Transcript of doorstop interview, Sydney
WED 06 JUNE 2012
PM: I’m here today with Daryl Melham, the Member for Banks, and I’d like to say a big thank you to all the parents and workers at this childcare centre, a Good Start centre, that we’ve had the opportunity to talk to today and we’ve also had the opportunity to play some games with some of the children here and that’s been good fun as well.
I very clearly remember, as I was saying the parents over morning coffee, when ABC Learning collapsed and we faced the prospect that hundreds of childcare centres around the nation would close and thousands of parents and families would be disrupted.
It was a pretty trying time, but we worked to make sure that families could get childcare and a great thing came out of that period and that great thing is Good Start; a not-for-profit organisation now operating 600 centres around the country including this one; so a remarkable result out of the collapse of ABC Learning.
So here at this Good Start centre today I’ve had the opportunity to talk to parents about childcare, about its quality but also about its affordability. I’m very proud that we are investing more money in childcare support than has ever been invested before.
We’ve tripled the investment to help parents with the cost of childcare. We’ve increased the childcare tax rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. That means that we are working with parents to meet half of their out of pocket costs.
It means we are investing more than $22 billion in childcare supporting parents to get the care they need for their child.
And to give you a sense about what this means for an individual family; for a family that’s earning $75,000 a year that’s got one child in long day care, for that family currently meeting childcare costs takes 7.5 per cent of their income, it used to take 13 per cent.
So our new investments in childcare have made a real difference for families.
But I am keen to do more. I understand that for many families they worry we they see childcare fees go up and they worry about the long term affordability of childcare.
I want to make sure that working with providers we are seeing what else we can do to build on our current reform to assist families with childcare. I do understand that for many families worrying about childcare costs is front and centre of their concerns about cost of living.
So I want to make sure that as we’re giving families extra support that they don’t see they cash gobbled up in increased childcare fees.
I want to make sure for families that work really hard during the week, that they don’t at the end of the week see too much money gone because it’s gone on childcare.
And I want to make sure too for many women who are returning to work that they’re not dismayed about how big a bite childcare fees are taking out of their earnings from returning to work.
So tomorrow in Sydney I will be bringing together childcare providers and the relevant trade unions to discuss what more we can do to assist families with the costs of childcare.
Now government needs to play its part but so do providers need to play their part, which is why I want to have that conversation directly with providers and with relevant unions.
I believe by working together we can work our way to building on our current childcare reforms and making a long term difference for Australian families.
So the bottom line really comes down to this, I want to make sure that when we’re giving families extra support, that that is making a difference to childcare affordability for them, not only today but over the time to come.
Now I understand that it’s not just childcare fees people worry about when they’re concerned about cost of living. As we’ve been talking with the parents today, kids grow up and they leave childcare and they go to school.
And in coming weeks families will see some assistance with the cost of getting the kids to school with our Schoolkids Bonus; $410 for primary school students, $820 for secondary school students. So we want to be working with families with school aged kids as well.
So I’m very happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: When you talk about the money being gobbled up by increasing fees, do you think that some childcare centres have been using these rebates as an excuse to raise fees?
PM: Look, I don’t want to reflect on the behaviour of childcare centres or any individual centre.
My concern here is we’ve really increased our investment in childcare, so that we are working with families to meet 50 per cent of their out of pocket cost.
But I know families still get concerned when they see childcare fees go up.
So that’s the conversation that I think we need to have now and I’m intending to do that personally with providers and with the relevant trade unions to see what else can be done on childcare affordability.
JOURNALIST: But so do you think that the increases that have come over the last few years – is there a reason for them? Are they justified?
PM: Look, I mean people I think would understand from a common sense point of view that costs go up for a variety of reasons.
When you’re running a childcare centre you’ve got to pay the bill for the premises, you’ve obviously got to pay the bill for the staff, for all of the kids and equipment that the kids need, all of the food, all of those things have to be paid for and provided and people know that costs go up.
And yes there’s been some modest effects too from our quality standards, but we’ve talked to parents today about just how important knowing that their childcare is at a good quality is to them.
So it’s not me saying to childcare centres that I’m worried about unnecessary fee increases - maybe there are some individual examples of that, but my concern is a much more general one about childcare affordability.
We’ve made a big difference. I think those statistics for a family earning $75,000 tell you that. We’ve made a big difference, you know 13 per cent of your income versus 7.5 per cent, but I want to see what next we can do.
JOURNALIST: On interest rates, do you think today’s expected cut will be enough to boost confidence in households and business?
PM: Australians have got every reason to be optimistic about our economy and that’s been reinforced today by the National Accounts and by our growth figures.
And this a result that all Australians should be proud of, because we’ve worked together to make sure our nation came through the Global Financial Crisis and that it’s continued to grow.
I mean it is truly remarkable that at a time when European nations are going backwards and many nations are really, you know, staggering to even try and put one foot in front of each other when it comes to growth that we are surging ahead.
So Australians today can be very proud of the growth in our economy and that should give people every reason for optimism in the future.
Our economy’s fundamentals are strong, we are seeing our economy grow and I think these growth numbers today are proving some of the doomsayers and sceptics wrong.
JOURNALIST: Is a cap on childcare fees something you would consider?
PM: We’ve got a range of options that we need to work through and there’s no, you know, you can’t just say a cap on childcare fee because what do you then do when costs go up for legitimate reasons?
So we’ve got to talk about these options and work them through with the childcare providers and relevant unions.
So we’ve got options on the table, I want to test them in the discussion tomorrow. We won’t get to the end of the discussion tomorrow. That will take place over the months to come, but I want to build on what already has been a big set of new investments to make childcare more affordable for families.
JOURNALIST: When can parents expect to see the difference?
PM: Well they’re seeing a difference already as a result of the Labor Government, seeing a difference in their childcare tax rebate-
JOURNALIST: But they still think it’s too expensive, when will are they going to see that change?
PM: I understand people are concerned about affordability, which is why I’m here today and why I will call the meeting together tomorrow to see what else we can do.
It’s a discussion that will take a few months; I’m not going to pretend that there’s an overnight extra step that we can take here.
We’ve invested a lot, we’ve made a difference but I am looking to do more and to lead a discussion over the next few months to see what else we can do to help Australian families with children in childcare.
And when we say childcare, we’re obviously standing in a centre today and this would be many people’s image of childcare, but we do need to remember we’re also talking about things like after school hours care for kids.
JOURNALIST: Do you know what parents in Sydney are paying for childcare?
PM: Oh look, there are many numbers reported and, you know, it depends which centre you’re at, but certainly I’ve heard families say they’re concerned about their childcare costs rising and, you know, even taking into account the new assistance the Government is providing for them that they’re concerned about childcare costs rising.
So am I, and that’s why I’m here today and that’s why we’ll have the meeting tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: Just back to interest rates. Is the cut a sign of economic weakness in terms of basic (inaudible) economics?
PM: I think the Reserve Bank has talked about its reasons yesterday, for the interest rate decision which it makes independently of government. But what government can do, and what we have done, is give the Reserve Bank room to move by bringing the budget to surplus.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask if the Coalition’s partly to blame for talking the economy down lately, with what’s been going on?
PM: Look, I know there are some reports today about what’s motivated the Reserve Bank on interest rates and I’m not going to comment on those reports.
But if your general case to me is ‘Does the Opposition talk the economy down?,’ yes they talk it down every day, and that negativity does have a cost.
JOURNALIST: What do you say to banks about passing the rate on in full?
PM: We believe that the banks should be passing this interest rate cut on in full to mortgage holders. I don’t believe there’s any excuse for the banks to do anything other than pass it on in full.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask your reaction to the Victorian teachers’ strike tomorrow?
PM: Look, this is a question for Premier Baillieu and his government.
I’m certainly worried for parents who are going to have all of their, you know, family disrupted with the industrial action. I would be urging everyone to get around a table and work it through and work it out. Thanks very much.
JOURNALIST: Just on Mark Arbib’s new position at Crown Casino. Are you worried about a conflict between the code of conduct for retired ministers and the duties that he might have to perform?
PM: No I’m not.