Release type: Transcript

Date:

Sky News Live interview with Kieran Gilbert

Ministers:

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Education and Youth

Subjects: Childcare package for working families, temporary India COVID travel ban

KIERAN GILBERT:

Families are set to receive a $1.7 billion boost, or some of them, those with their child care kids, part of a plan to encourage mums back into the workforce. Under the plan, they would scrap the $10,500 cap per child and they would cover up to 95 per cent of child care fees for second and subsequent children under five. That’s up from 85 per cent of fees. Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, says the announcement is a missed opportunity to initiate substantial economic reform.

For more on this, let’s go live to the Minister for Education and Youth, Alan Tudge. Minister, thanks so much for your time. The families concerned have to wait until July next year, why didn’t you backdate the payments?

ALAN TUDGE:  

Well the 1 July 2022 date was set based on advice from my Department, which took a cautious approach to implementation knowing that there are significant IT changes which will need to be made. If we can introduce it earlier, we will. But we’re taking a cautious approach due to some of those implantation challenges.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Oh, so there is the chance that it would be brought forward? What’s the earliest that it might start?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well we’ll take advice on that. As I said, the advice to date is 1 July 2022 is the safest time to begin. But if we can do it more quickly, we will. But I’ll wait for updated advice on that front.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Do you recognise that it’s not as generous as Labor’s plan for most families with kids in child care?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, our plan is targeted at those that need it the most and that is families with two or more children in child care because that’s when the bills really add up. So a family now on say $110,000, which is the median income for those families in child care, and if they’ve got two kids in child care they’ll be $95 a week better off, which makes a very significant difference for them.

This builds, of course on top of the package we introduced a few years ago, which radically reshaped the childcare rebates to the extent that, even today, the average price per hour is $3.93 and a quarter of all families only pay $2 or less per hour for child care. So measures are proportionate, they’re targeted and they’re fair for those that use the child care system, as well as fair for those who don’t use the child care system.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Do you see the argument that’s made in terms of the economic impact here? Is this an economic measure or is it a social subsidy? Because the thing is, when you get more women back into the workforce, obviously that is a big boost, but also to give most or every young Australian quality, early childhood education, that has its own literacy and other benefits down the track.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yes, so there's two parts to it, actually, or three parts, even. One is from a workforce participation, and we estimate that our measures will support a further, the equivalent of a further 40,000 people in work. So that has an economic boost. Second, there is that impact in terms of supporting kids to do some pre-school before they go into school. And there is some evidence that if you do a certain number of hours, that will assist you. And thirdly, obviously, there's the cost of living pressures and that's what I've been referring to. So with that average family it would be $95 a week better off.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Do you look at the workforce supply issue here as well as a major structural problem? I looked at some data, for example, in your seat, ABS says there are over 2500 young people in your electorate unemployed or looking for more work. The YMCA has recently undertaken modelling estimates in Aston and an extra 2,400 care workers are needed, not just in childcare, but disability care, aged care, child care also need more workers. Are you looking at creating a better pipeline for young people into care careers is the question?

ALAN TUDGE:

We are looking at these questions because there are some very significant challenges precisely in those areas that you have identified there, Kieran, and the Royal Commission into Aged Care identified some of those challenges as well. This is where there really is going to be growth in terms of needs. And so we're encouraging people if they're thinking about future careers, really take a look at those options that you just mentioned, because that's where there's going to be so many jobs and you can have a good career.

KIERAN GILBERT:

It seems like a great opportunity if you're able to create that pipeline. As you say, the Royal Commission into Aged Care, that into disabilities as well, it says that the workforce is a critical problem. Have you been speaking to colleagues of yours about potentially opening up special visa categories to get people into the country, whether it be for this purpose alone, quarantined and so on? Because literally, we need tens of thousands of workers in these sectors.

ALAN TUDGE:

You raise a very good point, Kieran. And obviously with the borders closed, we have not been able to bring in all of those, literally hundreds of thousands of migrants that have typically come in each year, and many of which have fulfilled some of those roles. Now, I can't tell you when the borders are going to be back open again. We hope it will be sooner rather than later. But we're obviously taking all the health advice on that front, and won't do so until we're very confident about it being safe to do so. I mean when we do, they’re the types of things that we’ll have to be thinking about in terms of what are the priority cohorts to come in to be able to fill some of the various significant skills gaps that that are starting to emerge. But in the meantime, we have to make sure that our education system and our training systems are geared towards where the jobs are likely to be. Our Higher Education Package, for example, the Job-ready Graduates Package, it was geared at that, by creating incentives for students to choose courses where you're more likely to have a job outcome. And that's proving to be successful to date.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Well, that obviously, is needed, isn't it, because supporting young Australians to get the skills to get into those sectors seems like, you know, if you could move, do a direct swap, it seems like a wonderful opportunity. But the challenge is to get them to go into areas to where, traditionally and sadly, the pay just hasn't been great. And it remains so that the wages are too low in most of the sectors we're talking about.

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, those aren’t matters that we deal with, as you’d appreciate. But wages clearly are a factor in terms of people's career choice. You know, you're getting many other benefits for going down some of those caring paths that you might not get in other industries, and particularly the satisfaction of dealing directly with individuals and caring for them and their loved ones. Certainly, in child care and teaching, for example, I mean, you become the most important person in the child's life outside of their parents. And in some cases, even including your parents. So you do have that benefit, which you can't put a financial price on. But nevertheless, as you point out, they still are important factors in people's decision making.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Yeah. And some wonderful people in those sectors. I know from personal experience with my parents. The carers involved have been fantastic human beings that make a great contribution.

ALAN TUDGE:

Absolutely.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Just finally, Minister. Absolutely. Can I ask you about the situation with India. I just spoke to a gentleman called Mandeep Sharma. He's got two kids in Australia, his wife as well. He went over for his dad's or his dad passed away, and hence he had to fly to Punjab. He's stuck there. He said that the Government's policy, he feels it's racist. What's your response to that?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, I'm sorry for Mandeep’s situation in terms of his father passing away. And the situation he’s now found himself in. Our policy is a temporary policy and it was taken for good health reasons. And that was to provide a breather for our quarantine system, because the infection rate in our quarantine system, and particularly Howard Springs, where most of the repatriation flights from India were going, has gone up to 15 per cent. Now, the medical experts were telling us that 2 per cent is really the safe limit, and it's already at 15 per cent. And the reason why it's gone up is largely because of people returning from India. But I’d just reiterate, I do feel for him and I do feel for the rest of the Australian-Indian community and the Indian community at large for COVID, which is rampaging through that country, unfortunately.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Yeah, it is. It’s a catastrophe. There's no doubt about it. The fact that, though before you go, the suggestion is that Australians, when you go overseas with your passport, you have a number of expectations, and one of them is that you won’t, that your government, that your country won't cut you loose, basically. Are we losing sight of that here? I understand the health argument, but are we losing sight of our duty of care here?

ALAN TUDGE:

I don't think so, Kieran. Because it's a temporary measure. It's a pause. People can still get all the consular assistance that they're entitled to by being an Australian. And in some respects, this measure was similar to what we did when we first shut the borders to China, as you might recall, where there was a lot of criticism in relation to that decision. But in hindsight, it was probably one of the most important decisions that we made as a nation in terms of getting on top of the COVID crisis here in Australia. So I do feel for those people. And I think the Government as a whole does, as the Prime Minister has expressed. But we've got to take these pretty tough measures from time to time, but hopefully there just there for a very short amount of time. And then we can get back to those repatriation flights returning.

KIERAN GILBERT:

Education Minister Alan Tudge, thank you. Appreciate it.

ALAN TUDGE:

Thanks very much, Kieran.