Release type: Transcript

Date:

Interview with Stephen Cenatiempo - 2CC

Ministers:

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Education and Youth

Subjects: National Curriculum; More support for child care centres; Doherty Institute advice on lifting lockdowns.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

So nearly 300 child care and early learning centres in the ACT are going to be able to access immediate support payments from the Federal Government under a new package announced for the lockdown. Child care services in Commonwealth-declared hotspots will be eligible for payments of 25 per cent of their pre-lockdown revenue. To talk to us more about this, we're joined by the Federal Minister for Education and Youth, Alan Tudge. Minister, good morning.

ALAN TUDGE:

G’day, Stephen.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

Before I get on to this child care package, I want to talk about this national curriculum. I want to congratulate you for knocking it on the head and sending it back to the drawing board. But why did it take you too long? I mean, when this first draft came out, we all knew that it was rubbish. You even said so at the time.

ALAN TUDGE:

I have been saying so all the way along. But the curriculum authority, who is in charge with developing the draft, was having a two-day meeting. And so, I wrote to them very formally and said, it's not good enough. I need you to re-do it and to take into account certain things. I want standards to be lifted, I want it to be decluttered, I want evidence-based practices to be embedded. And most importantly, let's have a positive view about Australia's history rather than this miserable negative view which permeates the current draft.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

Have we got the wrong people on this body?

ALAN TUDGE:

The board is made up of appointments from myself and each of the State and Territory Ministers. So, I get to make one appointment, the State and Territory Ministers each make an appointment. And then there is a group of staff who do the grunt work, of course, putting it together. My, if you like, request or demand of the board was to show leadership, step up and deliver something which Ministers can agree on, because I would certainly not agree on the current draft.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

Yeah, I think most sensible people would agree with you on that. Let's talk about this funding package before and after school care services are going to be eligible for payments of 40 per cent, 25 per cent of pre lockdown revenue. I guess the difficulty here is, why have you singled out early child care? Because my understanding is a lot of these places are still operating.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yes, so most of them are still operating. The reason why we announced this additional support yesterday was because you've now got three jurisdictions, New South Wales, the ACT and Victoria, where there are specific health orders not to send your children to child care unless you are a child of an essential worker. And that means that attendance rates will fall off a cliff and put some of the viability of those places at risk.

So, we're providing this additional assistance so that the child care centres can stay open because they're desperately important for those essential workers, as you can imagine, Stephen. You know, the doctors, the nurses, the emergency workers, if they don't have the child care services to drop their kids off, they can't get to the hospitals or do the emergency work or whatever they're doing.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

In the early stages, and unfortunately, the Federal Government was forced into a situation where a lot of the measures were blunt instruments. What sort of levels of staffing do these centres need to maintain to be able to access this funding?

ALAN TUDGE:

So, we're requiring them to maintain their headcount before these measures came into place. So that's one of the conditions. We’re also requiring them to waive any fees for parents. So, the parents aren't having to pay the fees if they're not sending their kids there. We'll make sure that they not only get this additional payment that you just mentioned, but we’ll also make sure that they get the child care subsidy, even if your child is not attending. But again, conditional upon those fees not being charged, conditional upon the headcounts being maintained so that the child care centres stay open and can certainly be completely and utterly viable again once we come out of lockdown.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

Yeah, I think it's an important program and certainly an important sector that needs to be protected. Now, outside of your ministerial area, the Prime Minister's finally fired up and it looks like he's going to stand up to these State and Territory leaders. Is it time to scrap this National Cabinet and just start to make some decisions and pull the federal levers that he has available to him?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, we have been pulling the federal levers available to us, but most of the health leavers actually do reside with the States and Territories. So that's just a matter of fact in terms of all of those restrictions that have been put in place across the country. What the Prime Minister and all of us have been saying very, very clearly though, over the last few days, is that once we get to this 70 per cent and 80 per cent vaccination rates, we have to reopen our economy and our society, because actually what the evidence shows is that the damage will be worse from staying locked up than by staying open at that particular stage.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

But that's almost the case now, isn't it?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, this has been based on the Doherty advice and on the Treasury economic advice, which have reached this conclusion. Get us to 70 to 80 per cent, start to open up and get us back to normal. Lockdowns won't be required other than in absolute exceptional targeted circumstances and we can start to get back to normal again. And there is that light on the horizon. That's what gives us this great hope for all of us. I’m from Melbourne, Stephen, we've had 200 days of lockdown. Your listeners have had a couple of weeks of lockdown, they know how difficult it is.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

Yeah.

ALAN TUDGE:

We've had 200 days of it. We need that hope and that's what this national plan gives us.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

One of my biggest concerns is, whilst the Government's working off the Doherty Institute report, there are reports coming out every day from various think tanks, one today suggesting that if we do open up again at 70 to 80 per cent vaccination rates, thousands are going to die. I went through the list. Hardly anybody that is an author of this report has any medical background. We've got to stop listening to experts that don't actually have any expertise in what they're talking about, don't we?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, we're listening to the Doherty Institute because they are world leaders in this. And so, we're listening to them, they've done the modelling, we’re listening to Treasury advice, because they're the leaders in terms of economic advice, and the combination of the two has landed us at this national plan. A plan which not only the Prime Minister signed up for, but every State and Territory leader signed up for. And it's a commitment on top of that to the Australian people, because, as I said, it gives the Australian people confidence and it gives them hope that these lockdowns will end. And so, that's why we're so determined to see this plan fulfilled. And I think the Australian public are absolutely going to demand that this plan be fulfilled.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

Yeah, I think you're 100 per cent right. Alan Tudge, good to speak to you this morning.

ALAN TUDGE:

Thanks very much, Stephen.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO:

All the best. Alan Tudge, Minister for Education and Youth.