Subjects: Federal Government child care subsidy, ban on flights from India
OLIVER PETERSON: Yesterday, the Federal Government’s announced it's going to spend $1.7 billion on child care and trying to subsidise the costs of child care. But it won't be applicable to everybody who's got children. To tell you more, the Education Minister is Alan Tudge, and he joins me on Perth Live this afternoon. Welcome back to the program.
ALAN TUDGE: G’day, Oly.
OLIVER PETERSON: Have you gazumped the ALP here with the child care reform?
ALAN TUDGE: Well, our reform is targeted, it's measured, and very much focused on those who need that additional assistance, which is, those families who have two or more kids in child care, because that's when the bills really start to add up. And so with our package, Oly, if you're a family on 110,000, which is the median income, then you'll be $95 a week better off if you've got two kids in childcare. So that'll make a real difference.
OLIVER PETERSON: It will, but it does nothing to somebody who might have a child, say, three or four years apart, Alan Tudge.
ALAN TUDGE: No, it doesn't, but their costs will obviously be lower if one of the kids is already in primary school and one of the kids is in child care. Now child care costs, they average about $3.93 an hour. For a quarter of all families, they're paying two bucks an hour or less. So now, they can still add up for some families, but it's also reasonable that people do make a contribution towards their child care, and obviously the taxpayer picks up a significant amount as well.
OLIVER PETERSON: What changes will it make to the participation in the workforce for women? How many extra jobs do you think this will create, or leave people within employment, within whatever industry they work in?
ALAN TUDGE: So we've estimated that it’ll add up to about 300,000 hours of work per week, which is the equivalent of about 40,000 people going into the workforce. Because what it particularly does is address some of those real disincentives of women, particularly working, say, from three days to four days, because they're going to lose all of their child care benefits if they do that. So that's why this package is so carefully designed, really, at those key disincentive points to encourage people, if they want to, work those additional days, and they can do so.
OLIVER PETERSON: Why is it that it won't come into effect until 1 July 2022?
ALAN TUDGE: Largely, from a technical reason. The advice I've got from my Department is that that's the safest time to implement it from, purely to enable the technology to be put into place by then. Now, if we can start it earlier, we will. But we're taking a conservative approach purely from an implementation perspective.
OLIVER PETERSON: Why are you acting now?
ALAN TUDGE: Well, with the Budget coming up, I mean, we typically do these significant reforms in a budget context. And the last significant changes to the child care rates were back in 2018, which Scott Morrison, when he was Treasurer, oversaw. And this works within that same architecture, but just provides that additional subsidies for your second and third children in child care. And in some ways, Oly, it's a bit like if you've got kids, two kids, say, at a Catholic school. Typically, you'll get a discount for your second and third kids at that school. And this will operate in the same manner.
OLIVER PETERSON: Anthony Albanese has said that families desperately need immediate relief from the soaring child care costs, yet these changes are not even set to come in for over a year. It's fair criticism.
ALAN TUDGE: Well, I mean, under- when Labor was last in power, child care fees went up 53 per cent, whereas our childcare fees are out of pocket expenses, on average, of $3.93. And a quarter of all families paid two bucks or less per hour per kid in child care. So we keep this in perspective. I'm not saying that doesn't add up for some families, because it does. But it particularly adds up when you've got a couple of kids in child care. And that's why our measures are very much focused on those families.
OLIVER PETERSON: The current flight ban for Australian citizens trying to return from India, is it a step too far to say that you might be in jail for five years or face a fine of $65,000?
ALAN TUDGE: These are a very cautious health measure to enable our quarantine systems to have a bit of a breather. Now, our main quarantine facility where most returning Australians from India have gone into has been the Howard Springs facility. And there's now a 15 per cent infection rate in that facility. Whereas the medical advice is that you don't really want to be above two per cent. So we've got well above that almost entirely from people returning from India going to that facility. So the medical advice allows this to work through just for a few weeks, temporary measure, then re-look at it in mid-May. And hopefully, we can reopen again at that particular stage.
OLIVER PETERSON: Will you send repatriation flights over to India to bring back the 9,000 or so stranded Aussies?
ALAN TUDGE: Well, most of the Australians who have come back from India have come from repatriation flights rather than commercial ones. But they'll be decisions which we’ll make then.
OLIVER PETERSON: Appreciate your time, Alan Tudge. Thank you very much.
ALAN TUDGE: Thanks very much, Oly.
OLIVER PETERSON: That is the Education Minister Alan Tudge.