Release type: Transcript

Date:

ABC News Breakfast interview with Lisa Millar

Ministers:

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Education and Youth

LISA MILLAR:

We have also been talking about education and child care centres in locked down parts of the country will get more financial support from the Federal Government. There were fears some centres would be forced to close if stay-at-home orders were extended. Well, Alan Tudge is the Federal Education and Child care Minister and joins me now from Canberra. Good morning, Minister.

ALAN TUDGE:

Good morning, Lisa.

LISA MILLAR:

We have been hearing for weeks from child care centres that they were at the brink of going under because the situation was so serious. Did you underestimate just how bad it was?

ALAN TUDGE:

No, we've been monitoring their progress all the way along and even to date we've already provided them $3 billion of extra support. The reason we provided this additional package which I announced yesterday was because over the weekend, in both Victoria and New South Wales, there was additional health restrictions requiring children not to go to child care centres unless they were children of essential workers, and those additional restrictions would obviously have a further impact on attendance rates and consequently on the revenue of those child care centres and therefore we added additional financial assistance, so he they can be viable, can stay open because it is so critical for those essential workers to have those services available.

LISA MILLAR:

Just two things on that. Just last week, you said in a statement from your office that child care operators were getting unparalleled support with gap fee waivers and allowable absence days and you rejected the idea that there was any extra help that was needed and pointing out the change in what happened in New South Wales and Victoria, well, the NSW health officer herself has been saying for weeks, advising people not to turn up to child care centres. There wasn't much change. The critics would say you were late to the party with this.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, there was a couple of things going on. We have been monitoring the attendance data very closely and the attendance was going down each and every week, and then there was, over the weekend, the firm rule out of Victoria which came into place yesterday which said that you may not at all, send your child to a child care centre unless you have a permit because you are an essential worker, and in New South Wales it was the Premier herself saying, "Don't send your children to child care." Effectively over the weekend. So, our concern was with those two directives, you’re  going to have a further downturn in attendance rates and therefore be jeopardising the revenue and therefore potentially the viability of some of those child care centres. We need them to stay open and that's why we put that additional…

LISA MILLAR:

Will they stay open long-term? Does this level of funding guarantee that we won't see child care centres in the long term fold?

ALAN TUDGE:

This will provide enough financial support for them to stay open and be viable, because, of course, the financial support we announced yesterday is on top of the gap fee waiver program as well. Now, that gap fee waiver program means that we’ve continued to provide the Child Care Subsidy even if the child is not attending the child care service. Now, the average subsidy is worth 55% in Greater Sydney, so you’ve already got that baseline level of support, irrespective of any children going and then we've added additional support on top of that, Lisa.

LISA MILLAR:

How can you be sure they’re going to hang onto their employees, which is one of the arrangements of this deal? How do you keep a check on that, that they don't sack people?

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, that’s a good question. That is one of the conditions we've placed on this additional support, is that you must maintain your pre-lockdown head count, or your head count, and we will do checks on that, the normal auditing process which occurring with child care centres across all of the regulations.

LISA MILLAR:

And when it comes to school more generally, we are going to hear from New South Wales about more details about the return to school. How do you think it should happen? Should kids be back in school even though lockdowns are still underway?

ALAN TUDGE:

We want to see kids back at school as quickly as possible, Lisa, because the impacts of kids not being at school is not only great on their learning, but is also great on their mental health, and there is new data out today from Christine Morgan saying that eating disorders, for example, are up by 25-50% across all jurisdictions. These are devastating conditions. We need to get those schools back open, it needs to be safe. The Doherty modelling is saying when we get to 70% vaccination, schools should be able to be reopened again where there aren't outbreaks of COVID, so let's rapidly get to that point in time and try to get our schools back up and running.

LISA MILLAR:

What do you think about mandatory vaccinations for teachers and child care operators?

ALAN TUDGE:

Listen, that would be a decision for the state and territories. I would certainly like to see every single child care worker vaccinated In fact, I want to see every adult vaccinated. They can do that, get online, book your appointment.

LISA MILLAR:

But you wouldn't be encouraging mandatory vaccinations for teachers?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, it would be something that the states and territories would decide.

LISA MILLAR:

But you are the Federal Education Minister, you can have a view?

ALAN TUDGE:

I can have a view, but that would be something, a decision for the State and Territory Ministers. I would certainly like to see every single child care worker vaccinated, so important! We've got to get these vaccination rates up. We’re rapidly getting there, there is light on the horizon, Lisa, and that’s what’s so exciting because so many people are presenting to get their jabs and then we can start to reopen again.

LISA MILLAR:

We've got a way to go. Alan Tudge, thank you.

ALAN TUDGE:

Thanks very much, Lisa.