure that we’ve got child care available for those who are working. We also want to make sure that we’ve got child care available for vulnerable children. We want to make sure that they’re getting a continuity of care through this, as well. And, as the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, ‘Anyone who is working is an essential worker.’ So, what we’ve looked to do today is to make sure that we’re underpinning the viability of the child care sector. So, for all those who are out there working at the moment, they’ll be able to send their children to the centre that they’d normally send them to, and they’ll be able to get that normal care that they’re used to.
Murray: Now, there are, I mean, a million different circumstances of the people who access child care, and many thousands of options about the child care centres. What happens now, in terms of working out the detail, here? How do you make sure that all the centres stay open, all of the workers turn up, and all of the places are there for the kids?
Tehan: So, you, if you’re a centre, you have to be open to receive these payments. So, if you close, then you won’t receive the payments. So, that’s one of the preconditions that we’ve put in place. We’ve basically remodelled, in the space of a week, the way that we are going to fund the child care sector, and the new arrangement will come in place as of midnight on Sunday night. And, we’re hoping the first payment will flow to child care centres before Easter. That’s the arrangements we’ve put in place, but you have to be open to be able to receive these payments.
Murray: Now, I won’t out a particular centre here, but I’ve been sent an email from a CEO of a child care centre that has been sent to parents, and praises the decision that’s being made here. But, does offer some caution here, saying that, ‘We are still in the midst of a serious pandemic and health emergency, so I urge families to consider this before sending their children back to care.’ Is that the message that is supposed to be getting to parents tonight? That it’s there, but think twice about going? Because, I’m of the belief, where the Prime Minister is, including I think he made some statements about this today, there is no health reason why kids who qualify can’t go to school or can’t go to child care. Is this, there some mixed messages parents are getting tonight?
Tehan: Well, we have been very clear in our messaging from a Commonwealth point of view, and that is we will continue to take, to take the advice of the medical panel, which is advising the Government with regards to whether it’s safe to send your children to child care, whether it’s safe to send them to school. And, that’s, that panel is made up by state and territory health experts and Commonwealth health experts, and they give the advice to the Government. And, that advice is clear: It is safe to send your children to child care, it is safe to send them to schools. And, that’s why we’ve put this package in place, because we want to make sure – for those workers who are working, and need to have their children cared for – you’re out there doing your duty to help this nation combat this pandemic, to help us get through the other side, so we want to be providing free support for you while you’re doing that. And, while the medical experts say it’s safe for child care, the child care sectors to be open, while it’s safe for schools to be open, we’re going to back them in.
Murray: So, in terms of parents that are watching us right now, or grandparents who will talk to this with their kids, is there extra paperwork that parents have to do? Is this a hands off system where, basically, all of that will be done between the centre and the Government?
Tehan: Absolutely. So, if you already have your children enrolled at a centre, there will be no extra paperwork requirements, nothing. If you want to re-enrol your child, then what we’re hoping is that there will be next to no paperwork. We’re hoping that that process will also be paperless. If you don’t currently send a child to a child care centre, but, because of extra work requirements, if you now want to send your child to a child care centre, then you will be required to do the normal forms. But, for all those existing users of the child care sector, no additional paperwork required.
Murray: Well, just finally, Minister – partly your world because it’s universally, is universities, partly Science Minister, as well, because it’s science – but we read today in the papers that there’s a bit of a concern that the universities are competing against each other when it comes to funding, to be able to move towards treatments and potential vaccines here with COVID-19. Is there a pot of money that is being put aside by the Federal Government for research into this? And, is the pot being double-dipped and double-dipped upon? And, do we need to have greater coordination between the uni’s, before they go to government to ask for money?
Tehan: Well, the Government provided $30 million in research funding, I think it was two weeks ago, for this reason. And, what we saw was the University of Queensland and the University of Melbourne, through the Doherty Institute, combine to access some of, some of that money. We do want universities, where they can, to collaborate together. But, one of the fundamentals of our research sector is that we try, as best we can, to have research occurring in three or four different areas, three or four different clusters of universities. Because, you might – when you’re searching for a vaccine for the coronavirus – someone might put a lot of work, who will have the best scientific knowhow go into it, but, in the end, it won’t work. So, that’s why we do try, always, to have three or four options available to us, so that the hope is at least one of them will be successful.
Murray: Dan Tehan, good man making good decisions for the families of Australia today, Prime Minister making it as well.