ABC AM - 6 JUNE 2016

SUBJECT/S: Labor’s plans to make child care more affordable and more accessible

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Kate Ellis, good morning.


BRISSENDEN: So how will you pay for it?

ELLIS: Well, we've made clear that we're not spending a dollar more than the Government. What we're doing is reallocating the money that has now been in two budgets so that we spend it when families need it. And we spend it in a fairer way.

BRISSENDEN: But their money, they're funding theirs by cuts elsewhere that are blocked in the Senate by you. So you're going to have to find this money from somewhere else. 

ELLIS: Let's just be honest about what an absolute con it is for the Government to say that the only way that they can assist Australian families with child care is if they can rip other money out of Australian families' pockets through Family Tax Benefits. 

There is absolutely no need to link those two policies, and that's not just what Labor says, that's what the Government said themselves when Arthur Sinodinos made it very clear that these were linked for political purposes only. 

BRISSENDEN: This is an argument about how you pay for it though, isn't it? This is essentially an argument about how you find the $3 billion.

ELLIS: This is an argument about how big a priority Australian families and child care is. 

Malcolm Turnbull has absolutely no trouble finding money when it's for corporate tax cuts, when it's to give the big banks less tax responsibilities, multinational companies. But he cannot find money for Australian families because it's not a priority for him. 

Now of course we've outlined a number of measures, which we've already put in place to generate savings, and a number of programs, which the Government is spending money on that we will not. 

But I will say the question for Malcolm Turnbull, and indeed for Simon Birmingham, is he just stated that they will legislate this once they've got the cuts to Family Tax Benefits through the Parliament. 

The Parliament has repeatedly said that we do not support those unfair cuts. So does that mean that there's a prospect that if the Turnbull Government is re-elected, they'll go another entire term without doing anything to assist Australian families with child care?

BRISSENDEN: I am just still asking you about where you're going to find the $3 billion. We know where they're going to find the $3 billion from. We still don't really know where we're going to find yours from. 

ELLIS: Well, what we've said is we've already supported more than $9 billion in savings measures in the social services portfolio. 

On top of that, we've proposed our own responsible savings measures and we're opposing the Government's irresponsible new spending. For example, $50 billion on company tax cuts for big business, which Malcolm Turnbull's finding the money for, which we're saying we wouldn't proceed with. 

BRISSENDEN: Yes, but you say yourselves that that's unfunded apart from what's in the forward estimates, the $5 billion in the forward estimates.

ELLIS: Well look, another example of that is Malcolm Turnbull did a deal with the National Party in order to become Prime Minister and said he would bring back the baby bonus. Labor has said that we would not proceed with that spending. 

Now of course we have made sure that we have made savings measures across the board, which are greater than the spending measures we've announced, and that is something that the Australian public will have clearly before them before the election. 

But the issue here really is what's a priority for the Government. Because for Labor our priority is recognising that Australian families are struggling as a result of the fact that this Government has not done a single thing for an entire parliamentary term to assist with child care affordability or indeed child care accessibility. 

We have a plan to do that, and it's a plan that will start from the first of January. We know it's important for Australian families, but we also know it's important for the Australian economy. 

BRISSENDEN: Child care is one of those things as we know that comes up every election. Everyone makes big promises. Very rarely do those promises actually last the test of time. 

For instance in 2007, you made a pledge to end the double drop-off by building 260 new child care centres at schools and only 36 of them were ever built.

ELLIS: Well, what we also saw of course was the absolutely unprecedented collapse of ABC Learning, which was the biggest shock to the Australian child care sector in our nation's history. We moved swiftly to ensure that parents were not left with child care centres with their doors closed. 

But of course we've made a number of promises. I'm incredibly proud of the reforms we promised, for example to introduce the National Quality Framework. We made that agreement with every state and territory government of all different political persuasions. It is now entrenched. 

We increased the child care rebate from 30 to 50 per cent. Previously the child care rebate was paid once a year. We've moved it so that families get that really fortnightly when they need it, when the bills come in. 

We introduced universal access for 15 hours access to preschool for four-year-olds. Labor has repeatedly made clear that early childhood is the most significant time, when 90 per cent of a child's brain development is occurring. We know it's significant for that child that they get the access to quality early childhood education. We often know it's important for their parents, that parents can return to the workforce, which is why this is a priority for us. Whereas Malcolm Turnbull's saying even if he's elected, even if he gets his unfair cuts to families through the Parliament, they are not going to do anything for another 18 months. 

BRISSENDEN: There is a concern here you'd have to admit, that they money would just be sucked up increased fees. We've seen that happen before in the past when these rebates have increased. 

What's to prevent this? I mean, at the moment you say you've got some sort of web-based self-analysing process, but it doesn't that it's actually going to really monitor how this really will work. 

ELLIS: We think that it's incredibly important that everybody makes sure that this investment goes towards the pockets of the families who rely upon it, and not into the profits of the sector. That's why we also announced yesterday new measures, the mandatory reporting of fee increases, new powers for both the ACCC and the Parliament. 

BRISSENDEN: Why not just have a fee cap, as the Government says? Why not just accept that that's a good idea and put a fee cap on it?

ELLIS: The Government doesn't have a fee cap. What the Government has is a cap on Government expenditure. They have absolutely nothing to limit the out-of-pocket costs of Australian parents. There is no cap on what Australia parents can be charged under the Government system. 

What we're doing is saying, "Enough is enough. We need to crack down on unjustified fee increases. We need to crack down on price gouging". And that's why we've announced in our policy a plan to do just that. 

BRISSENDEN: Okay. Kate Ellis, we'll leave it there. Thanks very much for joining us. 

ELLIS: Good to be with you. Thank you.