Subjects: NSW child care fee waiver and VIC lockdown
JIM WILSON: Now some great news for those of you who may have decided to keep your children at home from child care due to Sydney's lockdown. Today, the Federal Government has announced that from Monday, child care centres won't have to charge families gap fees while their kids aren't in attendance; great news for mums and dads. This means families get to keep their children enrolled, but won't have to pay for care they aren't using. Alan Tudge is the Federal Minister for Education and Youth and he joins me on the line. Minister, welcome back to Drive.
ALAN TUDGE: G'day, Jim.
JIM WILSON: This is a great move from your government. I mean what made you move in this direction?
ALAN TUDGE: Listen, in part, we've got a bit of experience in this of extended lockdowns where child care centres faced a bit of financial pressure. And certainly, families do so. What you find is in lockdowns, instead of families sending their kids to the child care centre, they tend to keep them at home to be able to look after them. And so, what we're saying is that you can maintain your enrolments at your child care centre. We'll continue to provide the subsidies to the child care centre in order to keep it afloat, but you won't have to pay the fee. So, it's good news for those parents who choose to keep their kids with them, but it's also good news for those child care centres so that they can stay afloat, they stay viable, and they can keep their staff employed.
JIM WILSON: It's good news for mums and dads. And I think the fact that, you know, certainly a lot of people, households, individuals, businesses are doing it tough, it's a welcome boost.
ALAN TUDGE: I think so. And there's about 216,000 families in New South Wales, or in Sydney, that will benefit from this. And they'll just have to have a chat with their child care centres about what they're doing. But nearly every child care centre will offer it. It'll be automatic. So, if you normally enrol your kids three days a week in the child care centre, and on those particular days, which normally have enrolments, you don't send your kid there, you just won't be charged that fee. But we'll continue to pay the subsidy to keep the child care centre afloat.
JIM WILSON: Good news. Well done. Now, students right across New South Wales face the prospect of remote learning for weeks to come. Are you confident the parents have the right resources for this? We could be going, well, definitely over another couple of weeks. There's no guarantees that a lockdown will end on 30 July. Do you think the parents are ready for it?
ALAN TUDGE: Some parents will be. And the experience of Victoria, which I'm from, is that some parents won't be. Listen, ideally, kids are at school. That's where they learn best and that's where they have this social interaction as well. Obviously, the Berejiklian Government has decided to close down the schools along with many other activities. If it's short and sharp, it hopefully won't have that much impact. In Victoria here, we had a four-month lockdown, and so kids lost almost half a year of schooling effectively. And the mental health repercussions of long-term absence from schooling as well, I think, is very significant. So, let's hope this is a shorter lockdown and that we get out of it in Sydney at that time which is specified, and the kids can get back to school as quickly as possible.
JIM WILSON: How's the vaccine rollout for teachers going, Minister? I mean, do you know how many have had the jab?
ALAN TUDGE: No, I don't have that number. Obviously, many are eligible to go and get the jab immediately, because they fit the criteria. And in some jurisdictions, there's nearly all. And whether or not they get prioritised is then a decision of the National Cabinet. To date, they haven't prioritised teachers. They've prioritised frontline workers and older people, et cetera, as you'd be aware.
JIM WILSON: Do you think they should be prioritised, considering that they are working sort of on the frontline?
ALAN TUDGE: Listen, the evidence is that- the evidence to date is that kids don't tend to transmit the virus or get the virus that much. And so, I think that medical advice has been that there's higher risk categories of people, and that therefore they're being prioritised. But having said that, many teachers in many jurisdictions will be eligible, and so I'd certainly encourage them to go out and get vaccinated as quickly as possible if they are.
JIM WILSON: Before I let you go, we've just had this announcement from Daniel Andrews about another lockdown in your home state. What's your general reaction to this? It is a hard lockdown with fairly tough restrictions.
ALAN TUDGE: It's devastating. I mean this is our fifth lockdown. And I appreciate Sydneysiders are going through a pretty tough lockdown at the moment, but this is our fifth. One of those lockdowns went for four months straight. So we are sick to death of it here in Victoria. Here, we've only got 18 cases, and they're saying the contact tracers can't keep up with that many cases. That's what's immensely frustrating. But my hope is this is only five days, which they say is going to be, and then we get back out of it again.
JIM WILSON: Well, do you think it's an overreaction from the Andrews Government, the fact there's only two additional new cases today, 18 total. It's a hard five-day lockdown.
ALAN TUDGE: It is frustrating that the contact tracers can't keep up with two new cases, and 18 in total. I know the Berejiklian Government was able to do that for a very long time. I appreciate this Delta variants travels more quickly, but to be honest, it is. It's just it's devastating. I think the impact on individual Victorians is great in terms of these lockdowns. And this is applying across the whole state again, not just in Melbourne. So, it'll apply in Mildura, 300 or 400 kilometres away, where they haven't seen a case for eons. Very, very frustrating. And let's just hope it is for five days only and it doesn't continue after that.
JIM WILSON: The priority here, from your government perspective, has to be the vaccination rate. We're up to 12 per cent of the total population fully vaccinated, over 30 per cent first jab. We need to get those numbers up and hopefully we can get rid of these damn lockdowns happening at a blink of an eye.
ALAN TUDGE: Well, that's our hope. I mean, we're now vaccinating close to a million people a week. So, it has ramped up very massively. It's obviously up to individuals to come forward and get vaccinated as well. And I think lockdowns have actually caused more people to want to come forward and get vaccinated, because they realised the risks of getting infected and also what lockdowns can mean to them and their community. But they're ramping up. We've got more Pfizer coming or coming earlier, plus the AstraZeneca is there and available as well. You mentioned those figures. But I can confirm that almost three quarters of the over 70s, which are the most vulnerable group, have been vaccinated the first time, which means they've got a level of protection. And it's about 58 per cent of the over 50s. So, you know, those numbers are going up. Now there's still more work to be done on that. But vaccines are coming in, the supplies are coming in. They're being jabbed and we just encourage all people who are eligible to go and get vaccinated.
JIM WILSON: Minister, I appreciate your time this afternoon.
ALAN TUDGE: Thanks so much for that, Jim.
JIM WILSON: That's Alan Tudge, who's the Federal Minister for Education and Youth.