Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview - 4BC with Neil Breen

Ministers:

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Education and Youth

Subjects: two-week pause on flights from India, penalties for breaching biosecurity laws, increase in child care rebate, comments by Steven Miles re Prime Minister.

 

NEIL BREEN:

Federal Education Minister, Alan Tudge, is in town, and he’s here to talk about other issues but I might ask him about the India ban to start with. Good morning to you, Minister.

ALAN TUDGE:

G’day, Neil.

NEIL BREEN:

Has the Government gone too far with this law?

ALAN TUDGE:

It’s a temporary pause, a two-week pause, and it was done for a reason. And that was just to give a bit of a breather to our quarantine system which was starting to feel the strain because so many people were coming in from India, carrying the COVID virus. And so, to put this in perspective. In Howard Springs, where most of the planes are coming into, the infection rate in Howard Springs went up to 15 per cent, whereas the medical experts say that you really want to keep it below 2 per cent. Because once it gets above 2 per cent it starts to become a higher risk that infections will get out. And we’re up to 15 per cent. So, that’s why that pause was put in place, give that breather to the quarantine system, and then be able to resume those repatriation flights in a couple of weeks’ time.

NEIL BREEN:

I suppose the pause was one thing, but the threat of jail time is the thing that led to this wild debate about it.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, I understand that. The Biosecurity laws were used largely to prevent people going from India to another destination, and then coming into Australia.

NEIL BREEN:

So, that’s because those two cricketers did – Adam Zampa and Kane Richardson.

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, not necessarily just because of those two – anybody could’ve done that. Now, the alternative would’ve been to shut down those flights – say, from Doha or from other locations – which means that Australians right across those locations would’ve been prohibited from coming into the country. So, the decision was made, on the basis of the expert advice, put in place this law to prevent people coming directly from India into Australia without having been somewhere else for 14 days before coming in.

Now, as I said, it’s temporary, it was a tough decision, it’s only two weeks. People, if they go to another location first for two weeks can still come into Australia. But, it’s one of those tough calls we had to make to try to prevent the coronavirus getting out of control and a third wave occurring here in Australia – and that is the last thing we want to see.

NEIL BREEN:

Yeah. Well there are two sides to the boat, because I see former test cricket start and highly paid commentator in the Indian Premier League, Michael Slater, is saying the Prime Minister's got blood on his hands, because he's stuck in the Maldives for two weeks with all that money he earned in the IPL. But I digress. I'll move on. He needs to pull his head in, a bloke like Michael Slater.

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, I reckon quite a few people would be quite happy to be stuck in the Maldives.

NEIL BREEN:

Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Now, Alan Tudge, as Education Minister, you're going to talk about this proposed overhaul of child care costs and rebates to parents. I read all about it in the paper on the weekend, and having a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old and a seven-year-old, next week he'll be seven, child care costs, I'm very familiar with them. And the situation will be that the first kid in childcare, well, that's your own. Then after that, there'll be rebates. So talk us through this policy.

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, you already get substantial rebates for every single kid that goes into child care.

NEIL BREEN:

Depending on your income. Depending on your income.

ALAN TUDGE:

Depending on your income. So if you’re poorer, you get very substantial rebates, and that tapers out when you earn above $350,000 – you don’t get anything. Now, what we're doing is that we're offering additional rebates if you have two or more kids in child care. And in some ways, Neil, that's operating a little bit like you’ve got kids at a Catholic school, and the second and third kids often get a bit of a fee discount in recognition that the fees start to add up if you've got a larger family. That's what we're doing here, just as a cost of living relief, and also so that it creates further incentives, or at least removes the disincentives for women returning to work or returning to work for that fourth or fifth day. Because without that, sometimes you get these, you know, what you call the effective marginal tax rate, i.e. you do that fourth day of work related but in essence you’re working for nothing because you lose all your childcare benefits and pay that extra tax…

NEIL BREEN:

Yeah.

ALAN TUDGE:

… and it’s barely worth it. So that addresses that particular issue as well. So its targeted, its proportionate, I think it's fair to those who use the child care system, but also fair to the 54 per cent of people who don't use the child care system.

NEIL BREEN:

The issues here are multi, So firstly, just firstly, for the second child what, what's the rebate. I was reading 95 per cent.

ALAN TUDGE:

Up to 95 per cent.

NEIL BREEN:

Up to 95. Right.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah. So, if you're of higher means for example…

NEIL BREEN:

Yes.

ALAN TUDGE:

… You might only get a 40 per cent rebate. But you’ll get 30 percentage points extra from whatever your baseline is. So up to 95 per cent. So if you're already getting, let’s say, 80 per cent rebate because you're of poorer means, you'll get 95 per cent for that second child…

NEIL BREEN:

For the second child.

ALAN TUDGE:

… and subsequent child. Yeah, if you're only on 40 per cent at the moment, because you’re earning a fair bit of money, then you'll get 70 per cent rebate. It’s always plus 30, up to a maximum of 95.

NEIL BREEN:

One of the issues with child care is that the cost of it has gone up. And the latest figures from the Consumer Price Index show out-of-pocket costs for parents increased 4.1 per cent in the past 12 months to March, and 5.2 per cent since mid-2018 - it’s kind of four times the rate of CPI. Something is sort of happening in the sector where costs are getting out of control. It's a bit like health insurance.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah. You want to put this into perspective. So, they’re some of the consumer price figures that you're quoting.

NEIL BREEN:

Yeah.

ALAN TUDGE:

The key thing is, is the out-of-pocket expenses, i.e. the figure net of the subsidy you get. And here in Brisbane, for example, we've actually got the cheapest child care in Australia, along with Tasmania, where the average fee that people pay is $3.28 per hour, and a third of people pay less than $2 per hour for their kid being in child care, with the taxpayers footing the rest of the bill. So, let's keep this in perspective. I appreciate that can add up, don't get me wrong, and particularly if you’ve got two or more kids. And that's why we've got these targeted measures.

But we do want to keep it in perspective because the taxpayer does already pay $10.3 billion a year to support people to put their kids in child care, and that's for a reason, largely to help the female workforce participation, which is at record highs now, and, that we're putting in this additional measure really to address those people who are really feeling it with those larger families.

NEIL BREEN:

I think, long term too, the importance of a measure like this is, Look, the pay gap is there between males and females to start with. But secondly, the pay gap could widen during child raising years, and also it widens for the savings men and women have in superannuation. So keeping women in the workforce for longer time, and earning more, helps with those things.

ALAN TUDGE:

That is exactly right. So the pay gap narrowed quite a lot under our Government since we've been in office, since 2013, and the number of women in the workforce is now at record levels, even higher than it was pre COVID - which is which is pleasing. And in essence, we want to remove the barriers for women to go back into the workforce if they choose to do so. And that's what this is about. And it's still a choice - some women don't, don’t want to,they decide that they'll stay home and look after the kids. Well, in other cases, the family might not have sufficient means, they might both need to be out there working, and hence you need a bit of assistance for those, otherwise, quite expensive child care costs. So that's what this is geared towards. We want to give women the option of being back in the workforce, and that's what this is supporting.

NEIL BREEN:

Were you able to make it into Brisbane for Labor Day yesterday? Or did you miss the festivities.

ALAN TUDGE:

I missed the festivities; I came in quite late. There were storms in Melbourne, so I was delayed an hour, and then this morning you know covered in fog the city.

NEIL BREEN:

That's right.

ALAN TUDGE:

So I went for a morning run along the, along the river and you can barely see where I was going.

NEIL BREEN:

Well, I was hoping you’d got here early so you might have an interpretation on whether Steven Miles, our Deputy Premier, purposely used the C word or accidentally used the C word with regardS to the Prime Minister.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah. I have caught up on that. Listen, Steven has got a bit of form. If you do something silly in politics, you've got to own up and take responsibility, that's all I'll say.

NEIL BREEN:

Rightyo. Fair enough. Fair enough. You can sit on the fence on that one, but I think I know which side you’re on.

ALAN TUDGE:

No. I think I made my view pretty clear. I think I made my view pretty clear.

NEIL BREEN:

Good stuff, Alan Tudge.

ALAN TUDGE:

Take responsibility for your actions, I reckon, if you do something silly.

NEIL BREEN:

Okay. Federal Education Minister, Alan Tudge. I’m glad you enjoyed your river, even though it was smoggy this morning. Have a good stay in Brisbane.