Release type: Transcript

Date:

Sky News Live - Interview with Tom Connell

Ministers:

The Hon Alan Tudge MP
Minister for Education and Youth

Subjects: NSW child care fee waiver and lockdowns 

TOM CONNELL:

Joining me now live is Minister for Education, Alan Tudge, of course, a proud Victorian as well. Thanks for your time. Would that be a logical approach, that you don't have to wait for a full week for businesses that have not so long ago been through a lockdown to get more assistance, and for individuals as well, I should mention?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, let's just wait and see what the Prime Minister announces this afternoon. But Victoria has certainly been doing it tough for a very long time, Tom, and I know some businesses are still under some restrictions here in terms of how many people that they can have in their venues and the like. So, we'll look forward to see what the Prime Minister says this afternoon. And I'm a proud Victorian, and obviously any support that's provided here is good.

TOM CONNELL:

Well, let me put this to you, would that be something you'd support, that principle of a city in particular, having gone through something so recently, they wouldn't have to wait through all these milestones to get support, that it should be available earlier, for your state in this circumstance?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, I think you do have to look at the particular issues here and Victoria is a little bit different, because we've already had four lockdowns, and potentially we could be going into our fifth lockdown. I really hope not, but it's looking like that. So, the Prime Minister will be standing up later this afternoon. He'll be outlining what that additional support is. And so, we'll just wait for that.

TOM CONNELL:

Okay. You are announcing today assistance for child care, so- that parents wouldn't have to pay the gap fee, but they keep their spot if they're keeping their children out of child care with a nod to the Sydney lockdown. This is something that centres don't have to participate in. They would lose out under this, right? Shouldn't you make it compulsory, or maybe compensate them?

ALAN TUDGE:

So, they wouldn't necessarily lose out. It is voluntary, but typically, and this has occurred before, child care centres will participate. And that is, if they don't do so, then the parent is likely to withdraw their child overall from the child care centre. And that means they neither get the fees nor the child care subsidy. What we've put in place now in Sydney, similar to what we've done elsewhere, is that a parent can continue to have their child enrolled at the child care centre, but if they miss a few days because they're keeping their child at home because they have to be at home themselves, then they don't have to pay the fees, but the child care benefit from the government will continue to flow to that child care centre. That means it's good for the parent because they've got some more cash in their pocket. But it is also good for that child care centre because it keeps them afloat, it keeps them viable, and it can keep their employees going as well.

TOM CONNELL:

Right. But they are still worse off. They don't get the gap payment. They're still employing the same number of people, I'm assuming. They are a little bit worse off, the centres?

ALAN TUDGE:

But then it works hand in glove as well, of course, with those disaster relief payments. So, if the centres have an overall decline in their revenue, commensurate with those disaster relief payments which were just announced a couple of days ago by the Treasurer, then those kick in as well. And of course, most of them actually are small businesses too ...

TOM CONNELL:

So it’s lower than 30, they don’t get that?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, that's right. So that’s right, so if they've got a 30 per cent decline, then that will kick in as well. And of course, there is the business support too. And you've got to remember that most of these child care centres are actually small businesses owned by families, so that kicks in also. So they all work together, but certainly from a family's perspective, in Sydney today, if you've got kids in child care but you're keeping your kid at home, you won't have to pay those fees, which you ordinarily would have to pay. And for the average family, that's worth $150 a week.

TOM CONNELL:

So what is this? Is this a rule now for lockdowns from week three for all future lockdowns? What's been set down now as a parameter?

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, so we’re applying this from next Monday, and every instance we look on a case-by-case basis, really, because every lockdown has been different, Tom. The last, I think, lockdown in Perth was only a few days long, and we didn't apply it then. We've had other very short lockdowns where we haven't applied it. In this instance, we've made the decision that after a couple of weeks, we will apply it and make sure it's aligned as well with those disaster relief payments that are pending.

TOM CONNELL:

So hang on, so it's two weeks into a lockdown, this will apply? Because the PM's announced other stuff before and said, this applies to all future lockdowns. Does this child care announcement apply to future lockdowns?

ALAN TUDGE:

In essence, we make decisions on a case-by-case basis. I hope there aren't any further lockdown similar to what Sydney is going through. But we take it on a case-by-case basis. The possible lockdown in Victoria, which has been mooted in the newspapers, would be for a short, sharp, three-day lockdown. In that situation, typically, we wouldn't provide it.

TOM CONNELL:               

Right. So the PM though, did make this announcement recently on support for business and individuals, and said, here's what happens for all lockdowns in weeks two, three and four. That’s set but child care's a case by case basis. Why is it different?

ALAN TUDGE:

Inevitably, it's a case-by-case basis because every single lockdown is different. But I mean, having said that, of course, this set a bit of a precedent in terms of…

TOM CONNELL:

But financial assistance is locked in.

ALAN TUDGE:

In terms of when you do set a precedent and so when this comes up again, and I hope it doesn’t come up again, Tom. Let’s hope it doesn’t come up again. But if it does, clearly, we would again look at these types of rules and make a decision upon what is going on at the time, and then this, of course, becomes the precedent for it.

TOM CONNELL:

So what is the precedent? Because this will actually start more than three weeks in. But you mentioned a couple of weeks before. Is the precedent two weeks or is it three and a half?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, Tom, we’ve been navigating this as we go along. Last year, in the Victorian initial lockdown, not only were the child care centres, not only were people staying at home, but many of the were forced to close as well. And effectively we made child care centres free. Since that time, in subsequent lockdowns, we have made- been making decisions along the lines that I’ve been articulating here today, where we effectively waive those fees when the child care centres can stay open. If they’re forced to close, those fees get waived automatically, if there’s a ruling for them to close. Now, they haven’t been forced to close so far. Now, I hope we don’t have further lockdowns on top of this Sydney one. But if there are and if there’s extended lockdowns like the Sydney one, then of course we continue to look at whether or not we do exactly the same principles that we’ve applied here.

TOM CONNELL:

Okay so I’m just trying to test that principle. Are you saying the principle is two weeks, even though this one’s starting long after that? Is that what Victorians listening to this should hear right now? If it goes for two weeks, on the first day of the third week, this would kick in for them as a precedent?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, as a Victorian, I heard today, there’s only three additional cases so they should be able to be contact traced and I’m hoping that that means that we don’t have to go into a lockdown because we certainly don’t need another lockdown in Victoria, Tom.

TOM CONNELL:

Of course. But I’m just trying to find out, well what is the precedent we’re talking about today? What is that?

ALAN TUDGE:

Well, I mean, I've made the decision in relation to the child care centres in New South Wales today. It will kick in on Monday. So approximately three weeks after the initial lockdown, bear in mind, Tom, that the initial lockdown was set for two weeks. Now if we go into a lockdown in Victoria, from what has been mentioned in the newspapers, it says it may only be a three-day lockdown. Nothing's been announced here in Victoria. If it is only a three-day lockdown, then it's very unlikely that we’d apply- that we would apply this. We haven't, certainly haven't done that in the past. If it gets extended, then yes, that's exactly the type of thing that we would look at to support Victorian businesses.

TOM CONNELL:               

Perhaps between reading between the lines, between two or three weeks maybe. I just wanted to ask you finally about what's happening in Victoria, though. These removalists that came in, they didn't wear masks. From what we hear, they're not cooperating with authorities. What punishment should they be in line for?

ALAN TUDGE:

Oh, that's a good question. I mean, they've caused very significant harm to Victoria for not obeying the authorities and whatever the normal punishments are for not obeying the authorities should be applied to them. And typically, here in Victoria, they're pretty quick to find people for all sorts of things, so I imagine that they will be copping a fairly significant fine in relation to that. I suppose my general point though is that.

TOM CONNELL:               

What about being held in custody until they do cooperate. What do you make of that that's being spoken about today?

ALAN TUDGE:  

I don't know what the general rules are. Now, those general rules will be applied in any case, and we should be applying the law as it's laid out. And if the law is if you don't cooperate with the police, then you get put into custody, then that's exactly what should apply here. I don't think we should be deviating from what those normal rules are.

TOM CONNELL:

Okay. Education Minister Alan Tudge, appreciate your time today. Thank you.

ALAN TUDGE:  

Thanks, Tom.